Developer: Team GrisGris
Publisher: XSEED, Marvelous USA, Inc.
Release Date: April 25, 2016
Platform: PC [Reviewed],
Disclaimer: The following review was conducted on PC via Steam. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
The Corpse Party series is well known in the Japanese role-playing game market. It is a horror story where every decision, big or small, affects your ending. Initially released as early as 1996 on the PC-9801 platform, the game has now found a new home the Steam and GoG platforms. With its release in 2011 on the PlayStation Portable as a digital only title, many people might have overlooked its handheld launch.
At its core, Corpse Party is a horror game set geographically in Japan at Kisaragi High School. The game heavily relies on its story, being that this is where things start to take shape, and where we are first introduced to the ghastly atmosphere that drives the games context.
On the day of the school’s cultural festival, a group of students all of whom are very close friends, find themselves cleaning the class to get it set up for break. With the looming reality that one will be sent off to another school the following semester, sadness starts to settle in. Ayumi, a girl fascinated with Ghost stories and the paranormal, decides to tell her friends about a charm that she found on the internet. But, calling upon the charm with the chants of “Sachkio, we beg of you” leaves the group in a close bond, having torn each piece of a mysterious doll to share between them. Hit with the paranormal, the group is transported to a new place, one that is plagued with visible attributes of the spirit world.
The new place that they arrive in houses much smaller desks, cracked and destroyed floors, having the windows and some doors almost seem to be painted on. Scared, they search to find out where they are and what happened. They see a school news report hanging on the wall. They approach it, reading they find out that they’re in Heavenly Host Elementary School, a place that has long been destroyed after many murders and kidnappings caused its shutdown. Mystery shrouds the group as the charm seems to work and with that, our story begins.
You might think that a game that released almost 20-years ago might not be relevant in current times. Even though the artstyle of the game translated through a stylized 16-bit platform, it has very nice detail to the character
s models and animations. In conversations with characters, there are times when crisp illustrations ensue to give you a chance to see exactly what each of them look like in more visible detail. This is important given the game’s background in the anime genre and its emphasis on such illustrations.
For anyone that has seen their fair share of anime titles, the haunted school trope has been almost beaten to death. And with that, you would think that Corpse Party would be a boring game to attempt to play or get into. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is very captivating, mostly due to the writers at GrisGris creating an absolutely fantastic script. There is a sense of connection and immersion delivered by creating a sense of compassion that these friends have for each other.
The immersive tactics continue with believable conversations, and even down to the reactions to an event heavily coincide with what’s happening in the game. They were able to take such a simple story and turn it into a complex, deep, and at times, gut-wrenching horror tale that houses a lot of replayability.
The gameplay itself is very simple. Walk to an object, press the action button and pickup said object. You never know when you will be called upon to use that item to open a new pathway or solve a puzzle. There isn’t really any combat, just avoiding spirits from catching up to you and things of that nature. Most of the puzzles are explained in the conversations between the characters, making it a very simple and easy game to learn and play.
Corpse Party is all about the story and the little decisions you make. Some decisions can be either to read the newspaper or to walk away from it, while some can be more critical. Its all about getting the right ending and doing things in a certain pattern. This pattern is disrupted by the vast number avenues you can take as the story unfolds.
Replayability is achieved due to the unique decisions you have to make to get the right ending, and the fact that each group of students trapped in another space, meaning they may never be able to find their friends. To me, this just adds an even bigger twist to the story. With the original game being a 1996 release, and this being my first playthrough, I was more than just surprised. Here I was thinking that I was just going through a straightforward game with little to worry about and I needed to discover everything there was to find to be able to complete it. Boy, was I wrong.
Each chapter of the game has many endings. The first chapter of the game houses three separate conclusions, while the second and third have five. Each chapter following those grows exponentially. With that being said, there is a lot to discover within a chapter, within the game. This is one element that will surely draw you in, creating a sense of anxiety that will make you want to go back and do things differently simply to learn more of the fate of what was formerly called Heavenly Host Elementary School.
The visual and story aesthetics are not the only thing that is pleasing to your senses. When wearing my Corsair gaming headset, I actually had a few chilling moments where atmospheric sounds added to its creepiness. It felt as if the sound of a woman breathing was coming from behind me at times, and some sounds are added to have the effect of a jump scare. There isn’t much in terms of true jump scare moments, but with a headset on, Corpse Party seems to embrace the sound effects and only uses them when needed.
The music is also creepy and adds a good horror feel to the gameplay. When the game was re-released on PSP it had Japanese voice actors contributing to the dialogue for the game. This made it so the game would age well, which in my opinion it did just that. The voice acting is not overly used, and is placed in crucial moments as needed.
The Bottom Line
Corpse Party is an amazing game but it doesn’t come without some flaws. The writing in most of the game is satisfying, but sometimes they say and/or do things that is a little cringe-worthy, with them having a sexual conversation after seeing a few dead bodies, or just very cringy one liners, the game isn’t perfect–but is damn near it. This problem could also just be my taste, many of you may look the sexual remarks, it does add some happiness to a very dreary environment, but it could’ve been handled a little better.
Corpse Party may be a port of a ’90s game, but it was done so with care a finesse. With well-drawn illustrations of each character, a very deep and gritty story and an impressive script this game has honestly took me by surprised. As a gamer born in the time where I was always playing my Nintendo and Sega, I can appreciate the initial art direction that has carried through the years of releases. PC gaming came at a later age and I had still never heard of this small yet massive game.
With me missing the 1996 launch, and later on when it released on the PSP, I am so happy that I got to discover this brilliant game. I would recommend anyone that hasn’t taken the chance to play it, especially if you love a game drenched in darkness and horror.