It's been over a decade since we've seen a new game in the Clock Tower series: the point-and-click horror franchise made popular by its iconic antagonist, Scissorman. Since the late 90's, series director Hifumi Kono's been busy with other projects, including Capcom's ambitious mech simulator, Steel Battalion. But now, he's back for another stint in horror. While he isn't technically making a new Clock Tower game, he is making a spiritual successor to the series that's defined his career. Kono's resurrecting his unique horror sensibilities in Project Scissors (working title), a game to coming to Vita, iOS, and Android. He and the team at studio Nude Maker are joining forces with the creature designer from Silent Hill, Masahiro Ito, and the director of the Ju-on film series, Takashi Shimizu. Beyond the teaser-like working title, we know very little about Project Scissors, but we recently had a chance to chat with both Kono and Shimizu, who've offered some new insights into what we can expect from Project Scissors down the road.
GameSpot: What inspired you to return to horror and make a game in the spirit of Clock Tower?
Kono: I’ve been wanting to make a horror game that would be a spiritual successor to Clock Tower for a long time. But I wanted to make sure the core concept of running and hiding is kept intact, along with meaningful new mechanisms.. It would be easy to insert a battle system into the game as a new element, but that would ruin the concept which the original game strived for, making it just another survival horror game. There are plenty of spectacular horror games like that and I don’t see any need to make another one myself.
Then one day a perfect idea that fulfilled all the conditions I wanted in my game just came to me. Once I had that, I could finally get started on the project.
How does Project Scissors emulate the themes or direction of the Clock Tower series?
Kono: The core mechanics of running and hiding and the multiple endings are concepts we’ve carried over from the original game. How those concepts are portrayed however will be in a more modern fashion. For example, we can now do things that were difficult at the time the original was made, like positioning the camera inside a closet the player is hiding in, so that you can silently peek through the gap and survey the scene, making for a really tense gaming moment. When you think of Clock Tower as a series of events triggered by pointing and clicking, it’s definitely nice to be able to portray the events that unfold as a result of those actions in a more graphic way.
Is the "Scissors" in project scissors a reference to a character that may appear in the game, or is it merely a thematic hook used for the project title?
Kono: Of course it’ll be an important piece of equipment to certain characters that’ll be appearing in the game. You have to keep in mind that this isn’t the official sequel for Clock Tower or anything though, so of course we considered other weapons to be used in place of scissors, but in terms of just how mentally accessible the pain scissors can inflict is to people’s imaginations, we just couldn’t come up with anything else that could inspire that kind of fear.
Think about this for a second: A giant pair of scissors pinches your flesh together and you begin to feel the pain. As you feel the pressure increase, the dull, rusted blades of the scissors begins to tear you apart as they screech against each other, slowly digging in against the resistance of your flesh. It’s a slow, horrible way to go, the kind you’d beg for the mercy of a quick death. Don’t you think?
Compared to Clock Tower, what sort of mechanical or gameplay changes can we expect?
Kono: We’ll be adding certain mechanics to both how you run and hide in the game that’ll really add to the sense of tension. You’ll really have to think on your feet even if all you’re doing is running down a hallway. We’ll need to fine-tune these mechanics though, but we’ve already begun play testing. We also included certain strategies that always allowed you to escape the killer in the original Clock Tower, but we’ve limited such elements this time around so that you can only use them a certain number of times. This should make for a more difficult and terrifying experience for the player as they struggle to survive. The branching points that lead to the various endings have also been made more complex, which I think will make the game overall more satisfying. While the branching will be more complex, we’ll also include a support system that will aid the player along the way.
What are the challenges associated with designing a horror game for portable devices?
Kono: The small screen of a portable device inevitably affects the overall impact that can be achieved, which in turn diminishes the kind of fear you can create. This is a physical/hardware issue, so it may be hard to figure out a solution to this problem. I started thinking about this more seriously after seeing our fans’ overwhelming reaction when we announced the project, but we’re looking into ways to deliver this game to players on higher-end hardware.
What are your thoughts on modern horror games, in general?
Kono: "If we’re going to make a brand new horror game, let’s make something that the market doesn’t already offer,” is how I would sum up my thoughts, as oppose to, “Let’s do another zombie game because zombies are all the rage right now.” After all, the horror genre has traditionally been very broad and open to new ideas.
Shimizu: It's not as though I'm familiar with a lot of video games, but I’d really like this to become the kind of game that transcends generational boundaries, with provocative social themes. I don’t know if something like this already exists, but I really hope we can create something that appeals to everyone, regardless of age, gender, etc.
How did Masahiro Ito and Takashi Shimizu become involved with the project?
Kono: The talents I invited to this project were chosen not for how famous they were but because I have faith in them from a creative perspective. Mr. Ito is known for ‘Pyramid Head’ and the ‘Bubble Head Nurses’ from Silent Hill, and is without a doubt a brilliant designer and artist. Although I was worried a bit that he’d bring with him the sort of unreal/other-worldly art direction of Silent Hill, after talking with him he agreed to adapt his artistic style more towards that of the original Clock Tower, and so I was reassured that I could count on him as a part of the development team.
Shimizu: I got to know Mr. Kono through a friend who’s a writer for both films and video games. I actually wouldn’t feel very confident working on a horror game that focused on physical carnage, and so I initially considering turning down the offer, but after being told about how he wanted to incorporate the kind of psychologically introverted fear characteristic of J-horror works into the game, I felt that I may be able to help and decided to participate.
How are they influencing the vision for a Clock Tower-like game?
Kono: Not only have they helped establish an incredible world and setting based on what I had envisioned, but they also provide a lot of provocative ideas that really help shape the world. Director Shimizu generally works with a different kind of medium, but there’s no question that he has a very deep understanding of the horror genre, and I’m definitely receiving a lot of useful opinions. When we talk about what horror “should” be, there are hardly any differences in our opinions.
Can you give us any more details about the cruise ship and the murders that take place on it?
Kono: That’s a difficult one. I don’t want to give away anything that would take away from the experience of playing the game so I’ll avoid specifics, but I’ll go ahead and say that all the murders will be brutal. A certain “slasher” character will be behind all of it of course, but there may also be some mystery elements that may throw off some players. It’s currently unclear to what extent we can make the content I’ve conceived a reality, so for now, this is as much as I can say.
If Project Scissors is a success, will you consider expanding the series?
Kono: Since we’re lucky enough to have film director Shimizu working on this project, I’d like to consider not only expanding on the series as a game, but also perhaps as a film adaptation. We’ve been moving forward with the development of this game based on my ideas, but as a fan of the horror genre I’d be interested to see what kind of film it could become under director Shimizu’s lead and interpretation.
What's the status of the Clock Tower IP? Does Capcom still own it? If so, were you ever in talks with them regarding Project Scissors?
Kono: 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.
Can you provide any clues to who the other "well known talents" associated with the game are?
Kono: Actually...Nobuko Toda, well known worldwide for her work as a composer on games like the Metal Gear Solid series and Halo, will be joining our team! I am very much looking forward to listening to the music that Ms. Toda will be composing for our game.
Also, we look forward to surprising everyone with another creative professional scheduled to join our team. If you want a hint, take a look at my previous games. What I look for in a creator is “reliable creativity,” and you’ll find hints as to who hidden in my previous works.
Are you ready for another game like Clock Tower? Do you think a horror game, even if it's built on the foundation of a point-and-click series, can work on a mobile device? Let us know in the comments below