Project Zero: Maiden of Blackwater: face to face with the director of the series, Makoto Shibata

Interviewing Japanese developers is never a walk in the park. They are often lapidary in their answers, poorly accustomed to uncomfortable questions and have a tendency to close in a hedgehog. Well we knew this when we were offered the chance to interview Makoto Shibata, historical director of the Project Zero series, however we still wanted to take advantage of the twentieth anniversary of the saga to ask him a few questions.

Some of our questions were related to Nintendo Switch version of Maiden of Blackwater – discussed the last chapter of the saga finally coming also for the Nintendo console – with the rest, however, we tried to probe the ground to find out something about the future of the series, or about Shibata’s thoughts related to the perception of his saga in the West. We weren’t able to fully scale the wall of thoughts of this acclaimed author, but a lot of interesting information about Project Zero has sprung up nonetheless.

Here’s what he told us.

Project Zero: hey man, are you alright? I see you pale

Multiplayer: Maiden of Blackwater deals with some issues considered taboo, such as suicide or incest. Do you think it will be welcomed in the West at this time when many developers tend to stay away from such controversial topics? Do you think that more games should run the risk of dealing with such hot topics today?
Makoto Shibata: I believe that people will accept the title in different ways in both Asia and the West, and that’s okay. The story of the game is not something that can be casually appreciated, it is a story that has a lasting effect on the player, able to leave behind a feeling of fear.

What can we expect from a technical point of view from this remaster? Will there be any changes in the content? Have you changed the sensitivity of the camera in any way?
Resolution has been improved and graphics retouched. There are no changes to the combat or story system, but new costumes and a photo mode have been added to offer more ways to have fun. As for the controls, it is possible to use Switch as Camera Obscura in portable mode, and use the Joy-Con to control the position of the camera, but this also applies to the PS5, PS4 version and for all devices that support the gyroscope.

Is there a new difficulty in this version? Maiden of Blackwater is considered by many to be the easiest title in the series. Will there be a “spiritual track” mechanic to guide the player in this remaster?
No the difficulty is the same. We also kept the track mechanics to allow players to better enjoy the story. We didn’t want the player to feel lost, nor to make the title too difficult as an action game.

Why did you decide to release a remaster now? Is there something in the pot behind the scenes?
This is the title we have prepared for the 20th anniversary of the series and for now we have no plans for other games. However, the response has been more positive than expected, so we will continue to think about it for the future.

Will there be bikinis from the original Japanese version in this remaster?
No, they are not included, we have prepared other completely new costumes for the game.

The theme of Maiden of Blackwater is “haunted places”. Were you inspired by real urban legends or does it all come from your imagination? And if the answer is the first, can you tell us one of these legends?
The worldview of this work is based on multiple urban legends concerning cursed places, connected by a fictitious indigenous religion. As for religion, I created a cult that I thought might actually have existed. The first story I would like to introduce is the one concerning posthumous marriage, a popular belief that is often found in the northeastern region of Japan: to console those who have died without getting married, they dedicate an image of their marriage to an altar in the form of Ema ( wooden tablets on which Shinto believers write prayers or draw pictures to use during rituals). In this “marriage” the partner is an ideal and imaginary beauty. I think this is a very sad, yet very beautiful tradition, and I have decided to incorporate it in a different form into the story.

The previous Project Zeros all look very similar, but are actually built around a specific type of fear that serves as a concept. Could you tell us about the process of “creating” this form of fear?
In this series, we decide on a fear-related theme for each title and delve into that. The story, the direction, the characters and the enemies are structured to make it happen. After deciding where to take the player to the end and what to leave in their mind, let’s create the horror elements thinking about how we want everything to slowly come to an end.

One of the multiple costumes from Project Zero: Maiden of Blackwater

Project Zero has been and remains one of the best horror series, but it’s still been seven years since Maiden of Blackwater. What do you think the series can offer to modern users?
We believe that Project ZERO has a timeless universal fear factor. It’s not just a horror, it’s an adventure with a complex story, system and characters. Player values ​​become more and more diverse from time to time, so we will continue to make the game available on various hardware with many different control options. Hopefully the result will allow people to experience the story in many different ways.

Multiplayer: There was a slight resurgence of horror in 2014, but a lot of the genre is now a kind of “more of the same” that seems to lack something that made Project Zero unique. Could it be the right time to restart the series with a new chapter?
Each game in the Project Zero series offers a different concept of fear, so if we decided to make a new game, we would explore a new concept of terror and try to introduce it to the world.

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