Corpse Party is one of the earliest Japanese horror games to come out, and still manages to be a terrifying journey today.
|Console||NEC PC-9801, PC, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo 3DS, Apple iOS|
|Developer||Team GrisGris, 5pb, unknown user (-Rebuilt- version)|
|Publisher||Kenix Soft, Team GrisGris, Marvelous USA, 5pb|
|Genre||Survival horror, RPG|
|Release Year||1996 – 2016|
|Purchase (3DS)||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase (PC)||Purchase from Humble Store.|
If you’ve been into Japanese media lately or had a strong interest in RPG Maker games, chances are that you heard of Corpse Party. Though it was a franchise that started small, it had a cult following building up over time. It was strong enough to eventually warrant a short manga and an anime OVA, not to mention a remake for the Nintendo 3DS.
Corpse Party can be considered the grandfather of RPG Maker horror games, predating games like Ao Oni, Yume Nikki, Misao, The Witch’s House, Ib, Mad Father, The Crooked Man… I mean, holy crap! There are so many of these types of games out there!
The original Corpse Party (called CORPSE-PARTY originally) came out on the NEC PC-9801, a Japanese personal computer that was really expensive at the time of its release. With a launch price of 298,000 yen, it would be approximately the equivalent of 3,000 U.S. dollars in today’s world economy. Good fucking god. I thought Apple’s iMacs were pretty pricey.
Some neat trivia: NEC is one of the companies behind the creation of the TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine game console. That’s a good sign. No, I’m not being sarcastic. The TurboGrafx-16 is a good console.
But since I have no way of playing the absolute original game, I just so happen to find a faithful fan remake of the game called Corpse Party -Rebuilt-. The great thing is that this game is free to download and it has a good English translation, making it fairly accessible to anyone who has no idea on what this franchise is.
The mysterious thing about this remake is that the actual developer is unknown. While Team GrisGris made the original game, -Rebuilt- was created by an anonymous user from a Japanese message board with permission from the original developer. Sort of like how Yume Nikki was created by KIKIYAMA, whose identity is largely unknown.
Corpse Party -Rebuilt-
Corpse Party -Rebuilt- begins with a short prologue with four Japanese high school students talking about a short horror tale of an adolescent girl, who died after falling from a long height at her school. The group is doing renovations at their high school during one rainy night and they were later joined by a younger girl. After hearing a mysterious voice echo through the school, the five students find themselves transported to a more ancient and decrepit version of their school.
They learn that this evil place was created by numerous vengeful spirits, among them a ghost girl in a red dress named Shinozaki. From there on out, the events become a deadly series of trial-and-error decisions that will determine the fate of the students.
The following students are:
- Satoshi Mochida – the main protagonist of the game with a cowardly streak, but is also a natural leader.
- Naomi Nakashima – Satoshi’s tomboyish friend with a stubborn disposition.
- Ayumi Shinozaki – Satoshi’s classmate and his class representative. She has a love for telling ghost stories.
- Yoshiki Kishinuma – Satoshi’s classmate with a rebellious air to him.
- Yuka Mochida – Satoshi’s naive younger sister who looks and tends to act younger than she really is (she’s 14).
Though the original game came out in 1996, the English translation of -Rebuilt- made it pretty clear that there was an ambitious story in the works.
The game plays in an overhead view like your basic RPG. You control two groups of students in separate areas of the school, where you must collect objects, solve puzzles and activate events to move the story forward. It’s a fairly straightforward game where the main difficulty is just exploring the school and finding out what you are supposed to do next.
The story also progresses differently depending on what choices you make and whether any of your characters get killed off.
Though the visuals are simplistic, there’s definitely an atmosphere to the game. While they’re not outright horrific for the most part, there is a level of creepiness that adds to the game’s appeal. The soundtrack also does its job well in selling the atmosphere.
Why does this one sound like “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Maybe a coincidence. “Californication” came on in 1999. The original Corpse Party came out in 1996.
And of course, we have the death sequences themselves. Even with the pixel art, the game can get pretty graphic. The characters can get killed off in a brutal fashion, such as mutilation and burning alive.
But what stands out in particular is the plot. At the time, there weren’t many prominent tales about Japanese onryou in popular culture. We have Kayako Saeki from the Ju-on/The Grudge series and Sadako Yamamura (a.k.a. Samara Morgan from The Ring), both characters conceptualized around 1998. Technically, Sachiko Shinozaki existed before both of these prominent onryou characters.
