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Clock Tower: Ghost Head
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Clock Tower: Ghost Head / Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within - PlayStation (1998)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

The title of this game is also a bit confusing. In America, it's known as Clock Tower II, since the real Clock Tower 2 was renamed plain old Clock Tower, because the first game was not translated into English. In Japan, however, it's consider a spinoff without a numeral, deemed as such since it moves away from the storyline and setting of the previous games. The major shift is that it now takes place in Japan...at least, in the original Japanese version. During localization, the setting was switched to California, and all names anglicized. This bowdlerization is, frankly, the least of the game's problems.

Alyssa Hale (Midoshima Yu) is a quiet, 17-year-old girl who is spending her weekend at her relative's house. Upon arriving, somehow hell has broken loose all over, finding bits of pieces of what seem to be her cousin's remains, and various family members hiding from some terrible force. Upon a gruesome discovery in a bedroom, Alyssa's alter ego and violent split personality, Bates (Sho), awakens from an apparently dormant state and possess Alyssa. This helps her toughen up to the current scenario until she finds her Amulet (Mikoshi-sama, as she calls it in Japanese), a gift from her father that fends off this other persona inside of her.

Somehow, it's discovered that her little cousin Stephanie (Chinatsu) has gone into a killing rampage and is attacking everyone in the house. Soon you find that she was playing with a fabled "cursed" statue that her father was holding on to for Alyssa's father, and now she's basically possessed. Forced into turning into her Bates personality to fight her off, Alyssa burns the statue, freeing Stephanie from the curse.

Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within (PlayStation)

The whole ordeal soon catches up with the police and all the injured family members are taken to a nearby hospital, while her uncle is taken for questioning. Young Detective Alex Corey (Ishizue Hitoshi) from a neighboring town briefly interrogates Alyssa about what happened, and reporter Doug Bowman (Gomoto Wataru) "pokes" around for clues before the clinic is invaded by an onslaught of undead minions that forces them into a research lab. In here, Alyssa manages to find and escape from the fabled "Maxwell" (Saidou), an individual who has been somehow "possessed" too and is killing anybody who gets near him. Evade him and Alyssa will catch up with her father, revealing the machinations behind the game's entire story.

Being barely a year younger than the previous Clock Tower, this one adopts some of those gameplay elements with few changes. It has the same drop down inventory menu, the same arrow/health system, and the same panic countermeasures to avoid death.

Unfortunately, the biggest change is the pacing. Now you're not allowed to fully explore an area until certain events have been accomplished. The problem is that there's no real logical connection between any of these events or restrictions, nor is there any physical roadblock that stops your exploration. For instance, when you start the game at the entrance of the house, there are three doors and a stairway. You can't climb the stairs until you've explored behind all of the doors, but there's no hints to this effect, nor anything actually blocking the staircase. The hotspot will simply not activate. Beyond how infuriating this is, this also means that the open environments of the previous games have been discarded for a more linear style of play. Now just picture how this dumb mechanic will further translate when the later areas get twice as big as this house, and you can only imagine the headaches.

To add insult to injury, there's also another mechanic that makes this more contrived. At any given time, you can have Alyssa to put down her Mikoshi Amulet, prompting that the next time she's in danger, Bates will come to her rescue and will switch personalities automatically until you take the Amulet back from where you left it. Confusing? Yes, but it doesn't stop there. Bates will often check hotspots that Alyssa can't, and vice versa, forcing you to get in harm's way to switch personalities when you have exhausted all possibilities as the other one.

The only pay-off to this is the fact that Bates can use weapons (pistols and shotguns to be more specific, or the cheat-unlockable amulet named "Milicana" that fires some kind of magic beam) that Alyssa can find and won't touch. Hiding places are scarce in this game, so you'll often need to brute force your way out of sticky situations. This happens way more often than necessary, especially in the second chapter.

Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within (PlayStation)

In general, performing poorly or making "bad" decisions will lead you into one of the ten "bad" endings. The other three "good" endings can be achieved if certain conditions are met, if certain choices are made, and whether certain characters are alive. Even Alyssa herself will verbally doubt her actions if you choose one of the alternative endings. The "Save" feature is more flexible this time around, at least. You're able to save your game any time when you're not in danger, and also load on the spot. So, if you're about to make decision you might think will change the final outcome, you're free to load again if the result isn't the desired one. This will be a necessary evil when facing the many variables that affect the game's multiple endings. With this said, if trial and error is your hell, then Ghost Head will be your biggest offender.

