When we think of visual novels what are the first things that pop into our minds? Top-heavy anime girls? Dating sims? Ecchi content? How about a horror novel that is not afraid to describe the gruesome and painful deaths of an innocent group of friends and their teacher? This is Corpse Party, the first PSP visual novel to come to the US from Japan. Published by 5pb., and developed by Team GrisGris, American localization publisher XSEED thought that this game would be a great addition to their library. As it is already at a disadvantage for being in a genre that few gamers have experienced and with the PSP on its way out, can Corpse Party show us what we have been missing or will it fade away and die a gruesome death like its characters?
Looks Can Be Deceiving - Don’t let the 16-bit styled graphics or the semi-moe looking characters fool you; Corpse Party is a scary and bloody game. The game takes place on the grounds of a haunted elementary school where four little kids were kidnapped and brutally murdered. Since then, students have been disappearing and ending up dead in the school. It is here were we meet eight students and one teacher. On a rainy night, they are telling ghost stories and having fun with one student who is transferring to another school when an earthquake occurs, throwing them into the haunted school and their decent into madness.
It's In the Sound - Since the game has 16-bit style graphics, Corpse Party uses different techniques to convey horror and gruesomeness. All of the sound and voice actors were binaural recorded. Binaural recording uses two microphones and mixing to create a 3D stereo sound effect. This gives the listener (or in this case the player) the sensation of being in the same room with the voice actors. By having this type of recording done, players get a feeling as if they are in the school. Many times while I was playing, I thought someone else was in the room with me, when it was just the game. The music also helps set the mood, starting off at a slow pace and then picking up with a modern tone, almost as if it was announcing your doom.
Afraid of the Unknown - It’s a common thing in most horror movies to not show who or what is killing people until the last scenes. Not knowing where or when the thing will strike creates lots of tension and scares. Corpse Party takes this concept and applies it to its story and gameplay fairly well. Being a visual novel, Corpse Party has its share of wrong endings, and not knowing if that left turn down the hall will lead to wrong ending amps up the tension. Speaking of wrong endings…
Budget Priced - A majority of new PSP games that are on UMD get a price point of $39.99, while digital forms of the same games are $29.99. XSEED has priced Corpse Party at $19.99, which is a really great price for a niche title. This entices people that may be curious about the game to buy it and then get the stuffing scared out of them.
Uncommon Niche- Visual novels, live Corpse Party, are currently a niche genre in Western gaming. The games in the visual novel genre are released so few and far between in the US that they have yet to catch on here.
I Think We're Lost - Most visual novels keep track of the choices you have made during the game so that when you go for a second play through, you can achieve a different ending by making different choices. Corpse Party doesn’t have that feature and more than once you will be seeing the same ending, while not knowing what you did wrong. This can get annoying when you are trying to get the good ending and unlocking extras.
Corpse Party clocked in at around 10 hours with only good endings, about 15 hours getting wrong endengs and 20 hours when playing the extra chapters. The game is pretty short if you have a guide with you but I suggest looking at one only when you get the same ending more than twice. Other than that, I was surprised at how the game managed scare and disturb me even with simple graphics and excellent sound design. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of Corpse Party (there are two more games in Japan) and the visual novel in general. If you are curious about what a visual novel on the PSP is like, then download this game.