Game WATCH Interview with Hifumi Kono Prior to NightCry's Release

Note from translator: The following interview was posted January 31, 2016 on the Japanese gaming site Game WATCH, a couple months prior to the release of NightCry. The interviewer's name is not specified. Hifumi Kono (also rendered as "Hifumi Kohno") is the director of Clock Tower on the Super Famicom, its sequel on the PlayStation, and NightCry.
Comments in parentheses in Kono's dialogue seem to be explanatory comments from the interviewer, though this is not clarified.
Translated by R. Capowski, 3/25/24. Despite
NightCry's problems, I maintain that Kalas getting eaten by a vending machine is a high point of art and humanity in general.


One attraction at the Tokaigi Game Party Japan 2016 was the Digital Games Expo Special, a corner showcasing indie games and other titles. In one nook, you could find the Playism booth—featuring the horror game NightCry, currently in production by Nude Maker.

NightCry started production as the spiritual successor to the horror masterpiece Clock Tower. The game takes place in an enclosed space—a luxury cruise liner—and depicts the terror of being stalked by the mysterious mad killer Scissor Walker. There hasn't been much information released on the title yet, though production is entering its final stages, and the game has finally been unveiled to the public.

The version on display allows you to play the beginning of the game, so you can experience a scene where Scissor Walker pops up and chases you and you hide. The game effectively recreates the feel of horror movies, and you can get a taste of the thrills you'll find. From gathering opinions from those who've played it, it seems that fans find it really replicates the Clock Tower atmosphere and convincingly depicts a psychological brand of horror.

We caught up with Nude Maker's Hifumi Kono, and we present our conversation here.

caption: NightCry Extended Gameplay Trailer; the one hosted by the pseudo-LPer:
A fairly old trailer. In the version we played, the player character's movement speed etc. seems to have been further adjusted.

caption: photo of Kono holding a NightCry postcard:
Nude Maker's Hifumi Kono


―First, let's hear about NightCry's current development status.

Kono: We're actually putting the final finishing touches on it. The data embedding is close to 99% done; I've more or less finished up the camerawork and the lighting. After that, we have debugging.

—I imagine there's also a technical debug, and adjustments made after playtesting.

Kono: The flags for the endings and stuff are fairly complex, you see. We recently discovered just the worst bug, where we found that you just couldn't get to one ending, no matter what you did. (laughs) There are lots of different conditions... It's like it's constructed so that it's to a degree flexible (to accommodate the player) so that it's not just a straight line, you know? So when you do that, and you add in all these conditions, it establishes that "if you end up going here before you go here, you're just locked out of this ending!"

—So you're saying the game scriptwise has gotten pretty complicated?

Kono: I'm the one responsible for them (the game script and the systems), so it didn't quite click with me, but a version that contains all the data was played by one of our managers or something, and the verdict was: "is anyone ever going to get to see the good ending?". (laughs)

—...It's that tough?

Kono: But for support, we have a flowchart, like in adventure games and stuff, to show the branching, right? We're putting that system in. There are autosaves at every crucial point, so you can go back to a savepoint, load it up, and play.

—So it's like Kamaitachi no Yoru, where there's a flowchart, and you can go back to branching points?

Kono: Yes, yes, that's right. But even if you go back (to the branching points)...will you still be able to get there (to the good end)?... (laughs) We're making it so you'll get hints for the ending conditions, after a fashion. In situations where "I gave this thing to that person." But like, how do you get that thing? And how do you give it to that person? You might not understand at all. That's pretty rough.

—When we talked before, we said you wanted to avoid using menus and stuff as much as possible to heighten the sense of immersion in the game; how are the hints displayed, then?

Kono: Basically, you glimpse them in the flowchart on the save/load screen.

Also, on the ship (where NightCry is set), for the "they're not gonna get it, are they?" mysteries, we've made it so you can use the smartphones that appear in the game to browse this Instagram-like social media platform called "Snap N Post" where we drop casual clues, where if you look at the photos, you get it.

—It looks like you're making a comparatively hardcore product! Those who like games will discover these hints, but casuals might feel it's a hardcore product.

Kono: Well, frankly, in this internet age, we have this culture of exchanging information about games back-and-forth to a degree, right? In that sense, I actually think hardcore content might be okay for this game.

—In NightCry, basically, the protagonist runs from the killer and hides and stuff to survive. There are lots of rooms, and lots of places to which to flee—can you to a degree hide wherever you want?

Kono: There are lots of places where you can get away, and the player can choose, but we're making the final adjustments on it currently.

—So you're saying that's also connected to game balance.

Kono: That's right. In the old Clock Tower, there were evade spots you could use infinitely, right? There aren't here. Like, if you use a place once, you can't use it again. But I'm kind of wavering (worried) about this right now, like: "isn't this too harsh?" So in that sense, I'd like to think about it while discussing it with the publisher.

—For the first evade point, you usually run into a closet, and you think, "Hey, am I going to be discovered here?" and I got the feeling that the game really portrays well that heart-pounding feeling as the killer walks past.

Kono: Horror is close to comedy skits in some ways, you know? You're try to hide yourself in this tiny little space, they just have to peek in just a little to see you, but for some reason, your pursuer doesn't—like that.

Same as Clock Tower, the killer this time, the "Scissor Walker," is of course a little dopey, right? But I think the scariest thing is how someone dopey like that comes to kill you. When someone super-serious and shrewd comes to kill you, it's kind of easy to accept, isn't it? But being killed by someone who you think, "this guy's kind of a dumbass" makes it exponentially scarier. In that sense, and this game definitely has that razor-thin difference between comical laughter and terror.

