#2. Clock Tower II (Clock Tower in North America)
Publisher: Human Entertaiment (Japan)/ASCII Entertainment (North America & Europe)
Developer: Human Entertainment
Systems Released On: Sony Playstation
Release Date: 12/13/1996 (Japan), 09/30/1997 (North America)
In the mountains of Romsdaaren, Norway, stands the Barrows Family Mansion, an unwholesome, brooding manor perched atop a large cliff. Home to the Barrows family for generations, locals grew to depend on the clock tower of this once peaceful family. They would tend their flocks of sheep in surrounding fields by the dependable tones of the great tower. It was for this reason that the local people began to call the mansion the Clock Tower.
In 1886, however, the mistress of the Barrows Mansion gave birth to twins, and from the day they were born it was obvious the twins were not normal and were of evil nature.
The twins were given the names Bobby and Dan. Their unwary parents knew that there was a foreboding evil about them, but who could have possibly known that the two were later to become the most feared and malicious murderers of our century – the infamous giant scissors with which their murders were committed became their namesake – they were called, simply, the Scissormen.
In 1995, a young girl from the Granite Orphanage, her parents died when she was quite small, was lured into the Barrows Mansion where she was attacked by a monster wielding a giant pair of scissors – yet no one wanted to believe the orphan girl when she returned to town, terrified and alone, claiming to have been attacked by the infamous killer.
That monster had, in fact, been Bobby Barrow, the Scissorman. She managed to escape from the terrible horrors, destroy the monster, and flee the mansion, yet she simply could not manage to convince anyone of authority of what had happened – in part because they could never find a body.
For the next year, all of Norway was caught up with the sensationalized Scissorman Murderer. Everyone was enthralled and completely relieved that he was dead – though authorities denied his existence.
That is, until the brutal murders started again.
The above was taken from the original press release by ASCII for the North American audiences. There’re a few errors on it, such as the fact Danny and Bobby were not 109 years old (It should have said 1986) at the time of the first game, but the press release did a good job of alluding to American and Canadian gamers that this Clock Tower was not the first in the series. Sadly, the actual manual and back of the box for the game didn’t do that job at all, and even with the opening cinematic, many North American gamers felt as if they were being dropped into the middle of a larger story. Which is of course true.
By now you’re probably wondering why a sequel to a game is the #2 of all time on my list. “Lucard!” you’re stammering, “B-b-but you generally HATE sequels.” This is true. However, long time readers will remember that the Tandem of Persona 2: Innocent Sin/Eternal Punishment was listed as my #2 RPG of all time, so sometimes, albeit RARELY, sequels can be a worthwhile thing. Clock Tower 2 (Simply known as Clock Tower in the US. American readers, PLEASE keep this in mind.) is one of those rarities.
So what makes CT2 so much better than CT? LOTS of things. Let’s look at them all.
I. One…Two…Two Scissormen! AH HA HA!
Yes, Scissorman is back, and this time there’s two of them. Of course, there were two in the first one even though only one ran around with a giant pair of scissors while the other was a gigantic looking blob of fat and poop but…
I’m confusing you already, aren’t I?
Clock Tower the First Fear, there are two brothers: Danny and Bobby. For the majority of the game Bobby is running around killing Jennifer (the protagonist) and her friends. Danny appears only briefly and he really is a gigantic vaguely humanoid blob. By the end of the game, if you get the happy kittens and rainbows endings, Danny has been set on fire and Bobby has been crushed by the gears of the CLOCK TOWER, and their mother meets a grisly but much deserved death as well. So how is there even one Scissorman running around, much less two?
Simple. One is a copycat killer. A character in CT2 is simply masquerading as Scissorman for his own nefarious reasons. I won’t reveal who though. The second Scissorman is another character you come to know in the video game under a false name (again, no spoilers), when in reality he is…Danny Barrows.
