Nintendo 3DS

Spirit Camera Was Originally A Fatal Frame Port For 3DS, Rejected By Iwata


Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is technically a part of the Fatal Frame series and was developed by the same staff, but it’s an augmented reality game, rather than a third-person survival horror adventure. This wasn’t always the case, however.


In an Iwata Asks interview with three members of the development team, Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, reveals that the first proposal for the game from Tecmo was simply a Nintendo 3DS port of one of the existing Fatal Frame titles. Iwata rejected this proposal personally, reasoning that horror was more suited to a console, and that a portable game would require a different approach.


“The reason I didn’t give the first proposal an okay was because in my mind horror games should have fairly rich graphics and good sound, and you make the room dark and concentrate on them alone,” Iwata shares. “I felt like if you made a game for the Nintendo 3DS system based on that home console concept, no matter how many new features you pack in, it would be a watered down version of the console version.”


Spirit Camera is a collaboration between Tecmo and Nintendo, who have been publishing the Fatal Frame games since Fatal Frame 4 on the Wii. As such, Nintendo’s own staff had a considerable amount of input, and it was one of them that proposed the idea of using augmented reality. The final product comes with a 16-page booklet that has different augmented reality effects when viewed through the Nintendo 3DS cameras, and is used to push the game’s story along. This created its own challenges.


“In the case of the [regular] game, it’s scary when it looks like something is going to jump out but it doesn’t, but in the case of AR, if you’ve done everything right and nothing comes out, you’re like, ‘What? Why not?’” says producer, Kikuchi. “I don’t want to give anything away so I can’t say much, but in order to solve that, we paid quite a lot of attention to game design that would—in a good way—run contrary to the player’s expectations.”


Perhaps another reason Iwata rejected the idea of a Fatal Frame port is because there already is one in development for the Wii. An enhanced port of Fatal Frame: Crimson Butterfly will be released for the Wii in Japan and Europe this year.

Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.