One of the surprise localizations of 2011 is 5pb’s horror game Corpse Party. Xseed licensed the PSP version from 5pb, making Corpse Party the first 5pb game to leave Japan. Why did Xseed want to bring Corpse Party stateside and what kind of horror game is this? Localization specialist Tom Lipschultz explains.
When did Xseed first decide to pick up Corpse Party?
Tom Lipschultz, Localization Specialist: Interesting story, actually, as I’m… kind of the man to blame for that! Heheh…
Basically, I troll Japanese PSN pretty regularly, looking for cool new PS1 classics to buy or PSP demos to download. One day, not too long after Halloween, I see a new demo for a game called Corpse Party: BloodCovered: …Repeated Fear (yep, in Japan, that’s the full title!). Being a huge fan of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and Umineko no Naku Koro ni, the description and screenshots immediately intrigue me, so I download the demo and absolutely fall in love with it.
I go into work the next day and start raving about it, but as my coworkers can attest to, I do that all the time, as I’m admittedly a pretty big video game fanboy. But this time is different, because I actually like the game enough that I go to the trouble of tracking down its Japanese LE (which is actually very difficult to do, as that LE went out-of-print shockingly fast!) and importing it. Once I get my copy in, I lend it to our marketing guy for a demo run… and he likes it just as much as I do (to his unending surprise, perhaps?). He then passes it along to the company president, who also really enjoys the game… and then, suddenly, we’re all asked to play it for an hour or two and give feedback. And unanimously, everyone in the company pretty much loves it!
So, only a few short months after its Japanese release, our president – in response to the incredibly positive feedback we provided to him – was already making plans to meet with 5pb and negotiate a license.
So, Corpse Party has students trapped in a haunted elementary school and one of the students lets him or her eat them so the other can live on… Tom you have a lot of details to fill in. What’s going on here? Who are these characters and how can they survive this horrific ordeal?
Yeah, the one question I’ve been asked the most all days has been, “What the hell kind of game is this, anyway?!” And that’s a pretty fair question, as the teasers we’ve released so far are much more centered around atmosphere and mood than anything else.
So, here’s Corpse Party in a nutshell.
Gameplay-wise, the easiest way to describe Corpse Party is as a 16-bit-style RPG, sans battles. At any given point in time, you’re controlling a party of one to three 2D sprite-based characters and wandering the 2D tile-based halls of Heavenly Host Elementary School. You can examine virtually anything in any of the classrooms, talk to spirits, search the corpses of dead children for some clue as to their identities (morbidly enough, you actually collect their school ID name tags as sort of a game-spanning side quest – gotta catch ‘em all!), flip switches, pick up items, use items, etc. – all the stuff you’d do in a typical 1990s JRPG, only without random battles getting in your way.
Instead of fighting, you’re making decisions. And not just multiple-choice options of things to say (though those exist as well, of course), but also decisions as to what rooms you will and will not enter, what objects you will and will not search, what order in which to accomplish certain tasks, etc. And all of these decisions ultimately determine how the current chapter of the story will end for you. There are no game over screens in Corpse Party – only bad endings (read: horrible deaths), each of which is lengthy and detailed, and completely unique. And while this concept may sound a bit unfair on paper, the game really never fails to give you all the clues you need to get by.
As an example, there are loose pages you find throughout chapter 2 that comprise what the game refers to as a “Victim’s Memoirs.” They actually describe one boy coming to terms with having cannibalized his good friend to stay alive (sound familiar?). Well, there’s a haphazardly-written sign on the wall near one of the Victim’s Memoirs that tells you, in no uncertain terms, that you absolutely should not read them to their conclusion, or horrible things may happen. If you choose to disregard this warning, then right after you read the very last page…
…well, you’ll have to play the game to find out what happens. But suffice it to say, it’s a very long story scene that results in some very gruesome, very disturbing things. And hey, the game warned you it would happen! You can’t say it didn’t!
Story-wise, Corpse Party begins with a group of high-schoolers telling ghost stories in a darkened classroom. They speak of Heavenly Host Elementary School – a supposedly cursed school building that was torn down 20 years prior, and upon the grounds of which the very high school they now attend is standing. We quickly learn that one of these students will soon be moving away, so as a last gesture of friendship, the occult fanatic in the group asks everyone to participate in a ritual called “Sachiko Ever After,” which is supposed to ensure that they’ll all remain friends forever and ever. But if they screw it up, then the ritual’s namesake, Sachiko, will supposedly get angry and place a curse upon them.
Needless to say, something goes horribly wrong. An enormous earthquake rumbles the building, causing the floor to cave in and everyone to black out. When they awake, they find themselves separated and in unfamiliar surroundings. Specifically… they’re all now trapped within some sort of inescapable ghostly representation of Heavenly Host Elementary School, surrounded by corpses and vengeful, murderous child spirits. All they can do is search for one another and try to find some clue as to how they got here, where exactly “here” is, and whether or not there’s any hope of finding a way out.