An All-New “Goryline” of Thrills-And-Chills
For a while now, I’ve appreciated the Clock Tower franchise from afar. I’ve considered myself a “fan” of it, despite the fact I couldn’t honestly make the claim that I had actually played more than a couple minutes of any entry to the series. And yet, I’ve watched full playthroughs of every installment; bearing witness to every alternate path and multiple ending, and loving every second spent not actually having to play the games myself. Don’t get it twisted here: It’s not that I’ve been too scared to take control.** It’s just that… Well, these games have never seemed all that much fun to actually play?
Take the original 1995 Clock Tower on the Super Famicom: In terms of atmosphere, presentation, and ability to fill players with a constant sense of dread, it’s near-perfection. The decision to design the game around finding hiding spots and temporary defenses rather than engaging in outright combat was a bold one, and one that seems to pay off in terms of keeping the stakes high at all times. All that being said, the part where you have to sit on your hands while you wait for a small boy to drag a pair of scissors from one end of a room and back to the other just doesn’t strike me as something I need to experience first-hand. Also, controlling a mouse cursor with a directional pad? Ew.
So yes, I must report that 1998’s Clock Tower: Ghost Head – or as it is better known outside of Japan, 1999’s Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within – is the first Clock Tower game I’ve actually played through myself. I knew going in it wasn’t going to be easy, as I already knew that it’s regarded as the worst in the series. That, and the fact that I had already seen someone else play it through to completion in the past, and recalled thinking to myself at the time “this seems terrible.” But I went and did it anyway, because I felt that playing through it myself would serve a sort of “rite of passage” to becoming a true Clock Tower fan.
I am never going to play a Clock Tower game ever again.
Look, I’m not going to lead all y’all on into thinking that my thoughts on this game might end up going either way: I’m telling you straight up that this game was an absolute chore to play, and not an experience I would suggest to anyone. But in this modern era of Let’s Plays and longplays, where it’s possible to experience whole games without having to actually play them yourself, a question still remains: Is it at least a game worth watching? Like the game’s own inaccurate portrayal of a fractured psyche, we’re going to try and separate the good from the bad in The Struggle Within, and determine whether or not it at least qualifies as a suitably spooky viewing experience.
** Not to come across as some “more brave than you” braggart, but I am rarely [if ever] actually scared by horror games. It’s the thing where I know it’s all a game and that nothing that might happen will cause any real harm to me. That being said, I still love the genre, and figuring out for myself how different games work in different ways to build tension and elicit fear from an average player.
Feel the Terror with Vibration Function Compatibility
First things first: This isn’t actually the second installment in the Clock Tower franchise. What we’ve got here is one of those cases of English-speaking markets missing out on an entry in the series, so that what we were lead to believe was the second game in the series was actually the third. The original 1995 Super Famicom release has still never seen an official American release, though a very thorough English translation exists for it. As the first game in the franchise, it established the point-and-click hide-and-shriek formula that the series would follow until 2002’s Clock Tower 3 (which was actually the fourth in the series), as well as introducing the franchise mascot Scissorman.
Well, I call Scissorman the franchise mascot, but he’s only really an antagonist in two of the four games in the series (I’m not counting the “Scissor Twins” in Clock Tower 3, or the spiritual successor NightCry’s Scissorwalker). In the tradition of Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within has nothing at all to do plotwise with previous installments in the series. Sure, there are thematic similarities and the gameplay is very much in the same vein, but other than a wink-nod easter egg with a poster for “Clock Tower 2” (as in the actual second installment in the series) hung in a character’s room, there is no connection between this game’s story and the Scissorman saga. At least that saves me having to try and summarize the plots of the first two games in the series!
The Struggle Within follows one Alyssa Hale, who due to a “multiple personality disorder” must wear a magical amulet at all times to prevent herself from slipping into an alter ego: Her evil “twin brother,” Bates. At some point in her life prior to the events of the game, Bates was allowed to take control of Alyssa during a confrontation with bullies at her school, which lead to him killing some folk and eventually to Alyssa being sent away to a psychiatric asylum for some years. The game begins after Alyssa has evidently been released, and is to stay for some time with her aunt and uncle in scenic
Osaka, Japan Salinas, California. And I will have you know they are most definitely not Japanese, despite their entire house being furnished in a very much Japanese fashion. You may be surprised to hear that the localization process for the international release was a pretty lazy affair, especially considering the amount of untranslated background elements written in Kanji you’ll encounter over the course of the game.
