It’s Party Time Again
Damn you, GrisGris! Just as my nightmares were finally subsiding after a terrifying play-through of the Corpse Party trilogy, you’ve decided to port the original game to Steam and start the insanity all over again. Don’t get me wrong though, I loved every horrific minute of the series (even though it has some questionable game mechanics) and was extremely excited to once again walk down the decrepit halls of Heavenly Host Elementary School. Unfortunately, another journey through the game’s hallowed halls will ultimately lead to another set of nightmares, but that’s why I love this game so much! Corpse Party’s story is like nightmare fuel that fills your mind with the most morbid descriptions imaginable, and then decides to toss a match at the fuel by killing off a child that you desperately want to see make it out alive.
The story is set in modern-day Japan at Kisaragi High School, where a group of kids are cleaning up after the school’s culture festival. The children, while happy with the festival, are also depressed since one of them is about to transfer out of the school, but Ayumi, who has a deep fascination with the occult, has an idea how to keep them all together forever. She has found a charm on the internet called “Sachiko Ever After” which consists of a paper doll that each of the 9 kids must tear a piece off of while repeating the incantation “Sachkio, we beg of you”. As long as each kid keeps the piece of paper from the doll on them, they will forever be connected spiritually. Unfortunately, not all goes to plan, and after the ritual is performed the school shakes violently due to an earthquake and at this point everything goes to complete hell. Once the earthquake subsides the kids awaken, some of them in pairs, to a school that’s in shambles. The school’s surroundings all seem a bit different, but for some odd reason, everything is also eerily familiar. After some investigation, the children come to realize that they have all awoken in Heavenly Host Elementary School, which is full of the decaying bodies of children and windows & doors that seem to be magically sealed shut from the outside.
The beauty of the game is that it’s mostly told through text, leaving it up to the player’s imagination to create the visuals, similar to a book, but interactive, so you’re more involved with the story. The 16-bit sprite work was created using RPG Maker Software way back in 1996, and I think Corpse Party greatly benefits from this. Sure, the sprites show some blood and facial expressions, but it’s developer GrisGris’ fantastic writing that conveys this in a way that not even current-gen graphics are able to express.
Graphically, I’ve noticed that no matter what resolution that I set the game on, the character artwork during the many text-based scenes seems a bit washed out and blurry. I last played the game on a Vita, and there the images seemed more crisp and well defined. After a bit of research, I’ve found out that this is a port of Corpse Party: Blood Covered (an enhanced version of the original game), and not the remastered PSP version. Not all seems to be on the grittier side though, as text is overall cleaner in the PC version since it’s background isn’t just a black space, but rather a nice grid-like overlay. The sprites have a more retro-esque look as well, and they ultimately seem blockier than their PSP counterparts, which is because of the original RPG Maker Software. The menu has also been revamped and cleaned up, but I did have some difficulty with lag while changing resolutions. This is confusing when considering the game will not change resolution until a complete reboot, so I’m left wondering why it takes so long to switch between the many options.
A major benefit from playing Corpse Party on PC is the amazing surround sound that I didn’t get out of the PSP version. Sure, you could play the PSP with headphones on, but there is just something special about cranking the volume up on my home system and being surrounded by the whispers of dead children during a late night session [I knew something was off about you, Mike – Ed]. It gives me the creeps just thinking about it! The ear piercing whines of Japanese school girls can be a bit irritating, but as a player of a lot of Japanese games, I was able to withstand it, but I can see it being a turn-off to some players. It’s worth noting that there’s no English dub option in Corpse Party on PC, so be prepared to read a lot over the course of the 10-hour campaign. The Corpse Party trilogy as a whole is known for its amazing music and it’s an integral part to the gaming experience. While traversing the hallways of Heavenly Host Elementary you will be accompanied by soothing electronic music, but upon entering a classroom the music may suddenly stop causing a very tense atmosphere. Sound design is handled very well and I feel the PC version takes full advantage of a good quality surround system.
I want to talk about to main benefits on getting this for the PC now. Again, this is a port of Corpse Party: Blood Covered, which was released back in 2008, and not the updated handheld port that was released years later. In some ways this is good, and in other ways it’s bad. Let’s start with the good: If you want to play Corpse Party the way it was originally meant to be played with a few enhancements, then you’re in luck! This isn’t a remastered PSP version, but the original version created with RPG Maker Software. Another added bonus is that the PC version has all the chapters unlocked from the beginning of the game which makes it great if you wanted to start from the middle of the story and skip the numerous amounts of “wrong ends” that can end your game at any time. Speaking of “wrong ends”, the PC version contains a handful that can’t be found in the handheld version, some of them adding even more disturbing deaths with descriptive details. The biggest bonus PC gamers will find is a whole new chapter that has been added to the game that delves deeper into the series’ lore. This bonus chapter can be found in the sequel, Book of Shadows, but has been recreated in the Corpse Party game engine.
Now on to the bad. Gone are the cleaner sprites of the PSP version, so if you’re hoping to see crisp sprites, you’re out of luck. Also missing is all the remastered artwork that was recreated for the PSP version and what you’re left with is a grittier style that is less polished. Overall, if you are interested in playing the game the way it was originally meant to be played, these downfalls won’t really mean much to you anyway, but it would have been nice to get the option to play either version.
If you’re a PC gamer that didn’t get a chance to play Corpse Party way back in the 90’s, or you didn’t own Sony’s handheld during its re-release, I can’t recommend picking up this PC port enough. The characters and setting will stick with you for a long time after you’ve finished the game, and the horrific storytelling is downright amazing. A word of warning though, this is definitely not a game for the squeamish. If detailed descriptions of scissors piercing eyeballs and scraping the back of a poor child’s skull disturbs you, I’d veer far away from this title.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (Steam); Publisher: XSEED Games ; Developer: GrisGris ; Players: 1 ; Released: April 25, 2016 ; ESRB: Not rated ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by the publisher.