Review – Corpse Party

You may not have heard of it before, but Corpse Party is actually a long-lasting franchise and proof that you can walk the distance with your passion project if you truly believe in it. This started off as an RPG Maker-developed fan game more than twenty years ago, a proof of concept to showcase you could do more than RPGs with that engine, as ironic as it sounds. It became a hit, and spawned a franchise, with sequels, anime, and actually commercial releases, including this brand new remake/remaster of the original game, courtesy of Marvelous/XSEED.

Corpse Party Naomi

Oh Japan, never change…

Corpse Party is an episodic survival horror game centered around a group of teenagers from a specific Japanese high school, as well as one of their teachers. Just like every other dumb teenager in a horror movie, they try to recreate an urban legend by walking into their (supposedly haunted) high school at night, performing a ritual. An earthquake ensues, opening the floor in front of them and transporting them to an alternate reality, full of ghosts and corpses of those who had previously tried to perform the same ritual. It’s time for the kids to find a way to get out of this nightmare, one chapter at a time.

Let me get this out of the way right from the get-go: I loved Corpse Party‘s story and premise. For a game so old and so cheaply made, I was surprised with how well-written each character was, with their own personality, fears, qualities, and so on. You can easily connect with them, even though they are just RPG Maker-ish sprites walking onscreen. The quality of the voice acting also helps in this regard, with the game being absolutely jampacked with it, even though some of it is overshadowed by the game’s soundtrack due to some bad audio mixing. Granted, the music is good, even for someone who doesn’t understand Japanese, but I would have liked to be able to listen to the dialogue regardless.

Corpse Party Switch

Corpse Party isn’t scary, but it can be unsettling at times.

Gameplay-wise, this is exactly what has been promised twenty-five years ago: an attempt to create a puzzle-focused survival horror in a JRPG engine. This is all about solving small puzzles and looking for items in a 16-bit JRPG styled map, all while dealing with the limitations and hindrances of an old RPG Maker title, namely the stuttering framerate and stiff controls. Given the game’s slow pace and focus on exploration, it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, especially when playing it in portable mode, but be aware of these limitations. Corpse Party also encourages you to create multiple save states due to its labyrinthine and consequential nature, so be ready to backtrack and make a lot of mistakes.

Is it scary? Not really, but it can be tense at times. Being stuck in a room with no resources, having to deal with a handful of teenagers crying for their lives, isn’t shiver-inducing, but it can raise your heartbeat. It’s all about the aforementioned connection with the characters. Despite their idiotic initial intentions, they aren’t bad kids, so you don’t want to see them get stuck in a parallel limbo forever. The way the game sets up its chapters also gives each character a chance to showcase their fears and strengths with enough screen time. It also fits perfectly on a portable like the Switch, since each chapter is about two hours long.

Save

Click on the candle to save your game. And create multiple save files. This game is all about trial and error.

Corpse Party is very simple, and occasionally very janky, but it has a lot of personality and heart put into it. Despite its 16-bit visuals and basic gameplay, it manages to convey a somewhat tense survival horror experience based on the limitations of a very old engine. It is very repetitive and cryptic, though, so be ready to undergo through a lot of trial-and-error sections. If that doesn’t bother you, and if you’re looking for a different take on the survival horror genre, go for it. You could do a lot worse, especially on the Switch.

 

Graphics: 7.0

It retains the visual style from the classic Corpse Party games. As in it looks like it was made on RPG Maker with some extra hand drawn stills being thrown onto you every now and then.

Gameplay: 6.0

It’s a survival horror played through the eyes and controls of an old RPG Maker title. That also includes a really clunky movement system.

Sound: 7.5

There is a lot of voice acting, but it’s usually overshadowed by the music due to poor audio mixing. Thankfully, the soundtrack itself is not bad at all.

Fun Factor: 7.0

It’s utterly simple and really janky, but it’s really well written. Its chapter-based storyline is perfect for a portable, given how each chapter can be beaten in about two hours.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Corpse Party is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Corpse Party was provided by the publisher.