Regardless of whatever country you may or may not be living in, things immediately start to go crazy the moment you arrive at the Tate residence. Before you can even so much as take a pee after your long travel home, you’ll be finding severed body parts strewn about the house, in toilets and bathtubs and even on kitchen tables! As if that weren’t already odd enough, the skin is colored green and the blood colored a sickly yellow. Also, one of the arms is still moving somehow?! And oops, there’s the head of your thirteen-year-old cousin Ashley! Before you know it, you’ll be being chased around the house by a knife-wielding seven-year-old, who you’ll be forced to smack around or maybe even shoot in order to defend yourself. Clock Tower has certainly never been afraid to “go there” when it comes to harming kids, and The Struggle Within continues the tradition of not wasting any time getting to it.
Stumbling upon the horrors of the house will trigger your transformation back into Bates, who at least has a relatively chill attitude about the whole situation. This introduces players to the amulet mechanic, wherein picking up and holding onto the “Mikoshi Amulet” will prevent you from transforming into your evil alter ego. However, there are times where you’ll need to become Bates in order to prevent NPCs and monsters from killing the more naïve Alyssa. So, you’ll need to find places where you can hide your amulet, find traumatic events that bring Bates back out, and eventually retrieve your amulet again when you need to turn back into Alyssa. The game expects you to do this on a pretty frequent basis, and a number of the “Bad Ends” are directly related to accidentally being Bates [or Alyssa] at “the wrong time.”
From here, you’ll begin to try and unravel exactly what the hell is going on in this verifiably haunted house, discovering an apparently magical statue and hearing from your aunt and uncle about a “Maxwell Curse” which you are apparently afflicted by. After settling things at the Tate residence, the game will take you to a hospital infested by more zombie-type enemies, complete with the same green skin and yellow blood as you saw your cousin Ashley’s dismembered corpse afflicted by. From here, you’ll uncover more of the Maxwell Curse conspiracy, meet a small handful of uninfected characters who range from “not particularly helpful” to “totally crazy and murderous,” and generally try to keep Alyssa from getting killed. Eventually, you’ll find your way out of the hospital and into a research lab, where the game’s third [and final chapter] takes place. Can Alyssa keep herself alive long enough to get to the bottom of this whole Maxwell Curse? That depends on how you play the game, and if you can puzzle out the incredibly specific route the game wants you to take in order to achieve the “A” ending.
The game is played in a similar fashion to previous Clock Tower entries, with control over an on-screen cursor that is used for all manner of character movement and object interaction. The problem, of course, is that the standard PlayStation controller is not, in fact, a mouse.** This can lead to some frustrating imprecision when objects you are attempting to aim at are relatively small and require some amount of accuracy in acquiring them (often in very time-sensitive scenarios). This issue would be further compounded for folk still using the original, non-Dual Analog / DualShock model of controller, relying wholly on a D-pad. In either scenario, you’ll eventually have to deal with puzzle-solving and combat encounters that are made far more challenging than they need to be when stuck with either analog or directional input.
Yes, this entry in the series now features combat, to some degree. As a matter of fact, the hiding system is done away with almost entirely (I think I found one corner to hide in in the first chapter), leaving you only two methods for contending with enemies: Finding objects in the environment that Alyssa can use as temporary defenses, or firing off a small variety of guns that Bates can find scattered around any given level. Yes, you can straight-up shoot your pursuers dead in this game, and it kills just as much of the tension as you might assume. There is some amount of balance in that only Bates has the aptitude for firing guns, leaving Alyssa to defend herself with just the environmental weapons, but it still feels like a step in the wrong direction altogether… Especially considering the guns are a nightmare to actually aim and fire, making the whole system a thoroughly ill-advised and poorly-executed inclusion.
