Could you please introduce yourself and explain in what capacity you worked on Project Zero 3.
Shibata: My name is Makoto Shibata, the director of the Project Zero series. I directed the entire project, from concept design through to the finished product.
For the uninitiated, can you please explain what the Project Zero series is about? How would you say it differs from other horror games like Resident Evil or Silent Hill, for example?
Shibata: Both Resident Evil and Silent Hill are horror games. However, their nature is different from our Project Zero series. The Project Zero games are the condensed essence of Japanese horror, and are all based upon Japanese ghost stories. Project Zero 3 (PZ3) takes place in an abandoned manor in Japan, the architecture of which follows a traditional Japanese form. In Japanese horror, fear is not simply generated through surprise; the silence and suspense in-between the action is important too. This silence makes the player's fear build in his or her mind. Japanese horror is always designed this way.
Another difference from other horror games is that your opponents are ghosts. Ghosts have no physical existence, and, as such, you cannot predict where and when they will appear. With PZ3 we create a feeling that somebody is watching you while you are playing the game and build the fear in the player's own imagination. The ghosts themselves used to be human. They had anger, sorrow, obsession, and passion. They have their own reasons for being there and for attacking you. Giving opponents this detailed background is also one of the differences from other horror games.
One of the big features of the PZ series is that you use a camera to fight the ghosts. This is a magic camera, built to seal the spirit of ghosts within it. The damage the player can deal and whether they can capture the ghost is dependent upon how close the player is to it. In other words, the player has to be face to face with the ghost to fight it effectively. The camera can also show visions of the past, and the player uses the camera to uncover the truth about what's happened in the manor and to solve its mystery.
This mystery and the background of the heroine are intertwined by fate, and the player will eventually learn the secret of this relationship. I think that this style is unique to the PZ series. I believe that true horror becomes a very personal issue, and is something understood differently by each person experiencing it. Project Zero is the crystallization of my horror philosophy.
What are the major influences the team has drawn on in this game and throughout the series?
Shibata: A major influence was the horror movie Ring. The last scene, in which Sadako (the ghost who comes out of the TV) attacks, provided the inspiration for the battle system using the camera. I was shocked by the brilliant way the film created this nightmarish vision of an up-close ghostly experience.
Also, the Manga Yokai (Monster) Hunter series, by Daijiro Moroboshi, inspired me a lot. This Manga deals with themes of Japanese folklore. In this, the hero begins to see another world (the world after death) by accident while he is investigating Japanese folklore. The Manga perfectly re-created typical Japanese images of this netherworld.