How is THIS POSSIBLE? How does he go from a gigantic 15 foot blob to well…more normal looking? Long story. See, Mary Barrows, mother of the twins engaged in dark demonic rites and her children were “blessed” by evil powers. Bobby was blessed with the inner soul of a demon and the psychotic homicidal rage to match. Danny was given a hideous outward appearance as well as a killer’s soul. What was burned away was the hideous outer flesh granted to Danny by the demons Mary Barrows worshipped. What remained was the more humanoid form of Danny that was incubating inside the outward monstrosity. This isn’t to say young Mr. Barrows was uninjured by the flames…
Danny is a noticeably different looking Scissorman that his brother. Possibly due to his freakish size as a blob monster, Danny’s Scissorman variant is larger and taller than Bobby’s in the first game. As well, Danny walks with a hunch and a limp, most likely from the injuries. Even with the hunched over gait, Danny is still a much larger and menacing Scissorman than his late lamented brother.. And remember, he’s not even a teenager yet. The face of Danny is also strikingly different. Where young Bobby wore a “terror mask” (not to be confused with the mask of the same name from Splatterhouse.), it was an attempt to match his normal looking outside with his demonic inside. Danny however, it is speculated doesn’t need a mask. Although you will encounter Danny Barrows under an alias outside of his trying to kill you antics, he appears to be quite normal looking; able to pass for a regular Joe. When he IS Scissorman however, his face appears heavily burned and sloppily wrapped in gauze and bandages. There are two schools of thought here. One he wears a mask to represent his burning. The second is that Danny’s original outward demon state can still manifest itself when he goes into a psychotic killing rage. It’s not to the extent he once was, but it’s still a demonic transformation. Personally this works for me much better than the mask as it’s a Dr. Bruce Banner sort of scenario, but from various screenshots, it looks like the correct one is Danny’s simply got a creepy mask on.
Yes, people actively debate this. Never underestimate the amount of psychotic devoted CT fans even North America has.
For my own personal taste, Danny is a far superior Scissorman. He’s creepier looking, he’s far more menacing than a child in Eddie Munster clothing, and he fits the role better. As well, Danny is not just a Scandinavian Murder Machine like his brother, he’s a Scandinavian Murder Machine out for vengeance, and maybe…just maybe, a place to belong. As odd as this sentence is going to sound, Danny has a stronger character development and is fleshed out as an antagonist. He’s got a personality, where Bobby was just “AIEEE STAB STAB STABBY STABB!” Both are frightening in their own manner, and in no means to I want do downplay how awesome the first Clock Tower is, it’s simply that Clock Tower 2 has a superior Scissorman in all ways. Hence it’s higher rating by me.
By this point you’re probably saying to yourself, “Will Lucard stop jazzing all over a single character in the game and just tell us about the rest of it?” Well, fine. But the fact that I, Mr. “Hates 75-80% of the games released in the past two generations of consoles” can get this excited over a single CHARACTER in a game should tell you of its quality.
So what else makes this game the penultimate spooky game? The story helps a lot. It’s a direct continuation of the original game. A good deal of the plot is summarized from the press release I copied at the beginning of this commentary. So let’s go from there.
Jennifer, one of two survivors from the original Clock Tower (As the second survivor is a young boy, the onset of CT2 implies that the S ending of CT1 is not the one Human considers the official ending. This S ending was the only one that had a second survivor, and that person was female. This is much like Sacnoth having the “bad” ending be the correct one in the original Shadow Hearts even though a happy ending can be achieved.) is taken in by an assistant professor of criminal psychology named Helen Maxwell. Helen does have a strong interest in the Scissorman stories, especially as authorities around Norway refuse to speak of the serial killer. Throughout the game you will have opportunity to play as both Helen and Jennifer, along with three other characters. This again is an enhancement from CT1 as you could only play as Jennifer. In CT2, some of the characters you play as can and WILL die, and the game will still go on. Again, this is a change from CT1 where if Jennifer bought it, it was simply game over. There are also ten endings to the game, five for each of the two main female protagonists. I won’t spoil the endings, but much like CT1, almost of the endings are not sunshine filled happy conclusions filled with kittens and rainbows. I’ve noticed this is the one major detraction America gamers seem to have with the game. They seem to feel that if you beat a game, you DESERVE a happy ending. Sorry kids, Clock Tower 2 doesn’t work that way. If you were being chased by a demonic serial killer odds are no matter what you did, you’d end up a chopped up sack of meat yourself. CT2, like CT1 focuses on the realism of the situation. it’s just a shame the US audience had been trained like a Pavlovian dog by the lesser horror games out there. Had CT1 made it to the US Famicon, maybe things would be different.