—And there are parts that are scary for the player precisely because the player thinks they'll be found out!

Kono: If you don't match the cursor up well (in a minigame when the killer passes by), you'll be instantly found out.

—Besides the system where you match the cursor up, are there any other kinds of patterns?

Kono: Yes, lots. Sometimes you have to evade repeatedly in a row, and sometimes, you're able to just glide right by scot-free. There's a pretty wide variety!

Frankly, the cost of games typically goes into event scenes like these, right? NightCry has so many event scenes in it you think, "Does an indie game really have to have this many event scenes?". And these event scenes each have a version for success and one for failure, so there really are a lot!

The staff member in charge of adding the sound looked at the amount of production work on NightCry and said, "I've never seen an indie game like this before!". (laughs) The budget's about one-fifth to one-tenth that of a typical console game.

—But when you say "indie game," the term in itself means you were able to make the game you wanted to create yourself, right?

Kono: Well, but of course, the budget factors into it: we had a Chapter 4, but we had to cut one whole chapter—and, for example, a number of events were entirely cut. However, I think we did 150% of what we could do within our established budget. The staff and I, I think we gave more than all we had given our current circumstances.

—Going to different decks on the ship triggers loading screens; when I asked the staff, "Can't you make this seamless?", they said, "that'd be really tough with this budget."

Kono: In exchange, having that loading screen lets the game load in a pretty wide map in its entirely. That's why it was the way we did it this time. In order to do it seamlessly, we'd have to allocate the data really skillfully, but the graphic artists are already working like dogs; that'd just make them collapse.

The backgrounds for this game are being worked on by one person. This is an unusual circumstance, and to reach that level of quality with one person, that has to take years off that person's life.

—The player character can sometimes stumble as they're running away; what causes this to happen?

Kono: I'm keeping that a secret. (laughs) Understand that the player's mistrust and unease regarding the game systems is part of the presentation of horror.

caption: NightCry promotional postcard: "The crazed scissors hunt you once again":
A postcard distributed at the venue.

caption:mini Scissor Walker caricature in corner of postcard:
A cute Scissor Walker is sketched where you put the stamp.


—In Clock Tower, there was a European atmosphere; here, the heroine's a sexy blonde. Is she maybe modeled after an actress?

Kono: Well, here, there's no actress she's modeled after. This time, as a departure, I thought, let's go with a double heroine. We've had what was called a "double heroine" before, but Helen is at best a supporting heroine (Translator Note: Excuse you); Jennifer is firmly cemented as the main heroine, right?

When I decided to use a double heroine this time, I decided to make one of them a stereotypical American girl. I also wanted to draw a contrast to the heroine of Chapter 3. The two heroines are on extremely bad terms; how does this work out? It's interesting, and I want players to see it!

At the start, this heroine was a supporting heroine. Like, after a quick tutorial, bam! she'd be killed, and that'd be the end of her. But, like an idiot, I did a 180° and actually began to like her. I boosted her up to a main heroine, and in the second half, a Jennifer-like heroine appears, and it's like it gets interesting with the contrast drawn between them. So this means she got like an unexpected promotion, and she suddenly became the heroine of the first half of the story.

—There's a scene at the start with the vending machine where there's a pool of blood and the killer appears.

Kono: That, I think, is stupid and fun! (laughs)

—You were saying that about the time that you entered production of NightCry, you were rewatching the films of Lucio Fulci (horror director known for Zombie, City of the Living Dead, The House by the Cemetery, etc.); you can feel some of that here.

Kono: That's right. This time, I decided to go with a double bill of psychological horror and grotesque scenes.

In the second half, there's a really vividly grotesque scene. But I'm personally not fond of horror that leans only on grotesque scenes. But you also feel like you want to see them, right? I feel it's an important job to respond to these feelings. I guess that's of course thanks to Lucio Fulci.

Though I've been watching horror movies recently, doesn't it happen a lot where it's mockumentary-style and the camera is all moving and you can't see the grotesque scenes at all? I got to thinking that I of course wanted to avoid this! On the other hand, if you just thoughtlessly throw grotesque scenes up on the screen, that's not genius, I don't think, so.

But initially, that vending machine scene is so cute! That's what makes the second half so awesome. On that point, it's an evolution from the Clock Tower series.

—But it's ultimately a scene with psychological horror, is what you're saying, right? I imagine what you're showing right now is just a taste of the game?

Kono: We've made it so you can get to the end of Chapter 1. But if you play normally, it takes about two hours to get to the end of Chapter 1, so (according to staff, the play sessions per player are running long, so I understand they'll be changing that at some point).

—About when is the release planned?

Kono: We're going to announce it (the release date) any time now, I think. We might be able to get it to you earlier than imagined. However, we're making it absolutely as a PC-first game, so we're releasing it for the PC first; then, we're releasing it for the other platforms, I think.

―Well, then, do you have a word for all your patient players?

Kono: Currently, I think we've been able to give 150%. The staff and I are frazzled, but I think what's enabled us to come this far has been our sense of duty—to live up to the expectations of our fans and backers, I think. I think we've delivered, so I hope you look forward to it.

—Thank you very much.

caption: NightCry booth:
The atmosphere in the booth. Visitors who played the game were invited to write down their thoughts so they could be incorporated in the game.