So, without hiding spots, you’d at least figure there would be plenty of those environmental weapons with which to defend yourself as Alyssa, right? Haha! Have fun discovering that 90% of the rooms in the game give you absolutely no defenses whatsoever, effectively punishing you with taking damage if you don’t scout ahead to find the rare rooms in any given area that actually afford you some method of protection. This reaches an absolutely absurd extreme in the final chapter of the game, where your only weapon as Alyssa in a series of at least ten pursuits is a single fire extinguisher in the middle of a hallway, which you must backtrack across several rooms to get to every time you need to use it.
There’s a difference between a game giving you limited resources with which to defend yourself (à la Resident Evil) and a game giving you limited choice in defending yourself. In better survival horror games, most enemies can be avoided through skillful maneuvering and transitioning between different locations. Hell, hiding and avoiding pursuers entirely was the core gameplay of the first two Clock Tower games! The Struggle Within, on the other hand, will give you one unmovable / re-usable weapon with which to kill all the given enemies in an entire level, force you into encounters with them, and subsequently force you to bait every one of them to it over the course of a chapter. Instead of dreading enemy encounters in a suspenseful sense, you’ll simply dread your inevitable backtracking.
As if all this wasn’t time-consuming enough, the developers at Human Entertainment made sure to include yet another mechanic for the sole purpose of wasting your time: Whenever you are injured by an enemy, the game will steal control away from you and send Alyssa running towards the last door you came out of. If the room you happen to wind up in is a dead end with no defenses – which it usually is – you’ll probably end up having to go back through the same door yet again, and trying to reach the next nearest door before your pursuer closes in on you one more time. In the process, you usually just end up getting caught and getting killed, rendering the whole exercise a waste of time.
But what if you’re the one who actually manages to get an attack in on your pursuer? Well, the game will force you towards the nearest door anyway, despite the fact that you’re the one who clearly took control of the situation. Yes, even the psychopathic Bates is obliged to run away from his already-fallen foes. You’ll often end up turning right back around into the room you just left, where you should be relieved to discover that the monster you dealt with is dead and gone… Unless you’re in chapter two, where if you kill enemies with a gun as Bates, they’ll continue to respawn where you initially encountered them, only truly disappearing once you’ve beaten them with a blunt object as Alyssa. Why? Because Bates is almost completely useless. At the same time, he is also the best character in the game.
Our buddy Bates is perhaps the most entertaining character in all of video games. Never have I encountered a character so over-the-top evil who is quite as defenseless and ineffective as Bates is. While assuming his persona, almost every interaction you have with other speaking characters consists of you threatening to kill anyone and everyone, often followed by getting yourself killed after putting up zero struggle. The pairing of his intimidating voice with his actually being a total pushover is never not comical to me, and leads to some of my favorite moments in the game. For example: The absolute best cutscene (IMO) is a dialogue exchange between Bates and the mysterious Shannon, where Bates asks the woman “Who the hell are you?” When Shannon answers back with a perfectly acceptable “I am Shannon,” Bates immediately responds by growling “That’s not what I asked! I asked what you’re really up to!” This is followed shortly thereafter by Bates, of course, threatening to kill Shannon, only to stand completely still while she pulls out a gun and shoots him to death. In the process of watching this scene play out, I almost died laughing myself. Our anti-hero, ladies and gentlemen!
You know what? Maybe I’m approaching this game from the wrong angle. After all, this isn’t supposed to be an action game starring some brave badass: It’s a point-and-click adventure game where a seventeen-year-old girl is meant to use her wits and wily to solve her way to survival. Sure, the game maybe spends a little too much time forcing you to deal with those half-baked action mechanics, but it’s a forgivable offense if the puzzles are well-laid out and satisfying to solve. So, let’s go ahead and break one down, why don’t we? Let’s see the sequence of events the game expects you to figure out for yourself in the first chapter. And hey, as long as I’m here mapping out the correct path, I might as well also point out where you can potentially “go wrong” and inadvertently screw yourself over.