On this point I want to quote Hifumi Kawano, the director of the game who comes right out and warns American audiences that they’re about to play a game for the thinking horror/terror fan, and that the Resident Evil crowd need not apply.
Hifumi Kawano (Director) – Should the game system come first, or should the material come first? This is the first vital question faced by a game designer. Many current games place the system first, and then the material is superimposed as an extra little flavor. Clock Tower is designed so that the material comes first. All systems were designed to address the question of how best to express horror. This resulted in some rather ruthless work, but frankly, if you were being chased by an immortal killing machine in real life your survival wouldn’t be much better anyway. If you manage to finish the game without getting killed even once, consider yourself capable of survival even with Jason tracking you down.
Also, the high ranking endings in this story are not necessarily the best endings Especially the “A” rank endings, which are so opportunistic that we call them the “Hollywood” version. Players’ opinions will no doubt vary on whether these endings are appropriate for this story. If you don’t like the “A” rank ending, find another ending you like. Then again for Jennifer’s sake, you might want to see a completely happy ending… at least once.
Graphically, CT2 is not a pretty game. I’ll admit it. It’s very choppy looking at times and outside of the cutscenes, the characters can look pretty bland and non-detailed. Except for Scissorman. He always looks quite creepy for an early PS1 title. The backgrounds of the game are quite nice as well, but compared to the games released at the end of the Playstation’s life, or even Clock Tower 3: The Struggle Within (CT2 in North America), the game really shows its age.
Still it’s important to note that even though the graphics are about on par with Revelations Persona: Be Your True Mind, Clock Tower 2 manages to do a lot of amazing things graphically other than look pretty. Scissorman’s movements are fluid and deliberate, and the things that he does, such as jumping through windows, driving his shears through a wall to impale you, and so on. Same with the protagonists of Jennifer and Helen. In almost every other horror/terror game, the characters have little to no personality or emotion. Here again, the focus is on realism. When a character sees someone horribly murdered or uncovers and eviscerated body, they actually REACT to it. Crying, screaming in horror, falling to their knees in fear. This is not a “Ho hum. World is taken over by monsters, let’s KICK SOME ASS” game. It treats the characters and situations if they are real and gives them real world cause and effects. This is one of the things that makes the game so much more than the first glance of the graphics. Somehow Human managed to really convey the emotions and inner turmoil of characters, which is something that a lot of developers still can’t do with Xbox or PS2 level graphics. And that my friends, is kind of sad that an ugly game can give us more depth to their characters than a current generation console where the focus seems to be on butts, boobs, & guns.
Musically the game still shines as having one of the best themes of all time. Scissorman’s out of tune guitar theme is goose bump raising and profanity inducing, just as it was in the first game. When it starts up, you know you are in for one hell of a chase. If you manage to unlock the “??????” section (by getting through the game without letting anyone die) you can unlock a remix version of his music, which also plays at during end game credits. The voice acting is another story. The Japanese version of the game features some very strong and well done voice acting. The American version? Well…not so much. CT2 has received a very unworthy reputation as having some horrible voice acting. The truth is, it’s on par with the quality of the original Resident Evil and its infamous “master of unlocking” line. The game comes off sounding like it was voiced by a bunch of B movie actors and actresses, and although this may surprise you, I think it actually improves the game. When is the last time a horror movie had some amazing acting in it after all. Clock Tower 2 was always meant to feel like an interactive horror movie. And through a mix of good and not so good at all voice acting, CT2 keeps pretty true to the original Japanese designer’s vision.
