Genre: Horror Beat ‘Em Up
Horror movies have a particular formula. A majority of films in the genre- especially in the late 80s and early 90s- will set up an improbable plot to place characters into a terrifying situation. When the character or characters who survive until the final scene reach the end, there is climactic confrontation. The survivors breathe a sigh of relief, and the viewer is left with some kind of indication that a sequel is inevitable. The killer-thought-dead’s eyes open, the phone rings in the house that’s supposed to be safe, the camera pans menacingly back into the forest; if the writers and director can allude that the terror is still lurking, they will.
Games in the horror genre aren’t much different, and the original Splatterhouse did the same thing. It wasn’t as effective in the console port due to some strange editing of the final scene. In the original ending in the arcades, however, once Rick has survived his nightmare and comes out of the other side, there is a solid promise that the evil he was involved with also survived.
It would be four years later that the Sega Genesis would see the sequel, Splatterhouse 2, come to life in the West. It came at a great time- the early 90s was a strong time for “in your face” gaming, even if it was a bit of a lull for classic horror. Aside from dropping most of the censorship between the Japanese and English versions of the game like the original, though, there isn’t a ton of information readily available on Splatterhouse 2’s development. Even if it’s not hard to see why it would have eventually spawned a sequel, I’ve heard plenty about the first and third games in retro circles, and the reboot gets a mention here and there. I’ll admit that my curiosity piqued so far as the lack of information on the second game. Continue reading
Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly
Genre: Survival Horror
While I’m still catching up with my batch of games from the Halloween season last year, it’s been a goal of mine to play through some of the major series of the horror genre since I started up the blog. Fatal Frame’s been among the goals since the beginning since I’ve only played through the first two despite owning the rest of the series. Given my recent look into the original Fatal Frame, I was excited to check out the second game again. Full honesty: I haven’t played it since high school and my memory of it was fuzzy but positive.
Now, Fatal Frame II: Crimson Butterfly is one of the heralded possessions for horror collectors on the Playstation 2, though it hasn’t quite hit the heights of Rule of Rose or Kuon. It falls squarely into the crosshairs of “relatively affordable” and “rare enough to require hunting for a genuine copy”. It has a strong reputation as one of the scariest horror video games available- period. The few vivid memories I had of the game before my replay were of some choice scares so I couldn’t really fight that reputation myself. Again, though- it had been a while.
Since October felt like the perfect time to make some headway into the Fatal Frame games, I figured I’d dig out my copy of the fabled Crimson Butterfly and see if I could dust off some of the cobwebs on my memories from years ago. Continue reading
Dead Rising 2
Blue Castle Games / Capcom
Genre: Action Horror
The Dead Rising series is a group of games that I thoroughly enjoy but don’t get to talk about often. The series is larger than a lot of folks give it credit for at four mainline entries, a number of “side stories” and reimaginings, and a number of films in its mythos. The series has stalled out a bit since its second feature-length movie, Dead Rising: Endgame in 2016 and a re-release of Dead Rising 4 in 2017, but it has a solid foundation of material to sift through for anyone interested in checking it out.
After the success of Dead Rising back in 2006, it seemed to take forever for a second game to follow in its footsteps. When announcements started up in 2009 that another Dead Rising game was on the way, I can remember being pretty excited for some more over-the-top zombie survival using every object I could get my hands on. After three years, it was exciting to think about how far the game could have come from the original, too. The canon ending to the original left plenty of unanswered questions and room for expansion on the plot after all.
Dead Rising 2 had a big set of blood-covered boots to fill, not only from its origins but due to the release of the next entry in Capcom’s heavy hitter series, Resident Evil 5, that came out the same year it was announced. The original game still had some buzz but it was pretty much in bargain bins by the time the second game came around. Promises from the original team, though, showed that the company had faith in their upcoming product. As a fan of the second game from the previous times I’d played it, I wanted to put it under a more critical lens to see if it still held up ten years later. Continue reading
Clock Tower 3
Genre: Survival Horror
There has been a lot of conversation about how great the horror library on the Playstation 2 was in circles I chat with. A lot of these games have hit “cult” status outside of Silent Hill and Resident Evil with a few folks talking about Fatal Frame since it’s managed to continue producing entries up until last generation. In between those games, though, sit titles like Rule of Rose, Kuon, and the follow-up to a little series that found its footing in the US on the first Playstation console: Clock Tower 3.
After the rights to the Clock Tower series switches hands, it fell into the Capcom stable alongside Resident Evil, lending the series a little steam to get attention for its third game. Publisher name aside, the game announced that Kinji Fukusaku who had directed Battle Royale just a few years prior would be in charge of the cutscenes among a handful of other known industry names, some of whom had worked on Capcom’s major series before. The investment in the game’s production was deep, and it seemed like both the developers and the publisher had a lot of resources to draw from.
The last time Clock Tower had changed hands, though, we got a mess of a game with Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within. Understandably, people had a lot of hope for the new game with the names attached to it but were still sore from trusting that the last Clock Tower would live up to the first two games. Personally, my memories of the game were a little hazy, save for a few scenes here and there. In my unofficial pilgrimage to relive some of the games I grew up on and to complete my playthrough of the series entirely, I dug out my copy of Clock Tower 3, booted it up and decided to take a swing at it with some experienced but fresh eyes.
Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within
Human Entertainment/Ascii Entertainment
Genre: Point-and-Click Survival Horror
Horror movies and games share a lot of similarities in structure, especially when it comes to sequels. In horror films, you may have the same Final Girl and killer for a film or two before you have to move onto a completely new set of characters. Most likely, though, a franchise will try to keep up a similar style of horror and tone for its duration, shifting only when it becomes vital to keep the series fresh and interesting. In similar fashion to films, horror games usually try to stick to their guns until they become too repetitive.
The Clock Tower series had established itself as a tense slasher game. Jennifer Simpson was our Laurie Strode, Scissorman acting as our Michael Myers, hellbent on destroying her and the lives around her. Like the first Halloween film, Clock Tower: The First Fear was a dark and atmospheric endeavor while Clock Tower on the Playstation was more like the second film. There was more of an emphasis on action and the slasher aspect, but it still kept the players’ hearts in their chests.
Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within is our Halloween III.
The real difference between those two works, though, is that there is an audience who appreciates Halloween III for what it was- a failed attempt at turning the franchise into an anthology that worked fine if it was considered on its own merits sans the Halloween name tag. In all of my memory hearing about The Struggle Within, though, I hadn’t heard one good thing about the game. No one was singing a solo of unappreciated merits in the overwhelming chorus of vitriol against it.
As someone who enjoys singing solos about certain games of that sort, I had to finally complete the one game in the Clock Tower mythos I hadn’t yet and see for myself if there was anything worth salvaging. Continue reading