• Review: Corpse Party Book of Shadows


    Corpse Party: Book of Shadows

    Developer: 5pb
    Publisher: XSEED Games
    Platform: PlayStation Portable
    Genre: Horror, Adventure
    Rating: Mature
    Release Date: January 15, 2013

    Fate is amazingly fickle. Imagine being tossed into a living nightmare, watching your closest friends die, while you survive and live on. You cannot speak of your horrors to others, because they have no memory of what happened. Friends you loved dearly are not only dead, but the very memory of their existence has been utterly removed from the world. Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is a sequel to the original Corpse Party, yet it explores alternate timelines and events set prior to the original game. This time around, who will be spared the wrath of Heavenly Host Elementary School?

    Opening the game we see one of the survivor’s from the previous game, Naomi, struggling with her trauma. Seiko, her closest friend, perished in the hell of Heavenly Host. Her concerned mother tries to tell her daughter that Seiko was simply her imaginary friend from childhood. Due to Naomi's depression, her mother calls her daughter's psychiatrist. He urges her to continue working with Naomi to help her grow out of childhood and accept that her friend is nothing more than a figment of her imagination.

    Seiko's image burned out of existence, even on Naomi's phone

    The game shifts from the prologue to the first chapter, beginning from there a day before the Kisagari Academy students are plunged into hell; the cast of characters gather once more after the school’s culture festival to bid a classmate farewell. Everyone, Seiko included, is alive and well. Naomi cannot shake a feeling that something seems weirdly familiar, but at first brushes this aside as simply being the dregs of high school life. A believer in occult stories, the class representative gathers the friends together to perform the Sachiko Ever After charm, thinking this will bind them all together forever. Satoshi, one of the main characters from the previous game, recalls the horror that befell them last time, and attempts to prevent the charm from taking place. Only his memory is fully intact. His attempts are futile. Naomi herself claims she feels a weird déjà vu, but she continues to go along with the charm. Once more everyone is transported to Heavenly Host Elementary School, a school long since demolished existing in an alternate, hellish realm.

    Events from the previous game are replayed with some differences. We get to see different characters’ perspectives, new fates befall old characters. For instance, Naomi and Seiko quarrel while Naomi’s subconscious recalls the exact same situation from before. If she doesn’t apologize, Seiko will flee and meet a horrible demise. Naomi struggles to change fate, yet the dark spirits prevent her from speaking out. Literally the poor heroine is choked as her mouth and throat are filled with human hair. Still determined, Naomi forces herself to find a way to save her friend from death. Those doomed to die and those lucky enough to have escaped may all fall under the curse and lose their souls to Heavenly Host this time. As more chapters open, new characters outside the original cast are brought in. Some mere corpses in the original, others help provide a deeper background to side characters. Even they now have a chance to alter their fates, but will that happen?

    Book of Shadows is presented as a visual novel in most aspects, meaning the game is very heavily story driven. The game touches on themes that some western developers may shy away from, such as the sexuality of young students (in some cases these are same-sex and one even hints at incest). Let’s not ignore the violence. Whether self-inflicted, self-defense, or outright ruthless slaughter, Corpse Party Book of Shadows pulls no punches. Because of the visual novel influences the descriptions in the text are written as visceral as the imagery, going out of its way to describe lengthy torture and brutalizing agony. Obtaining the gruesome “bad endings” is actually thoroughly encouraged owing to the fact that you can unlock more content such as still in the CG gallery, and quite frankly choices one may think would be correct are those that often lead to someone’s demise. The spoken portions of the game remain in Japanese, yet the actors perform with excellent delivery. The addition of voice acting, even in Japanese, gives Books of Shadows another one up from its predecessor, which lacked any sort of spoken dialogue.

    Be prepared to be overloaded with gore-filled images. Unapologetic about the graphic deaths, the game boasts horrible ends for some of the cast ranging from being completely torn into pieces, evisceration, or having eyes gouged out and tongues violently torn from mouths. What’s even worse is when you realize some of the dead are elementary school students. The creators sought to go above and beyond the deaths featured in the first game. Survive the last game? How about being impaled by scissors? Or would you rather be beaten to death? Those don’t sound gruesome enough? Challenge accepted. You can sample the buffet of torment in living long enough to see you friends die, then after hours of torture lose your soul to become another hungry spirit stalking the nightmare realm looking for more people to kill.

