Clock Tower Series Retrospective Part 5: Clock Tower 3

Clock Tower Series Retrospective Part 5: Clock Tower 3
Clock Tower Series Retrospective Part 5: Clock Tower 3

Insert Disk collects Clock Tower 3 for the PlayStation 2 (PS2).

Today’s retro game review is part 5 of a massive 6 part Halloween special. This episode I look at the Clock Tower 3 for the PlayStation 2 (PS2). With Human Entertainment releasing the Clock Tower Series publishing rights to Capcom there was a golden opportunity to re-boot the Clock Tower series. Clock Tower 3 would be released in all regions of Europe, Japan and North America. The release would be on the dominant games console of the day, the PlayStation 2 (PS2).

With the combination of Capcom at the helm, a worldwide release and next gen graphics Clock Tower 3 was set to dominate the horror game charts, at least that was the plan…

Greetings and welcome to episode 5 of this special 6 part miniseries of Clock Tower. So far we’ve covered the chronological releases, pricing, Clock Tower, The First Fear, Clock Tower 2 and The Door of Fear and Ghost Head. If you missed any of the series so far I recommend going back to watch it first. Don’t worry, I’ll wait here for you. In this episode we are looking at Clock Tower 3 for the PS2, Capcom’s first attempt at bringing the game to the masses. This was the point where the Clock Tower series went mainstream. Human Entertainment had never quite cracked the international scene with Clock Tower. The lack of presence in Europe and only 2 games from the Clock Tower series released in the US it was time for a change of strategy. Now with the PS2’s next gen hardware and Capcom in command the point and click method had been dropped in favour of more direct character control. Japanese film director Kinji Fukasaku was now on board to give the series cinematic direction. To be fair the name didn’t instantly mean too much to me. After a quick search of his profile it turns out that he directed Battle Royal, one of my favourite dystopian Japanese movies.

All of the elements for a block buster game were here. Clock Tower 3 stood to be the defining moment in the series with a launch plan in all major territories on the dominant gaming console. So, how is it? Personally I have to say that Clock Tower 3 gives me all sorts of issues as a game collector. The graphics are top notch, the concept great and the decision to move away from point and click I actually welcome.

The issue for me is the plot. Yet again the plot is largely unrelated to the other series entries, this being the issue I had with Ghost Head I’m a little conflicted. Alyssa is a 14 year old girl whose ancestors were female warriors who travel through time to defeat evil spirits. Alyssa travels from 2003 London to the 1940s and onwards to defeat evil “Entities” and bring peace to troubled souls. Just a note, this is not the same Alyssa from Clock Tower Ghosthead/Struggle within. Instantly this breaks from convention, a time travel element in a Clock Tower series game? I’m not sure if this is imaginative or just a bit too left field for my tastes. Just to add yet more confusion in to the series the protagonist being named Alyssa as was the protagonist of Ghost Head just added another layer of fan theories. Throughout the game you are largely left unarmed but can use a long bow to dispatch of enemies, known as “Subordinates” at the end of levels. There is a limited supply of holy water to stun enemies but this won’t last you long.

Thankfully the puzzle solving, panic mode and hiding elements we’ve become so fond of are still here in Clock Tower 3. It’s the more action/attack based elements of the game that throw a spanner in the works. I did enjoy taking down the subordinates but does this really fit with the Clock Tower theme? The plot does go on to at least tenuously tie elements of the scissorman story thread in to the game and does feature new stalkers. In terms of getting the series back on to a horror footing I must say that Clock Tower 3 does make a stride forward over its predecessor Ghost Head. Reasonably graphic scenes do add to the claim of this being a true horror game. It’s a little campy in places but there are some very dark moments in the game that I think a lot of gamers should welcome.

Personally I enjoy Clock Tower 3 for what is. It’s certainly well-made and fun to play. It’s just not quite what I was expecting. Gamers seemed to be in a similar mind as the game reportedly had mixed reviews and also sold less than the expected predictions. The stand out elements of the game are certainly the art direction, graphics and colourful characters and action sequences. I’m not certain that this should all be contained within a Clock Tower game but I was thoroughly impressed by some of the game twists, turns and general story telling. There are some very impressive moments in the game.

Here is the UK edition of the game. Note the UK CD is different artwork to the cover. Note that the US and Japan both received the original artwork. It’s also worth going back to our chronology chart at this point. If you were in Europe this is the second game in the series. So we’ve gone from part 2 of a larger story straight in to this game. It’s no wonder that it’s taken quite some considerable time for the Clock Tower series to gain traction with a fan base in this part of the world. Pricing by region is roughly comparable. £15 in the UK, £10 in Japan and just $10 in the US. It’s possible these may slowly rise but are unlikely to hit the heights of other games in the series. Personally I see Clock Tower 3 as a bit of a missed opportunity. It would almost have been worth going for a “Clock Tower Zero” approach and re-booting the franchise back in the Barrow’s mansion in Norway. Instead we now find ourselves in London, playing an un-relatable protagonist with a very fragmented series story line.

Clock Tower 3 is undoubtedly a good game and well worth a purchase. Just don’t expect too much in the way of consistent story progression for the series. With the luke warm reception to Clock Tower 3 Capcom began work on Clock Tower 4, However, this never came to fruition. Instead the development took an unexpected turn and became the game called “Haunting Ground” in the UK/US and “Demento” in Japan.

Join me in the next episode as I collect Haunting Ground. Is this the Clock Tower game that never was, the game we had been waiting for?

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