Clock Tower (series)

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Don't cry, Jennifer.

Most Survival Horror games consist of you, your gun, absurdly copious amounts 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.

Clock Tower 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 for the Super Famicom in Japan (and later internationally in 2024 under the name Clock Tower: Rewind by WayForward Technologies), which featured 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. The second game (known as Clock Tower 2 in Japan and just Clock Tower else where, as the first game was never released outside of Japan) was a direct sequel a year later, when Scissorman reappears. The player can either continue to play as Jennifer or play as her (new) foster mother, and can also control a few other characters for certain parts of the game. The third game (Clock Tower Ghost Head in Japan, Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within elsewhere) has nothing to do with the first two, and instead focused on a girl named Alyssa Yu Midoshima with a boy split personality named Bates Sho. Who could use guns. Against the zombies pursuing you. The fourth (and seemingly final) game Clock Tower 3 was for the PS2, and featured a different Alyssa who, upon returning home, found that her mother is missing. At least that one had Scissorman again.

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.

Not to be confused with the trope Clock Tower.

Tropes used in Clock Tower (series) include:
  • Abandoned Hospital: The Struggle Within's second part takes place in one. You also first confront the Scissortwins from Clock Tower 3 in one.
  • Action Commands: The Panic button. If an enemy catches up to you, the button has to be pressed rapidly to escape death.
  • Androcles' Lion: If Jennifer frees a crow she encounters while wandering the manor, then one of the endings will involve a whole murder of them coming to her rescue.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: The unlockable outfit in Clock Tower 3.
    • The second game and Ghost Head also feature unlockable outfits.
  • Anyone Can Die: Well, it is a Survival Horror series...
    • The second game also features a counter for how many people survive the game out of ten. The most you can achieve is seven. Because Edward is Scissorman, Kay is always murdered, and either Harris or Prof. Barton is the decoy Scissorman.
  • Audio Adaptation: Each game from the second onward has its own drama CD. The first two are just adaptions of their respective games, while the third is a Prequel about the protagonist's mother Nancy.
  • Awesome Yet Impractical: The reason why you can't stick to Sho/Bates. Although he's one bad dude and can use guns, he's really a psycho and won't use mundane objects.
  • Ax Crazy
  • Bittersweet Ending: Most of the good endings are this.
  • Blade of Fearsome Size: The weapon used by the Final Boss of Clock Tower 3.
  • British Accents: Clock Tower 3. As The Dark Id put it, "Everyone is British with a capital 'Blimey.'"
  • Captain Ersatz: Scissorman is very similar to the character Cropsy from the slasher movie The Burning. Even using a similar weapon.
  • Cat Scare: In The First Fear, there's two boxes in which either a black cat or Bobby can pop out.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several items in the second game, most notably the Demon Statue and a note in Jennifer's route which has the Door Spell written on it, are eventually used in some way to enable you to seal away Scissorman in the A and B endings.
    • Also, in the first game, the crows come to rescue Jennifer if she frees them.
  • Clock Tower: Well, duh. The game takes place in a mansion that has one. Most endings occur after a climax on the tower's peak.
  • Controllable Helplessness: Very, very common, especially if you're en route to a bad ending.
  • Creepy Child: Bobby from the first game, and Stephanie in The Struggle Within.
  • Creepy Twins: Bobby and Dan from The First Fear.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Happens to Jennifer in the last part of Helen's route the second game. If you do everything before and after right, you'll be fine. Because if you don't...
