[dropcap size=big]T[/dropcap]he first utterance of a game known only as “Project Scissors” by Hifumi Kono was a tremendously exciting event. As a fan of the Clock Tower series, it was something I wanted to see more of in the modern gaming landscape. Other developers have since created their own takes on its style, but none were a legitimate new release in the series! So yes, I was very excited, but became less excited upon realizing it was meant to be a smartphone and Vita release. No offense, as I’m sure the smartphone market is incredible (especially in Japan right now), but it felt like a total let down. Enter the Kickstarter project titled Project Scissors: NightCry – it’ll bring the game, which is now known as NightCry, to PC! Only, after seeing more of it… I’m not that excited anymore.
The current screenshots and gameplay video reveal how steeped in mobile game convention this title had been up until this point. Although graphics are not everything, it hardly seems appealing. Instead of conferring a super creepy environment or sense of dread it looks like a slightly darker point and click adventure game which could have been created by anyone. Obviously, until playing it myself it’ll be impossible to say whether it really does feel soulless, but usually it’s not hard to convey an intense atmosphere through pictures alone. The current lack of such an atmosphere in a horror game is disconcerting to say the least. It might not be as bad as it seems, though.
Clock Tower on PS1 had painfully primitive graphics but still managed to work within those confines. For example, pulling up a video of the game now would probably result in snickering from many gamers who view it for the first time. The polygonal protagonists and child-sized, scissor-wielding maniac just don’t seem scary at all. However, playing that game (even today) reveals something completely different. It becomes absolutely terrifying to run from the killer yourself and do your best to find a place to hide. So perhaps the current smartphone-like design qualities will prove better than expected. Yes, the PC port is set to have improved graphics, but so far the difference doesn’t look all that stunning.
Then there’s the fact that Hifumi is hardly the only horror maestro on board. The game is being co-created by Takashi Shimizu. This film director made his name with the breakout horror hit Ju-On: The Grudge (which was then recast and re-filmed as The Grudge for American audiences). He has gone on to create other films since then although The Grudge has certainly lingered with him over the years. That film definitely helped usher in an era of Japanese horror for cinema along with Ringu/The Ring, so you know this guy knows his stuff. So where is that horror storytelling skillset? I guess that’s just another thing only the designers can know about at this point as the description they’ve shared is as boilerplate as any other slasher.
Of course, there’s so much more gaming star power behind NightCry. For example, music composers Nobuko Toda and Michiru Yamane are both stellar names in the field, creating music for series such as Metal Gear Solid and Castlevania. Then there is the concept artist Masahiro Ito who is best known for his work with Silent Hill. All of these folks are incredible but it’s hard to even see their influence on the Kickstarter campaign. Yes, the trailer has some tidbits of music and they sound good. And yes, we also see a few (censored) concept sketches which look undeniably creepy. But for the artwork in particular – will we even see that reflected in game? The current brief glimpse of a Scissorman character didn’t look all that engaging – or different from its initial style.
It might sound like I’m completely hating on the title, but this is actually just the result of being such a devoted fan of the Clock Tower series. After having hoped for a new title for so long it was easy to imagine how great a new version would be. As such, now that NightCry is right in front of me it’s revealed how little it really seems to have grown over those years. It doesn’t fit that “next Clock Tower game” mold for me, though it certainly might for others! As stated right up front these are my considerations and as such are not meant to be taken as facts.
Whether you’re a fan of the franchise or not I also believe crowdfunding fans need to monitor this campaign. I say this because it seems to be a perfect example of how name recognition and a powerfully devoted fanbase can compensate for anything else on Kickstarter. Had this not been a game by the Clock Tower designer and just been some “port of upcoming horror game from iOS to PC” it would not gain attention. Instead of seeing thousands of dollars funded in a snap it would struggle to even take a chunk out of its goal. There is nothing about the description, photos, or gameplay videos which make this an astonishing new horror property. Horror in and of itself is no longer a golden ticket either, as many intriguing horror games as of late have failed to reach funding goals such as Ashen Rift and Kriophobia just to name a few.
Without the backing of “Clock Tower” I don’t believe NightCry would succeed at crowdfunding – but even with it the future is not guaranteed. Sure, current trends point in its favor but it doesn’t appear to be a resounding success which will gobble up stretch goals with ease. Name recognition will take this far but not as far as it would have in years past. The question that is worth considering now is just how important having a brand pre-Kickstarter is, and if there’s anyway to quantify the aid it will bring, if any. Night Trap HD failed to be crowdfunded despite tremendous awareness in the gaming community because the campaign faltered that much. It’s impossible to tell just how NightCry will turn out but it’s frankly impressive how such an uninspiring showing is still acceptable in 2015 as long as you’ve got an established fanbase.