Clock Tower – Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?

Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?” Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:

Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.

Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.

Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.

Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.

This week, we’re continuing a look at horror themed games for the month of October. This particular game franchise has a very storied and controversial history from its beginnings to its renumbering issues to its eventual death. Although the first two games in the series are considered some of the best horror games ever made…the second two are decidedly less so and the fifth game even had its name changed so it wouldn’t be associated with the original franchise. Let’s see what the staff of Diehard GameFAN thinks should be done with Clock Tower

Clock Tower

Alex Lucard – Stay Dead

Look, I love the first two games. I still think it’s a damn shame the REAL Clock Tower 1 aka Clock Tower: The First Fear was never released in the US. Thankfully it’s been expertly translated and can be found on the Internet if you know where to look. It’s one of the best horror and/or Adventure games ever produced and you can see me slobber all over it in my old Top 30 Spookiest Games Countdown where it came in at #5.

Then we have Clock Tower II which North American games know as Clock Tower. In my opinion, this is not only the best game in the series, but the best horror game that was ever released in North America. It might not have been pretty but it got everything right. The AI was incredible, the game didn’t give you magical powers or a ton of weapons to defend yourself against a horde of never ending enemies. Those things aren’t horror. That’s an action game. No different from Double Dragon. With Clock Tower you’re an average teenage girl that has to deal with an indestructible unrelenting Norwegian Murder Machine. All you can do is run and hide and hope to outsmart the thing known as Scissorman, who is still for my money, the best horror antagonist in the history of video games. That’s terror my friends. When you know you can’t possibly win and all you can do is buy yourself time to prevent your inevitable gruesome demise, that’s the sensation of fear. You don’t get that in some generic piece of crap where you kill zombies with automatic weapons.

Sadly, only the first two Clock Tower games were worth playing in my opinion. Human was on life support when they did Clock Tower: The Struggle Within and as it had no real connection to the first two games, we had to make do with a poor title involving ghost head and a girl with multiple personalities. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t good. Really though, what COULD live up to the first two games?

After Human died, Sunsoft and Capcom picked up the license and gave us the abominable Clock Tower 3/4. While this travesty of a game was about 75% Sunsoft’s fault, Capcom really should have stepped in and said, “Why? Why are you doing this? Stop.” Really though Capcom let this abortion be released to the general public because it meant they could finally bury and hide the originator of the survival-horror genre and let their precious and massively overrated Resident Evil usurp the legacy. It was a smart business move by Capcom, but thanks to their allowing Clock Tower to become yet another game where you have direct but poorly done gameplay over the original point and click mechanics along with lots of enemies to kill with magic arrows, you might as well have just given this game a different title like “Capcom Crapfest.” I mean really, magical arrows? Don’t even get me started on the story or the lack of multiple endings or even the new Scissorman and Scissorwoman. What the hell Sunsoft? This game alone makes me wish you had never been able to escape bankruptcy in the 90’s.

Finally, after massive consumer complaint on both sides of the Pacific for what Capcom released as a Clock Tower game, we received Haunting Ground, which was original named Clock Tower 4/5 but Capcom changed the name in production fearing another surge of angry gamers. Although significantly better than Clock Tower 3/4, the game still suffered from a lot of problems, ranging from a pretty poor story to an annoying dog sidekick who you have to coddle constantly in order to make anything happen even with crazy mentally retarded obese rapists after you. Okay, there’s only one of those in the game, but still. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Haunting Ground for what it was and I’m glad they changed the name because this was still a game where you killed your enemies (eventually) and you had the usual bad 3-D controls of the PS2 era instead of the point and click gameplay. However, it still wasn’t a Clock Tower title and it certainly wasn’t as GOOD as the first two games.

So after all that, let Clock Tower stay dead. We’ve seen neither Capcom nor Sunsoft were able to use the franchise properly, with their eventual entries doing more harm than good. Hell, even Human wasn’t able to stay at the same level of quality as the first two games as could be seen with The Struggle Within. You can’t really start the series over, because most gamers don’t actually want the sensation of horror or fear; they want to blow a ton of shit up. They want to be the attacker and real horror games, which simply don’t exist anymore, don’t ever let you in that position. Again, what we now call survival horror games, are simply action games with monsters and I don’t want to see Clock Tower turned into that. As for spin-offs, the only thing I’d be willing to accept is seeing Scissorsman show up in a fighting game for shits and giggles or the like. Clock Tower should have stayed dead when Human died. Let’s let them rest together as it should be.

HOWEVER, there is a fan based remake of Clock Tower: The First Fear that has been in the works since 2007 called Remothered. From the stills on their Facebook page and the video teasers on Youtube, it looks AMAZING. Now, will it ever come out? That’s the big question…

Mark B. – Stay Dead

First: Clock Tower, as a franchise, is in the hands of Capcom. Now, I’m not going to blame Clock Tower 3 on Capcom, as that was mostly Sunsoft’s fault. I can’t imagine that Capcom got the game in any kind of condition where they could have made something GOOD out of it, so they just said, “Ah, screw it” and shoved it out the door. Fine. That said, Haunting Ground, while I liked it okay, was not particularly good, and I honestly don’t see Capcom making a good sequel without a lot of time and effort that I don’t think they’d be willing to devote to what would essentially be a niche game, so let’s scrap “sequel”.

