Deception has been a common theme throughout the last couple of months. Government bodies being aware of the COVID-19 virus and not telling their body about it, certain country leaders dismissing it as something that is worse the common cold but less than the flu, whilst others dismiss the idea that the Coronavirus even exists. So, I thought I’d explore a game cue for this weeks #TuneTuesday tune that sets up the player’s expectations to be one thing, but in reality, presents them with something completely different altogether. The cue (or at the least the only name for it I could find anyway) is ‘Intro’ from Fatal Frame (or Project Zero, depending on who you ask, which was also marketed with lies in the west, claiming that it was based on a true story), composed by Ayako Toyoda and/or Shigekiyo Okuda.
The premise for the game is rather simple. You play as Miku and Mafuyu Hinasaki (but mostly Miku). Mafuyu has heard that a famous novelist has disappeared in the haunted Himuro Mansion, and so makes the “sensible” decision to go looking for him, which takes place as the game’s tutorial, with an old black and white film filter, to create the impression that what you playing in is the past. Surprise, surprise, he then goes missing, and his sister Miku goes to find him, with colour returning to the player.
It may come to little to surprise to you that Fatal Frame is a survival horror game where the game’s enemies are a seemingly neverending platoon of ghosts, that takes a lot of influence from the likes of the old school (or ‘rather new’ at the time) Resident Evil and Silent Hill games, especially the latter. The main catch that makes it more frightening in many ways than both games is the combat. You have to stare at your opponent for a long time using the Camera Obscura, a magical camera that can take pictures of ghosts. It is a terrifying premise actually, one that forces you to literally face your fears, rather than shoot blindly or run and hide.
The accompanying score draws a lot of inspiration from Silent Hill, in that there is actually very little music. Just a lot of chaotic noise and creepy whispers, child giggling and a female ghost who can’t find her eyes. But the game’s main theme doesn’t present that sort of image to listeners. It sounds more like a JRPG/action-adventure game, which sounds an unusual choice to go with for a survival horror game. There is also a sense of the serious Japnese classical tone to it, especially in its introduction, that ties nicely with some of the game’s setting that I shan’t spoil to you. E minor (and the D minor it flirts with) is a good key for establishing this royal sound (to me at least. You can make any key sound/portray any emotion with the right level of thought).
So why did the composer(s) do this? I’d like to propose the idea that this was done to deliberately screw with the player. A lot of Japanese games feature female protagonists, a usually high school looking/age girls that are overly powered and can do anything with the power of friendship. Then you play the game and realise that both characters are pretty powerless without the aid of their inherited camera. This musical contradiction adds to the initial fright/shock factor that the game is aiming for as you take selfies with ghosts.