Corpse Party

The same top down perspective, 16-bit “retro” visuals, the pile of gore smashed against that one hallway, and more infamously, the exact same “butter up my pooper” non sequitur. I don’t know what I expected but aside from a few visual differences, Team GrisGris’ Corpse Party for the PC is almost the exact same game I reviewed in 2012. I guess I shouldn’t really say “almost” because, technically, it is the same game. What separates this game from the PSP is that this is one step closer to the original game that came out in the late 1990s. PC gamers may be happy to have a fully translated, legit Western copy of the classic visual novel but for those already on board the Corpse Party train, there’s little reason to dip back into this bloody well.

For the unaware, Corpse Party is a visual novel that charts the unfortunate series of events that befall a handful of students from Kisaragi Academy. While staying late at school - on a dark and stormy night, even - one of the kids mimics a spiritual ritual to summon the spirits of those who died in a series of murders that gripped the heavenly Host Elementary School, which was demolished after the crimes only for Kasaragi to be built atop its hallowed grounds. Although the intent of  the ritual was in jest, it causes a massive earthquake that magically transports the students to the corporeal ruins of Heavenly Host. Stranded in a building overflowing with malevolent energy, the students must work together to find a way back home before they are all killed.

The visual novel format means that a fair share of the game is spent reading through text prompts that help advance the story and shed some light on the game’s world building. There’s very little control outside of navigating the school and making the occasional decision that can affect the outcome of the ending. As the story progresses, you’ll switch back and forth between the nine boys and girls as they experience the same paranormal threats from their perspectives. There are also a few “chase” scenes that involve escaping ghosts and spirits that can injure characters by touch. These chase moments aren’t the most entertaining things to do because of the limited four way movement system which can complicate escapes from tight quarters. They can be really annoying until you figure out the trick - enemies appear to imitate your movement patterns - but they’re not very fun. Aside from these chases, gameplay is most presented through searching abandoned hallways and dilapidated rooms for clues and narrative triggers. Actions can influence who dies and how the story ends, meaning anything you do could lead to the deaths of others. These moments aren’t always telegraphed but it’s a nice way to encourage replays. However, the idea of playing through the same plodding story again didn’t excite me in 2012 and doesn’t excite me now.

The Steam edition of Corpse Party is the 2008 remake of the original game. Not to be a snob, but I largely prefer the PSP release because of its how great the character profiles and portraits look. Even the death scenes were nicely illustrated. The jump back does the game no favors given how exaggerated the characters appear in their portraits that are in stark contrast to the clean, detailed look of the modern update. This edition of the game isn’t without technical marvels. For pivotal scenes, the cast is fully voiced using Japanese voice actors. For a moment, I wondered if it were the same men and women who voiced the PSP characters but then again, I have a hard time differentiating the Japanese language when spoken by multiple people. Given the differences between the two games, I wonder why Steam didn’t just port the updated game instead.

The only people I see picking up Corpse Party for the PC are fans of Japanese horror and visual novels as well as fans that want to every remake and reversion of the game. If you’ve played one of the game’s iterations or watched the anime adaptation, you already have a good idea of what to expect. This edition does boast some exclusive scenes that haven’t been released so that’s a tempting carrot to put on the stick. This is a nice get for the PC crowd but honestly, there was so much more to like about the 2012 edition that this feels lacking. If this had been the only game to come out officially in the West, then this dialog would be different. Version favoritism aside, Corpse Party does a good enough job with the technology to deliver an interesting and thoroughly Japanese story of tragedy, murder, and the paranormal.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.