You may remember Ben Latimore's review of 999. He's back again this week with a look at another Japanese visual novel that offers an experience that you wouldn't expect to get from a PSP game. Take it away, Ben!
— Corpse Party is a Japanese visual novel for the PSP that aims to invoke fear by taking the player through a deserted high school where people are sent to die. Can a PSP game pull off the horror genre with the same effectiveness as its PC or console counterparts, or do the scares fall flat on their faces ?
Genuine Scares: Considering this is a horror game, you'd want this in spades. And boy, does Corpse Party deliver. Artwork is gross and horrifying, voices are chilling to the bone, and the underlying backstory of the school simply adds to the "eek" factor, especially towards the end of the game. One of many notable factors is that through each chapter you can find the dead bodies of students that had been there before you and view the individual causes of death. And there's plenty of individual situations you can run into like this.
It's...just...freaky. I haven't had Corpse Party nightmares but I really shouldn't have played it at 11pm...I ended up staying awake until 5am.
Presentation: Corpse Party presents itself as a visual novel with an RPG twist. You walk around and interact with things and sometimes participate in chase scenes. You won't see most of the gore until it gets down to the high quality CGI drawings. But these drawings are just fantastic for the genre; definitely chilling whenever you see a picture of...anything, really. A lot can happen in this game and a true masochist (or someone who just likes torturing themselves) will want to see everything. Text and still-images come together to create a powerful and dark atmosphere that doesn’t fail to create a sense of unease.
Complex Plot: Many different forces are at work to stop (or help) this mystery school come apart at the seams, with plenty of different characters, personalities and storylines. A typical gaming session will lead to a dead end, at which point you are greeted with a “WRONG END” screen – each ending – dead or not – reveals something fascinating and allows you to collect stars, so it is worth persevering with.
Voice Acting...Where It Matters: While Corpse Party has received a very good English translation this only carries to the text, the original Japanese voices mainly dominate the sound experience. And the original actors really get into it; screams are chilling and you can definitely feel the fright in the character voices, even though they're speaking in a language you don't understand. One ending involves a character being buried alive and, oh god, it's truly painful (in a good way... :D ) to listen to.
Low Content Burn Rate: Each chapter (six in all) can have anywhere up to SEVEN different in-game endings. The down point of this however isn't the content itself, but how long it can take to reach every ending. You could spend dozens of hours finding the extra endings if you were forced to start a chapter over every time - individual chapters can have many different variables which lead to endings. Thankfully the game provides five save slots per chapter; it does take a while to figure out that using these regularly is a good idea.
Extra Chapters: The extra chapters are meant to be out-of-main-storyline pieces that give little bits of information about other characters. The first two start off interesting with their own little puzzles to solve, but by chapter 3 (of 10) the chapters become nothing but walls of text. It's not particularly bad but there's a lot of missed potential.
No Local Release: Corpse Party is currently an American-only PSN release. Australians have no way of getting it without a) making an American PSN account and buying the game or b) hacking a PSP and downloading the game illegally, which is what I did (but I eventually bought the game on an American PSN account I plan on using for my PS Vita anyway). So yeah, either you do a tedious, boring procedure every time you want to play on your own PSN account, or you void your PSP's warranty and do illegal things, just to play one of the best PSP games in a few months.
While there's definitely no way to get this game without breaking a rule here or there, Corpse Party is a fantastic horror game which does an insane amount right; and I can definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a scare. Just don't play it late at night.