Corpse Party Review
Note: It’s Halloween, so in celebration-here’s a horror game review from me. The full version of this game is actually called Corpse Party BloodCovered: …Repeated Fear, which is an enhanced remake on the PSP, and is the actual version I played. But because it’s such a handful to type, I’ll just call it Corpse Party.
Whether or not I don’t have the time to play, or it’s because I seem to always have other games on my plate I want to prioritize, Corpse Party is one of those video game series I never gotten the chance to try, despite hearing high praises from various other gamers and visual novel players alike. Finally having the time to try out the first game in the series-the PSP remake that is, how does this famous survival horror game hold up to my expectations?
The game begins with a group of high school students of Kisaragi Academy, staying after school to tell ghost stories. As they are about to leave, they decided to perform a famous charm said to strengthen the bonds between friendships, which one of them, an occult fan, had seen from the internet. Once they did that though, a huge earthquake suddenly occurred and tore a huge gaping hole in the middle which all of them fell through. Isolated, they found themselves within the walls of Heavenly Host Elementary School, a school originally on the same premise of Kisaragi Academy, but supposedly demolished years ago due to abnormally high reports of murders and suicides. Stumbling upon cases upon cases of inexplicable phenomenon in this “school”-step into the shoes of fellow high school students as you hope to survive in this ordeal, getting to the bottom of this mystery, and possibly even making it out of this hellhole alive filled with mountains of maggots, corpses and ghosts.
While there are obviously gameplay elements in the game, a significant part of the story is also progressed in visual novel-esque format, which is also the reason why it’s always being compared to other similar visual novel-esque games like the Zero Escape series for one, and is also why it’s a game so popular even among genuine visual novel players. After playing the game myself though, I can see why it’s received such high praises. As a horror/suspense, I think it’s close to perfect, a big part of the reason is because of how the author isn’t scared to kill off characters, but another reason is how the atmosphere is being excessively accentuated by it’s superb technical design (which I will get to in a minute).
Typical of a Japanese mystery story, Corpse Party started out with a massive amount of twists and foreshadowing before tying everything up in it’s conclusion. It’s a used formula, but I have no complaints with Corpse Party’s flawless execution and pacing. There are a total of 5 chapters and each chapter puts you into the shoes of different characters and their different point of views, and one satisfying element is seeing how some plot points interconnected with each chapters as you progress through the story.
Another interesting point here is that with the game providing you with the lens of different characters throughout the game, you get exposed to their thoughts, motivations and even try-and-fail cycle of their character developments. What’s amazing here is the narrative is able to fit all these in while not ruining the main storyline and horror atmosphere. There really are no wasted notions in this game and every occurrences served their purposes efficiently. The fact that you can get introductions for all involved characters in Chapter 1 is a really nice touch.
As for the gameplay part, just like every classic games, it’s very minimalist in nature. After all, while I played the PSP remake version, remember that the original game is made way back in 1996 with RPG Maker. The game plays a bit like a horror adventure with RPG/puzzle elements. You get to explore the place around with your character in 2D environments, and sometimes, you need to place “loose boards” on gaps in between ledges, and an item would sometimes jump around and you would need two characters to get it, or even the classic “escape the locked room”. All these puzzles are integrated seamlessly in a way that doesn’t just make players move linearly from point A to B. At times, you may even need to get away from ghosts AND investigate at the same time, which can be fun and thrilling, but also extremely frustrating at the same time-Corpse Party’s minimalist gameplay’s a big part of this reason, since sometimes, you have barely just one square grid to get away from them.
At times, when you chose the wrong actions, either the wrong dialogue choices, or if you done a puzzle terribly wrong, or if you got possessed by a ghost; it will lead you to one of the game’s many bad endings, and you might have to go through a ton of lengthy scenes again which can’t be skipped, another problem arising from the game’s minimalist designs. As for said RPG elements, there’s the aforementioned exploring, but characters also have stats like HP, as strange as it sounds-though in my gameplay, they have close to no bearings at all. Aside from one scene where I had to get away from a spirit (and my HP deduced slightly with a touch), most of the time, it’s just instant death for me whenever I got in contact with other ghosts.
As for the visuals, admittedly, it looks outdated. Again, I want to remind everyone that this was originally a game made all the way back in 1996 with RPG Maker by a group of doujin makers. However, it’s not exactly that bad either, if I were to make a comparison, the graphics are similar to PS1 classics like Suikoden than it is the antique 80s era of gaming generation, although the original version is another matter altogether. Besides, with things like anime CGs, improved sprites and interfaces, I have to say, it’s a lot better-and those anime CGs especially did a very excellent job in delivering the stories and fear.
Now as far as technical design is concerned, audio is something this game actually excels in, and indeed, I have nothing but high praises for it. Looking at this game carelessly, if you were to tell me this game would scared the wits out of me, I would laugh at you as if you just made the most ridiculous joke in the world. Even if the remake’s graphic improved tremendously, how can you scare people with such pixelated 2D designs? The thing is, it can, and the game’s superb audio design has a lot to do with it. For one, I have to especially applaud the developer’s very timely-placed sound effects-the creaking of the wood planks, the sudden buzzing sound of insects, the sudden echos of laughs and whispering; the sound effects are all so timely executed that it just hooks you in psychologically, and the surround-sound certainly helped too. Combined that with a soundtrack of mostly creepy, and nonrhythmic tracks, and a cast of very exceptional voice actors-this game has one of the best horror atmosphere ever. I always feel like the Japanese has always been a sort of a specialist at psychological horrors, and Corpse Party is like a 101 showing of that specialization. As far as horror atmospheres are concerned, Corpse Party nailed it to perfection, purely just from it’s audio design.
Corpse Party is an excellent game, and I don’t know why I didn’t play this game earlier. Excellent storytelling and characters, and technical designs that amplify the feeling of psychological fear and anxiety exceptionally. While it’s aforementioned minimalist gameplay may be an issue, which is unfortunately, a product of it’s time. It is however, a small issue as overall, it’s still a great game all around, and those of you who’re a fan of horror, give it a try if you haven’t already done so at this moment. I’m late to the party myself, but I would definitely love to check out the sequels in the series when I can.