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
DreadOut: Keepers of the Dark
Genre: Survival Action Horror
Certain games lend themselves to a convoluted and drawn-out mythos. Taking into account some certain popular horror games, you could easily find essays about Silent Hill’s background and characters. Personally, I’ve poured through a number of analyses about Rule of Rose and the symbolism within the world drawn up over the game’s events. While a lot of that is in the eye and explanations of the analyst behind the keyboard, most franchises are not foreign to the idea of adding more to an already existing mythos to explain mysteries or flesh out their universe. It’s what endears people to their work, after all.
The original DreadOut (which I reviewed a while back here) took its inspiration from some already existing mythology, sending a group of trapped teenagers and their teacher up against some of the specters and demons in Indonesian stories. The game didn’t just rest on this, as it had its own plot and story to tell, but the combination of existing and specifically created histories made for an interesting plot to watch unfold as the horrors played out.
Keepers of the Dark is not a straight sequel to DreadOut as one might be led to believe from the title and timeline. I say this not only informationally but as a bit of a warning for the discussion to follow since there is almost no way to discuss the game without referring to elements from the original DreadOut and possibly giving some spoilers. Acting more like a “missing chapter”, according to the game’s page on Steam, it sort of takes a quick sidestep from the plot of the original and has events that relate to it. If you haven’t played the original game and don’t want it ruined for you, feel free to turn away now. No hard feelings here, I promise!
Otherwise, take a peek at what I thought of this extra chapter from the DreadOut universe and how effective it may or may not have been as a standalone piece. Continue reading
System Shock 2
Irrational Games/Looking Glass Studios/Electronic Arts
Genre: Horror First-Person-Shooter
There are always games that sound like they will be right in your gaming sweet spot that will somehow turn you away from them. It took me a while to try out Final Fantasy XII and once I did, it became one of my favorites in the series. Another game that I’ve warmed up to but still haven’t completed is Bioshock. A little known fact about me is that I really enjoy first-person shooters and based on what I’ve heard about the Bioshock series, it seemed like a bunch of games I’d easily be able to sink my teeth into. Sometimes, it’s worth taking the chance to overcome your hesitations and just try a game if you can.
Oddly enough, another game that is closely related to Bioshock called System Shock 2 had been on my radar for a while. I was told it was a cyberpunk horror first-person shooter with RPG elements. Literally, nothing in that description does anything to deter me. Looking up the game, though, it looked like a very basic FPS and between the fans online having such fervent positive reviews of the game and the fact that its marketing in the current day felt all over the place, it was tough to get excited about giving it a whirl.
It was the connecting threads from Bioshock to System Shock 2 and the suggestion of a friend (who I will publicly thank “anonymously” as ‘The Horror’) that finally pushed me to install the game. Seeing that Ken Levine and a handful of others were involved with both titles helped me feel like the atmosphere from Bioshock could easily have been translated from System Shock 2. It’s also been rare that Horror has suggested a game that I didn’t enjoy once I got into it.
Eventually, as I was sitting at my computer one day browsing through games in my backlog, I mentally threw my reluctant hands into the air and said:
“Y”know what? I’m gonna give System Shock 2 a go.”
Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble
Genre: Action Platformer
Growing up on the Sonic games and as an only child, I’m shocked that I didn’t push harder to try to get a Game Gear into my greedy little hands. I do have memories of playing the Game Gear rendition of Sonic the Hedgehog on a friend’s handheld, though- until the battery died. I never saw that Game Gear or game again until years later once I started collecting.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble falls into a strange era of the Sonic franchise. Dropping right into the same timeframe as Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, the game released in the midst of a time when the flourishing series was expanding its roster and digging its heels into the same league as Mario popularity-wise.
Given that the Game Gear seems to have a fairly limited library and objectively paled in comparison to the Nintendo Game Boy in units sold, it’s sometimes easy to forget how much Sega invested in its potential. Not only is Triple Trouble the third “mainline” Sonic game to be released on the system- it does act as the sequel to equally known Sonic Chaos– but it’s one of nine Sonic related games to be released on it (including games that only released in Japan).
While Super Mario Land and its sequel commonly receive mixed reviews from folks in the current day, I couldn’t help but want to take a step back in time to see if Triple Trouble could stir up those old feelings I got from my original adventures with the spiky blue hedgehog. Given that I haven’t dug into the annals of the Game Gear library yet here on the blog and that this title interested me more than many, this seemed like a suitable place to break ground. Continue reading