In April of 2014, it was revealed through the Japanese magazine Famitsu that Koei Tecmo and Nintendo are partnering again to develop a Wii U entry in the Fatal Frame series. Shigeru Miyamoto from Nintendo introduced the game at a special live-streamed event in July 2014. The game focuses heavily on water and takes place around Hikamiyama Mountain, also known as the Mountain of Death, inspired by the fabled Aokigahara forest (also called the Suicide Forest) where many people go to commit suicide. The areas in the game are very open and the largest in the series. Players use the Wii U GamePad as the Camera Obscura to capture ghosts.
The game will tell the stories of three main playable characters that will all have their own separate arc and will converge at the end. One of the main characters, Yuuri Kozukata, works at an antique shop and is able to see the "shadow" of objects she touches and can bring people back from "shadow world." Yuuri's gift is the reason she distances herself from other people but she also uses it to help others find lost items or missing people when they come asking for help.
One day, a girl called Fuyuhi Himino enters the store with a request for Yuuri to aid her in finding a friend that has gone missing in the forest near Mt. Hikamiyama, the Mountain of Death, where people go to commit suicide. People with such intentions enter the forest during the witching hour when the border between the world of the living and the hidden world of the shadows becomes blurred. It is said that those ending their own life there can die a clean, "proper" death and not become trapped as ghosts between worlds when committing suicide elsewhere.
According to the reveal trailer, both Yuuri and Fuyuhi enter the forest but at some point Yuuri sees Fuyuhi standing across a river with a knife to her throat, seemingly cutting it as the screen fades to black. Presumably the shrine maiden mentioned in the title is causing trouble in the area.
Yuuri works at the antique store, Kurosawa Antiques, which also happens to be a Café. She eventually goes to the mountain to look for the store's owner, Hisoka Kurosawa.
Miu is looking for her mother, Miku Hinasaki, the protagonist of the original Fatal Frame and one of the playable characters in Fatal Frame III: The Tormented, who disappeared when she was three years old. Growing up without a mother made her feel empty inside. She believes she'll find her mother at the mountain.
Ren is a struggling author and also quite peculiar. Rui, his assistant, teases him about this frequently. He goes to the mountain to do research for his new book after hearing about rituals involving burial photos taking place there. He's known Yuuri for a very long time.
Owner of the Kurosawa Antiques store. Hisoka also has the "gift" of seeing into the shadow world (kagemi). She goes to the mountain looking for missing girl and disappears. Yuuri has to go after her to find and bring her back.
Ren's assistant. She considers him family and has a lot of respect for him, calling him sensei even.
Easily identifiable by her white hair, Shiragiku roams the area around the Katashiro Shrine and whispers mysterious words to visitors. She carries a hitogatami, a faceless doll, and seemingly can read people's minds.
Fuyuhi comes to ask for Yuuri's help in finding her lost schoolmate and friend, Haruka, who went missing in the mountains. She is determined to go whether or not Yuuri and Hisoka are willing to help her.
Haruka is a friend of Fuyuhi's and is easily influenced by other people's opinions. She comes to Kurosawa Antiques to have her fortune read. She might be hiding a secret between her and Fuyuhi.
Miu Hinasaki's mother, currently missing and presumed to be somewhere on Mt. Hikamiyama. She previously starred in the very first Fatal Frame and Fatal Frame III: The Tormented. After the events of Fatal Frame III, she became pregnant, quit as Rei Kurosawa's assistant and raised Miu on her own before disappearing when Miu was only three.
Wii U GamePad
The game utilizes the Wii U GamePad's gyro-sensor to let it act as a real world analog to the Camera Obscura, which the player can move around to capture ghosts in the game. The framing can be rotated to best suit any ghost-encounter or puzzle situation.
During exploratory gameplay, the GamePad displays a map of the area.
Through Mitori, the player will be able to see how the person originally died when they manage to touch the ghost upon defeat.
When a ghost takes damage, ghost fragments will appear around it. If players manage to photograph several of them together with the ghost, it will take extra damage. However, after a while these fragments will rejoin with the ghost and restore some of its health.
Zanei is a gift used to track down people by following their past shadow. The character focuses on an object touched by the person in question which will reveal their shadow and lets the player follow their path and eventually find them.
New to the series is a run feature that should speed up the character movement when necessary as the slow walk speed was often criticized in the previous games. However, this does not mean players will be able to easily run away from every danger as water will provide a natural hindrance and slow down movement.
As Koei Tecmo originally stated during the reveal, the game is heavily centered around the concept of water. This manifests itself not just in the locations and atmosphere but also in a gameplay mechanic referred to as wetness, indicated by the Wetness Meter on the screen. The wetter the character becomes, the stronger their spirit power and thus also their attacks with the Camera Obscura will be. However, this also means that they will encounter more ghosts and the player's defense is lowered, as well. Consequently, getting attacked by a spirit will also result in the Wetness Meter going up.
Wetness is a status that clears up over time but players can choose to instantly deal with it by using an item called the "Purifying Flame." Certain ghosts afflicted with the "yomi nure" status effect can transfer this status over to the player with an attack which will result in a lowered defense, reduced vision and gradual loss of health. This status can also be cured instantly by using a Purifying Flame or by defeating all ghosts in the area.
The game is structured in chapters comprised of different missions. Players can take on missions at the store and then replay them as much as they like. Completing the required missions unlocks the next story chapter to progress.
Every character has different motivations for going to the mountain which makes learning about them crucial. Discovering clues by analyzing personal items like documents or strains of hair and reading their "spirit" by using Yuuri's gift (kagemi) becomes a key part of the investigation gameplay. Players will retrace the missing people's footsteps by following the hints gleaned from investigating thoroughly.