Clock Tower 2 (I know it’s confusing but please remember it’s simply Clock Tower in North America!) play very much like a point and click adventure game with a few variants. Again, this holds very true to the first Clock Tower game for the Super Famicon. You’ll have the panic button for you button mashers which can help you get out of a bad situation from time to time, but the majority of the game is using your brain and wits to survive. 75-85% of the game is solving a mystery. You are playing a very cerebral game here. This is even more the case when Scissorman surfaces and his eerie theme music starts to emanate from your television speakers.
You can’t kill Scissorman. You can’t even hurt him. What you can do is distract him, run from him, and hide from him. Your only chance of survival is your ability to outthink him. Perhaps on paper this sounds sort of boring to the action junkie or the first person shooter obsessed. Thank Cthulhu this game was not made for them in mind. Clock Tower 2 is one of the most intense and adrenaline raising games I’ve ever played. It’s that antici…..pation of whether or not Scissorman’s AI has finally caught wise to your tricks or if it’s noticed a pattern to your hiding patterns. Will this be the time he outsmarts you? Will his music stop and you leave your hiding spot only to find that in turn, Scissorman has been hiding to lull you into a false sense of security. Words can not profess how creepy this game is. How much you become one with the protagonist and how when she jumps, you will jumps, how Scissorman’s music will strike a cord of nervousness with you. There is not a better designed killing machine in all of video game than Scissorman. When the original Kliq staff here at IP was going to do a countdown of the best villains in gaming, it was almost unanimous by every staffer than the Danny Barrows Scissorman was hands down the winner. And considering the eclectic mass of lunatics we have assembled here, that’s a pretty all encompassing award for this game.
I first picked up Clock Tower 2 under his US title of Clock Tower back in the late summer/early fall of 1997. In fact I bought it in conjunction with Final Fantasy VII. It’s amazing how one of those games turned out to be one of my least favorite of all time, boasting amazing graphics but a plot that had so little character depth a TV commercial could provide better, yet the other had graphics that were far inferior, but boasted a superior story and gameplay. Alas, as one had pretty bishonen that provided the more pathetic amongst humanity with the opportunity to write slash fan fiction, one became the standard bearer for the lowest common denominator, while the other remained a little known and far underappreciated cult hit. Almost ten years later, it’s nice to see people waking up and saying “Holy crap! What were we thinking when we praised this game?” to FF7. Hell, even Game Informer, the crappiest of all gaming magazines did commentary on just that subject this month. Here’s hoping that we can get these same people who are just now clamoring for strong character, and rewarding gameplay for the gamer who prefers exercising their brain to DOA Beach Volleyball to become as enamored with Clock Tower/Clock Tower 2 as the rare few of us who took the time to actually play through the game and see it for what it is: an amazing example of what all horror and terror games should strive to achieve regarding making a player empathize with the playable characters and helping them to fear even a fraction of the mind numbing fear Jennifer and Helen must no doubt face until the bitter climax of the game.
Thank you Human Entertainment for providing gamers everywhere with two of the five best horror/terror games ever made. The gaming connoisseurs of the world salute you and mourn your passing.
#1 Hellnight (Dark Messiah in Japan)
Publisher: Konami (Europe)/Atlus (Japan)
Systems Released On: Sony Playstation
Release Date: 06/11/1998 (Japan), 12/03/1999
Here it is. The last stop on our countdown. A game that’s widely available in English, just not in North America. I have no idea why Konami brought it to the UK but not North America as they translated it into English. Atlus doesn’t have a European division, but this is up there with Innocent Sin and Soul Hackers for “You published SAMURAI WESTERN in America but not these games? ARRRGH!”
Hellnight, to put it simply, is the best game I have ever found in regards to simulating a real life terrifying experience. No other game forces you to meld with the protagonist as much as you do here, and no game, not even Clock Tower 2 makes you feel as helpless. This is why it is #1. Atlus did its best to make a game that feels as real as possible, and they did a pretty damn good job of it.
As I know the vast majority of you have never heard of this game, and only slight percentage more have even played this, I’m going to walk you through the game here. Let me start with giving you the story summary from the manual itself.