    Junior high school student wading through corpses? Pretty much the norm

    Despite the heavy presence of the visual novel aspect of the game, Book of Shadows also includes some adventure style gameplay in the “Search mode” portions of the game. Unlike the original game which featured a more classic RPG, third person exploration system, you are now able to look around your settings in a more first person oriented point and click style. Choices you make ten minutes into a chapter may not have any consequences until much later, adding to a certain level of trial and error. At times you may need to try several different options to avoid getting a bad ending in one way or another.

    What the game lacks in gameplay is made up for in story, for those with the stomach for it. In Japan the Corpse Party’s popularity spawned sequels (Book of Shadows included) and manga adaptations. Although the game’s penchant for horrific violence may turn some away, others may cast the game aside because it is a visual novel. Book of Shadows deserves to be played, however, if only to explore the what-ifs and see from the game’s events from new characters. The story itself is very well written and all the characters given a fair amount of treatment. While grisly the artwork has a beauty of its own. The game creates tension amazingly well, giving the horror game genre a nice boost. At times making a choice and receiving a bad end could be frustrating, but the good way that spurns you on into playing more, making you want to achieve success and save yourself along with your friends. If you have a save from the previous Corpse Party, the CG gallery images will carry over to your new game. As another added bonus, text can be skipped upon completing chapters, cutting down on time if you're playing simply to unlock new content and endings.

  • Review Scale

    Score 10- Flawless Victory: A score not handed out to every game. Games earning this rare score sit at the very pinnacle of excellence. These games act as the examples for which all others should be measured with. They are instant classics from the beginning. These games not only deliver what was expected of it, but also exceed the player’s expectations. The game’s features are innovative and original. No game is without its absolute flaws, but the finished product you bring home surpasses the anticipation the game has formed. A day one buy is a must. The game you hold in your hands with this score is a video game jackpot.

    Score 9 - 9.5- Outstanding: Games earning scores such as these absolutely must be played. Games that achieve this high ranking do so because they define the genres that they are in. Flaws are few and barely noticeable. Features seen in the game have been renovated to provide something new and fresh. The story, gameplay, graphics, and lasting appeal are all fantastic and is reason enough to bring the game home and to enjoy with family and friends. Every penny you spend on the game is so worth it.

    Score 8 - 8.5- Great: Any flaw the game may possess is overshadowed by its fun factor. These games would be great for gamers to play. These great games appeal to gamers more and more outside its normal player base because of what it brings to the table.

    Score 7 - 7.5- Good: Flaws do exist in these games, but the positive features of the game can counterbalance the flaws. Additionally, players who are predisposed to liking a game of a particular series or genre with this score should enjoy the game. These are in no way bad games, and much fun can be had with them. An overall good game is worth taking a look at, whether you are willing to buy the game or rent it first. That or you can also wait for the game to reach a good price.

    Score 6 - 6.5- Decent: Games falling into this category may suffer from numerous flaws (for example, graphics or gameplay), but are still worth playing. Granted, the player should be aware that a game with these scores may not guarantee them full satisfaction.

    Score 5 - 5.5- Average: An average game is one in which a game’s features are neither good nor completely terrible. Instead, the finished product is manageable. Little has been done to hold the player’s interest. If anything, rent this game before you consider buying it so that you can at least get a feel for the game’s overall experience.

    Score 4 - 4.5- Poor: Games falling into this category may only keep gamers entertained for a short while. While the game may seem enjoyable for moments at a time, it can quickly grow old and may never be revisited again. The game’s overall function is lacking in quality and may not hold the player’s attention for long. The game leaves little or nothing else to return back to.

    Score 3 - 3.5- Bad: If any positive qualities about a game in this category exist, it is not enough to redeem the game for its shortcomings. Sure you may find yourself playing it, but for how long? You will wind up not giving the game a second glance.

    Score 2 - 2.5- Horrible: Games such as these may not be totally unplayable, they nearly are. Additionally, they may lack, or greatly suffer in, the fundamental functionality of the software as a whole. The game simply does not come close to meeting industry standards at the time of its release.

    Score 1 - 1.5- Appalling: Gamers should avoid this game at all costs. The game was clearly not ready to make its way to store shelves in its status. Save your money and find something else. See it in the bargain bin? No! Stay away! Keep moving and look for something else.