  • Cultural Translation: The third game had its title changed, characters were given American-sounding names and the location was changed from Osaka, Japan to Salinas, California.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: While Anne or Laura could survive in the first game, the second establishes Jennifer as the Sole Survivor of their ordeal.
  • Dangerous Sixteenth Birthday: More specifically, the Rooders in Clock Tower 3 have dangerous 15th birthdays.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: One of the endings in the first game.
  • 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.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: The second and third games have only a few endings between them that don't use this trope.
  • Difficulty Spike: The Dark Id mentioned this perfectly in his playthrough of Clock Tower 3 because the final boss not only has the health of nearly every boss you fought so far in the game combined, but can also whip out an attack that kills you instantly.
  • Disney Villain Death: Bobby and Mary in the ending S of the first game.
  • Distress Call: You get one from your mother at the beginning of Clock Tower 3, and you can try (and fail) to send one in both Clock Tower 1 and Clock Tower 2.
  • Downer Ending: 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.
  • Dropped A Samurai Suit On Her: Ending G in The Struggle Within.
  • Dude, Where's My Reward?: Your reward for exorcising all the ghosts in Clock Tower 3? Absolutely nothing, not even an acknowledgment that you did so.
  • Enfant Terrible: Bobby in the first, Edward in the second, and Chinatsu/Stephanie in the third.
  • Ephebophile:
    • Both Nolan (26) and Harris (35) are in love with Jennifer, who is only 15. In Nolan's case, it's more like he's charmed by her while Harris has an unhealthy infatuation. The game does take place in Norway though, where the age of consent is 16.
    • Also, in Clock Tower 3, it's strongly implied that the Big Bad is motivated a rather unwholesome, obsessive interest in the teenaged main character. For extra creepy, he turns out to be the lead character's grandfather.
  • Evil Gloating: Every villain in Clock Tower 3. Sometimes for ten seconds, sometimes for five minutes.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The titular clock tower, although the one in Clock Tower 3 is the only one that's all that ominous.
  • Fake Boss: The second game in Helen's scenario, this is Professor Barton, who was masquerading as Scissorman. If you haven't found the Door Spell by this point in the game, Helen concludes he was the real culprit, and the game ends.
  • Fake Difficulty: Clock Tower 3 has this at times, with the panic mode being the biggest offender.
    • Interestingly, the rest of the series doesn't have any major Fake Difficulty besides enemies sometimes appearing without warning.
  • Fan Remake: One of The First Fear titled Remothered is in progress.
  • Fetch Quest: The fourth game has enough of these with such frequency, designed with such clear malevolence towards the player, as to render the game almost unplayably aggravating.
  • Final Girl: Arguably subverted, in that there's usually at least one character left alive, other than the heroine, at the end. Then again, the canon ending for the first game only has Jennifer left alive, so it's played straight as well.
    • Only for the sequel to subvert that too. Edward Dan was the other survivor.
  • Five-Bad Band: The Subordinates in the third game can be seen like this:
  • Game Mod: A text editor is available for the first game.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Barton in the second game. Starts out studying Scissorman and then ends up being a fake one in Helen's scenario.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: Played straight mostly, but cruelly averted for a single fetch quest in Clock Tower 3, where only one of three emblems can be picked up at any one time, making what could have been a two minute diversion into an eight minute reason to play a different game.
  • I'll Kill You!: Used a few times.
    • The First Fear:


    • Clock Tower 3:

Scissorwoman: I'll KILL YOU!

  • Immune to Bullets: Scissorman is shown to be immune to bullets in the second game, mostly due to the fact that he uses his scissors as a shield.
  • Implacable Man: Your stalkers just. Won't. Die.
  • Improbable Weapon User: In Clock Tower 3, Sledgehammer wields a hammer that appears larger than your heroine, Corroder has a sulfuric acid-firing... device, Chopper has axes that he can throw like boomerangs or somehow fuse together and throw like a boomerang, the Scissortwins have two blades that they hold together to emulate scissors, the final boss has a Final Fantasy-esque broadsword, and your heroine uses magical arrows appearing out of nowhere which she fires using a magical bow (minus a magical bowstring, mind you) that sprouts from a vial of holy water.
    • Then there's the giant scissors that the first two Scissormen use.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted: sometimes children are killed, sometimes they're the killer.
    • Although played straight in Ghost Head. After Stephanie/Chinatsu is stabbed in the chest, she's mentioned to be expected to make a full recovery in the beginning of the next stage.
  • Interface Screw: When Alyssa goes into Panic Mode.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: Little John From the Big Castle from the second game.
  • 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.
  • Keet: Dennis from Clock Tower 3. In his first scene, he climbs through Alyssa's window and rolls around on her bed, for starters.
  • Kill'Em All: Don't expect your favorite characters to survive to the end. If they do, they'll probably die during it.
  • The Killer Becomes the Killed: In every good ending.
  • Kill It with Fire: Used occasionally. Most notably, to kill Dan in the first game.
  • Kill the Cutie
  • Laughing Mad: The Scissortwins make the Joker look like a man in a coma. And they never. Ever. Stop.
  • Let's Play: A notable one is The Dark Id's Let's Play of Clock Tower 3. While the original thread on Something Awful has been archived, you can still read it here.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Dick Hamilton/the Dark Gentleman/Lord Burroughs.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: The main villain of Clock Tower 3, the Dark Gentleman, turns out to be main character Alyssa's grandfather.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Dan in the basement in the first game.
  • Mama Bear: Mary Barrows loves her boys dearly and is not pleased when she finds out that her son Dan was killed by Jennifer.
  • The Movie: A movie is being made, though it's been through Development Hell and back.
    • The most recent news is that it's based on The Struggle Within.
  • Multiple Endings: Every game except Clock Tower 3 has at least nine.
    • To clarify: the first had 9, the second had 10, and the third had 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.
  • New Game+: Clock Tower 3's "Clear Mode", which made the game harder and allowed the player to wear alternative clothes.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jennifer is modeled and named after Jennifer Corvino, Jennifer Connelly's character in Dario Argento's movie Phenomena, which the original game is loosely based on.
  • Nonstandard Game Over: Most bad endings in the series fall under this trope.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Oh boy, and HOW.
  • Not Quite Dead: One of the villains from the first game, who you see burst into flames, comes back in the second. He does it again in two of that game's bad endings.
  • Novelization: There are two novels of the second game, one from Jennifer's side and the other from Helen's.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Scissorman does this constantly. If he didn't, he'd never get closer to you.
  • Overcrank: Near the end of the second game, when Helen shoots Scissorman.
  • Panty Shot: Mainly in Clock Tower 3, you can see up Alyssa's skirt quite a lot.
  • Parental Incest: Averted in Clock Tower 3 with the aptly-named Dick Hamilton, who was so obsessed with his daughter that he ignored his wife, murdered his son-in-law, and abducted his daughter. Later, he transfers his obsession to his granddaughter, the heroine Alyssa, who's the very image of her mother. She manages to stop him though.
  • 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.
  • The Profiler: Professor Barton and all of his assistants are criminal psychologists working on the Clock Tower case. Slightly subverted in that Prof. Barton originally just views the Scissorman as "some nutjob".
  • Psycho Strings: Used for effect when you uncover nasty things; for example, body parts in a meat locker.
    • Also heard in Clock Tower 3's Panic Mode music.
  • Rank Inflation: Ending S is the best ending you can get in The First Fear.
  • Room Full of Crazy: In the first game, too many to count.
  • Sanity Meter: Clock Tower 3's panic meter, which goes up every time something (like a ghost or one of the Subordinates) surprises Alyssa. If it fills up all the way, she panics.
    • The first game had a panic meter too, but in the form of Jennifer's portrait. It didn't do much except make her more likely to be killed by traps and cause her to trip more often.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: In the first game, your friends are only considered to be dead by the game if you actually see proof of their death. This has actual gameplay implications: it means that the only way to get the S-rank ending, where one of your friends survives, is to never ever investigate any strange sounds you hear and never look in any place where a body could be found because if you do, the game will take the opportunity to declare one of them dead.