The plot is quite original and the characters are written pretty well. I like the character interactions and even that crazy ass love-pentagon. The writing feels ahead of its time. There are also seven different endings, only one of which counts as a “good” ending.
In spite of those endings, I think it’s worth playing through them as they each reveal some more backstory and personality from the characters. Kudos to the mystery developer who recreated the original game for the English-speaking audience. I salute you for your dedication.
Corpse Party: BloodCovered – PC Edition
Next, we have Corpse Party BloodCovered. This is basically an enhanced PC remake of the original game that came out in Japan in 2008, though it was a port of an incomplete mobile phone remake called Corpse Party: NewChapter (released in 2007). In North America, it came out in early 2016… for some odd reason. It doesn’t make much sense because we got the even better version of the game beforehand. And that was for the PlayStation Portable.
Still, I won’t complain too much. This is the edition of the game that brought the series to fame, so let’s see what we have.
While the remake recycles some of the characters and plot elements, it feels like a larger scale and more complete game. There are many more subplots and new characters to explore with an expanded universe.
And yes… that art style is really out of place in a game about brutal murders, entrapment, hopelessness and loneliness. It’s a weird version of the super deformed art style where the characters’ eyes take up 50% of their face (in Yuka’s case, 90%). Thankfully, it’s not a real deal-breaker. It’s used somewhat sparsely, and the smaller portraits of the characters work out a little better (though pixelated and blurry). The sprites are also well made, so the overall art direction is not too bad here. It could’ve been a lot worse.
The premise is quite similar to the original game’s. The story follows a group of students from Kisaragi Academy Senior High, who recently attended a culture festival. While cleaning up, the students perform a charm called Sachiko Ever After.
Things take a turn for the worse when everyone is mysteriously spirited away to a dark, decrepit version of Heavenly Host Elementary School. The school is full of spirits of deceased students, some of which are vengeful and despise life. Among them are the mysterious child spirits, who seem to hold the most power in this dark realm. Furthermore, everyone is separated into different planes of existence, preventing them from meeting one another.
For your convenience, here is our updated cast:
- Satoshi Mochida – a sociable young man who bears traits of a responsible leader.
- Naomi Nakashima – a headstrong and passionate girl who likes to take charge of situations.
- Ayumi Shinozaki – the class representative and a girl with a love for the occult and scary stories.
- Yoshiki Kishinuma – a delinquent with little interest in school who has a not-so-subtle crush on Ayumi.
- Yuka Mochida – Satoshi’s innocent and naive little sister.
- Seiko Shinohara – a new character introduced as Naomi’s best friend; a bright and energetic girl with a perverted sense of humor.
- Mayu Suzumoto – a new character introduced as a kindhearted classmate. At the beginning of the game, she was set to transfer to a new school due to problems at home.
- Sakutaro Morishige – a new character introduced as a calm and mysterious young man, with a hidden sadistic side. Has a close friendship with Mayu.
- Yui Shishido – a new character introduced as the assistant homeroom teacher of the students. A friendly young woman who genuinely cares about her students as if they are her own children.
The great thing about this remake is that the story is so much darker. The original game showed a small bit of gore and a lot of deceased spirits, but the Corpse Party remake… is a lot of corpses and deceased spirits.
Heavenly Host Elementary School isn’t just an empty shell of a school. It’s a realm that literally induces despair and hatred to those unfortunate enough to be trapped inside. It is a cursed plane of existence, where everyone who enters will die an excruciating death. And the pain experienced at the moment of death will remain, torturing the victims for eternity.
In other words, this game is going to make you cry. A lot. Just as you are getting attached to the characters, you get to see them die in the most horrific ways.
Close. It’s a horror GAME.
Along with the unsettling events, Corpse Party for the PC introduced a deeper mystery behind the disappearances of students from various schools and the true residents responsible for the horrific killings. And only by solving this mystery can the students narrowly escape their fates.
The gameplay elements are nearly identical to the original game’s. Corpse Party for the PC is also an exploration game where you must investigate the various areas of Heavenly Host Elementary School and trigger specific cutscenes to advance the story. And of course, some puzzle-solving.