The days go by monotonously as clockwork, the only excitement exists in the imagination and in virtual reality. But one night at the end of the millennium, evil suddenly makes an appearance…
Rumours have begun flying thick and fast about a connection between the religious cult “Holy Ring” and a series of recent subway passenger disappearances, so much that even the media has begun speculating about a link.
“The time has come. All will change into darkness, then the time of enlightenment will arrive…” The whispers of the Holy Ring followers rustle through the air like a prophecy… You head to the dark and damp underground passages of the city to escape the oppressive sound, and finally find yourself on board the last subway train of the day.
Then all at once, a collision! The shock sends the train off the rails, and a ghastly scene of horror begins spreading through the carriages. With your hand to your forehead to control the terrible dizziness you feel, you drag yourself to your feet.
Shaking and trembling, the young girl in front of you picks herself up off the ground. “What on earth was that?” she asks.
But this is no time for questions. Another shock rocks the train, and then an unbearable sound fills the air – the terrified screams of passengers. And the screams are getting louder and louder…
Just as you see a creature, red with regurgitated blood, on the other side of the crumpled connecting door, you and the girl jump out of the back door of the carriage into the unknown darkness beyond..
But the thing follows you relentlessly through the blackness on and on… Before its incredible power, humans are nothing more than animal feed. Those unlucky enough to encounter it are instantly devoured. Don’t let it catch up with you! Escape before it gets too close! The only way to survive is to keep running through the maze of the Tokyo underground until you find a way to the surface – and you’d better run as fast as you can…
Pretty f*cking intense, no? This, my friends, is Hellnight. This is a game where you are chased by a relentless killing machine that can not be stopped. It can’t. The best options for you are to run, lock yourself in a room, or use a patsy as monster bait praying that their death buys you enough time to flee. You are one of two survivors from that subway accident. In less time than it takes you or I to tie our shoes or take a shit, this monstrosity slew 57 human beings. All you can do is run.
Besides the opening two pages of manual I transcribed for you here, the game has arguably the deepest plot I’ve ever seen out side a RPG. There are also FOUR pages in the manual devoted simply to the chronology of the game, started with the 1894 Sino-Japanese war all the way up September 2nd, 1945. Every date on the timeline is eventually relevant to the game, combined historical facts and fiction with a Survival Horror game unlike any you’ve ever encountered before. Jesus, the timeline even has FOOTNOTES. Like I said, pretty f*cking intense.
Hellnight, or at least part of the story synopsis comes from a poison gas (specifically Sarin) attack orchestrated by a cult on the Tokyo subway system on March 30th, 1995. This particular cult was named, “The Aum Supreme Truth.” The sarin gas was released onto five trains of three different subway lines, killing twelve and injuring 5,500 others. This attack was a wake up call to the world at large, who at that time believed Japan to be nearly crimefree, aside from the occasional antiestablishment attack. it’s easy to see some of the parallels behind the real life subway attack and the religious cult/subway attack in Hellnight although from that opening, the similarities end.
You play well…you. You are the protagonist. Hellnight is played complete in first person mode. The screen is your eyes. You can only see what is directly ahead of . You should generally hope you can not see the monster, because if you can…well, you’re pretty much dead. I have to keep enforcing the fact that the protagonist can only run and hide from a creature that is bound and determined to finish off every last passenger from that train. And buddy, you’re it.
The controls of the game are so simple a chimp could play this. This is one of the great things about Hellnight. It is designed so that ANY game, no matter that joystick proficiency can sit down and become utterly engrossed in their attempts to flee from an Asiatic death hulk. The analog sticks will not be used, but you do need the vibrational aspects of the Dual shock on to really enhance your game. The L1 and R1 buttons allow you to strafe left and right respectively. L2 allows you to do a quick look behind you, and R1 & R2 combined allows you to swivel around to get a 360 degree view of your surroundings. The triangle button brings up your map, the circle button allows you to open doors, the square button allows you to talk with any friend you might have picked up, or can have them attack the monster (more on that suicide run in a bit), and the x button will become your best friend while you involve yourself with Hellnight as it allows you to RUN. Running is your friend for an obvious reason. HOWEVER, Hellnight strives itself on giving you the most realistic survival horror feel ever, as you can only run for so long. The longer you hold down X, the more exhausted the protagonist becomes. People can’t run at top speed forever you know. The more exhausted you get, the more the screen will turn red and the more your dual shock will vibrate in time with the protagonists pounding heart. Eventually your character will become paralyzed for a brief time from the exhaustion and all you can do is sit and wait. You just have to hope to whatever deity you worship that the monster doesn’t happen upon you at this time. I can’t describe just how much this adds to the game; you have to experience it for yourself.
