Clock Tower Series Retrospective Part 1: Clock Tower Chronology

Clock Tower Series Retrospective Part 1: Clock Tower Chronology
Clock Tower Series Retrospective Part 1: Clock Tower Chronology

Insert Disk collects Clock Tower for the Super Famicom and PlayStation 1 (PS1).

Today’s retro game review is a massive 6 part Halloween special. This week I look at the history of the Clock Tower Series covering all of the main games including;

Clock Tower: Super Famicom
Clock Tower: Wonderswan
Clock Tower: The First Fear: PS1
Clock Tower 2/Clock Tower Struggle Within/Clock Tower 2 Demo: PS1
Clock Tower 3: PS2
The Spiritual Successors: Haunting Ground/Demento  and NightCry

In this episode I look to cover the rather confusing chronology of the series from its origins right through to its spin-offs and spiritual successors. To make sense of collecting this classic horror gaming series I’ve broken the games out by region so collectors can find what they’re looking for and not over-pay to get these items in your collection.

Greetings and welcome to this special 6 part miniseries of the show. I’ve always tried to keep the focus of this show on collecting rather than just reviewing games. Although I collect just about everything from classic microcomputers to arcade systems one of my favourite areas of collecting has always been horror games. A series that has risen to popularity with collectors in recent years is the Clock Tower series. The premise is almost always the same with a scissor wielding villain stalking groups young girls. On the surface this series seems simple enough to collect. However, I personally see so much misinformation and just all out crazy beliefs being shared about the series I couldn’t help but try and put the record straight. I’d like to kick off this main series with an overview of the games themselves and then follow up with a more detailed look at each game in its own episode.

Personally I feel that the problem of confusion around the series originates from gamers not owning the physical copies of the games and not taking time to learn the back history of how this amazing series grew from an obscure Japanese oddity to a horror game collectors most sought after series. The fact that you can download games in an emulated state has really caused confusion when it comes to the release year, language, value and even titles of the games. My aim here is to make sure that you as a collector understand what to look for, where to get it and what you should be paying for these games. Hold on for the history lesson and prepare to be confused as I unravel the mystery of collecting the Clock Tower series. First and foremost it’s important to understand that the Clock Tower series looks different depending on which region you are collecting. Quite often gamers are talking about the same game with a different title or the same game with alternate titles.

If you are collecting the full Japanese set you are looking at 6 key items plus the addition of a spin off game. The US received only 3 official games in the Clock Tower series plus the spin off game. If you happen to be in the UK and Europe there were only 2 officially released Clock Tower games released plus the spin off. It’s no wonder then that the internet is full of inaccurate or misleading information due to the regional difference. Let’s start off with Japan. Personally I take Japan to be the definitive set. Japan saw all the versions that the other regions did and also additional formats and demos. For Japan the timeline is relative straight forward and easily makes the most sense of you were to play the games chronologically. First up in 1995 the game simply titled “Clock Tower” was released on the 16-bit Super Famicom. It featured 2D graphics and was in Japanese language only. It has never been released officially outside of Japan on a Nintendo platform. The game did however see a Japanese language port to PC in 1997 and the Wonderswan in 1999. This Famicom release is effectively the first game in the series by all respects.

In 1997 the same game “Clock Tower” saw an updated re-release on the PS1. Although this game was essentially the same as the Super Famicom version it did feature a few updated graphical touches. At this point this first PS1 version was given its own title “The First Fear”. Here’s where things get a little confusing though as the previous year 1996 saw the release of “Clock Tower 2” in Japan. This game was released on the PS1 and featured full 3D graphics. This is one of the most played games in the series and to this day is known as “Clock Tower 2” in Japan. However, to confuse things this game had already been released as a “Not For Sale” extended demo. This game was known as “The Door of Fear”. This title was dropped by the time the game emerged as “Clock Tower 2”. Many collectors though still refer to the Japanese “Clock Tower 2” as “The Door of Fear” as it helps distinguish it from other regional releases. In 1998 Japan saw its next release in the series which was to be known as “Clock Tower: Ghost Head”. The characters and location are largely unrelated to the first 2 games but the theme of being hunted by a serial killer remains.

