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Video Game / Clock Tower

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The original survival horror franchise.
Modern horror games tend to consist of you, your gun, absurdly copious amounts of ammo, and a plague of zombies. Or ghosts. But the point is, you have a gun, or at the very least a crowbar or something.

Human Entertainment'snote  Clock Tower Survival Horror series doesn't work like that.

With the exception of a few sequences in the third and fourth games, your character is an utterly helpless girl going up against an unstoppable creature bent on killing you. In short, a Slasher Movie turned video game. If you want to live, you're going to have to keep your wits about you, and not do stupid things like play the piano noisily, or tempt fate by repeatedly returning to the scene of a Cat Scare.

The series has four games:

  • Clock Tower — Released in 1995 for the Super Famicom, features an orphaned girl named Jennifer who is adopted along with her friends, but is pursued by Bobby Barrows, the manor's resident maniac with a huge pair of scissors. It was later ported to Windows 95 and PlayStation in 1997, followed by a WonderSwan version in 1999. Though fan translations are available for each version (excluding the Wonderswan release), this installment was never officially released outside of Japan in any shape or form, until WayForward Technologies confirmed that they're working on a remastered version that will be releasing on all modern consoles in all regions in 2024.
  • Clock Tower 2 — A direct sequel to the first game, taking place a year later when the Scissorman suddenly reappears. Players can continue playing as Jennifer or her foster mother Helen, and can also control a few other characters for certain parts of the game. This installment was released in Japan in 1996, but unlike its predecessor, it was also released in North America and Europe in 1997 and 1998 respectively by ASCII Entertainment.
  • Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within — Also known as Clock Tower: Ghost Head in the Asia-Pacific, is the third game in the series released for the PlayStation in 1998 and has nothing to do with the first two games note , but instead focuses on a high school girl named Alyssa Hale / Yu Midoshima with a male split personality named Bates / Sho. Who could use guns. Against the zombies and evil spirits pursuing you. It was released in North America by Agetec in 1999 whereas Europe didn't get this one.
  • Clock Tower 3 — The fourth and (seemingly) final game in the series for PlayStation 2, this installment focuses on a different Alyssa who, upon returning home, found that her mother is missing. Unlike the previous installments, this game was co-developed by Capcom and Sunsoft as Human Entertainment filed for bankruptcy at the turn of the new millennium, and instead of the series' staple point and click interface, players have full control of their character. It was released in Japan in 2002 and everywhere else in 2003.

Though not part of the series proper, Haunting Ground was initially developed to be a continuation of the series and shares the visual and play style of Clock Tower 3.

The series went dormant for a decade, however Hifumi Kono, the director of the first two Clock Tower games, announced during the 2014 Tokyo Game Show that his new company Nude Maker was working a spiritual successor to the series under the working title Project Scissors, along with the help of Masahiro Ito of Silent Hill fame, Ju-on director Takashi Shimizu, and Metal Gear Solid 4 composer Nobuko Toda working on the project. The game has since been released under the name Night Cry.

There was a small IOS Title called "Clock Tower: Ready for the Next" which was a bunch of Chibi-style screens where the player picked which spot for Jennifer to hide in from Clock Tower 1, this is presumably a promotional thing due to it being extremely short.

Not to be confused with the trope, Clock Tower.

Examples of common tropes:

  • Action Commands: The Panic button. If an enemy catches up to you, the button has to be pressed rapidly to escape death.
  • Artificial Brilliance: If you use the same hiding place too many times, Scissorman will eventually catch on.
  • Audio Adaptation: Each game from the second onward has its own drama CD. The first two are just adaptations of their respective games, while the third is a Prequel about the protagonist's mother, Nancy.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of the good endings are like this.
  • Bloodless Carnage: The first game had little to no blood. The rest either averts or subverts it.
  • Controllable Helplessness: Very, very common, especially if you're en route to a bad ending.
  • Cower Power: Your only defense in the game is hiding, or attacking with mundane objects, and even that can fail if used twice. Confronting your stakers may slow them down, but only for a few seconds. The chase is still on until you find a new hiding spot.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: One of the endings in the first game. It takes some effort to see it, but it can be considered the "worst ending" given what you have to do to earn it (namely, getting the keys to the car in the barn and driving off, leaving your friends behind to save your own ass).
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Met an unfortunate Dead End? Got an ending you didn't like? No problem, just hit Continue at the main menu and it never happened.
    • Though if you're already in the caves, you have no choice but to take whatever ending you got.
  • Death of a Child: Sometimes children are killed, sometimes they're the killer.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The second and third games have only a few endings between them that don't use this trope.
  • Distress Call: You can try (and fail) to send one in both 1 and 2.
  • Downer Ending: The bad endings. Good God, the bad endings.
  • Drop-In Nemesis: This series has a habit of having its resident killer kill off the player should they make that one foolish mistake.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The titular clock tower, although the one in 3 is the only one that's all that ominous.
  • Implacable Man: Your stalkers just. Won't. Die.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: The story in this series is complex and the multiple playthroughs to get the best ending may help piece the story together.
  • Kill It with Fire: Used occasionally. Most notably, to kill Dan in the first game. Subverted in the third game, where both the Chopper and the Scissorwoman are only briefly knocked out by fire.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: In every good ending.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Present in all the games, some of which are tied to the endings, save for Clock Tower 3.
  • The Movie: A movie is being made, though it's been through Development Hell and back, partly due to directors dropping out of the project and one even being found dead in a hotel room.
    • The most recent news is that it's based on The Struggle Within.
  • Multiple Endings: Every game except 3 has at least nine.
    • To clarify: The first had 9, the second 10, and the third 13. The (currently) final game has only one.
    • To clarify further, a lot of the endings are just different ways of the lead characters getting killed. It's especially egregious in the third game; most of those 13 endings just show Alyssa/Yu getting murdered in different ways by the Creepy Child.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Most bad endings in the series fall under this trope.
  • Overcrank: Near the end of the second game, when Helen shoots Scissorman.
  • Perverse Puppet: There's one in the first game.
  • Pixel Hunt: The cursor thankfully forms into a crosshair-ish shape whenever anything of significance can be examined, so this is not as bad as it sounds.
  • Point-and-Click Game: The first three.
  • Press X to Not Die: The panic button.
  • "Psycho" Strings: Used for effect when you uncover nasty things; for example, body parts in a meat locker.
  • Random Encounters: In Clock Tower 2 and Struggle Within, your pursuer will randomly appear eventually to pursue you eventually, meaning you're never safe even if you don't trigger any of their ambushes.
  • Sanity Meter: The first game had a panic meter, in the form of Jennifer's portrait. It didn't do much except make her more likely to be killed by traps, cause her to trip more often, and flash when you should be mashing the panic button, low enough Panic makes it impossible to survive when caught by Scissorman.
  • Serial Killer: Most of the villains tend to be these.
  • Shear Menace: The giant scissors that the first two Scissormen use.
  • Survival Horror: The series will make you feel like you're a helpless victim being hunted down by a crazed killer when you only have your wits to save yourself from seeing the Game Over screen or one of the bad endings. It's also notable for possibly being the Ur-Example of the genre.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The first game is one of the first survival horror games ever created, and yet it gives the player even less to work with than most of those genre games do. The enemies Jennifer encounters are pretty much impossible to stop unless Jennifer is in very specific circumstances. And even then, most of that consists of finishing something that someone else already set up. No weapons, no magic, no special powers, nothing. The most you can hope for is the chance to run and hide. And yet, in spite of virtually creating survival horror as a genre, Clock Tower reads like a deconstruction of the genre it created simply because of how much the player character's helplessness is made explicitly clear.