- After entering the house, immediately go to either / both of the bathrooms near the entrance to discover pieces of a dismembered body, and find a key to the kitchen in one of the cabinets. Head through the dining room into the kitchen to find an arm on the table, sending Alyssa stumbling backward and not noticing that she drops her amulet (which is to say that the game doesn’t bring any attention to this). Make your way upstairs to your cousin Ashely’s room, discovering her severed head and triggering your transformation into Bates. Now that you’re Bates, you can head downstairs… To re-collect your amulet and immediately turn back into Alyssa.
- Now, as you head back upstairs, make absolutely sure to examine the suit of samurai armor you passed by your first time headed upstairs. If you don’t examine it, you’ll end up finding the body of your cousin Michael in his room a few minutes later, indicating that you’ve doomed yourself to the “G” ending, wherein you are randomly crushed to death by the samurai near the beginning of the third chapter. Yes, the game allows you to go through the entirety of the second chapter without any other indications that you’ve already messed things up irreversibly, and there is no way to escape this ending if you didn’t examine the suit at this specific moment in your route.
- You are now being chased by an evil samurai that you can’t kill or disable. Head for a door that leads you to a dark room your uncle is hiding in, and turn the lights on so that you can talk to him. He won’t have much of anything to say, but you need to talk to him nonetheless. As you leave, attempt to dodge the samurai in the hallway (or wait several minutes in another room for him to potentially relocate) so you can enter your cousin Stephanie’s room, where you’ll find a possessed statue sitting on her bed. Be sure not to interact with anything else in this room, or you’ll immediately be attacked by a possessed Stephanie and more or less forced to take damage due to the tight quarters.
- Go back into Ashley’s room, exit through the door to the balcony, and find your way into your cousin Michael’s room. Remember: If you see his body slumped over in a chair, you’re already screwed. Examine a closet in the corner of the room to find a bedroom key. Head downstairs towards the kitchen which connects to the bedroom, but make absolutely sure to hide your amulet before you do. You see, there’s no way you should know this yet, but you need to allow yourself to transform into Bates again when rescuing your aunt from Stephanie, or you’ll just end up getting stabbed to death.
- As Bates leaves the room and a cackling Stephanie behind, turn around and use the key to lock the door. If you forget to, you’ll just end up finding your aunt’s corpse in a few minutes time and getting stabbed to death for an early ending. Pick your amulet back up to turn back into Alyssa again and find where your aunt is hiding. While you’re in this room, examine a heater hidden against the wall behind foreground scenery. Then, examine it a second time in order to collect kerosene from it.
- Go back to the room you just locked up, unlock it, and examine a letter sitting on the bedstand. This letter relates to the statue you saw earlier, so naturally you’ll want to re-examine it. Head back upstairs to Stephanie’s room, and would you look at that? The dang statue is missing! Make sure to examine the bed though so that Alyssa can confirm that the statue is not, in fact, there. Head back downstairs and talk to your uncle in the entrance, where he’ll give you a key to another hallway. Oh, and double-check to make sure you’re talking to him as Alyssa, or Bates will give him a hard time and you’ll end up with another early ending.
- Continue towards the last locked room in the kitchen, down a hallway, down a secret staircase in the corner of a living room, and into a darkened basement. Turn the lights on so you can pick up a lighter that is less than eight pixels big sitting on a table, and talk to your uncle so that he can attempt to strangle you to death. Avoid dying, allowing Alyssa to run upstairs. Run a bit further away while you’re at it – at least until you reach the kitchen again – and then turn right back around to talk to your uncle again. He’ll be lying on the floor of the living room for some reason, and will beg of you to burn the statue. Of course, make sure you actually pick up the statue before leaving the room.
- Head back to the dining room, and start by attempting to toss the statue into the fireplace. Stephanie will come out to attack you again, but Alyssa will insist on trying to destroy this damn statue right now. Immediately after tossing the statue in, access your inventory and quickly toss the kerosene in after it. You’ll dodge an attack by Stephanie, somehow drop your amulet again, and Bates will proceed to beat the shit out of and stab your seven-year-old cousin. Unfortunately, he’ll refuse to use the lighter on the fireplace for some reason, so lingering too long as Bates (a matter of seconds) without picking your amulet back up will simply lead to yet another bad end where Stephanie stands right back up and stabs you.