In 2002 the series had moved on to the PS2 now with Capcom in charge of the publishing rights. This game was released under the title “Clock Tower 3” and returns to the feel of the original 2 games. In Japan this marked the last official release in the series. However, a follow up or alternative game had also been worked on by Capcom. This game featured a young girl also hiding from her pursuer in a large mansion. This time though she has a dog as a companion. The game was released under the title “Demento” in Japan. Depending on which account you read this was intended to be the original “Clock Tower 4” but Capcom took the game in a slightly different direction. The game is certainly a spiritual successor to the main Clock Tower series and most collectors would have an interest in adding this to their collection. So, that rounds off Japan. An original, a re-release, a sequel plus alternate demo, a spin-off game, a 3rd game in the timeline and a spiritual successor. It’s no wonder that those outside of Japan find collecting this series a challenge.

If we travel to the US here’s how the series looked. There were officially released games known as “Clock Tower”, “Clock Tower 2”, “Clock Tower 3” and “Haunting Ground as the spiritual successor. On the surface this all makes complete sense if you are within US. It’s only when you compare to the Japanese releases that you realise that only “Clock Tower 3” is the same name and game. I will explain in detail after we look at our last region. Here in the UK the series was nothing but the left overs from Japan. The UK only saw official releases of games called “Clock Tower” and “Clock Tower 3”, plus the Haunting Ground extra. With all these regional differences noted we can start to piece together where you should start looking if you want to experience the entire series. The original 16-bit Super Famicom game is a Japan release only, as is “The First Fear”. An easy way to remember is that the 2D games are both Japanese language only. For the full complement you would also need the Wonderswan edition of the original game.

Moving on to the next game, this was known simply as Clock Tower in the UK and the US but Clock Tower 2 in Japan as the game was chronologically the second part of the series. This game was the first 3D entry and the beginning point for the Western nations. Moving on to the next release “Ghost Head”, this had no UK release but was released as “Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within” in the US and for America this was the second game. Things finally came in sync for Clock Tower 3 on the PS2. The game has the same name and content across all regions. The additional game “Demento” was released in Japan but as “Haunting Ground” in the other regions. So, you can see from this visual that if you want to experience the whole series you are best to collect in Japanese. Now it’s at this point that there are viewers saying “But I’ve played the 2D Clock Tower game in English language, you can even see it on YouTube”. This is of course absolutely correct and one of the elements to most confuse the collectors markets. Fans of the game were able to patch and translate the game and release the ROM game online. It’s therefore very easy to play the 2D Super Famicom Clock Tower in an emulated state on PC. When you watch playthroughs on YouTube this is almost always the version shown.

To add another layer of confusion though some traders have been able to produce replica cartridges. Essentially the producer takes the translated ROM and writes a physical replica on a Super Nintendo cartridge. This can look incredibly authentic and have sold for around $50 in the past. The issue we should have here is that certain people are profiting not only out of copying the game content but also off of the back of the fan translation that was intended as a free service to the gaming community. In addition bootleg games of this nature only serve to make bootleggers rich and undermine those looking for a genuine game. I’m sure that I will get in to the whole issue of emulators and bootleg games another time but it was worth mentioning here as an explanation as to why you can play an English language 2D version of Clock Tower.

One of the big issues with game collecting has always been identifying a reasonable price to pay for the games. Although the series has a reputation for being valuable and at times rare it can be more affordable than you think. I hope that this guide has helped you understand the series a little more and perhaps inspired you to start collecting. The series itself has highs and lows so I’ll be sure to give retrospectives in the following episodes.

You will also be pleased to know that the Clock Tower series is yet to be completed. Project Scissors evolved in to a new game known as “Night Cry” which is the next game in the series and it’s looking as good as ever.

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