Posted on Sunday, August 5th, 2012 at 5:00 PM by Tim Bowers
The Clock Tower games are a series of survival horror games created by Human Entertainment and then picked up by Capcom. There are four games in the series; Clock Tower (1995), Clock Tower (1996), Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within and Clock Tower 3.
Clock Tower (1995) wasn’t released outside of Japan so when the second Clock Tower game was released to the rest of the world in 1996 it was called Clock Tower 2 in Japan but just Clock Tower everywhere else, what makes it worse is that the first two games are actually connected even though the first one has never been released outside of Japan, the third is more of a spin off and the fourth one doesn’t really have any connection to the ones before it but we’ll come to that in a bit. For the purpose of this article we’ll call the first game Clock Tower (A) and the second game Clock Tower (B).
During the late 90’s survival horror games were growing in popularity thanks to the Resident Evil series, but whereas most of the other games had you playing as hardened special forces agents with a vast array of weapons, healing abilities and skills at your disposal, Clock Tower bucked that trend and placed you in the body of a young teenage girl with no abilities apart from running and screaming.
Playing more like the movie Halloween than a typical game, all four games involve young female protagonists with limited or no weaponry and require players to make use of the scenery and surroundings to hide from the heavily armed villain that is on the lookout for her.
The first Clock Tower game was released on the Super Famicom in 1995, later it was ported to the PlayStation1 and renamed Clock Tower: The First Fear. It tells the story of a young orphan called Jennifer Simpson. Jennifer and her three friends, Lotte, Ann and Laura, who are also orphans, are informed that they have been adopted by a Mr Barrows and are brought to the Barrows Mansion by a lady called Mary. As the girls settle in and wait in the foyer, Mary goes off to find Mr Barrows but doesn’t come back. Jennifer offers to go look for her but as soon as she leaves the foyer she hears a scream, rushes back to find her friends missing.
Over the course of the game Jennifer must find her friends, solve the mystery of the mansion and avoid the games villain, Scissorman. Scissorman is a deformed human who wields a massive pair of scissors which he uses to kill. Jennifer isn’t able to defeat him or fight back, all she can really do is run and hide, sometimes Scissorman will find her hiding places in which case she can struggle with him a bit until she is either killed or is able to run off again to find somewhere else to hide. Scissorman’s appearances are usually random but for the most part there is some music or a trigger that causes them, other times he’ll literally burst out of a wardrobe or from behind a shower curtain.
The game also has multiple endings depending on if you completed certain tasks, found friends or solved puzzles. There were nine endings in total, some with Jennifer surviving and others with her dying.
Clock Tower (A) was a moderate success in Japan so it allowed Human Entertainment to create a direct sequel and the first game to be released outside of Japan. Cock Tower (B) was released in 1996 on the PlayStation 1. The game takes place 12 months after the first game, Jennifer has been adopted by Helen Maxwell, an assistant of a psychiatrist who is helping Jennifer get over the terrible events of the first game. During her therapy Scissorman reappears and begins to attack friends and colleagues. This eventually leads the larger ensemble cast back to the Barrows Mansion.
While many aspects of the first game still remain, no weapons, hiding, puzzle solving, the game differed in respect to the fact you could chose the playable character. Essentially all the characters were the same in respect to the inability to fight back but it gave you a chance to see what else was going on in the game.
As with the previous game there were multiple endings, five for Jennifer and five for Helen depending on which you chose as the main protagonist, again some of these end well and some not so well.
I’ll be honest with you right now and say that these games are awful, the graphics are clunky at best, the voice acting is so hammy it could be used in a sandwich and the plot is ridiculous but there is just something about them. I remember playing Clock Tower (B) with my friend on the PlayStation 1 late one night in the dark and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so freaked out by a game.
The two remaining games Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within and Clock Tower 3 don’t have any real connection to the first two games. Clock Tower II deals with a young girl called Alyssa who is adopted yet finds she has another soul living inside her, this soul is called Bates and he’s not a nice man. The game was not well received, critics pointed out the rather obvious plot holes, the ‘so bad it’s bad’ voice acting and the fact that towards the end of the game the character acquires guns and weapons to fight back.
In 1999 Human Entertainment folded and the Clock Tower franchise was sold to Capcom. Clock Tower 3 was developed by Capcom and the only link to the original games is the game play. You play as a girl called Alyssa who returns home to find her mother missing and a stranger called The Dark Gentleman in her house. Alyssa soon learns about her dark heritage, her time travelling abilities and comes face to face with deadly twisted killers. The game style changed from point and click to direct control of Alyssa.
By 2002 when Clock Tower 3 was released the survival horror genre had become saturated and watered down, critics praised the game for trying something different as opposed to the mass of point and shoot clones that had flooded the market. Fans of the series were not as praiseworthy with complaints aimed at the lack of singular villain and that the game did not have multiple endings like its predecessors.
Clock Tower 3 was the last game to be released in the series; currently Capcom has no plans for a new game. There have been rumours of a movie adaptation for years, in 2008 a series of posters were released for the movie but the movie never appeared. According to IMDB the latest update is that David R.Ellis (Snakes on a Plane) has signed up to direct with a release date of 2012……
Personally I think the franchise is due a comeback, despite the game’s many weak points they have retained a cult following and Scissorman is still considered one of the great video game killers. With Resident Evil moving away from the survival horror genre it created I think now is the perfect time for a real survival game to fill the gap.
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