Clock Tower Final Thoughts

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Cover for Clock Tower: The First Fear original soundtrack

For a game that has never officially been released in English, there is a whooole lot to talk about in regards to CT.

The Presentation

I like the realistic style of CT‘s graphics. Some of the stills were digitized, though they have a slight illustrative look, as if the stills were touched up after being captured. For a 16-bit horror game, it works surprisingly well.

The music and sound are pretty effective, probably moreso because most of the gameplay is quite silent until something scary or emotional happens.

The Story

It’s a decent horror yarn, though it seems like a lot of the logical explanations for Mary’s evil actions and dark powers are missing from the actual game. Perhaps that’s why there was a manga and a novel made to tie in with the game’s story.

The manga has some gruesome artwork, like how it actually shows Laura’s face after she is killed, which you can’t see in-game.

CT lacks the deep psychology and symbolism of Silent Hill or the blockbuster appeal of Resident Evil, but it gets its job done.

The Characters

Jennifer is a decent protagonist. I rather like her. She’s one of those rare, truly “everyman” characters. We don’t learn a ton about her or any of the other characters, but we learn enough about Jennifer to make her sympathetic. It helps that her reactions are totally believable. She’s not a shallow blank slate, but you can project onto her.

Reading much into the characters of the other girls is a little trickier. You don’t see much of them before they usually die. Unlike Ann or Laura, the brave and tomboyish Lotte always dies, but she does get to help Jennifer before her untimely passing.

Since Lotte is the most tomboyish of the four girls, does her death make the game fall into the “Vasquez Always Dies” trope?

I can say with full conviction that Mary Barrows is a bitch! It’s kind of a shame that you never really learn why she’s so evil, because there are so many directions that you can go with a two-faced, bitch in sheep’s clothing like her. It’s clear that Mary fully embraced evil and the dark arts, but why?

There is some conjecture about her, such as the possibility that Mary’s twins were literal demon spawn. That’s similar to movies such as Rosemary’s Baby and even the Silent Hill games, except that Mary is a willing participant in carrying such entities to term.

If the twins were demon spawn, then Simon wasn’t the father after all…

The game’s director, Hifumi Kono, said that how Mary kills Laura reflects her dark, evil, and simple-minded mindset.

The Gameplay

Arguably perfunctory. The gameplay isn’t the actual point of CT, it’s the overall experience of the scares. There isn’t much in the way of deep puzzles or combat. The game has to stand on the strength of its creepiness instead of its gameplay.

The game is short, but if it wasn’t, you would feel less encouraged to replay the game to get different endings and scenes.

The Endings

CT has a feature called the Ending List. Once you beat the game, you can reference the Ending List to see which endings you have cleared.

The way that CT handles its endings is kind of interesting. Most of them are glorified Dead Ends, but some of them are still worth experiencing because they’re so creepy.

From worst to best, because I believe in ending on a high note:

Ending H: Get the car key. Use it three times on the car in the barn to make Jennifer reluctantly leave without her friends. She drives away from the Mansion, but unknowingly brought an uninvited guest with her…

Ending G: Basically the same as H, except that Jen makes it back to the Granite Orphanage. She is found three days later in her room… as a corpse. Kono said that Mary was somehow involved in Jennifer’s demise, even away from the Mansion.

Ending F: Jennifer enters the elevator to the clock tower in the catacombs. The doors close behind her, followed shortly by blood trickling out from beneath them…

Ending E: Similar to E. It shows Jennifer inside of the elevator, but when she tries to press the button to get to the top floor of the clock tower, Bobby drops down from the ceiling and the game fades to black…

Ending D: This ending is predicated on Jennifer getting through most of the game without learning who Mary really is and why she should be afraid of her.

Jennifer finds Mary and happily runs towards her, only to be stabbed. Jennifer asks why, and Mary just looks down at her with that dominating look.

Ending C: Jennifer knows who Mary is in this ending variation. Jennifer makes it to the top of the clock tower and fights off Mary and Bobby, allowing her to survive, but she is alone.

Ending B: At the top of the clock tower, Jennifer encounters Bobby before being attacked by Mary. Jennifer kills them both in self defense.

Ending A: At the top of the clock tower, Jennifer kills Bobby before finding Ann. Unfortunately, Mary ambushes Ann and kills her by throwing her off of the balcony. Jennifer then wrestles with Mary, who is thrown from the top of the ladder and dies.

Ending S: At the top of the clock tower, Jennifer finds an unconscious Laura instead of Ann. As per the usual with Endings A-C, Jennifer kills Bobby and Mary in self-defense. This time, Jennifer stands alongside Laura as the rain subsides…

Canon says that Jennifer was the only survivor of the game.

The game basically has five end states, for lack of a better term, with a few variations. Endings S, A, B, and C are basically the same with the most variations (four).

I think that the creepiest endings are G, F, and E.

The Legacy

Surprisingly, a whole lot.

CT was expanded into a series of games. Clock Tower 2 (as it was known in Japan) is the direct sequel and the first of the series to officially be released in English. Despite its status as the true sequel to CT1, it was marketed as Clock Tower in the States. Next was Clock Tower Ghost Head, which was actually a sidestory to the tale of the Barrows, and boy, does it show. In the States, it was known as Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within. Finally, there was Clock Tower 3, which was actually co-developed by Capcom and Sunsoft.

Following that, we have some spiritual successors, such as Capcom’s later Haunting Ground and Remothered, a fan remake of CT1 that is in hiatus. Perhaps it’s partially because one of the guys working on that game began to work on NightCry, a horror game from the director of CT1 and 2, Hifumi Kono.

CT1 received quite a few ports for PC, PlayStation, and… Bandai’s handheld, the WonderSwan? This port is subtitled The First Fear, and features some CGI cutscenes (such as the intro) and some new scares.

The game is actually available on the Wii and WiiU Virtual Console, as well as the PlayStation Store… in Japan. Jealous!

CT influenced a Mario fangame called Luigi Insanity.

In terms of mods – yes, mods- a text editor was created for the game. I remember seeing one years ago somewhere online, but I can’t remember what it was about. I vaguely recall it being crude somehow.

Trivia

There are some differences in how different groups of fan translators adapted some of the character and item names.

  1. Barrows/Burroughs/Burrows

  2. Laura/Rolla

  3. Anne/Ann

  4. Rock/Stone

  5. Black Robe/Black Cloak

A CT movie has fallen in and out of development hell for years. The only thing that seems to be for sure about it is that actress Brittany Snow is attached. In 2011, David R. Ellis, director of Snakes on a Plane, was attached to the project, but he passed away in 2013 at the age of sixty. The project has once again fallen into limbo.

Should I Experience Clock Tower?

I say yes. It’s short, so it won’t take too much of your time even if you don’t like it. I think this is the first time that a game’s edition of Final Thoughts was longer than the actual LP. 😛

CT is a creepy little gem. It was ahead of its time in quite a few ways in its genre

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