Corpse Party PC Review
Horror-themed titles are a dime a dozen in any media, which is why any notable entry that isn’t given immediate widespread recognition (from Resident Evil for videogames, The Exorcist for movies, the many works of Stephen King for novels, and so on) could at least end up as a cult favorite passed along via word of mouth. A rather ironic fate, considering many spooktacular stories stem from the concept of urban legends, where one individual tells another about a paranormal tale that eventually envelops the listener’s world.
Such is the case with Corpse Party, which hit the West as a late PSP game in 2011. Though at first glance the game appeared to be a typical interactive horror game with an even more typical anime art style, its gruesome content and stellar sound design helped set it apart as one of the best horror experiences of the last few years. What is even more surprising than the game itself is its development origins, which date back as far as 1996; Originally made with RPG Maker as a doujin (fan-made) game, Corpse Party would not find its way onto Sony’s first generation portable machine until a second iteration was created in-between. That second version, known as Japan as Corpse Party BloodCovered, is the version that is now available for PC gamers in the West, while the PSP version was originally given the very Japanese title Corpse Party BloodCovered…Repeated Fear.
Regardless of which version you’re playing, the story of Corpse Party is always the same (barring a few revisions here and there): a group of highschool students and their teacher hang out after class to clean up as well as send off their fellow classmate Mayu, who is transferring to a new school the day after. As an attempt to bolster her spirits, class representative Ayumi decides to perform a ritual called “Sachiko Ever After”, where each person in the group tears off a piece of a paper doll that is said to bound them together. Instead of a heartwarming display of friendship, the ritual ends with a sudden earthquake that tears open the ground beneath the group, transporting them to an otherworldly school known as Heavenly Host Academy, which is a dilapidated and dreary manifestation of the original Heavenly Host which closed down years ago. Suffice to say, all sorts of spirits inhabit the school, and nearly all of them are malevolent and cruel.
Just like the PSP version, Corpse Party features a familiar top-down perspective that should remind many players of classic 16-bit RPGs like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger. While featuring a similar menu HUD consisting of character stats and inventory, the game features no combat whatsoever, and instead plays closer to an adventure game where players must inspect every nook and cranny in the school and occasionally solve obstacle-based puzzles in order to proceed. Rather than feature a traditional Game Over, Corpse Party instead is infamous for its numerous “Wrong End” scenarios, where players can bear witness to their currently playable character meeting a gruesome fate based on an incorrect decision or failing to escape a rampaging ghost. While this concept of receiving a wrong end from making a wrong turn may sound irritating for players that hate losing progress, the game is smartly split into several chapters as well as being able to skip the numerous text conversations in order to catch up. The Wrong Ends themselves are also unique (and disturbing) enough that many horror fans will seek them out intentionally.
One of the things that really made Corpse Party on the PSP stand out was its presentation: the sprites and character portraits were simplistic but also expressive, the sound was recorded on dummy head mics in order to produce a 3D surround effect, and the Japanese voice acting was top notch. All of these elements resulted in a horror experience that was both minimalistic but also legitimately terrifying, and the game smartly knew when to hold back on violent imagery. After all, it is far more unsettling to perceive the various mutilations that occur in the story rather than witnessing the gore outright.
With the PC version, much of the spirit of Corpse Party is intact, but being a version that was created before the PSP iteration, it is still a significantly inferior-looking game. For one thing, the character portraits are much more amateurish in nature, similar to the original artwork of Higurashi When They Cry versus its PS2 remake portraits. Secondly, and more tragically, the 3D surround effect is missing in this PC release, as well as the full voice acting of the PSP version (this version even features different voice actors for the characters). Fortunately, the entire content of the PSP version is still intact here, minus a few slight alterations and additions here and there, but at its core it is still the same experience, albeit in a lesser presentation.
As a horror experience, Corpse Party is absolutely mandatory, and should be experienced in whatever platform that is available to you. If possible, however, the PSP version is still the definitive experience, and scales perfectly on the Playstation TV if you also happen to own one of those. Otherwise, the PC version is still a solid experience on its own despite lacking the improved sound design and artwork of its portable follow-up.