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Underrated Games: Clock Tower (AKA Clock Tower 2)


As time progresses, games get left behind. PlayStation horror title Clock Tower 2 (as it was named in Japan, while it was simply named Clock Tower in Europe and North America, as these regions never saw the release of the first game in the series), along with its first instalment (on the SNES, then later the PlayStation and the PC), are just two of many great games that haven't withstood the test of time and are nowadays finding themselves deeply buried in the past, perhaps seen as 'old-fashioned'.


However before I continue, I just want to get everything cleared up in the way of the title of the game I am going to discuss in this post. I am talking about the game highlighted in bold on the list below (cheers, Wikipedia), while our good friend Sam has written a previous post about the fantastic game underlined on the list below. Bleh... game companies renumbering the titles of their games for other regions, the Clock Tower series is like the horror Final Fantasy when it comes to annoying renumbering. Just keep it the bloody same!!!

  • Clock Tower (1995) - released only in Japan and also called Clock Tower ~The First Fear~
  • Clock Tower (1996) - called Clock Tower 2 in Japan
  • Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within (1998) - called Clock Tower Ghost Head in Japan
  • Clock Tower 3 (2002)

Anyway, so as I was saying, Clock Tower 2 (I'll refer to it as this for canon purposes) on the PlayStation could be seen more as a historic spectacle of video games, but thanks to annoying gaming hipsters like myself, games like Clock Tower 2 can be dug up from their unfair and rather lonely hole in history and can be waved around in modern gamers faces. Clock Tower 2 is one of those survival horror games that utilises a rather dusty game mechanic, not seen in games nowadays. Another game I can think of that has suffered the same fate is D (for the 3DO, PlayStation and Sega Saturn) which uses the even dustier concept of full motion video (or FMV). However, unlike D, Clock Tower 2 is miles more easily accessible if you just overlook its rather old school point and click game play and just have a little patience with the rather slow response of the system. 
What makes Clock Tower 2 harder to access for PAL players like myself is its ridiculous price on sites like Amazon and eBay. The game obviously was released in limited numbers in the PAL region and as a result, its second hand value is rather silly. But if you are willing to fork out the money necessary (I'd see this as more of an option for die-hard fans of the series) or have someone willing to buy you the game for you as a birthday present, then you will have an interesting gaming experience indeed.


Like its predecessor, Clock Tower 2 has a fascinating and reinforced plot, that, as far as I can see, is void of annoying plot holes (like the ones that plague most horror film plots). For those who haven't had the chance to play the first game on an emulator (this is the only way to play the English translated version without spending money on bootlegs or reproduction carts) there is an explanation of what happened on the menu screen to fill in any gaps that aren't discussed within the crime investigation-themed storyline. The game, depending on choices the player takes, will twist and turn, resulting in branching plot lines, as well as multiple endings. The open-endedness of the story provided much fascination to me during my first play through (I didn't use a guide) and the whole concept of getting one of 10 endings is a very exciting concept to me. What's also exciting is that depending on a rather cryptic thing that you have to do in the first scenario you will either play as the character Helen or Jennifer (the protagonist from the first Clock Tower game - you have to speak to a guy more than once to play as her...). What is good about the choices that effect which ending you get is that they can be rather cryptic, meaning that it is less obvious what you need to do in order to go certain places, play as certain characters and get to certain endings. But at the same time this lets the game down as it can prove to be a bit unforgiving. I remember at one point in the game when I went a little bit too far and once I had gone past a certain point, I'd cost myself a good ending. Unfortunately I had already saved over my previous save before that certain point so I could not go back, and in order to get a good ending it meant that I would have to start over. The problem with starting over however, is that it meant I'd have to endure the slow general movement of the game and its point-and-click mechanics and text scrolling during the dialogue (The text doesn't move as fast as you read it, and is split up into two lines of dialogue, meaning that it takes ages to read one conversation).


The original Clock Tower brought the slasher movie experience to video games, and Clock Tower 2 builds on this further. Again, instead of defending yourself, the player will have to create a diversion or hide, similar to the first game and every other game in the series.
Scissorman appears more, not only through triggered events (for example, looking inside a box), but he will also appear randomly while the player explores, something that the original game lacked, and should have been there from the start. 
Most of the time during play, there is no music, just the noise of your character's movement or subtle background noise. Your ears grow accustomed to this silence so much (except for the footsteps) that if you explore for a while and suddenly a picture frame falls off a wall creating a loud thud, you shit your pants. Clock Tower 2 has a lot of jump scares, but like the original, the scares are mainly psychological and are left up to the player's imagination. If anybody has seen slasher movie classic Halloween, then this lack of music is important. Music only plays when Scissorman appears, meaning you associate a particular theme with this particular baddie, and just like its predecessor, Clock Tower 2 features absolutely blinding music. The music is very typical of early PlayStation games of that era, but it still manages to carry creepiness.
Another thing worth mentioning in the sound department, is that the voice acting is awful, not The House Of The Dead 2 awful, but still pretty awful. It's not the worst thing I've ever heard, but a lot of the dialogue sound incredibly forced and a lot of the emotion isn't convincing at all. But if, like me you can ignore it and focus on the storyline, it shouldn't bother you too much.


The graphics of the game are very poor by today's standards, perhaps not even excusable for an early PlayStation game. But honestly, for what this game is, the graphics are not even worth worrying about. Clock Tower 2 for me is definitely driven by a strong, intriguing plot, and this is what makes it stand out amongst other games of its era. Sure, the game itself could be considered to be worn out, perhaps even on its last legs, but with such a fantastic plot, I personally believe that Clock Tower 2 can out stand the test of time, and as a consequence, be truly considered an 'underrated game'. Bravo, Human Entertainment, you served up a cracker in this one, R.I.P. dudes.

 
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