FGC #065 Any Clock Tower

Top of the TowerYesa Aravena requests “Clock Tower; any one in the series.”

Any clock tower in the series, eh?

Alright, I choose the clock tower from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

C:SotN was a landmark Castlevania game in a lot of ways, and its clock tower magnifies this fact. In nearly all previous Castlevania games, the clock tower was a grueling platforming challenge, with grinding gears and swooping medusa heads constantly encouraging the Belmont du jour to reach terminal velocity on his way to some uncomfortably placed spikes. In the SotN clock tower, all of those elements are present, but they have been defanged by the new “explore ‘em up” nature of the game. No longer do you have to fear an unforgiving death plummet into the unknown, no, now you have the full height of the screen to explore, and Alucard doesn’t dread a fall from a tower any more than diving off a waterfall or jump-kicking out of his dad’s throne room. In making Symphony of the Night a more interesting game, a less challenging, but more fun, clock tower was created.

The charm point of this area is the four gears scattered about the vertical areas. I realize I just finished talking about how this game made the clock tower calmer, but these gears can be a major pain in the butt for the intrepid explorer. Each of these gears must be hit by Alucard a distinct number of times in order to access a worthwhile hidden area, so, assuming the player doesn’t just want to jump around like an idiot, Alucard temporary enters something like a tower defense situation to properly grind those gears. An infinite number of medusa heads are incoming, and a harpy or two is likely to interfere, but persevere, young dhampir, and you’ll have your treasure soon. Oh, and be sure to pump up the volume, you do not want miss that satisfying victory click.

For eagle-eyed, nostalgic players, you may notice that the “end” area of the clock tower leading directly to Dracula’s loft is very Grindin' alongsimilar to the final area of Castlevania III, not at all coincidentally the first game where Alucard appeared. This is yet another Castlevania franchise reference in a game packed with them, but it’s welcome, assuming you’re going through the clock tower in the intended direction. Assuming you’re not, however, you’ll be greeted with the lackluster boss of the area first thing. Malphas, a crow demon, is the greatest misstep in this area, as I have literally never encountered this boss at a time in my Castlevania journeying that he hasn’t been a complete push over. Would it have been so bad to have the first form of Death hiding in the first castle? No, we get stuck with this lame feather demon that can barely get an attack off. Absolutely no one is surprised when he pops up in equally ineffectual numbers in the reverse castle.

And that’s about it for my chosen Clock Tower!

Wait…

Why did I capitalize that?

Huh… it was capitalized in the original request, too. Could it be…

Oh, bugger, there’s an entire Clock Tower franchise? It’s its own game!?

Rargh, okay okay, don’t panic. Don’t panic. You can do this… you’ve… you’ve still got time to turn this one around… yeah… don’t let that stupid robot think you can’t survive without him… her?… whatever… you can handle this… yeah… there’s gotta be… yes, okay, good, you’ve got one of the Clock Tower games, Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within… oh, bless my tendency to buy games exclusively based on their titles… alright, now just have to pull an article together… bang out a couple hundred words, shouldn’t be an issue… you once wrote a ten page book report on A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, a book for which you, technically, only read the back cover… you can do this… let’s start with that back cover… that’s always good…

Look at that... stuffEr-hem.

Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within is the sequel to Clock Tower, another clock tower-based video game. Like the previous entry in the series, Clock Tower 2 is a survival horror game, with an emphasis on the whole “survival” thing. The heroine, Alyssa Hale, must survive a world of horrors beyond imagination, with terrifying creatures like zombies, a knife-wielding child, and the nefarious Ghosthead (note to self: please look up whatever that is. It sounds stupid, but could probably fill a paragraph.) But sometimes, the danger comes from within, as Alyssa has a split personality. Possibly as a result of being buried alive, Alyssa will occasionally transform into her alter-ego, a darker, more violent Alyssa that might be more likely to survive, but is Alyssa ready to survive as such a creature (Yeah, that’s usually how these things go). Alyssa is thirsty for revenge, but what part of her will do the drinking? (Deep, awesome)

The graphics here are pretty normal for the Playstation, though maybe a little better than some of the early stuff, as the game was released in (CHECK WIKIPEDIA FOR YEAR). It’s more Final Fantasy 8 than Final Fantasy 7, basically. The control innovations of the time arrive in full force here: you can use the dinky ol’ PS1 controller, the GET IT!?“new” analogue stick, or even the Playstation Mouse, because, like MTV Music Generator, I guess that peripheral works with this game. The rumble feature even works with Clock Tower 2, which is great, because Playstation games always used rumble effectively to build tension, and not just to remind the player they had just fallen down. (Snark portrays confidence!)