Second: Capcom could potentially revisit the earlier games and simply remake one of the first two games (by which I mean the SNES game and the first PS1 game, not the first PS1 game and Clock Tower: Ghost Head), because those games already had a concept set in stone. Plus, Scissorman was effing awesome. However, a remake of Clock Tower is a horrendously bad idea, both because 1.) the fans of the series would more than likely hate the game and shit all over it sight unseen, and 2.) Capcom would, once again, probably not devote the time and money into what would be a niche game, thus making a game that would probably deserve said scorn. So strike “start over”.

Third: Unless I get to play as Scissorman, I don’t want to see a spin-off of Clock Tower, and anyway, we already got one. It was called Haunting Ground. Pass. So no “spin-off”.

So, basically, what I’m saying here is that I think Capcom should release the SNES game on the VC and the two PS1 games on the PSN service, and let the franchise die. I think it would be best for everyone.

Matt Yaeger – Stay Dead

Didn’t Capcom already kill off the Clock Tower series by releasing the really horrible Clock Tower 3, after which they released their own Clock Tower style game Haunting Ground? The original Clock Tower games still had one of the best ideas for a horror game You’re not a special ops mercenary, space marine, or anything like that. There’s no worrying about ammo conservation because there was no ammunition. When the killer showed up, you ran like hell. The feeling of helplessness just adds to the atmosphere of the game, sort of similar in a way to the feeling in Fatal Frame where you are only armed with a camera.

However, Clock Tower 3 proved that this style of horror game just can’t be made anymore. I don’t think developers know how to make a game in that style now. They’ll make another Clock Tower and throw in boss battles, Co-Op, online versus modes, quick time events and maybe bullet time just for the hell of it. The current video game audience also wouldn’t buy it. Even if they did it perfectly, the modern gamer would just be moaning about the game only being ten hours long with no online modes and wondering what the cheat code is to turn God mode on.

Resident Evil 5 was turned into a Co-Op action game. Silent Hill: Homecoming also tried to make the main character into a guy kicking demon ass instead of a guy fighting personal demons turned physical. Clock Tower 3 used a magical bow and arrow to capture serial killers.

Let the series fade into pleasantly remembered obscurity.

Aileen Coe – Stay Dead

The first two games introduced a unique style of horror, building tension and fear by giving the player no way of fending off the murderous stalker pursuing them other than hiding rather than sheer gore and grotesque monsters. Both games still manage to be creepy and have death scenes that make you jump (especially if followed by Scissorman popping up) despite the lack of graphical horsepower behind them (the PSX game’s graphics haven’t aged well at all). However, things went downhill from there withClock Tower II: The Struggle Within and especially Clock Tower III and its painfully campy transformation sequences and convoluted plot. While I thought Haunting Ground wasn’t quite as bad, it still wasn’t that great.

If another game could be made in the same vein as the first two, then I would love to see one come out. But I can’t see any attempts at adding another game to the series resulting in anything good (if Clock Tower III was any indication), which is why I voted the way I did. In addition, the point and click nature of the games likely wouldn’t really appeal to a wide audience, which gives less incentive for a company to make the attempt in the first place. At most, the first two games should be rereleased somewhere.

Dave Olvera – Stay Dead

Back in the latter end of the 1990s Human and ASCII Entertainment brought the second Clock Tower game to the United States. I rented Clock Tower (2 in Japan) with a friend and we both felt something no other PSX game had been able to muster before: fear. Resident Evil tried, oh did it try, and RE is considered the founding father of survival horror to most folks. To me, RE is merely an action game with horror elements. RE is too proactive – you just kill more and more zombies or infected folks. Clock Tower? The first two Clock Towers are slasher movies. You do not fight the evil menace – you run and hide; you try to survive.

Playing Clock Tower was an adventure in trying to figure out just how you were going to escape Scissorman. Is that closet safe? Can I hide in a bathroom stall? Holy crap that music is getting louder… I hear the snick-snick of scissors. I am not a fan of the horror/slasher genre in any way, shape or form – not at all. However Clock Tower fit. I had trouble sleeping because I was obsessed with the game and many of the frights left me full of adrenaline, hampering my ability to get rest. No other game forced me to finish every single ending, ten total with five for each heroine in CT 2 (not The Struggle Within). In the end I beat the game because I had to; I needed closure. I was truly spooked by many of the Scissorman attacks and Scissorman’s relentless hounding of the player character. You may hide from him once successfully but if you try that spot again most likely you will be welcomed back with a giant pair of scissors through your gut.

Chances to fail, more often than not being killed by an antagonist that is the best example of a ruthless murder machine, a story that actually is not that bad, great use of music and sound, terrible voice acting that adds needed levity, some boring in between investigations to cleanse the palate, multiple endings in both proper Clock Tower games – Human Entertainment knew how to make a horror game.