- Pick the amulet back up and turn back into Alyssa. Now you can use the lighter to burn the statue, freeing your cousin of her possession and bringing this first chapter to a close. Congratulations! Only two more chapters to go, and both of them take far longer to complete and are far more convoluted than this first one.
I can’t help but shake the feeling that there was some amount of genuine spite for the players on the part of Human Entertainment here. Like, I know that’s a super accusatory claim to make, and we all want to believe game developers create games with the best of intentions; but there are such obvious and easy-to-implement fixes here for so many of the games problems, that I can only imagine the developers deliberately eschewing them in favor of intentionally frustrating design. It’s almost as if they took a sort of pleasure from putting players into situations where they would have to repeat large chunks of content multiple times, whether by having to restore older saves or starting the game all over again. Not only that, but some of these decisions just don’t make any sense if you’re trying to take the game seriously as a work of suspenseful horror.
For another example: A brief sequence at the end of the second chapter has you briefly take control of a friendly police detective, who pulls out a pump action shotgun and stands in place to take out a number of zombies blocking an exit. When you pick up a similar shotgun as Bates during a chapter, you’re given all of four shots before having to grab another gun. When you’re playing as the detective, you kill thirty zombies in a row over the course of two minutes, without loading a single additional cartridge into your weapon. To top things off, if you miss so much as a single zombie, you are immediately killed and are forced to start the whole sequence over again. Now, did the developers determine that four zombies wasn’t enough to make this action scene intense enough, or was it simply a matter of padding the sequence out for as long as possible, thereby giving players that much more time to potentially lose?
At the same time the game can manage to be so clearly cruel, it is also weirdly lenient about a few things regarding enemy behavior. While Scissorman could appear seemingly “anywhere at any time” in previous series installments, enemies in The Struggle Within will only appear when entering designated rooms or when interacting with designated objects. As such, there are very few shock moments / jump scares over the course of the game, as music cues will give away when you’re entering a room with an enemy, and you’ll be able to easily predict most of the points where you’re bound to encounter baddies. Further safety-proofing matters are the tendency of enemies to stop and pause the moment you start opening a door, as if to telegraph to the player that you’re gaining plenty of distance between you and them. Sure enough, they won’t emerge behind you until you’ve traveled a safe, set distance from the door you’ve just exited through, making sure you have as much time as you need to gather your bearings and plot your next move. It’s like, of all the things the game could’ve chosen to be nice about, it goes with the choices that sap the last remaining bits of potential fear out of the game.
It’s interesting to look at what features Human Entertainment decided to cut out after the previous game for the sake of streamlining. While a feature like the overworld map in the 1997 Clock Tower was admittedly half-baked and can easily be justified giving the ax to, the option to play as one of two distinct characters with their own unique paths (either Jennifer Simpson or Helen Maxwell) was a neat idea that I wouldn’t have minded seeing come back. I mean, sure, it was a sort of gimmick infringement on what Resident Evil 1 & 2 were also doing at the time, but I don’t reckon Capcom was about to sue or anything.*** And though this point might not really qualify as streamlining per se, the violence and death scenes all feel toned down, resulting in a game that feels sanitized by comparison to even the bloodless original. Honestly though, the biggest hole in the game is the one left behind by cutting out the opportunities to hide from pursuers, which I would point to as maybe the most defining / unique feature of the previous two games. I still can’t help but ask myself why they chose to mostly get rid of that mechanic.
I’m not about to sit here and try to convince you that the preceding PlayStation installment in the series holds up that much better: The voice acting is beyond cheese, the supernatural elements stand at odds with the more “physical” horrors that pursue you, and it’s still a point-and-click adventure game you’re probably going to play with a console controller. And while it might also subject you to some occasional unfairness and unforeseen endings, it’s never quite as needlessly cruel as The Struggle Within seems to relish in being. Also, despite not holding up as well as even the original Super Famicom Clock Tower, there are still at least a handful of genuine scares and surprises, paired with a palpable sense of constant worry that looms over every room in the game. By comparison, the surprises in The Struggle Within are fewer, further between, and are usually more comical than they are creepy.
So, what does The Struggle Within improve on, if anything? Every line of dialogue is now fully voiced, with Bates and Alyssa (voiced by two separate actors) turning in decent enough performances. Bates is helped by the fact almost every one of his lines is comic gold, and that his seemingly complete disconnect from the situations at hand is a brilliant choice, whether it was intentional or not. Again the series attempts to mix supernatural elements like poltergeists and curses with more tangible madmen and science-gone-awry, but it is to this game’s benefit that it mostly drops the more ghostly elements after the first chapter to focus on more upfront dangers. The quality of animation is much improved upon the previous iteration, no longer looking like they’re missing every other frame like in bad stop-motion. There’s a good idea buried somewhere in the poor execution of the alternating characters novelty — it probably would’ve worked better as a simple toggle function rather than the mess that is having to hide the amulet from yourself.
Without giving away the game’s ending, there’s the last matter of unlockable content to talk about. Yes, there are in fact “rewards” for completing the game, though none of them are particularly appealing prospects. Getting the “A” ending will unlock Time Attack and Score Attack minigames, where you can experience all the joys of the gun combat without all that pesky plot getting in the way. I played a round of each of these, and found them both pretty tedious. If you’re committed enough to see every possible ending in the game from “M” to “A,” you’ll unlock a couple more features; including a collection of character bios, a sound test mode, and a small collection of “Commands” that you can see the button combinations for in-game, but which must actually be entered on the title screen for some reason? These include an alternate school uniform and monkey costume (?) for Alyssa, plus a super weapon for Bates called the “Millicana.” And that’ll just about do it for additional content / your incentive to 100% the game. Not super enticing by my estimation, but I guess there’s only so much extra you can include in a game of this fashion. (Ask me about my idea for a Clock Tower multiplayer game mode)
Perhaps the game’s greatest asset (besides Bates) is the one feature that has remained consistently present since the first entry in the series through to the most recent: Clock Tower simply has an unmistakable, unmissable “charm” to it. I wish it was easier to articulate or define, but the best I can do is chalk it up to a perfect blend of ridiculous over-the-topness with subtle atmospheric horror. It’s a blend of the best of creeping cinematic terror with the most ridiculous tropes of throwaway slasher flicks, and they somehow mix together into a wholly unique flavor. I’m not sure if I could really call any entry in the series a great “game” in terms of entertainment derived from play – especially not the struggle that is The Struggle Within – but there’s just something about the series, isn’t there? Even at its absolute mechanical worst, there’s something that compels you to see Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within through to the very end — even as the game seems to be doing its damndest to make you want to stop playing.
** If you were, however, one of the lucky few to own a PlayStation Mouse device, all three of the PS1 Clock Tower games are fully compatible. Unfortunately, this also means you miss out on the rumble functionality that comes with using a DualShock controller, but I’m gonna contend that’s a small price to pay for far more immediate control.
*** Coincidentally, after Human Entertainment went defunct in 2000, Sunsoft would acquire the rights to the Clock Tower intellectual property and co-develop Clock Tower 3 with none other than Capcom. Capcom would also later go on to publish Haunting Ground, which folk seem to regard as a “spiritual successor” to the Clock Tower franchise.
The Maxwell Curse is Gonna Kill Us All
No one Clock Tower game has ever received what I’d call “universal acclaim.” Critics will usually extol the virtues of the unique concept and the strong sense of tension, before going on to tell you that the part where you have to actually control your character isn’t up to scratch. But no game in the series got it harder than Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within, which was absolutely ravaged by most reviewers. We’ll start with the highest Metacritic-accepted score, which comes from Electric Playground who rated the game a 7.5 [out of 10] and mostly bemoaned the difficulty of the puzzles. Interestingly, they actually took the stance that the point-and-click gameplay “puts a layer of insulation between the player and the atmosphere of the game,” seeing point-and-click as a pro rather than a con.
