Hifumi Kono Is Making The J-Horror Game He Always Wanted To With Project Scissors

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Creator of the classic Clock Tower series Hifumi Kono came out of nowhere in September to announce that he he and the rest of the team at Nude Maker are working on a spiritual successor to his original J-horror games under the working title “Project Scissors.”


More than that, it turned out that Kono is working with a number of talented people for his new project, which is an idea he said has been working on for over five years. Among them are Ju-on (The Grudge) director Takashi Shimizu, and Silent Hill creature designer Masahiro Ito.


All that Kono has revealed of Project Scissors so far is that it will be set on a luxurious cruise liner in the middle of the ocean, which becomes a site of inescapable horror as a murderer begins to pick off the crew and passengers. You play as one of the survivors looking to solve the mystery of this murderer while trying to survive.


Siliconera was able to pry Kono for more information in an interview, which to our surprise also included Shimizu, that you can read below. They discuss how they’re trying to get back to the roots of J-horror with Project Scissors, why they’re developing the game for touchscreens first, and we were also able to find out one of the other big names that is working on Project Scissors.


What is it, for you, that defines the Clock Tower series and that you’re trying to recapture in Project Scissors? On the other hand, what are you doing differently with Project Scissors? Perhaps it’s something you’re able to do with today’s technology, or maybe just in terms of fresh ideas – anything that will surprise fans?


Hifumi Kono, Designer: One of the most important aspects of this project is to let the original game concept naturally evolve. That is, the central concept of running and hiding. While it’s easy to come to the conclusion of a combat system as an evolution of this concept, that would muddy the original core concept and would inevitably make the gameplay end up like so many other existing games.


Instead, I think a challenge we need to overcome here is in incorporating more ideas that arise from analyzing the concept of running and hiding in order to allow the game to progress along a more orthodox path.


We can of course visualize the game in ways we couldn’t in the past, though. For instance we could place a camera inside a closet the player is hiding in so that the player can peek through the gap in the closet doors to make the scene dramatic and tense. The branching narrative will also be more complex and interaction with other survivors will be very important in this game.


Completing the game will probably be harder, but we’re trying to implement mechanics that will allow the player to enjoy the game without it just being frustrating. We’ve actually already laid out the specifications for the game, and we’re currently moving forward with development. We hope you guys are looking forward to the finished product!


Both yourself and Hideo Kojima are working with film directors to make horror games. What do film directors bring to these games, do you think? Also, what does Takashi Shimizu, specifically, bring to Project Scissors?


Director Shimizu is helping us out with the direction and setting for this game. Specifically, he listens to the world and setting I have in mind and gives me feedback and ideas on how to expand on that world, such as “Then this is what the monster’s backstory could be like,” “Something like this could make an appearance,” or “As the story unfolds we could have events like this happen.”


We might work in different mediums, but there’s no question that he has a very deep understanding of the horror genre, and I’m definitely getting a lot of useful opinions.

Takashi Shimizu, Director: While as a film director I’m not particularly well versed with video games, Mr. Kono talked about how he wanted to make a video game that incorporated the unique traits of J-horror and so I decided to join.


The characteristic feature of the “horror” in J-horror is the fear that emanates not only from the killer’s physical threat to the victim but also from their psychological state or spirit. For instance intangible emotions/feelings come back as vengeful spirits, invoking an indirect or psychological fear as the spirit acts as a “weapon,” and this works as a major horror element.


What direction are you giving Masahiro Ito for his work on the creatures and props in Project Scissors? What does he personally bring to the game’s design?


He’s just full of talent and comes up with incredible design ideas that most people would never think of. However, if his ideas are either too unrealistic or out-of-this-world, it may be at odds with the atmosphere of the original title, so sometimes I have to ask for designs closer to what you might find in real life.


He also isn’t simply a designer but also comes up with a lot of ideas for visual presentation of the gameplay as well. Listening to those ideas and talking them over really helps my own creative process too.


In what various ways will we interact with the other survivors on board the ship? Are we just trying to protect them? Do they each have abilities or insight to offer, perhaps? Does it matter if any of them die, or will that just be scripted anyway?


While I won’t spoil any of the details, interacting with the other survivors in a variety of manners will be a very important aspect of the game.


You might have to calm individuals down who look like they may panic and make a commotion, thus drawing the killer to you, or maybe you’ll need to pry out important clues from certain individuals who might be withholding crucial information. This is why it’ll be important to try and keep as

many survivors alive as you progress through the game.


Of course, you’ll also likely be able to just let them all die, so we’re planning on adding plenty of branching points that will accommodate the storyline for such a turn of events.


Is Project Scissors primarily designed for touch screens, and if so, how does it control? If not, how are you ensuring it works well on touch screens?


It’s being designed primarily for touch screen controls. We decided to go with a point-and-click interface like the original, so I think touch screen controls will work very well.


Of course, this input method isn’t as good in terms of its synchronicity with button inputs and character movement, but I feel that this better simulates the lack of control you have over your body when under intense fear (many people have probably experienced this in a nightmare) and in turn in its dramatic effect.


Why have you decided to focus on bringing the game to Vita and smartphones? Is there any chance that Project Scissors could come to consoles and PC at some point?


The simple reason was that our budget limits us to developing for smartphones and mobile platforms. However we received so much support and encouragement from our fans than we originally anticipated after announcing the project, so we’re now looking for ways to shift up to higher-end systems as well.


You’ve mentioned that you have a limited budget for Project Scissors? Is this your own personal savings, then? Also, how are you finding it working around such a tight budget? Is it making you more determined, creative?


For now funding is coming from me personally as well as my personal friends, but we are of course looking into other ways to raise funds. After we announced the project at Indie Stream Fes, we did get offers for help and we’re currently in negotiations.


As for our budget being tight, although we’re not receiving funds from any large publishers, the flipside of course is that we’re not bound by any contracts, so I’m actually really excited about being able to create the ultimate horror game I’ve always really wanted to.


Shimizu: Regarding our limited budget, aside from independent films, I’ve worked on many low-budget projects like the V-cinema (film shot with video camera)_ title “Ju-on” or “Marebito,” which had a budget of only 5.5 million yen.


But as long as certain conditions are met, with enough know-how and ingenuity you can come up with brilliant new ways to express your creativity if you’re free to develop the kind of content you want. These kinds of projects are really the most fulfilling, and that kind of feeling really resonates with the audience.


Limited budgets have allowed me to come up with concepts that I can really believe in, which in turn increases my motivation to see through my projects. And just as with those projects, I feel like we’ll really be able to see through the project with the concepts we had in mind.


Can we expect Project Scissors to be released in the west, and do you have a rough guess of when that might be, or perhaps when you expect to finish work on the game?


Of course we’ll be releasing the game overseas as well! Developing a game strictly for Japan is unthinkable nowadays. “Clock Tower” will be reaching its 20th anniversary in late 2015, so we’re hoping to release the game around Halloween.


And on another note, I wanted to give you some news I’ve been giving to those who kindly requested interviews after we announced the project, which is that Nobuko Toda, well known worldwide for her work as a composer on games like the “Metal Gear Solid” series and “Halo,” will be joining our team!


I’m really looking forward to see what kind of music she’ll be making for our game. We’re also actually planning on adding more big-name development personnel to our team in the future, though we can’t make an announcement for any of them quite yet. Look forward to future updates!

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Chris Priestman
Former Siliconera staff writer and fan of both games made in Japan and indie games.