Growing up, I was a huge fan of the horror genre, especially when it came to the PlayStation. Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Parasite Eve – all of these games were perfect for turning down the lights, turning up the audio, and waiting for the next scare. But one game was sadly overlooked by my peers. I would occasionally pop it in and watch as they wet their pants trying to escape a deformed little person with a giant pair of scissors. That game was called Clock Tower.
Released in 1996, the game is actually a sequel to a Japan-only SNES game also called ‘Clock Tower’. Having played both now, each has their own dreadful sense of suspense and fear, featuring multiple endings and providing a rewarding experience to those who seek out all of the game’s secrets. It was a simpler time, and relied on more than just jump scares; the games made you feel helpless. Soon after, Human Entertainment was purchased by Capcom, and the series took a sharp decline (although several spiritual successors such as Haunting Grounds are highly acclaimed). It’s been 10 years since then, and nearly 20 since Hifumi Kono left the series.
At TGS 2014, Hifumi Kono revealed he was working on a new game, which he called at the time ‘Project: Scissors.’ Through a successful Kickstarter (full disclosure: that I contributed to), Nude Maker was able to achieve their goal, and they’re currently working on finalizing the game now known as NightCry. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kono-san to discuss his newest game, and to examine his past experiences in this genre.
Trevor: First and Foremost, thank you so much for allowing us to interview you. I’m a big fan of Clock Tower.
Kono: It makes me very happy to know that you were someone who enjoyed it. NightCry is a project that aims to provide a brand new horror experience for people like you who were captivated by Clock Tower. To do this, we are currently taking advantage of all of the resources available to us to make NightCry the best it can be.
Trevor: In the Clock Tower franchise, you created a sense of helplessness in the player, being powerless to stop a ruthless murder; how do you build that tension, and what’s going to sustain that fear throughout the NightCry’s experience?
Kono: In order to create a sense of helplessness, and feeling powerless, I think it is important to establish the atmosphere of the game in the calm before the killer appears, or after the player has succeeded in evading the killer. With the accumulation of subtle, discomforting experiences throughout the game, the player’s tolerance to horrifying experiences will be reduced. Also, there are chapters in NightCry where the Scissorwalker does not appear at all. This is to avoid the player getting used to seeing the Scissorwalker should it appear too often.
Trevor: You and your team shot a short film to introduce fans to the concept of the new game, which revealed a young man on a ship being terrorized by a vengeful woman who was killed in a ritual of some kind. The video features an early introduction to the new Scissorwalker. Could you explain the process of making that video, and how it ultimately plays into the game’s storyline?
Kono: The short film was something to complement the game’s image and setting. Prior to creating the short film, I shared the overall setting of the game with Mr Shimizu, but because we were in the early stages of development, some of those have been updated since then. These updates have made for a further interesting setting for the game, but I have made sure that nothing conflicts with what is illustrated through Mr Shimizu’s short film.
Trevor: Monica appears to be the game’s main protagonist, and seems to be a wealthy socialite. What is Monica doing on the ship, and why is the Scissorwalker terrorizing her and the ship’s passengers?
Kono: The impression you get from Monica is her being wealthy, but this is an impression she has created in order to “hook up” with one of the celebrities aboard the ship, and she goes to great length to do this. In reality, she is a college student, and she is aboard the ship with the other heroine, Rooney, as a student of cultural anthropology to conduct fieldwork. As far as the reason for the Scissorwalker attacking the passengers, this addresses the core of the story, so I cannot say at this point. I will say that the Scissorwalker is not simply killing people for the sake of it.
Trevor: Jumping back to the Clock Tower series, some have noticed the film Phenomena (known as Creepers in the States) sharing several similarities with Clock Tower. It would seem your previous work took some inspiration from Italian horror films, but this time it seems to be embracing more of the J-Horror genre. What films or games have inspired the design of NightCry?
Kono: In order to bring in the essence of what Mr Shimizu has achieved, it is true that I put greater value on concepts that come along with the J-Horror genre. With Clock Tower, I steered toward Italian horror, but this time around I feel that the essence of horror from works in various countries that I have enjoyed over the years have been put into a melting pot for the creation of NightCry. In recent years, I find works of French horror to be extremely interesting, and you may be able to see its influences.
Trevor: You’re embracing the point and click interface of the previous Clock Tower series, but in what ways have you improved on that system, and why continue using what some may feel is an outdated interface? Was it a decision based on the tablet market, or is there an advantage to PnC gameplay?
Kono: Compared to Clock Tower, the interface is the same point and click, but I think playability has improved drastically. Even then, there will be moments that you feel you cannot control the character as you would like. Imagine being chased by a killer. Would you be in complete control of your body? It’s only natural for your legs to tremble in fear, and you would probably walk unsteadily. I decided to keep working with the point and click interface so that these kinds of sensations could be realized in this game.
Trevor: Masahiro Ito has helped create many characters for Konami’s Silent Hill series, including the faceless nurses and Pyramid Head, creatures that also hint at the subliminal themes in the game. How has Mr Ito gone about designing the creatures in the game, and what other monsters can we expect on the ship?
Kono: NightCry is not the type of game where you encounter a myriad of monsters, but a story centered around the Scissorwalker. As such, it was important for us to come up with a design for the Scissorwalker that would be compelling to our fans. The first person that came to mind that had the capability to respond to such a request was Mr Ito.
The only thing I asked of him before he began designing was to forget about Clock Tower, and to do whatever he likes, but Mr Ito designed the Scissorwalker in such a way that Clock Tower fans would enjoy it as well. We are considering our various options regarding a monster besides the Scissorwalker, so I cannot make a comment at this point.
Trevor: The audio is being directed by Nobuko Toda, composer of Metal Gear Solid 4 and the post-Bungie Halos, but will also feature music by Michiru Yamane, famous for Symphony of the Night and Suikoden III. When it comes to horror games, audio can be just as important as the visuals; what are your expectations when it comes to the soundtrack and effects?
Kono: As you pointed out, in horror games, in terms of providing true horror experiences, the audio accounts for nearly 50% of its effect on the player. This time around, there will be gimmicks using subtle sound effects, so I was lucky to be able to ask for the help of Toda-san and Yamane-san. In the upcoming days, one of the songs by Yamane-san is scheduled to be delivered, so I can hardly wait to hear it!
Trevor: After Human Entertainment shut down and the rights of the Clock Tower franchise were sold off to Capcom; did you have any intentions of continuing the storyline into a trilogy? How did you feel Capcom did with Clock Tower 3 and Haunting Ground?
Kono: At the time, I put everything into each game that I directed and I always had the mindset that “This is the last one.” As far as the games after the rights were sold to Capcom are concerned, I had nothing to do with them and I kind of look at them as something else. The style of the game is completely different from what I created, and although it is in the same horror genre, it is interesting to see the different takes people have on horror as it appears in games.
Trevor: If there was one thing you’d want fans to know about NightCry, what would it be?
Kono: I feel I have succeeded in creating the kind of horror that was present in Clock Tower. Also, allusions to future events will be made from the first chapter. These foreshadowed events will get multiple characters involved, so it should be satisfying for gamers to see how all the loose plot threads will be collected in the final chapter. We hope gamers will experience NightCry first-hand, once it is released. Be warned, however, reaching a happy ending will be extremely difficult.
I want to thank Kono-san once again for his time, and I look forward to cowering in fear all over again. Based on the trailers and updates I’ve seen, it seems like they’re swinging for the fences. But don’t cry Jennifer, we’re sure to have full coverage and a review when the game is released, so make sure you keep reading Mouse n Joypad for any further updates.
You can watch the short film we spoke about below: