Ruminating on Corpse Party

Japanese cover for the game. Full title: Corpse Party: Blood Covered… Repeated Fear

If you’ve seen my tweets over the past week or so, you know I’ve been gushing over Corpse Party pretty much nonstop. But what is Corpse Party, and why should you care about it? As I’m in the midst of writing my review, which probably won’t go up for a day or two due to some server transitions happening over at Video Game Writers, I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk a bit about the game here.

Believe it or not, Corpse Party is one of the few games in recent months that got me really excited in anticipation of its release. Even stranger is the fact that I really am not a horror connoisseur by any means, and generally don’t go out of my way to consume any sort of horror-related media. So what is it about Corpse Party that grabbed my attention so throughly?

First of all, Corpse Party is a game I would have never thought would see the light of day in English. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it before XSEED announced that they would be localizing it. The game they localized actually is a port/remake of the original indie PC game, made with the help of RPG Maker. The original creators got quite a bit of publicity for such an indie title, eventually spurring the remake, multiple manga series, and even a sequel. But what makes people so enamored with Corpse Party?

Just because they’re pixilated doesn’t make the blood splatters any less creepy. 

The game starts off innocuously enough: A group of high school students are saying farewell to one of their classmates, who is transferring to another school the next day. One of them suggests they perform a special charm so that they will always stay friends, to which they all agree. They preform the ritual, but immediately afterwards an earthquake suddenly erupts, transporting them to Heavenly Host Elementary School, a school rife with murder and disappearances that was torn down many years before.

Keeping the story relatively vague, as the story is really the heart and soul of the game, I found that the first hour or so was terribly generic and cliche. After the initial introduction, there is even a break in the game to allow you to read each of the nine charaters’ profiles! At first glance, many might be turned off by the seemingly stereotypical characters and premise, but I was pleasantly surprised by how the game developed.

After the initial sequences, your characters are split up into groups, and the overall goal is to guide them to their peers and out of the horrible predicament they’ve found themselves in. There is a lot of character development, and as you play as the different parties, you slowly begin to understand their relationships and histories, which makes it all the more distressing when you find out that anyone can die. That’s right – in Corpse Party, no one is safe from a gruesome and horrible death, either at the mercy of a vengeful ghost or the hands of their own peers. Though some of the characters remained a tad too stereotypical/fanservice-y for my tastes (you’ve got your token panty shots and lesbian who’s in love with her best friend), overall, the story developments and character interactions were extremely enthralling, and were what ultimately made me love the game as much as I did.

I’m not one for fanservice, and unfortunately panty shots like these totally took me out of the moment. 

Many people are confused about what kind of game Corpse Party is. The game features decidedly retro graphics, a la RPG Maker, with anime-style character illustrations and the occasional CG cutscene. Described by XSEED as an adventure game, I’d probably most liken it to Sweet Home meets 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. There are no battles, however, and the bulk of the game is spent exploring the haunted school, looking for clues to advance the story. You’ll talk to the occasional ghost, but for the most part the only characters you’ll find are the ones in your party at the time. Decision-making is extremely important, and what you choose will often dictate whether or not you’ll bear witness to one of the game’s decidedly gristly “wrong ends.”

For each of the game’s five chapters, there is one “true end,” which will advance you to the next chapter, and any number of wrong ends. The wrong ends are some of the most disturbing things I have ever seen, but nothing that kept me awake late at night. Even so, I was terribly enthralled by them – the sound direction is amazing in both the music and the sound effects, and every gruesome squish and squelch there, accompanied by the horrified screams of teenage girls (I could’ve done without some of the latter, though). Something about the game made me actually want to go out of my way to view the wrong ends I missed, though I’m not sure what that says about me. Rather than just being mindless gore, by getting players to connect with the characters, every bloody scene is all the more jarring. Perhaps one of the most horrifying moments for me in the game was finding out the identity of the person splattered all over the hallway you’ve been passing by the last 3 hours, and one of the other character’s own reaction to that realization.

I’ll briefly touch on what I didn’t like about the game. In all honestly, Corpse Party is not a great game, but rather a great experience. There are a number of times where the game gives you absolutely no guidance and it’s up to you to wander the halls of the school, investigating everything until you hit the jackpot and are able to advance the game. Some of the puzzles are reduced down to simply mashing x on anything and everything, which isn’t all that fun when you’ve got a ghost on your tail and a drawn-out wrong end awaiting you if you run into them by mistake. The game also does not have a text skip feature for when you have to reply segments over and over again because you keep dying, which means you’re going to be skipping through a lot of death scenes you’ve seen before. Since the game shares a lot of similarities with visual novels, it really would’ve benefitted from some kind of fast-forward button like there is in 999.

All in all, I’d say that if you’re at all interested in the horror genre and experiencing truly unique game experiences, then you owe it to yourself to give Corpse Party a shot (this is really starting to sound like a review!). Even if you generally don’t like scary stories, I’d still suggest the game, though it isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s only available on the Playstation Network for the PSP due to the fact that its such a niche title, but if you can spare the $20 and the download, I highly recommend it. If you’re interested in hearing more about the game, I’ll be posting my full review on Video Game Writers in the very near future. I really hope more people are exposed to this game so that XSEED will be able to release its sequel in the future!

About Anne Lee

Also known as apricotsushi. Anne can be written with the kanji for apricot (杏), and sushi was the most quintessentially Japanese thing I could think of when I was 13, resulting in my goofy, albeit memorable, nickname.