As for the monster itself, luckily you can almost always hear it before you see it. The shambling of its feet and heavy breathing is a give away that it’s near. Sometimes though, it’s smart enough to hide…
The key to beating Hellnight is to survive through various underground areas, such as the sewers, subways and so on. Along the way the game’s automap feature and your character’s compass will keep you from getting lost down in the darkness. As well, you’ll be able to meet many different characters in the underground world, including five that you can befriend. The catch is that you can only have one ally at a time, and once you have one, you can’t switch until they die. Let’s take a look at each one, shall we?
I. Naomi Sugiura.
Naomi is the only other survivor from the subway accident. She’s a seventeen year old schoolgirl who you begin the game with. Naomi has minor psychic abilities, which manifest in her ability to tell how close the creature is to you. In game terms, it shows up on your map as a flashing triangle. This ability is very helpful to new players in the game, but she can get killed amazingly easy.
I remember the first time I played, Naomi was like “Oh no! I can sense it! The creature is very close.” I looked on the map, saw nothing and assumed it was just story for the sake of story. Then I get to a staircase that should lead me closer to the surface. I open the door and…MONSTER IS ON THE OTHER SIDE. Dead Naomi. Alas.
II. Kyoji Kamiya.
Kyoji is my personal favorite of the allies you can get, but not because he’s of any help to you. In fact, he’s generally a massive detriment. He’s the second ally you can make and he may not have Naomi’s psychic ability but he DOES have a handgun. This gun, although it can’t stop the monster, can pause it and thus let you run away if it gets the drop on you. The downside to Kyoji is well…he’s a completely insane serial killer than makes Hannibal Lector look like a teddy bear. Although YOU may be lucky that he decides you two have a special bond and he doesn’t want to kill you, everyone else you encounter is the game doesn’t fare as well.
Here’s an example (Not literally taken from the game, but it’s damn close enough)
You: Huff huff. We got away from the creature.
Stranger: Wow. You’re being chased by a monster huh?
Kyoji: Blood! BLOOD!
You: Yep. You seem to have a lot of monsters down here.
Stranger: We sure do. Still, better than paying taxes or having George Bush as our ruler.
Kyoji: I like to kill things.
You: Shut up Kyoji.
Stranger: Obviously, you’re not from around these parts. Want me to tell you how to get topside and out of Monsterville?
You: Yes please!
Stranger: Well, what you’re gonna wanna do is…
Kyoji: DIE DIE DIE DIE! (Kills NPC because he can)
You: Oh god, that’s the fifth one today.
Kyoji: I like you.
Whereas the other characters don’t mind you making friends and getting help out of the underground areas you are trapped in, Kyoji is just a “little” overprotective of you, and generally makes things harder for you. Still, you’re out to survive and not make friends, so it is up to you whether he’s worth the effort or not.
III. Leroy Ivanoff.
Leroy is part of a special tactical force sent down into the subway after Tokyo declares a state of emergency. You’re probably wondering why the Japanese government would send a Russian special agent with a rocket launcher down into a subway, right? Well, Leroy works for a mysterious international organization known as “Organ.” Organ sent an entire division of men into the subway. However, everyone but Leroy was slaughtered by the same creature that stalks you. Unlike you though, Leroy managed to get topside and like an idiot, went back into the underground of Tokyo seeking revenge on the thing that killed his friends and comrades. Personally, I never understood why the protagonist didn’t just go, “Wait. You came back down here. So you know how to get OUT?” But that’s just me.
