|Clock Tower 3
Review by Toger
I should point out that I haven't played any of the other Clock
Towers, so there will be no debate, contrast and compare,
or discussion about the merits of 2D point-and-click versus prerendered
and real-time 3D. Now that that's out of the way ...
Let me start by saying that Clock Tower 3 is a jaw-dropping,
drool-inducing, stunningly beautiful game. Yes, I'm an admitted
eye candy junkie. Watching this game fed my eye-candy habit as
no game before it. There. I said it. Let's move on.
Clock Tower 3 is Capcom's newest entry into the adventure/action/survival/horror
genre. It's not your typical survival/horror game. Instead of
some buff, gun-toting, bad-ass heroine, Alyssa Hamilton is a tall,
gawky teenager, unsure of herself and her surroundings and with
no clue as to why these bizarre things are happening to her. She
has no access to guns, knives, chainsaws or bazookas. Not even
a heavy 2×4 with nails embedded in it. All she's got is
running, hiding and a very pretty glass bottle of holy water,
which she uses to sprinkle the twisted creatures that inhabit
the game world. That sanctified water doesn't kill anythingit
just stuns ... for a limited time ... usually, just enough time
to find a hiding place.
As the game begins, Alyssa is your average 14-year-old boarding
school denizen. She'd been sent away, without explanation, by
her mother three years prior. Days before her 15th birthday, she
receives a letter from her mother apologizing for sending her
away, yet in the same breath telling her to go into hiding, once
again with no reason, until after her birthday. A mysterious phone
call from her mother sends her running for home to find out what's
going on. When she arrives, her mother is nowhere to be found,
but there is an odd man there who claims her mother is never coming
back, and then ... he vanishes.
Progressing through Clock Tower 3, Alyssa will discover
that she's from a long line of "rooders," special women
destined to help tormented spirits who walk the earthly plane.
As a rooder, it's her destiny to help these tortured souls find
peace by helping to eliminate their pain, usually by finding a
sentimental item such as a ring or locket that they lost in life.
Sounds sorta like the female equivalent of a Schattenjäger.
Unlike Gabriel Knight, once Alyssa realizes who she is and what
she can do, she embraces it.
In the cutscene with the first mini-boss, Hammerman, Alyssa is
falling all over herself to get away. She's scared spitless and
has no clue what's going on. Later, she finds a diary explaining
her heritage and bloodline. When she comes up against the next
mini-boss, Corrodor (he has a penchant for throwing his victims
in acid), she immediately starts throwing things and tells him
that she'll destroy him. Talk about a strong female role model!
The production values for Clock Tower 3 are simply amazing.
All of the cutscenes were motion-captured by Japanese director
Kinji Fukasaku, making them lifelike in the extreme. The movement
was so fluid it seemed as if I was watching real-life events unfold
in front of me. In one of the early scenes, Alyssa has to scamper
under a bombed-out double-decker bus to avoid falling bombs during
the London blitz. Her movements are incredibly amazing. I was
so awestruck that I forgot to move when the game returned control
back to me.
In-game, the video is just as detailed and beautiful. The few
times I was able to stop and take a breath and actually check
out my surroundings, I was stunned. Curtains move in the breeze.
You can see the characters' chests rise and fall as they drew
breath. A hanging lamp swings ever so slightly as Alyssa walks
about the room. When she runs, her hair flows out behind her or
swings as she moved her head from side to side. Running up and
down stairs, whichever hand is closest to the railing will reach
out and skim the railing for balance. As she walks from one side
of the front foyer to the other, the camera follows her, and you're
temporarily blinded as the sun suddenly appears through the window
above the door.
CT3's music is suitably creepy, dramatic, poignant, soothing
and tension-inducing. The music reaches a crashing crescendo when
Alyssa is being threatened by crazies. Sound effects work to ratchet
up the terror. In ransacked rooms, glass crunches underfoot. Doors
and drawers squeak as they open and slam shut.
Music and sound cues help tremendously when dealing with the
killers in each of the chapters. Usually, when the dramatic music
fades away, it is safe to come out of hidingexcept when
up against the Scissor-twins. Their AI is pretty sneaky. The music
fades away, and it becomes deathly quiet. I'd move Alyssa out
of hidingin a bathroom stall, no lessand suddenly
one of the slice-n-dice siblings would jump out and grab her!
