STAFF REVIEW of Corpse Party (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 17, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Corpse Party Box art Totally not my normal type of game or genre, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Corpse Party. Having never heard of the series before, I didn’t realize how big of a following it has, not only with its handful of games since the mid 90’s, but that it’s also spawned an anime, movies, manga and even a theme park attraction. This cult horror classic has quite an interesting history, so even researching the series was quite a journey, now updated for a new generation of gamers to find and explore.

Now, even figuring out what version of Corpse Party this was turned out to be quite a puzzle. Corpse Party originally released back in 1996 on PC using classic RPG Maker software, gathering such a fan base that it eventually received a remake titled Corpse Party: Blood Covered. That remake eventually got a remaster on 3DS back in 2016 called Corpse Party: Blood Covered... Repeated Fear, adding new characters, lines and content. So this new Corpse Party (2021 release) is essentially a remaster of the previous remaster, which in itself is a remake of the original. What makes this release special is that the graphics got a substantial boost (especially when you compare to its older versions), new characters, new chapters and even added voice acting for the newly added chapters that didn’t get that treatment beforehand. Still following along?

For those like myself that are unfamiliar with the series, Corpse Party is a survival horror game that has visual novel elements, but plays unlike many other games in the genre. There are five main chapters to play through but have more than triple that in bonus chapters, almost like extra short stories. Part visual novel, part horror, Corpse Party sure is unlike any other game I’ve previously played, for better and worse.

Given that Corpse Party is so narrative heavy, I don’t want to give much of its plot away, as that is its main draw, so I’ll try and be brief and vague purposely when it comes to the story elements. A group of students from Kisaragi Academy perform a ritual called Sachiko Ever After to send off one of their classmates who are transferring to a different school. Thing is, this is basically a cursed ritual where if you don’t perform it exact and perfectly, you’re dragged into the Heavenly Host Elementary School, an alternate dimension where you probably won’t survive.

Now these students, separated from one another in completely different dimensions, must find a way to not only escape, but stay alive. Heavenly Host Elementary School has vengeful spirits though, and the only way the students will survive is if they can reveal the truth about the deaths and murders of the students that were here long before you. Finding the truth is the only way to escape, but not everyone will survive.

Each of the five main chapters all focus on different characters, and even though they are in different planes of existence, they’re also somehow connected as well. Each chapter has multiple endings, depending on choices you make along the way and even the order you do certain events. There’s a “True Ending” for each chapter, but more often than not you’ll reach one of the numerous “Wrong Endings” for some unknown reason. There are a lot of endings, but getting the “True Ending” is what you strive for to continue on, but there’s nothing anywhere that tells you how to do so exactly.

Endings are based on your actions, and even the smallest non-essential choice can lead to a bad ending, forcing a reload from your previous save. This isn’t explained anywhere and I had to resort to looking online what I was doing wrong. To say that it’s archaic and terrible game design is putting it lightly, and even after seeing what I was doing ‘wrong’, it really didn’t make all that much sense. If you enjoy reloading game saves and trying to redo your actions in numerous ways, then you’ll certainly enjoy yourself here. If not, well, expect to see a lot of “Wrong Endings”.

Given that Corpse Party is a horror game at its core, there’s plenty of gruesome and grotesque details that are explained via dialogue, and even though much of the gameplay is pixel art, there are some very dark themes within. On that note, those sensitive to or affected by murder, gore or suicide, consider this a content warning, as there are none beforehand when you start playing.

Also, there’s some very questionable writing, and I’m not sure if it’s just a byproduct of the translation from Japanese to English or not, but the attempt at injecting some humor seems completely off and out of place. In a horror game about dead students, murders and suicide one scene, the next, two of the girls are talking about how “dat ass” makes her drool, “buttering up your pooper” and needing some “butt lotion”. The main storyline is interesting and full of twists, but then you get terrible writing like this now and then that completely takes you out of the immersion and want to sigh.

Even though Corpse Party is very narrative focused, the gameplay has you exploring the school, trying to further the investigation and finding a way to survive and escape. While most of the gameplay is linear, only allowing you to get to one room or area after triggering specific events or gathering a specific item, there’s plenty of ‘wrong’ steps you can take which will prevent you from getting the “True Ending”. Played in a top-down third person viewpoint, Corpse Party generally has you going from one room to the next, searching hallways for clues and evidence of what’s happened to the deceased students you find along the way. Keep an eye out for hostile ghost and spirits though, as you be chased and pursued at times.

Exploring the school, you’ll come across objects and notes along the way. Reading notes and letters will give some back story to what happened at the school, and objects can be picked up and used when needed, like keys or crystals that save you from a gruesome death from an unexpected spirit. If, and when, you become stuck, make sure to interact with everything you see, hopefully triggering the next event and not the wrong choice to receive the bad endings. You’re only able to save at certain spots, lit candles, so make sure to utilize multiple save slots when allowed so you can trial and experiment without much backtracking.

While there’s no direct combat, your choices are what will determine the outcome of certain events and characters. As for the new and updated content, two students, Miku Shirayume and Ryoka Iwami, integrate into the overall narrative in an interesting way in their own chapters, also having some of the ‘odd’ writing and dialogue too.

The graphics have gotten an update from its original re(release), more so in crisper 16-bit pixel aesthetics and I believe updated hand drawn visuals in the visual novel portions. While there’s not much else to look at aside from the creepy school and the odd pile of bones, much of it is left to your imagination. What I didn’t expect is that all of the dialogue is fully voiced, though only in Japanese. Of course the text is in English, though I wish there was an option for English voice over. That said, Corpse Party is very dialogue heavy at times, but expect a lot of screaming, yelling, grunting and shouting anytime something remotely scary happens. The background music is very well done though, fitting for the mood based on what’s happening, though there are invisible zone lines where the music changes on a dime once you cross.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Corpse Party before starting, and even after getting a handful of different and unique endings, I still kind of don’t. I can see the appeal and why it garnered such a following if you’re a fan of the genre, though it certainly won’t be for everybody. While I question a few of its design decisions and writing, there’s plenty of content to experience in this remaster of a remaster of a remake.

**Corpse Party was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.3 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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