  • Serial Killer: Most of the villains tend to be these.
  • Shmuck Bait: C'mon, get in the car! Look, the keys are right there!
    • Also in the first game, investigating certain things (like a closed shower curtain, a suit of armor or a scream outside) triggers bad events (mainly, the deaths of your friends).
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The two worst and, more poignantly, two of the near-endgame endings in the first game. One ending in the second game in which everyone dies horribly and Scissorman gets away scot free.
  • Shotacon: Word of God is that Kay from the second game was a repressed pedophile and Edward was able to exploit these feelings to control her. This couldn't actually come up in game because of censorship laws.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Is it Barrows or Burroughs?[1] Laura or Rolla? Ann or Anne?
  • Spiritual Successor: Haunting Ground is a spiritual successor to this series. At one point, it was intended to be an actual sequel, but the Clock Tower name was dropped during development.
  • Split Personality: In Ghost Head/The Struggle Within, there's Yu/Alyssa and her male alter ego Sho/Bates.
  • Spooky Silent Library: The Library in the second game, especially with the threat of Scissorman, who happens to be inside the building too.
  • Stairway to Heaven: May and her father ascend one in Clock Tower 3 after being put to rest.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Harris from the second game is infatuated with Jennifer, so much that he becomes the fake Scissorman in her route because the real one bribed him with the belief that he would have her if he did so.
  • 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.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted in the second game: not only does Jennifer go into therapy after the events of the first game, her adoptive mother is an assistant to a therapist.
    • Though said therapist is one of two possible "fake Scissormen".
  • Time Travel: In Clock Tower 3.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: In The First Fear, Jennifer's best friend is Lotte, the red-haired tomboy.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Sullivan.
  • Trauma-Induced Amnesia: Jennifer understandably suffers from this after the events of The First Fear, and spends the majority of the sequel remembering nothing other than running for her life from the sound of giant scissor blades scraping against each other.
  • Trope Maker: A Survival Horror game where the killer chases the protagonist, who has no means of fighting back? Sure, common in such games now, but this was the first game of note to have such a concept.
  • Updated Rerelease: The first game was later re-released as Clock Tower: The First Fear on the PlayStation and PC with minor additions.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: While it is possible to save either Anne or Laura in the non-canonical S ending, you can't save Lotte, Jennifer's Tomboy best friend.
    • This is also true of Kay from the second game.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: In some survival games, one has to wonder why the Final Girl always stays to fight and never turns into a Dirty Coward who steals a car and tries to flee. Well, here you can actually try that; the first two times you try to start the car, Jennifer hesitates - after all, she'd be leaving all her friends to die a horrible screaming death to save her own skin - but do it a third time and she actually gets in and floors it. Thing is, she doesn't get far; the Scissor-Man is in the back seat, shown by a nightmarish cutscene before a Nonstandard Game Over.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Something of an Easter Egg here, in one part of the game, you can enter what looks like a lounge and see the Scissor Man watching television. Look closely, and you can see he's watching Tom and Jerry cartoons!
  • Villainous Harlequin: The Scissortwins of Clock Tower 3. Maybe a pair of Monster Clowns if you happen to think they're scarier than most do.
  • Villainous Incest: Dick Hamilton towards both his daughter Nancy and granddaughter Alyssa (who looks like her mother). The Scissortwins to each other.
  • "Which Restroom?" Dilemma: Alyssa/Yu will refuse to enter the male restrooms. Bates/Sho (Alyssa/Yu's alternate male personality who shares her body) similarly will refuse to enter the female restrooms. You can make Bates/Sho examine the urinal to have him just sort of stare blankly at it for a moment.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The first game is basically the plot to the horror movie Phenomena, even down to Jennifer having the same first name and looking very similar to the main character of said movie.
  • Who Wears Short Shorts?: Edward wears short shorts.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The A-rank ending for The First Fear, wherein Jennifer discovers one of her friends waiting for her at the top of the Clock Tower, and runs toward her... only for Mary to pop up and kill them right in front of her, before trying to kill her as well.

... Snip...

  1. Hifumi Kouno once used Burrows in a response to a fan's e-mail, although that might have just been his translator.