I have to admit that I loved them the best of all the mini-bosses.
They were hilariously insane. (Okay, maybe hilarious isn't a word
usually associated with insane, but you know what I mean.) And
their costume of feathers, tights and giant scissors reminded
me of demented performers from Cirque du Soleil, the French-Canadian
In lieu of a health meter, CT3 employs a panic meter.
You'll need to keep Alyssa mellow in order to control her movements.
If she's frightened by somethingusually it involves her
being physically affectedthen her panic meter will start
to rise. The meter will progress from green, which is just a smidgen
scared, all the way to red, which is severely panicked. In panic
mode, Alyssa will stumble, run into walls, cower and actually
come to a complete standstill. If she's hidden when the meter
goes off the charts, she will come out of hiding on her own. One
hit in severe panic mode and it's game ovah! Resting in a quiet
place or walking will help to calm her. You can also use lavender
water, found in various places throughout the game, to immediately
relax her. Who'd've thunk it? A video game using aromatherapy.
As with most console games, saving is done at save points. Wait!
Don't run off. The save points are a little different in this
game. You don't have to complete an entire level before you can
save. Most of the areas you'll visit will have at least one, sometimes
two, save points. You are free to use the save point as many times
as needed ... I visited the save points after every little thing
I accomplished, especially in the tougher chapters.
Did I mention that Clock Tower 3 is drop-dead gorgeous?
Voice work in Clock Tower 3 is very good. Compared to
the last couple of console games I've played, the voice actors
in this game deserve Oscars. Plus there's quite a bit of speech
throughout the game. The majority of the in-game speech is subtitled.
The only time it isn't is when the mini-bosses are chasing youtheir
little speeches are looped.
Guess what?! I loved the camera controls for this game.
Everything is presented in a movie-like formatas the characters
move across the scene the camera pans with them and changes the
view, as it does when you're watching a movie. For example, if
I'm pushing the controller away from me to move Alyssa forward,
when the camera pans around to face her the control for her movement
remains the same (away from me) even though she's coming toward
me. There's no fiddling with another button to adjust the camera.
Don't like that? Then you can stop her movement for a split second
as the camera pans, and the controls will reset for the direction
she's facing. Brilliant or what?
Almost forgot: Remember that pretty glass bottle for the holy
water? It magically morphs into a spirit bow that Alyssa uses
to shoot bolts of lightning at the mini-bosses. Pretty cool, eh?
There is a downside to that mystical bow ... while powering it
up, you cannot change your position. You just have to hope they'll
keep coming at you head on, which they do ... in the first chapter.
After that, everybody has a gimmickbe it weaving and bobbing,
changing direction midstride or teleporting to the other side
of the room.
Oh, by the way, this is a horror game. It's not so much gory
as it is disturbing. One of the first images is that of a young
girl being slammed in the head by a madman wielding an enormous
sledgehammer. The game is rated "Mature." Believe it.
As breathtaking as Clock Tower 3 is to look at, the gameplay
is somewhat ... blah. I think it was the sameness of it allfind
an item, return said item to its owner, watch incredibly gorgeous
cutscene, meet up with mentally unbalanced mini-boss, destroy
him/her ... lather, rinse, repeat.
Also, I would've liked to have been able to stop and "smell
the roses"or at the very least admire the scenery (which
was breathtaking!)during the game instead of constantly
running for my life. In some chapters, the things you need to
accomplish in order to move the story along require picking up
an item, splashing some holy water on whatever hellspawn is chasing
you, running to replenish the holy water bottle that you've just
noticed is on empty, splashing the damned critter, again, and
wishing it would get a life, then running hell-for-leather back
to the room where you need to complete the I've-finally-located-the-final-key-for-this-door-so-now-it-better-damn-well-open
ritual and moving on to the next dramatic cutscene, all the while
screaming "move, you silly cow!" at Alyssa.
Was I scared? Not like System Shock 2 scared me. CT3
did make me jump once or twice. Was the story compelling?
Yes. I figured out who was behind it all well before Alyssa, but
then I'm old enough to be her ... big sister. Did I have fun playing
the game? You betcha. And that's what it's all about.
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Release Date: 2003
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