While many of us can point to Resident Evil as being the trendsetter in the survival horror game series, this little gem from the land of the rising sun could have had that crown first, if only for the fact that it was only released there.
Clock Tower follows the story of Jennifer and her friends who are taken from they're orphanage into the Clock Tower mansion by it's owners, only to realize that things are not as they seem. There aren't many lights on, some sections of the house are decrepit and dirty and the big one, you learn that the owners are homocidal and you must escape the mansion. Jennifer must try and find her friends and stay away from the ScissorMan, a wicked little man made of nightmare fuel who will stalk you with an enormous pair of shears.
Jennifer has no weapons, not even the lone pistol with only so many rounds of ammo like other survival horror games do, here she has only her wits which the more she encounters potential danger that tries to kill her, will leave her. There is no health bar, only your sanity. Your portrait in the corner of the screen determines how much you can survive. At first Jennifer is brave, but dodging the Scissorman, swarms of bugs and even the supernatural wears you down until your a quivering mess and even running away is hard since you can trip and fall in this state much easier. Slowly but surely your courage will return but not while your being stalked. Scissorman at points during the game will be on your trail with danger music playing and you need to put some distance between him and yourself so that you can get back to normal. While you play Jennifer can find keys to open doors and even objects like rope, rocks ham and others. Also while you play, you'll get creeped out pretty easy like when your walking down that hallway to retrace steps and the window will blow open or eyes can be seen watching you from outside. These aren't often, just enough to freak you out as you progress. Danger that threatens Jennifer directly can be dealt with by hitting the panic button repeatedly to escape death, but if poor Jennifer isn't feeling brave, it's a harder struggle.
Graphics were decent by SNES/Super Famicom standards with Jennifer's portrait in the corner is digitized well and you can tell what things are in the background. Sounds, oooch, this is where the games atmosphere comes from. The only sound you hear in the game 90% of the time is your footsteps and the sound of a door creaking open and slamming shut. The only music you'll often hear is the danger music when you're in trouble and it's got that demonic quality that makes you want to run away while you play the game. The wind gusts and other ambient sounds do they're jobs but the effect is a little lost because of the quality. Yes, you can tell that the wind blowing, is wind blowing, but it's a computerized sound of wind blowing, not that someone took a recorder out and managed to capture the exact sound. In some ways that makes it a little more frightening as you sit and guess the sound and have you're brain process the sound "oh, wind!". The game has multiple endings and there is a checklist. After the credits roll when I escaped the mansion, I thought I was in the clear.....only to have text tell me that I in fact did die....and I don't know how, but I have an idea. I must play the game some more.
Clock Tower is available for emulation and with patches for English if you go the emulated route, I did for this game since we in the US sadly didn't get it over here, so there unfortunately wasn't any other choice. It's creepy and fun and didn't make me turn off the game like I had hoped it would. On the other hand it did keep me playing instead of other games where I only have the nerve to play in spurts. If you dare enter the Clock Tower, just be brave, be ready and don't fre...............
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