The thing is, I have such a love/hate relationship with the horror genre. I don't particularly enjoy being scared, nor do I get a thrill out of it. Yet, for whatever reason or another, I continue to buy and play them. The most recent addition to my collection, although digital, is Corpse Party for the PSP. Corpse Party, and its sequel Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, were never released on UMD in the US, just digital distribution via PSN for both the PSP and PS Vita. Both games are currently on sale for $9.99 each, I rather enjoy visual novels, and I still had $10 left on my account. Why not?
On December 17th, 1992, a Japanese group called ASCII released a program titled RPG Tkool Dante 98 for the Japanese exclusive home system known as NEC PC-9801 which allowed people to develop their own role-playing games. They further promoted their tool by publishing a monthly magazine titled LOGIN Sofcom where amateur developers could submit their creations. On April 22nd, 1996, an adventure game called CORPSE-PARTY was published in the Spring 1996 edition of LOGIN Sofcom No.6. It was made by a 22-year-old college student by the name of Makoto Kedouin, who typically stylizes his surname as Kedwin.
On February 26th, 1997, Kedwin won second place in the Second Annual ASCII ENTERTAINMENT competition, netting him 5 million yen [$61,675.00 USD]. It'd be nine years before the world saw CORPSE-PARTY again. On October 3rd, 2006, a retelling of the Corpse Party story was released for the mobile phone under the title Corpse Party NewChapter. This new version would later be ported to the PC as Corpse Party BloodCovered and once again to the PSP as Corpse Party BloodCovered ...Repeated Fear.(Source: http://www.memoriesoffear.com/games_corpsepartypc98/index.html)
Here's a quick rundown of the game's plot;
Corpse Party revolves around a group of students from Kisaragi Academy and one of their teachers. They try a mystical charm called "Sachiko Ever After" as an attempt to cheer up one of their classmates who is going to transfer schools; but something goes wrong, and they end up trapped in Heavenly Host Elementary School. And what's even worse: they appear in completely different dimensions inside the school.
While searching around the school, they find the corpses of the people who were trapped before them, along with the spirits of four children who are not willing to let them live. The students of Kisaragi Academy must unravel the mystery behind Heavenly Host and escape from there.(Source: http://corpseparty.wikia.com/wiki/Corpse_Party)
Corpse Party is a visual novel title with top down adventure gameplay to move the game along. While done in a 16-bit era art style, it just proves that you don't need modern mind blowing graphics to scare the pants off someone. Though the old-school pixelated style adds its own element to the creep factor, CGs also do their part to give you the heebie jeebies and make you squirm uncomfortably in your seat. You know, because sometimes pixelated entrails and corpses just won't cut it. The game's soundtrack also does an amazing job at setting the tone. It's definitely a game that benefits from playing in the dark with a set of headphones.
The game is broken up into five chapters, each accessed independently from the title screen. Within each chapter, you have six save slots. You'll want to use them all, and use them often. Each chapter has a "true end," as well anywhere from two to six different "wrong ends". Several of the chapters also have an "extra end," while it isn't necessarily a bad ending, it isn't a happy ending either. Sometimes a single thing you do halfway through a chapter will change the whole outcome of the chapter, and starting over from the beginning each time you're trying for a new ending in this game could get old real quick. One of the biggest flaws of this game is the inability to fast forward through text you've already read. While this wasn't a huge deal for me because I used a spoiler-free walkthrough, this could definitely prove tedious for those determined to see the game through to the end without help.
Generally I'll run through a game like this at least once before I hit up a walkthough, but being unable to skip text played a big part in my decision to use one. Another reason was I wanted to be able to sleep again. Seriously, the first night I played I absolutely could not get to sleep. No amount of cute kitten and puppy pictures could get my mind out of Heavenly Host Elementary School, and that was rather terrifying. I had almost considered shelving the game, figuratively speaking of course. I really wanted to see how the story played out though, and I wasn't quite sure I could stomach playing it for an extended amount of time. So I decided just to look up a walkthrough and play with the lights on.
Yes, I am a wuss.
That said, I'm not like this with all horror titles. My tastes in horror tend to sway towards the gothic, supernatural/occult, soft, or psychological sub-genres. Corpse Party was a bit more visually graphic with the gore than what I was expecting from a visual novel. In this instance the problem lies with the user not the game.
Now one thing gamers have been taught since the dawn of time is CHECK ALL THE THINGS! However as the saying goes, "curiosity killed the cat," and in Corpse Party you may very well be the cat. When Corpse Party tells you not to do something, you may want to listen, even if all your gamer instincts tell you otherwise. Well, the first time the game tells you not to do something, disregard it. After that though, it's your funeral. Literally.
Lack of a fast forward feature and my personal tastes aside, this is actually a rather amazing game, and I'm glad I saw it through to the end, even if I did cheat. Despite Corpse Party doing a better job at keeping me awake than a pot of coffee, I'm certainly considering picking up Corpse Party: Book of Shadows. Though for my sanity, I may just wait until the next time it goes on sale, but at the same time I want to play it now. Everything I have read has said that playing the first Corpse Party title is a must before playing Book of Shadows because it stems from one of the Wrong Ends you encounter in the first one. The game also assumes you know the story of the first installment. Corpse Party is a game that makes it hard to put it down and walk away, no matter how scared you are.
There's also a four episode anime OVA called Corpse Party: Tortured Soul that you can find online. I had checked out the first episode after my first night of playing, and said episode covered the first chapter of the game. First impression of the anime is that it is going to be way more graphic than the game, but playing the game seems to be required to understand what's going on. The first episode was very quick-paced, and rushed, and I fear the rest of the episodes will be the same. Five chapters that could easily run you an hour or two of game time each, condensed into four 29 minute episodes? Yes, I think this is a viable assessment. Now that I have finished the game, I am very interested in going back and watching the anime and seeing how the story differs from the game though.
If you're a fan of Japanese horror and visual novels, I think Corpse Party is definitely worth picking up. However if violence against children is an automatic no-go in your book, you'll most certainly want to pass on anything in the Corpse Party universe.
If you're interested in more information about the world of Corpse Party you can check out the wiki here;
...or the fan run site called Memories of Fear here;
...or the official facebook page here;
"The school day is now over. Any students still in the building... ...may never go home..."