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Image: Koei Tecmo

15 years after the original launched on the Nintendo Wii, Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse (carrying the series' Project Zero moniker in Europe) is finally making its way to the West in an official capacity on Switch. With revamped graphics and a host of new features, the game looks to recapture the essence of the 2008 version (particularly its scare factor) while introducing several quality-of-life enhancements to bring it more in line with modern gaming.

In our full review of the game, we noted that it successfully retains the original's creepy atmosphere and impressive storytelling, but also highlighted that this is indeed a 15-year-old game, bringing with it several performance and gameplay quirks that perhaps should have been left behind. Regardless, for fans of the franchise and the horror genre at large, it's definitely one to investigate.

Ahead of the game's release, we got the chance to chat via email with Producer Yutaka Fukaya and Director/Scenario Writer Makoto Shibata from Koei Tecmo on what challenges the remaster presented to the development team, how the Fatal Frame franchise stands out from other horror IP, and what kind of supernatural phenomena they've experienced in real life...

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Makoto Shibata (Director / Scenario Writer) — Image: Koei Tecmo

Nintendo Life: How does it feel to see the Fatal Frame franchise continue to thrive more than 20 years after the first installment?

Makoto Shibata (Director/Scenario Writer): I am very delighted.

We have been working on this series, changing the theme each time and pushing through with the idea that we cannot make another one with the same theme. We hope that any of the titles will leave a strong impression on players.

Since the original Wii game was only available in Japan, how important was it to you for Western audiences to finally experience Mask of the Lunar Eclipse?

Shibata-san: This was the first game in the series to be set in a non-Japanese setting, such as Western-style buildings and a hospital, so we created it with Western players in mind. We felt the difficulty of creating a game in which the height of the viewpoint differs between cultures where people sit on the ground and cultures where people sit on chairs so I am deeply moved to finally be able to hear the feedback of these players.

What kind of challenges did you face in bringing a Wii title to modern platforms?

Yutaka Fukaya (Producer): Since the hardware is from many previous generations, improving the graphics was a major objective and challenge. The labour involved was almost as much as making the game from scratch, and this is where we had the hardest time.

Visually, the remaster looks like a huge step up from the original. What can Switch players expect in terms of performance in relation to other platforms?

Fukaya-san: In terms of performance, there isn't a huge difference; the advantage of the Switch is that it can be played in handheld mode. No other hardware can give you the experience of playing in a dark room, buried under the covers of your bed.

For players who have never experienced Fatal Frame before, is Mask of the Lunar Eclipse a good starting point?

Fukaya-san: Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is the fourth in the series, but the story had concluded the previous three games. So, I think Mask of the Lunar Eclipse is a good starting point.

Would you be open to revisiting some of the earlier games in the series in the future? We’re sure fans would love to see the original trilogy brought back for modern platforms.

Fukaya-san: We can't make any definite promises here, but if from the release of Mask of the Lunar Eclipse we find that many players are looking forward to more from the series, we may be able to meet that interest. We hope everyone will pick up and enjoy this game and join us in getting everyone excited about the Fatal Frame series!

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Yutaka Fukaya (Producer) — Image: Koei Tecmo

What do you feel makes the Fatal Frame series stand out against other big horror franchises?

Fukaya-san: I am proud to say that Fatal Frame is a series that best embodies 'Japanese horror.' When I first tried the Fatal Frame series as a player myself, I literally felt a chill run down my spine. The terrifying experience, which is completely different from the grotesque creatures and jump scares, is the signature feature of this work.

Photography and recording devices have played a big role in horror across several mediums for decades now. What do you think it is about this trope that makes for such effective horror?

Shibata-san: I believe that recording devices appear in many horror stories that deal with spirits. I think the fact that something that cannot be seen can be captured and recorded is intriguing to many people. Even if it does not appear clearly, it is certainly evidence that spirits are real.

The Fatal Frame series puts a lot of focus on the existence of ghosts. Do you believe in ghosts, and have you ever experienced a paranormal event?

Shibata-san: I occasionally see spirits, and some of the spirits and staging are based on my own personal experiences.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Our thanks go out to Shibata-san and Fukaya-san for taking the time to answer our questions. Fatal Frame: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse launches on the Switch later this week.

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