However, the game can get frustrating at times. You may be unable to progress simply because you didn’t interact with a specific object or didn’t trigger a certain cutscene. It’s a little picky that way. Fortunately, this is uncommon so you won’t be stuck for long.
There are a total of five chapters, all of which have multiple endings. The majority of these endings are bad endings, or Wrong END as the game calls them. To experience the full game, you would want to trigger as many endings as possible to see the different possible outcomes.
Some endings require you to perform specific actions, such as looking at a spirit in the eyes or reading memoirs left behind by the dead. And because all characters have 30 hitpoints, there are also places where they take damage and die just like in a RPG.
The multiple endings are a great way to explore the personalities and backstories of our heroes. However, each chapter has one canon ending—some may have secret canon endings. To get the real storyline, your best policy is to simply explore as much as possible, collect as much as possible and not die. It’s more straightforward than it sounds. The game can be quite linear in its design, and most of the ways to die are obvious. Just be sure to save often.
As you unlock more wrong endings and complete as much of the game as possible, you can also unlock four extra chapters. These are short scenarios that explore the backstories of our main characters, as well as introducing side stories that are not related to the main plot at hand. For example, some of the extra chapters will depict past victims from other schools that have also found themselves trapped in Heavenly Host.
For whatever reason though, this version of Corpse Party has one unique extra chapter called Tooth. This is actually a preview chapter for the spinoff game Corpse Party: Book of Shadows for the PSP, where it is one of the main chapters. It explains the backstories of Yuuya Kizami and Tohko Kirisaki.
Yuuya appears in the main game as an important character, but Tohko is a particularly mysterious minor character who only appeared for specific endings of the game. So seeing this particular extra chapter in the game is a welcome addition, especially considering it’s a brief but heartbreaking sidestory that spelled the end for yet another group of high school students.
Furthermore, Corpse Party for the PC has a wonderful sound design. The majority of character dialogue is voiced, and you can tell that the Japanese voice actors are giving their all to breathe life into the characters. The background music also comes with the gloom and doom we expected, as well as some beautiful pieces.
There is also a track I really liked called “Eternal Prayer,” which seems to be an exclusive song featured in the PC version of Corpse Party. It plays during the final stretch in the game. And it’s a real shame that it got removed in later versions, because it’s a beautiful song that really fits the tone and atmosphere of this particular part of the game.
Interestingly enough, the performer of this song is named Nari Amatoya. There is a side character in the game with that exact name (the stern middle school girl who is friends with Nana Ogasawara and Chihaya Yamase).
So with this knowledge, this suggests that some characters in Corpse Party—seen or not—were named after staff members or doujin members. There was an unseen character named Tomoe Mizuki, who was named after the recording engineer of Corpse Party BloodCovered.
And of course, the anime adaptation depicts the principle of Kisaragi Academy to be named after the series creator, Makoto Kedouin. This conversation may be tangential but it’s always interesting to read up on this kind of stuff.
While the original game was already pretty good, Corpse Party BloodCovered feels like a more complex and fulfilling game. Even with its flaws, it’s still a good version of the game to play.
Of course, that’s not the end of it.
Corpse Party BloodCovered: …Repeated Fear – PSP Edition
Next up, let’s discuss Corpse Party BloodCovered: …Repeated Fear. This is the name of what is by far the latest rendition of the first Corpse Party.
Though Corpse Party BloodCovered for the PC and mobile phones made the series popular in Japan, Corpse Party BloodCovered: …Repeated Fear for the PlayStation Portable is the game that got the attention of western audiences. And it came out as early as 2010 in Japan, 2011 in America and Europe.
The most noticeable difference about this version of the game is the improved artwork, including better background graphics, better character designs, and the addition of CG pieces during dialogue. The characters have a much less chibi-esque appearance and take on more realistic proportions. And this really helps with the game’s most dramatic moments, where we see the characters losing their sanity or losing their lives.
Some of the voiceovers are redone by professional voice actors. There are also some new wrong endings and ten unlockable extra chapters (since Tooth was featured in Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, it’s not in this game). So characters can die in new ways and you get even more backstory for specific characters.
It’s very much the same game as the PC version, with numerous improvements. However, it is only available on the PlayStation Network outside of Japan. So it’s still possible to get your hands on this copy of the game—well, not literally. But as of this month, you have yet ANOTHER option.