The upside to Leroy is that he has that Rocket Launcher. This allows him the greatest distance out of all the characters with weapons. The downside is he only has five missiles and in order to find him, you have to go through quite a bit of stress. Still, he doesn’t try and kill everyone you meet and he can actually fight back against the monster, so he’s a good man to have around.
IV. Rene Forrester
Rene is like Leroy is the fact they both have more guts than brains. Rene is a reporter who is doing a large expose on the cult of the Sacred Ring who is believed to be responsible for the subway bombing. She learns that perhaps the destruction was not a bomb after all and has traveled to learn the truth of what happened.
Rene is my favorite character. Although her weapon only has five shots, she is the sanest of the characters and seems to provide you with the most story when you attempt to speak with her. I can’t really say much about her, because by the time you get her it is late in the game and I’d rather not ruin the plot, and instead hope you import the game or nag Atlus and/or Konami to port it over in some eventual collection.
V. The Keeper.
Again, I’m not saying anything at all about this character, save for the fact it helps you out when you most need it. It’s not even mentioned in the manual, but let’s just leave it that like the last half of the game, everything you think you know about the plot of Hellnight just might turn out to be wrong….
There is no real music in Hellnight. None worth speaking of anyway. Much of the game is your character traveling through amazingly large areas with no music at all. Your characters footsteps and breathing are your only auditory companion. Well, that and occasionally the noises made by the creature. Again, this only helps to ensure Hellnight giving you the most realistic survival horror feeling ever. No other game comes close to making you feel as if this is all happening to you.
Graphically, Hellnight is a mixed bag. It’s a lot like several Atlus titles where the gameplay is solid, the story is deep and riveting, but the visuals are…not so good. As you can see from the screenshots here, the game isn’t bad. It’s a perfectly serviceable PS1 game. But there are a lot better looking titles out there. If you judge a game by graphics, Hellnight might be an immediate turn off for you. Trust me though when I say it’s story and gameplay have no equal in the entire genre of Survival Horror.
One last note. I have purposely only touched briefly on the actual plot content of the game. I’ve given you no more than what you would get from the manual or playing through 2-3 hours of the game. I dare not. I could waste your time by talking about the need to find certain items for squatters and other people lurking down below, but there’s no need. These quests are minimal and all have a direct relation to either 1) getting you the hell out of Dodge or 2) giving you the optional story info of what really went on with the subway and the origins of the thing lusting for your innards.
The truth is, the further you go into the game, the creepier and more bizarre it gets. Just when you think you know the plot, it hits you with a curve ball. A logical and well told curve ball, but one that shocks you just the same. I realize maybe there’s probably less than 50 US gamers that have played Hellnight and maybe half of them have beaten it. That’s all the more reason I implore you to import it and defeat it yourself. All I will tell you is that the further you get into the game, the more it will reward you with one of the most original, twisted, and well told (aside from some Engrish) stories in this or any other genre.
Hellnight is a very bizarre game. It is surreal, and it exists to put a gamer in a situation of pure adrenaline and terror. It is wonderful in its simplistic gameplay but amazingly rich story. Very few gamers have even heard of this title, and you can count the number of professional reviews of the game on one hand. Although the game remains one of the most obscure titles in all of video gaming, it still remains one of the greatest. It’s not for everyone, as most gamers have been reduced to the idiocy of “Must kill things with my controller.” It is long, it is hard, and often times you can go twenty minutes with just walking. That’s it. Just walking. But this is what makes the game so wonderful. No other game even comes this close to simulating what an actual survival horror experience would be like. As weird as it is to type, Hellnight, even with it’s underground dwelling monster of doom and it’s very intricate plot, is the most realistic horror game ever. Hell, it’s one of the most realistic simulations of any genre.
Get it. Experience it. SURVIVE it. If you can…
Hellnight. Dark Messiah. It doesn’t matter WHAT you call it. Just know that it is without equal. It is the most original game in its genre. It is the most innovative game in its genre. It has the most detailed story in its genre. It is simply the BEST in its genre. Out of any other non North American game I have commented on in my four years in this industry, there is no other game I will more strongly recommend for you to import than Hellnight, both because of its quality…and because it is in English.
I hope you enjoyed the countdown.