Back when Corpse Party was first announced for release in the West, I was determined to get a PSP. That’s how excited I was for this one. Unfortunately funds just weren’t there at the time, and it wasn’t until a few years later that I ended up getting a Vita instead–at which point I was able to pick up this title off PSN. And the rest, is history? Corpse Party is one of my favorite franchises now; it’s a horror series that is really doing its own thing, and I love it.
Corpse Party is a story-driven horror game featuring lots of characters who are swept into a haunted school full of murderous ghosts. Your goal is to survive and escape obviously, but this title is famous for being quite brutal to both the various characters you control as well as everyone else you get to know and interact with. Despite not utilizing realistic graphics used for most horror titles these days, Corpse Party regardless manages to be an extremely unsettling story thanks to how far it’s willing to go with its violence, madness, and depravity. The top-notch sound editing, voice acting, music, and descriptive prose all come together to create a truly immersive experience.
Gameplay in Corpse Party is basically that of an overhead old-school adventure game in terms of exploration. You search through the haunted school, avoid ghosts and traps, and solve some puzzles in order to advance the story, which plays out much like a visual novel or RPG. Though the game is made up of pixel graphics (the original version of the game has its roots in RPG Maker), the level of detail is still quite impressive. With the blood and gore accompanied by a paragraph of detailed description, your mind will fill in all the gaps just fine for every horrific scene that plays out.
What stands out the most in Corpse Party though is the sound, which was recorded in a manner that heavily encourages the use of headphones. Basically, you will be able to hear sounds that are “up close” or “far away,” and coming from specific directions (i.e. to the left or right). Play this game in the dark, alone at night, and with no distractions! This is the ideal Corpse Party experience. I’ll also go ahead and include some praise for the voice acting itself, as I believe it’s some of the very best there’s ever been for a video game (quite possibly my #1 favorite in that regard, in fact). The kids in this title really sound genuinely terrified, and they pull off all the dialogue with such strong emotion. Screams of terror, cries of pain, cackling when succumbing to madness, out-of-breath and panicked babbling when fleeing terrors, and so on–it’s all really good. For a random example, there is one time that really stuck with me, where a character gets buried alive–and though we don’t see anything, we do get to hear him struggle for at least a couple minutes. The entire sequence sounded unnervingly convincing, and it’s Corpse Party’s willingness to go through with cruel deaths that give it the power of horror it wields with sadistic glee.
There are lots of “bad endings” in this game, which is divided into 5 chapters to play through. In order to get the “true ending” for the game, you’ll have to fulfill specific requirements in each chapter, usually by making correct choices along the way. It’s worth keeping in mind that it’s called “true ending,” not “good ending.” It’s truly a horror story you’re playing through here.
If I’m to critique the game fairly, I will note some frustrations I had with the way you have to work out how to get the true ending. Basically, it takes trial and error to figure out what actions will lead to a bad ending, and what specific things you have to do to advance to the next chapter. These specific things you have to do generally don’t seem more “correct” or smarter than alternative decisions, so it felt rather arbitrary. A spoiler-free GameFAQs guide is an easy fix for those who will find all that annoying, but still it’s something that could’ve been handled better.
Regardless, I really enjoyed this game and getting all the endings for it, and the extensive storyline has gotten me quite attached to most of the characters. Tomorrow I will review the visual novel sequel that was released for the PSP (Corpse Party: Book of Shadows), and then on Halloween I will have a first impressions post for the newly-released third entry to the story: a nice-looking Vita game titled Corpse Party: Blood Drive, which goes back to the first title’s style of gameplay.