At least the sound design is pretty good. There is more music than in previous games, and Kaori Takazoe is back for the last time to make sure the soundtrack lives up to the game's lineage. Stalkers have their "Shiver" theme (which is the music that sounds when they're around) and "Appear" theme, which comes when you've been around for too long. Sound effects on the other hand are subpar (handguns, for instance, sound like someone spitting on an aluminum plank) and are also often quite glitchy. The voice acting is often laughable with dumb dialogue ("A human Torso!"), numb acting ("Ha, I'm going to kill you!") and crude remarks from Bates (who is the only highlight, voiced by Roger L. Jackson, Ghostface's voice from the Scream movie series).

The graphics are simply dull. The developers were probably still struggling with the PlayStation hardware at this point or ran out of money to support this department, considering what others games looked like at the time. There's constant clipping among the floor tiles as the camera rotates, and objects resemble poorly made origami counterparts of what they're supposed to look like. The characters are marginally better and at least look something like their intended design. The FMVs are a step up, though, as the character models actually look like people, have great facial expressions (much lot better than CT2's blocky-dead-eye mannequins), animated hair and even smooth animations.

It's worth mentioning that the localization is half-assed even when it comes to the setting. ASCII apparently thought that the game was too "Japanese" for the English speaking market and simply switched the plot to be in California instead of Osaka and didn't update the graphics at all. So there are all these America references and names in the middle of a very Asian looking locale.

Ghost Head is not a good game by any stretch. The game is obviously underdesigned and the localization is embarrassing. Alas, it somehow gained a cult following unlike any other Clock Tower when it was released, as there is tons of fan arts out there, and is one of the few games to get their own Drama Disc. However, due to the closure of Human, it was also the last Clock Tower to ever come from the hands of its original producers.

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  • Yutaka Hirata

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Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within (PlayStation)

Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within (PlayStation)

Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within (PlayStation)

Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within (PlayStation)

Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within (PlayStation)


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Clock Tower 3 - PlayStation 2 (2002)

Japanese Cover

European Cover

After Human folded and ASCII published the last Clock Tower sequel/spin-off game, a familiar but unlikely Capcom stepped up to the plate, along with Hudson Soft, and started working out the 3rd and "final" entry of the Clock Tower saga.

Deviating completely from the past games (which essentially concluded their respective stories), the player is put into shoes of a new girl, Alyssa Hamilton. She's a shy individual whose mother asked her secretly via mail to live in shadow of anonymity until her 15th birthday. Foolishly ignoring the letter's unlikely warning, Alyssa travels to her former boarding home in search of her mother. During her investigations, she accidentally steps into a magic trap that sends her back into London, during the times of World War II. (Yes, that escalated very quickly!)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Finding sanctuary in the middle of "The Blitz", Alyssa witnesses the murder of a little girl at the hands of a monstrous individual, who dexterously wields an unnervingly large hammer. Noticing Alyssa's presence, he starts chasing her. This crazed murderer is one of the new kinds of "subordinates" (as Stalkers are called here). This first guy is (obviously) named Sledgehammer, but others include Chopper (an ax-wielding lunatic), Corroder (an acid-bath maniac), the Scissors Twins (unrelated to the past games, technically named Ralph and Jemima) and Lord Burroughs himself, ascendant of the "Barrows" family. The spelling of the name has been altered for unknown reasons, maybe they wanted to differ a bit from the source material, but it may also just be a localization inconsistency.

Lord Burroughs himself is a believer in "Entities" (which are apparently what defines every Stalker with supernatural abilities through the saga) and wants to become one. Before using his daughter in a ritual to attain this, she dies by accident, prompting him to become extremely ravenous for power and start killing. Shortly thereafter, a flock of people from the town got a hold of him and eventually executed him via the clock tower of his own mansion (following the Barrows tradition, "Time Will Cause Adherence", making the clock's gears the bane of every Stalker in the family).

While Burroughs is somewhat of an ancestor to Alyssa, she belongs to a "Rooder" lineage (the same as his deceased daughter) that's able to vanquish and sentence these Entities via holy weapons. These include such implements as a bottle of holy water, which, apart from damaging the Stalkers, can turn into a bow to further punish them.