Like Chrono Trigger before it, Clock Tower 2 boasts thirteen different endings, which, at the time of release, generally implied a wealth of gameplay options. You have to understand that, back in the day, when most video game choices boiled down to “continue?”, all we had were games with multiple endings to cover the advanced storytelling options offered by the digital medium. “Multiple Endings” was not just a bullet point; it was an unspoken promise that guaranteed this was a game with real choices, and thus a much more mature narrative for the discerning player. Yes, many of the thirteen endings of Clock Tower 2 are disappointing (a given… oh, the cleverness of me), but the fact that the game doesn’t just end with “You are a super player” blazed the trail for the more modern morality dilemmas and branching stories of today. (Yeah, video game history for the win)

Obviously, there are problems with Clock Tower 2. It’s a Playstation 1 game, so using the digital PSX pad as opposed to the analogue control feels a bit cumbersome. I can see why the mouse might come in handy as an alternative (why not?). Additionally, when the game asks you to do anything with an eye on action, like when Ghosthead is barreling down upon you, it doesn’t feel quite as GET OUT!precise as when you’re just walking around. Yes, this probably helps to build the suspense and horror of the game, but it doesn’t make things any more fun to play. And, of course, despite all the cinema being tossed around, it’s still PSX era graphics, so humans come off as creepy creatures more than some of the actual monsters. I’m sure it was a fine game for its time, but it was never meant to be on a screen the size of a truck begging for a resolution somewhere in the thousands. And the voice acting? Ugh. (This really can’t be wrong)

In conclusion, Clock Tower 2 is a game of contrasts. (Nailed it)

FGC #65 Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within

  • System: Playstation 1, though it’s not like it couldn’t be on INSERT MODERN DOWNLOAD SERVICE, eh?
  • Number of Players: 1. Horror games should always be one player, because if you’ve got someone covering your back, the horror is reduced by at least 125%. This is how you can tell the more recent Resident Evil games are “merely” action games. However, all that said, a game like this can be enhanced with additional audience members, assuming you remember to turn off the lights.
  • Horror Times: I actually generally don’t enjoy “horror” games, whether it be action survival or just point and click. Horror games are really only doing their job if you feel generally uneasy while playing the game, and, honestly, that is the complete opposite of the reason I play video games. I like to relax when I’m holding a controller, and not ice skate uphill. And, having said all that, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories is one of my favorite games. Goggle Bob is a man of contrasts.
  • HERE HE COMESFavorite Monster: Well, obviously it’s Ghosthead. You know that Ghosthead, always ghostheading around like he ghostheads the place. I hear Ghosthead was so popular in Japan, they named the entire game after him. Ghosthead is like a Japanese Jason Voorhees!
  • Japanese? This game takes place in “San Francisco”, but it’s an alternate dimension where there’s a significant Japanese population on the West Coast, so all signs in public places like the hospital or Shinto Shrine are in Japanese. It’s like a sunnier Canada!
  • Did you know? Alyssa’s alter-ego is known as “Bates”. There has never been another character in horror fiction that possessed a split personality and that last name. Mother told me so.
  • Would I play again? Wait… Again? Erm, I mean, yes. Afterall, I didn’t find all those endings, and nothing is more exciting to me than replaying Playstation horror games! Woo and whatnot.

What’s Next? Random ROB is back!

See, I set up one of those security cams on the happy family…

See?

Zoom in! Enhance!

See!?

And everything I know about biology makes sense again! See, there was no robot love, just a capricious ditto, and that makes perfect sense.

Perfect.

Sense.

Anyway, Random ROB has chosen… Gradius 3 for the SNES! Get your options ready, the Vic Viper flies again! Please look forward to it!

(And a special thanks to everyone that participated in the Reader’s Choice Challenge. I’ve had a blast playing all these games, one way or another. You guys rock.)

One Response »

  1. When “Any Clock Tower” came up, I knew it wasn’t going to be the original Clock Tower. That game saw Japan-only releases on the Super Famicom and Sony PlayStation, so naturally the only way to play it in English is via emulation on PC, and…well, you know.

    Anyway, our “Clock Tower” was the actual Clock Tower II, and one of the protagonists was Jennifer Simpson, the PC of the original game. Our “Clock Tower II” was actually a spinoff by the name of Clock Tower: Ghost Head, and yep, of course the game’s setting is really Japan, with the localizers trying to pretend it’s not in the most half-assed way possible.

    Clock Tower 3 is a silly game where Alyssa (no relation to Ghost Head’s “Alyssa”) is chased around by ridiculous killers and occasionally turns into a magical girl (NOT JOKING) to finish them off. If you want to learn more, I recommend this text & picture Let’s Play of the game. http://lparchive.org/Clock-Tower-3/

    And then there’s Haunting Ground, which while not going by the Clock Tower name is a spiritual successor of sorts. It’s still a silly game (and a fan servicey one *rolls eyes at Fiona’s unlockable dominatrix and cowgirl outfits*, but it’s a little more grounded than CT3 was. Also you get your own doggy to maul the crazies.

    If you want to learn more about the series, Hardcore Gaming 101 has an article on it here: http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/clocktower/clocktower.htm

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