Publisher: XSEED / Marvelous
As an avid horror fan, I’ve always wanted to get into Corpse Party. With how many remakes and remasters the game has had since its release in the 90s, you would think that I would have played this cult hit by now. Somehow though, the new Switch version is my first time dipping my toes into Corpse Party. Better late than never I guess?
Despite all of the ports, I’m happy to report that Corpse Party still holds up incredibly well. From the intriguing story to the spooky scares, Corpse Party manages to maintain its creepiness (And limitless gore) throughout the short but memorable experience. Those who want a dash of visual novel in their retro horror games will find plenty to enjoy here.
Corpse Party takes place in a Japanese high school, where a group of high school students and their teachers decide to perform a ritual to bring each other closer. Unfortunately, a natural disaster interrupts the ritual and the classmates find themselves in a dilapidated school that once hosted a tragedy. Now they are trapped, facing a barrage of ghosts and the constant risk of an awful death.
The game is only a few chapters long, making Corpse Party an affair that will be less than 10 hours to get through. What makes it unique though are the visual novel elements infused in. There are numerous endings, with just about all of them being “Bad Ends.” Every chapter is loaded with Bad Ends that will result in the death of the main characters and players needing to restart. The majority of the game will be simply following the narrative, typically via dialogue. The gamplay tends to be a vessel to push the story forward.
There isn’t much variety in Corpse Party‘s gameplay. The game is played from a top-down perspective, and players will explore the school in an effort to progress the story. Players can interact with the environments, characters, and items throughout the school. These interactions are the key to progressing past bad endings and finishing the story. Making the wrong decisions will almost certainly always lead to a brutal ending. There is also a sort of a health bar that is affected by general scary stuff. If the controlled character goes through too much trauma through the player’s negligence, the game can end.
The core gameplay can be frustrating to some, but there is a sort of thrill in wondering if the right action is being done. There isn’t too much to do, so one isn’t feeling driven by the plot and characters, Corpse Party will likely be a dud. This is a game that’s completely driven by the story and doesn’t apologize for what it is.
A game like Corpse Party wouldn’t be able to succeed without some scares, and the presentation allows for plenty of them. The sound design in Corpse Party is excellent. From the eerie soundtrack to spine-tingling sound effects, Corpse Party delivers a genuinely spooky atmosphere. It’s not a game that relies on high definition monsters to scare the players. The horror feels genuine, and jump scares aren’t overly relied on. The presentation isn’t perfect though. The script feels overly rigid sometimes when describing horrific sights. It’s likely an issue in translation, but it’s still enough to break the immersion for a moment. It’s not a deal breaker though, it can just be inconvenient.
Once players are finally through with all of the scares and the main story, there is still plenty of fun to be had. There are collectibles for players to find that expand on some of the characters and ghosts. There are also extra missions for players to enjoy. Considering the game’s price point, there is enough value to satisfy the crowd that this game appeals to.
Corpse Party's eerie atmosphere and compelling narrative make it a solid game to check out for horror fans. Even in 2021, this classic title still has plenty to offer to the genre.