By looking into the shadow world, players can find hidden ghosts that provide further clues. Returning from Mask of the Lunar Eclipse as well as Project Zero 2: Wii Edition is the Touch System where a ghost's hand would sometimes grab the character's arm when picking up items.
Ayane Bonus Chapter
As a bonus, after completing the game, a special scenario starring Ayane of the Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden series is unlocked. The basic premise is that she has come to the village in search of a missing girl named Tsumugi Katashina. Tsumugi, like Ayane, felt ignored while her half-sister was lauded with attention and care. She had previously tried to commit suicide, but after failing that, traveled to Hikami Mountain, where she disappeared.
The gameplay in Ayane's chapter is radically different from the primary game mode. Ayane is heavily injured, taking away her normal athleticism, and she has no way to fight the ghosts, forcing her to rely on stealth. If she gets too close to a ghost or starts to run, the ghosts will be able to see her.
Ayane can activate a cloaking spell associated with a tattoo on her back to hide herself from the ghosts' perception. Using an item called the Spirit Stone Torch, she can knock back and stun ghosts if they manage to catch her. She is also able to use a special purple thread to help her locate Tsugumi.
There are three main locations players can explore initially:
- Kurosawa Antiques Shop, the antique store that serves as a sort of base of operations and where players will receive new objectives.
- Mikomori Onsen, an abandoned mansion said to be haunted by lots of ghosts.
- Shirazu no Mori, the mysterious forest at the mountain which has become a famous suicide spot. A fence was erected to discourage people from ending their life there but people still find a way to sneak in. Rumors say a murderer also lives in the forest.
- Mt. Hikami Cable Car, abandoned after a landslide. It was originally meant to increase tourism but is now rumored to be a premier ghost hangout.
- Watarai Mansion, previous residence of folklorist Keiji Watarai who studied the mountain. He went missing while investigating the religion of the locals and his house disappeared, too. It can supposedly be seen in the fog sometimes.
- Katashiro Shrine is located in the center of Shirazu Forest. There are lots of dolls around and the ghosts of children are supposed to roam the area.
- Hikami Tunnel is one of the many tunnels on the island which is riddled with tunnels and caves. It was also intended for tourists but was flooded during construction again, causing many workers to die there, before being abandoned. The caves running through the mountain were originally seen as the insides of a god's body, represented by the mountain and subsequently named the "womb cave," a place where gods dwell.
The new Fatal Frame game marks the fourth Nintendo-exclusive release in the series. Fatal Frame IV: Mask of the Lunar Eclipse was the only title in the series to never be localized outside of Japan, while the Wii-exclusive reworking of Fatal Frame II was released in Europe and Australia under the name Project Zero 2: Wii Edition. The only Nintendo-exclusive entry to receive worldwide release prior to this game was the Nintendo 3DS spin-off Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir. A global localization and release for Fall 2015 was announced in a Nintendo Direct on April 1, 2015.
The current common translation of the subtitle is The Black Haired Shrine Maiden or The Raven Haired Shrine Maiden but a more literal translation is The Wet Crow Shrine Maiden, referring to the game's antagonistic main ghost. The word Miko can also be interpreted as priestess. Nuregarasu's literal translation "wet crow" is typically used to describe a specific hair color in a poetic way, thus the more fitting English alternative "raven hair." The black hair and the qualifier "wet" reinforce the thematic focus on water in the game, which is reflected in the Japanese logo artwork as well as the opening scene of the reveal trailer.
On the day of the Japanese launch, an official Nico Nico stream featuring the movie actresses playing the first hour of the game featured a first hint of an official English version of the game's title on its website - Fatal Frame: Oracle of the Sodden Raven. At E3 2015, Nintendo finally announced its officially localized English subtitle as "Maiden of Black Water," dropping the reference to the raven and hair and instead focusing on the general theme of water present in the game.
For the Western release, similar to Project Zero 2: Wii Edition, the developers added Nintendo-themed costumes to the list of unlockable outfits in the form of a Princess Zelda costume and a Zero Suit Samus costume. The latter was already included in the Japan-exclusive fourth entry in the series, Zero: Tsukihami no Kamen.
Along with the game, multiple multimedia franchise tie-ins were announced such as a Japanese movie, a novel, a manga as well as a Hollywood movie adaptation. Most of these were detailed and revealed along with the game during a dedicated Fatal Frame event in Japan on July 17, 2014. More details on the Fatal Frame franchise page.
The Japanese movie adaptation by Kadokawa, Zero, features similar locations in a forest and a thematic focus on water and releases the day before the game hits Japanese stores shelves, opening up possibilities of potential story connections between the film and the game.
- In an interview with Famitsu Magazine (September 24, 2014 issue), series director Makoto Shibata revealed the key color chosen for the fifth game was black.
- Unlockable bonus character Ayane from Dead or Alive was put in the game as per Yosuke Hayashi's (Team Ninja) request.
- The game uses some unspecified technology from the Dead or Alive 5, as revealed by Team Ninja's Twitter account.
- During the initial planning stages, the developers were considering not using the Camera Obscura in the game and potentially setting it in a completely different scenario such as science fiction or something with swords or guns.
- They chose many employees who previously had never worked on a Fatal Frame-title before when assembling the team for this game to bring in new ideas.
- The official main theme song "Higanbana" by Anju is available on amazon.
Series veteran singer Tsuki Amano returns to provide at least one song for the game, titled "Torikago ~in this cage~."
Notably, the game received a D-rating in Japan from CERO, making it the game with the highest age rating in the series, as all previous Zero titles received C-ratings.