Game Overview Clock Tower (1995)
I’ve always been a fan of Clock Tower. It’s just quirky! But, my introduction to the game was through the PSX title that was released in North America. However, that’s not the full story. In 1995 a Super Famicom game was released in Japan title Clock Tower that actually started the entire series. Unfortunately, this game was never released North America. However, fortunately there are fan translation ROMs available. I got my hand on one of these and did a Let’s Play series cataloging all the endings and everything. I published it at the time under the moniker “Let’s Play Classics” (youtube as letusplayclassics). However, I have taken this channel down, and the site letsplayclassics.com doesn’t exist anymore. You can find a back up of it here (though all the videos have been taken down):
I have decided that one of the things I’m going to do on this blog is revive my Let’s Play Classics idea, but have it cover any particular game I decide can fall under the category of Let’s Plays. Clock Tower for the Super Famicom will be my first game in this series, and I eventually hope to follow it up with all the Clock Tower games. I plan for the Super Famicom Clock Tower game to take up four posts, this one, a post on the characters of the game, and two following posts with the Let’s Play videos for the general walkthrough and all the endings. You can find out more here.
I shall provide a little history on the game. Human Entertainment released Clock Tower in Japan in 1995 for the Super Famicom. This title placed Human Entertainment as a premier game developer, and kickstarted the survival horror genre of game. Clock Tower was directed by Hifumi Kono, who drew great inspiration from Italian horror film director Dario Argento. Most notably it was his movie Phenomena, which I may cover in a different post, that influenced Kono the most. Clock Tower was a beautiful game, graphically, and in fact was produced by “digitizing” real people and actors with rotoscoping and such. In fact, the main protagonist’s movements were constructed from a woman in Human’s planning division acting out the scenes. Her design was inspired by Jennifer Connelly’s character in Phenomena.
Clock Tower’s visuals are stunning, for a Super Famicom game, in my opinion. Unfortunately, there are certain aspects of the game that haven’t aged well. The puzzles and exploration mechanics of the game, being driven by a point and click interface (with no mouse), can be frustrating and a bit tedious. Something nice about the setting though, besides the extreme atmosphere, is that the space of the mansion is laid out in three dimensions, despite being shown in two dimensions on screen. That means locations are related in position to other locations. I think this contributed greatly to the continuity and atmosphere of the game.
The player controls a point-and-click cursor to direct the main character, Jennifer Simpson, and give commands. This is true for every interaction in the game, from investigating objects to opening doors, which is some cause for tedium. You have the option of either walking with Jennifer, or running. However, running will deplete her stamina, which is kept track of by the portrait in the lower left corner of the screen. Luckily, you can recover stamina by sitting on the floor for a period of time. This also increases a bit of the tedium. In addition to interacting with objects in the game, Jennifer can also store them as inventory for later use, however, the layout of items changes each time you play through the game. While this increases replay value a little, to me it only served to frustrate me when creating walkthrough videos.
The main and most active antagonist of the game is Scissorman. Essentially, Scissorman is a hunchback of a man who carries giant scissors and slowly stalks after Jennifer. When Jennifer sees Scissorman the game enters a sort of panic mode, and depending on Jennifer’s stamina, she may have difficulty escaping. And you must escape, as there are no options to just simply use weapons on Scissorman. Instead you must hide Jennifer in various spots throughout the mansion, or otherwise use various traps that are laid out. If Scissorman catches up with Jennifer you are given the option of rapidly pressing buttons to escape, which is possible. If you are unable to escape Scissorman, Jennifer will be killed and the game is over. This structure was continued for the next two games in the series.
The beginning of the story introduces us to Jennifer Simpson, the protagonist, and her friends from the Granite Orphanage in Romsdalen, Norway, being Lotte, Laura, and Anne. Jennifer is adopted in September 1995, much on the release of the game, by Simon Barrows, a wealthy recluse. Simon lives in a giant mansion with a giant clock tower, giving the mansion the name of “Clock Tower” and the namesake of the game. Upon arriving at the mansion the woman who brought the children, Mary, goes to find “Mr. Barrows.” Then, she seemingly disappears, prompting Jennifer to investigate further into her whereabouts. Unfortunately, for Jennifer, after she leaves the room there is a scream and when she returns she finds all the lights off and the girls missing. From here, she finds herself under the constant pursuit of Scissorman.
The cool thing about this game, and its successors for the Playstation system, is that the narrative is branched out to many different paths. There are multiple paths and multiple endings depending on what you do and are able to accomplish throughout the game. I found myself actually wanting to see all the endings and uncover as much behind the mysterious circumstances of the game as I could. This is a testament to the design. In the end I ended up producing videos of all the endings in a walkthrough style.
The only thing is, I don’t think I could’ve produced all these videos without a walkthrough myself however. If I had owned the game without a guide, I could’ve probably played it for hours and hours without ever finding every little thing. I guess this is a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how you like to approach the completion of your games.
All in all, the game’s visuals are stunning considering it’s a 16 bit SNES game. The rotoscoping and basing of the graphics on real life actors is amazing. However, because the animations are so detailed sometimes it can seem like the characters are unresponsive, or slow to respond. The reason I like this game so much though is because it’s one of those games where everything comes together just right, the music, the graphics, the mechanics, to produce a quirky one of a kind experience that you won’t forget.
I leave you with the intro of the game so you can see for yourself what I’m talking about:
In my next post in this series I’ll be going over all the characters you can find in the game along with their portraits. From there, we’ll delve into the game itself in the standard “S” ending.
This article is part of a series on the Clock Tower games.
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