IGN and GameSpot contributed two of the lowest scores (48 and 39 respectively), primarily panning the story above all else. IGN’s review tries to make a joke in regards to the lack of effectual scares in the game, quipping “while there are plenty of frightening moments set in the dark, they aren’t nearly as scary as the time my six-fingered uncle came over for dinner. Now that was scary!” And you guys tell me my comedy material is weak. GameSpot spends a fair portion of their review criticizing the “primitive” graphics, which I reckon is fair enough, though personally they are the least of my problems with the game. There’s a somewhat bizarre conclusion to the review though, where they suggest that “readers are better advised to look at either the most recent Oddworld or Resident Evil titles.” To try and give that frankly odd Oddworld recommendation some context, they consider The Struggle Within to be in part a “puzzle adventure.” That being said, the through-line between Oddworld and Clock Tower is as thin as a fishing line.
In addition to being mixed bags critically, none of the Clock Tower games ever really managed to move that many units either. The original Super Famicom installment (and it’s later conversions for PlayStation, PC, and WonderSwan) managed the most respectable numbers of the lot, and while an official number isn’t currently available [to my knowledge], developer / director Hifumi Kono has claimed that it sold “fairly well” — well enough to warrant the sequels, I reckon. But by the time The Struggle Within had come around, the sales had dropped past the point of the series being salvageable (approximately 170,000 copies sold, according to VGChartz’ guesstimation). With Human Entertainment already struggling financially, and eventually folding altogether in 2000, it’s doubtful they would have attempted to invest in a Clock Tower 3 all on their own.
With the different direction the eventual Sunsoft/Capcom-developed Clock Tower 3 on PS2 would take in 2002, and with that game also failing to move sufficient numbers, Clock Tower’s fate was sealed. Sunsoft and Capcom have continued to sit on the rights to the IP despite doing nothing with it. However, who knows what plans they might have for it in the future, with Hifumi Koto revealing in an interview to promote NightCry (then “Project Scissors”) that he was unable to take back the rights for himself:
“The current Clock Tower IP is owned by Sunsoft and Capcom. Even though this is not in any way a sequel to the Clock Tower,** I do intend to create a product that carries on the spirit of the series. I took the initiative to approach Sunsoft and Capcom in advance to talk about the project, and they did grant me permission to use the phrase “Spiritual successor to Clock Tower,” for which I can’t thank them enough.” ~ Hifumi Koto
So, I think I’ve more or less made my point that The Struggle Within is not a game worth purchasing for yourself. It’s an exercise in repetition and frustration, and is most definitely among the worst-playing horror games of all time. Not only that, but in terms of pure horror value, I get the impression it would fail to elicit fear in even the scarediest of scaredy cats.
That being said, I will also argue that it’s absolutely a “must-watch.”
Let me be perfectly clear here: The Struggle Within is a joy to watch unfold. The story is totally bonkers, the action scenes are goofy as all get out, and the alternate endings are hilarious when you’re not the one accidentally falling victim to them. Once you start watching, your curiosity is gonna kick in and make you wanna see it through to the bitter end. Just, y’know — don’t fool yourself into thinking that you actually have to play it for yourself. As a matter of fact, here are a selection of “suggested videos” I went ahead and compiled, in the hopes that you give them a view and experience The Struggle Within.
- SSFF’s (Stop Skeletons From Fighting) playthrough of the game is edited for time and to cut repetition, and doesn’t cover all the different endings. So while it’s not the “full Clock Tower II experience,” the commentary is funny as hell and you’ll come away with an informed enough impression of the game.
- If you absolutely, positively need to experience a full beginning to “A” playthrough in its entirety, here’s a longplay by the Survival Horror Network.
- This compilation of all the alternate endings is best served after experiencing a playthrough of the “A” ending route. It’s a shame these didn’t all get unique FMVs to accompany them as in the previous Clock Tower, but they all get the job done well enough as is.
- A collection of every line of [English language] dialogue by Bates over the course of the game! If you only watch one of these recommendations, please make it this one.