Corpse Party BloodCovered: …Repeated Fear – 3DS Edition
And finally, we have the 3DS version of BloodCovered: …Repeated Fear. As of now, it’s the most recent release of the game. The Back to School Edition goes for about $50 and includes the game, a soundtrack CD and figurines of Naomi Nakashima and Seiko Shinohara. How adorable.
Of course, I can’t get those figurines to stand up correctly. I tried using the blue stands, but I seem to be unable to fit them inside. I was wondering if I was just being a noob (since I don’t really collect figurines), but it turns out some consumers have the same problem as me. And for some, they were able to fit the girls’ little feet into the holes of the stands. Maybe I’ll try again if I’m feeling more brave, but I’m in no hurry.
As expected, the 3DS game is an enhanced port of the PSP game. It comes with sharpened graphics, retouched sound design, new wrong ends, and four new extra chapters (totaling up to 14 extra chapters).
It also uses the touchscreen as the menu, though I have to admit that bright white background is a little immersion-breaking. On the other hand, it’s helpful for quickly viewing the student name tags you collected, the items you collect, a backlog to review past conversations, and a quick save feature.
The unfortunate thing about the new extra chapters is that they lack voice acting, which makes them feel incomplete in a way. Still worth seeing considering they’re new content and they involve new character interactions, but I was a tad disappointed by the lack of voices.
You might be wondering that since this is published on a Nintendo console, you were expecting some form of censorship. Well, as far as I know, THERE ARE NONE. You can play this game with all the gore, adult themes, torture/death scenes, coarse language, fan service, and whatever intact. Isn’t that just wonderful?
Oh, and the game sounds amazing with earphones on.
So with so many iterations of the same game, which one should you play? Well, let’s review real quick.
- Corpse Party -Rebuilt- – faithful recreation of the original game and a different experience from the retail versions of the remake; still worth playing if you’re interested
- Corpse Party (PC) – weakest version of the remake with some odd artistic choices; can play on high resolution and has a slightly different Chapter 5
- Corpse Party (PSP) – originally the definitive version with its superb artwork and extra content; not so accessible nowadays
- Corpse Party (3DS) – comes with pretty much everything the PSP version has, but is easier to get a physical copy of. Also comes with nice physical goodies, more extra content, touch screen functionality, etc.
Well, the answer is obvious. Get the 3DS version. It’s one of the most accessible editions of the game and it has the highest amount of content with the best visuals and sound design. Plus you get cute figurines and a music CD.
So there you have it. The first Corpse Party is a game with a long history, starting off as an RPG Maker game on an obscure Japanese gaming computer and ends up being a cornerstone of Japanese horror games. So if you’re planning to pick up a 3DS copy of the game, you’re playing something that was 20 years in the making. And on its surface, you wouldn’t have known this unless you read up on it. That’s how good this game’s formula is. It aged quite gracefully and it’s still fun to play today.
So with Corpse Party now on the Nintendo 3DS, let’s hope it reaches a wider audience.
And with that said, this concludes my horror game marathon for 2016. I have published 35 reviews in succession and have done a lot of horror gaming for the past few months. I am happy to have discovered so many wonderful titles, and I hope you will find something you may like too. So have a happy Halloween and leave a comment if you want me to take a look at specific horror titles for next year. I may or may not do this kind of event again, but we’ll see where it goes from here.
Corpse PartyPrice Varies
- The exploration-based gameplay still works today, with plenty of obstacles puzzles to keep you busy.
- In the original game, the graphics were simple. But as more improvements come along, the visuals are now eye-catching and wondrous.
- The characters are identifiable, which makes it easier for us to experience the terror as our favorites get killed off in the most horrific ways.
- The plot is a mix of classic Japanese horror with some mysteries added in for good measure.
- The soundtrack and background noises really add a lot to the game's atmosphere, which is much better with earphones on.
- The Japanese voiceovers do a great job in conveying the appropriate emotions, even when you don't understand a lick of Japanese.
- The game is rather picky about which items you pick up and which cutscenes you trigger. And if you don't follow its requirements, you'll have a tricky time moving the story forward.
- In the PC version's case, the art design of the characters feels out of place with the rest of the game.
- In the PSP version's case, the lack of a NA/EU UMD.