I fell so head over heels for Clock Tower I was practically the official answer guy on the ASCII Entertainment forums for Clock Tower back in the day. I went by ScissorPicky and answered any and all Clock Tower questions that were brought up. I memorized the entire game! I could play it from memory and never die. I fully mastered Clock Tower like very few games I have ever before or since. I read up on the history of the game (most was in Japanese so I had to interpret from pictures and asking ASCII employees). I tried out the original SNES Clock Tower and beat it a few times without being able to read Japanese. I own the Wonder Swan remake of Clock Tower (I bought a freaking Wonder Swan handheld just for that game). I am certifiably one of the few experts on the franchise that are around (Alex is the other one).

Both Clock Towers are in my top 10 games of all time; I can still play the US release of the Playstation Clock Tower without disappointment. Clock Tower is a game I love more than most any other game in existence… but I want the series to stay dead and here is why:

Resident Evil kicked Clock Tower‘s behind in sales so badly that Human ditched its beautiful Clock Tower formula and made a pathetic RE clone in Clock Tower 3/2 US. The game was a poor example of typical survival horror games and urinated on the Clock Tower name. Human then went belly up and Capcom bought the intellectual property rights to Clock Tower and made a terrible game called Clock Tower 3 (4 if you count
right). After messing that up Capcom made Haunting Ground, which plays more like the real Clock Towers than CT3. Capcom has no clue how to actually make a proper Clock Tower game… hell, no one does any more it seems.

Clock Tower was fantastic and no one seems to want to truly dissect why other than a handful of folks I already talk about the game with on a semi-regular basis. 10+ years have passed since I first played Clock Tower and the memories are just as vivid now as they were back then. I love Clock Tower and that is why I do not want to see it brought back. There are ways of improving the series and actual mechanics of the player-game interface but no developer seems to want to do a horror game like Clock Tower. Most players do not want to be reactive instead of proactive and true horror, nay, terror requires a reactive response. The whole idea is that you cannot fight your way out of the situation; you must figure out how to survive a relentless killing machine. The man who headed up Clock Tower‘s development even stated you are not supposed to survive – that not many would when actually faced with a Jason like killer. Hell, the hardest endings, the only endings in Clock Tower where the protagonists actually live, were put in there just so people could see Helen and Jennifer live “happily” ever after. The true endings are the heroic sacrifice B endings where barely anyone survives. Clock Tower was not a series meant for overly optimistic folks.

Perhaps there are people out there who would want to make a proper Clock Tower style game – warts and all. The interface was clunky, the voice acting was terrible (when there was voice acting) but the games themselves were beautiful. Clock Tower 2‘s opening cinematic asked a hard to answer question: Who will survive this game of murder alive? Then, to sum up why the game was made its tag line does the best job ever: Fear is Fascinating. Clock Tower is fascinating but leave the poor franchise alone, let it rest since you cannot do it justice.

End Result:
Stay Dead – 5
Sequel – 0
Spin-Off – 0
Start Over – 0

There you have it kids. Our first unanimous column. Sure, this also had our least staff participation, but that shows the state of gaming today that the majority of our team hasn’t played (and in some cases even HEARD of) the Clock Tower franchise. I think it’s especially telling that it’s not the franchise we don’t have faith in, but the current state of gaming. The current generation of developers and gamers neither get nor appreciate true horror games, and as such, there’s no hope for a proper Clock Tower revival or even this style of gameplay. As I briefly alluded to in my own entry, Remothered is our best bet on getting a next-gen Clock Tower, and so far it looks amazing. Until it actually sees the light of day, Rest In Peace Scissorsman: you’ve earned it.

Next week, we’ll be taking a look a trilogy of games that is actual a spin-off themselves. It combined Lovecraftian horror, a good dose of historical fiction and one of the more unique ways of doing turn based RPG combat. See you then!



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5 responses to “Clock Tower – Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?”

  1. Aaron Glazer Avatar
    Aaron Glazer

    I love Clock Tower 2 (ps1 game) and it was absolutely one of my favorite games… until I realized I could button mash to escape Scissorman every time.

    And next week is Shadow Hearts and it needs to stay dead because 3 was an abortion. I can’t take another pure comedy game in that series, as 1 and 2 are 2 of my favorite RPGs ever.

  2. PeeturDCF Avatar

    I thought it sucked how you couldn’t get The First Fear or The Struggle Within in the UK. I own Clock Tower, Clock Tower 3 and Haunting Ground. I’ve not played any of them in ages. I’m always on YouTube or watching wrestling, or playing pool these days. And, to be honest, I think the classic survival horror genre is finished now. I mean, Capcom are becoming so unreliable, it’s not even funny.

  3. […] the genre to new heights of popularity. In the horror market, Japan gave us titles like Echo Night, Clock Tower, Hellnight/Dark Messiah and more. At the same time, although the West’s production of both […]

  4. […] using Scissorman to kick off, 31 Days of Gaming Terror and the franchise even earned one of our old S4 columns. It’s my second favorite survival horror game of all time (You’ll see the first […]

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