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 plays completely different from any of its predecessors. This isn't inherently a bad thing, as such evolution can sometimes save a franchise from stagnation. Here, the game departs from the tradition of point and click adventures, and instead gives the player full control over the character, making it feel a lot like Resident Evil. While this doesn't sound too bad on paper, in practice, the transition is pretty clunky. Alyssa can be controlled via one of the controller's sticks, making her able to move freely within the 3D environments. Instead of scanning the room with your eyes for items, you can walk up to places and press the "action" button in order to interact. Finding places to hide or relevant hotspots can sometimes be a chore, forcing you to walk around so the camera moves just enough to find stuff lying about. At least most objects will sparkle, so you know they can be picked up.

Unlike previous games, sometimes hiding spots are not good enough, and you'll often be forced to use items. While this is not necessarily new, as later Clock Tower games relied more on using the environment to attack or having you grab items (Clock Tower 2) or carry guns (Ghost Head) in order to fend enemies off. However, hiding spots were always effective unless there was a scripted event associated with them. Shooting and hitting were ineffective to kill your target, but instead allowed you to stun them so you could find a proper hiding area. In Clock Tower 3, you are equipped with holy water to help you fend off the bad guys, helping you to make some space between you and the current Stalker. It's needed because the Stalkers become increasingly faster and more annoying as the game progresses, and they're more aggressive in searching hiding places if they're directly on your tail.

The Panic mode works differently than before, as it's measured by a "Panic Meter" displayed on the side of the screen. Whenever Alyssa is struck by a Stalker, jumped on, scared by the environment or groped by a ghost, her meter will raise until she breaks down. The next scare will be too much for Alyssa, prompting her to automatically run away, aimlessly and out of control (or sometimes she'll freeze in a single spot, becoming an easy one-hit kill for a Stalker). If she escapes to safety, the Panic Meter will start depleting, letting you recover control when it's over. It's nice that they tried to keep the "Panic" thing going on and give it a little twist, but before it was used to save yourself from certain death instead of being a messy way of putting you in danger.

Then comes the boss battles. Each Stalker (including Burroughs himself) is to be disposed of. Your holy water will turn into a bow used to pass "Judgement" on the Stalkers. In a fixed arena, you'll don this Rooder weapon and engage into some of the clunkiest battles in videogame history. The viewpoint will switch to an over-the-shoulder view as you try to hit them with your arrows. The Stalkers will no longer run or pose a threat like before, instead they'll wobble around, trying to corner you.

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Compared to previous Clock Tower games, Clock Tower 3 is also incredibly linear. There are interludes in the mansion, and each "level" takes place in different places and time periods, but it's completely missing the branching paths and alternate endings that previously typified the series.

Being a release for the PlayStation 2, Clock Tower 3 shows substantial graphical improvement over the past games. Characters are better defined, the dirty backgrounds live up to the era the game is taking place in - whilst mostly generic England settings, they still manage to nail an eerie feeling - and the cut-scenes are very well executed, if too sadistic sometimes (Sledgehammer's and Corroder's intros will stick with you for quite a while). The Stalkers themselves are very well animated and somewhat scary - desperate to kill Alyssa, they run quickly (almost in an erratic manner), laughing all the way while trying to attack her, and their cutscenes are downright disturbing when they're not too cheesy. Also, there is tons of concept artworks for each of them, unlockable in-game, showing the potential the team had when bringing this game to light.

The sound works fine, as while some of the songs are immensely atmospheric, others are downright generic (and that damn boss battle theme thing feels like a 15-second tune that repeats over and over). The "Panic" cue is clichéd with capital "C", with the Psycho shriek thing going on, but admittedly it's appropriate. If anything else really improved with this game, it's the voice acting and cutscenes. Kinji Fukasaku (of Battle Royale fame) directed the cinemas, and he does a pretty masterful work of making every event believable, and the voice acting fits every scene. The Stalkers themselves sound eerie and cruel, fitting their roles perfectly when murdering the victims, or enjoying the distress they put Alyssa through whenever they appear.

Capcom and Hudson's joint venture to bring the third and "final" chapter to life of this beloved franchise was an unlikely experiment at the time. Even if it sold poorly and essentially spelled the end of the franchise, it had somewhat satisfactory results. Like the PS1 Clock Tower games, this one is another interesting if flawed experience. Nevertheless, with a single ending, a more straightforward run, and tons of curiosities to be explored, this game still stands strong as an unlikely gem among horror adventures.

Quick Info:

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Director:

  • Kinji Fukasaku

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Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)

Clock Tower 3 (PlayStation 2)


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<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Clock Tower
Clock Tower II

Page 2:
Clock Tower: Ghost Head
Clock Tower 3

Page 3:
Haunting Ground

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