Visual Novel Spotlight: Corpse Party -Rebuilt-on March 4, 2014 by Shadocchi
To celebrate my one year anniversary of writing for Rice Digital, I revisit the first game I featured and look at the version that started it all: Corpse Party -Rebuilded- (stylised as “-Rebuilt-“). Going back to the original 1996 story is a big leap from playing the PSP port of the mobile rewrite of the NEC PC-9801 version of the… It’s just a big leap.
To jump out of the infinite confusion of Corpse Party’s version history, I’ll just say that Corpse Party -Rebuilt- is the modern PC-friendly version of the original Corpse Party story. Because it’s the early version of the story we all know and might like, the cast consists of the core characters Satoshi, Naomi, Yoshiki, Ayumi and Yuka, before the cast was expanded to create more drama. Instead of messing up a charm, the characters somehow summon the vengeful spirit of Sachiko after telling a scary story at school. Once thrown into the halls of a decrepit old building, they must bump into walls and solve puzzles to escape. Let’s also forget for the sake of this spotlight series that it’s more heavy on the RPG.
Playing this game backwards – that is, playing the PSP Corpse Party and then playing -Rebuilt- – is quite the experience. While you can see the elements that were taken on board for the port(s), it feels like a much easier, less horrific game. There’s a bit less trial and error, but there’s also a bit less of everything, with not many old letters from long-dead students, hardly any corpses and less areas to explore. Although all those elements are essentially padding, it built the atmosphere and setting of the PSP Corpse Party and strengthened its story logic. In this game, the premise and larger plot are a bit weak, boiling down to just an accident which any group of students could have gotten themselves out of if they were smart enough to find shiny objects.
What doesn’t feel lacking is the music, sound effects and graphics. The game isn’t the shiny, highly detailed work that the PSP port is, but it looks just as fine and thankfully doesn’t have that blurry overworld sprite issue. It’s exactly what you’d expect from Corpse Party made in RPG Maker, though the lack of extreme darkness filter makes the tilesets pretty bright and the rooms all that much less scary. The music, apparently unaltered, is fantastic and still has that scary atmosphere with some strong beats. Accompanying that is what must be the exact same sound effects the series has been using since 1996. It gets the job done.
If you’re in it for the characters, Corpse Party -Rebuilt- offers some interesting takes on the core cast but only goes so far. It’s hard to see the characters as they are in the game, because playing the PSP version first might make you fill in for the character’s history without any real basis in -Rebuilt-. Satoshi is the one character you can’t do without but yet barely has anything going for him, and everyone else is just a bit more aggressive than their ported counterparts. Switching between groups is a lot more frequent and could have lead to more scenes, but it seems we only get a brief glimpse of the characters, even in death. It may be due to the game being a few hours long at best, but it still feels lacking in that regard.
Despite my grumbling about how the game compares to its port, Corpse Party -Rebuilt- is well-made and can stand by itself as a short horror game. It feels a lot like Ib but with more puzzles and less running away. If you ever wanted Sachiko to have a more sympathetic backstory or for the story to be less of a dramatic cluster, -Rebuilt- is a canonical godsend , and the multiple endings that allow you to continue even with dead comrades is possibly the best feature. Puzzle elements are still new (the port borrowed elements but still had original puzzles) and there are a lot more choices, opening up different dialogue and slight relationship changes. It also had a bit more fun with itself, playing with choices and introducing a sudden battle with magic powers. In the end it still feels like Corpse Party, the journey is just a little different.
Corpse Party -Rebuilt- is a nice look into Corpse Party’s history but doesn’t stand up compared to the refined (but more drama-filled) Corpse Party PSP ports. While it has refreshing features such as more frequent team switching, less tedious puzzles and the ability to continue the story despite characters dying, overall -Rebuilt- feels less scary and relatively easier. Hopping into the game for the characters is interesting yet not very insightful as interaction is kept low. But despite any grumblings about how a free indie game doesn’t stand up to a commercial port, Corpse Party -Rebuilt- is a solid game by itself.
Corpse Party -Rebuilt- is a free game for Windows and requires a fiddly RPG Runtime Package install and potentially installing a font. You can find the complete and translated game on the Memories of Fear website along with install instructions for those who may have issues. This game does work on Windows 8.1 but may have problems for those running Vista.