Corpse Party And The Psychology Of Horror

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Corpse Party And The Psychology Of Horror

We love to be scared. There’s something so primal and universal about fear, and a good horror story can really bring out the best of it, making our hearts race and our minds veer toward the darkest recesses of the human psyche. And we just keep going back for more!

Yet by the same token, horror has become so passe that we barely even react when we encounter imagery of skeletons, zombies, witches, bats, vampires and ghouls. True primal fear is hard to come by in the modern world, and this applies to video games as well. When you hear the term “horror game,” what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? Probably “zombies” since that seems to characterize much of the horror genre nowadays. Most modern horror games assault you with wave after wave of zombies, and you can typically one-shot them back to their graves. They may look scary, but when’s the last time you were actually frightened in a zombie shooter game? Maybe you had an exciting time playing one, and jumped at a handful of startling moments, but the mere fact that you’re able to defend yourself – that you have a means of fighting back – makes just about every entry in the genre less horror than action.

In many ways, classic Japanese horror is much purer. For movies, think The Ring or The Grudge. For games, think Clock Tower or Haunting Ground. They’re all about unavoidable, inevitable death. You can run, but you can’t not die. You have no weapons. Your foes are immortal. All you can do is struggle in vain to survive, and pray that each door you open – each corridor you traverse – isn’t your last.

Most of each of the aforementioned movies and games achieve true terror through sheer anticipation. You know something horrible is lurking nearby… but you have no idea when or where it will strike. When nothing happens for an extended period of time, your anxiety grows until you reach that point where you begin to think you’re out of the woods. And then — BAM! — that’s when it hits you.

Corpse Party for PSP

Corpse Party is one such horror experience. It plays out like the best of Japanese horror films, locking your nine main protagonists in an inescapable, otherworldly school building where vengeful spirits seek to end their lives in the most grisly, inhuman ways imaginable – all the while directly infiltrating their minds to drive them to paranoia, madness and suicide. The longer your characters stay in Heavenly Host Elementary School, the more utterly exhausted, certifiably insane and ravenously hungry they become, causing students to turn against one another, resort to cannibalism, hang themselves or simply suffer nervous breakdowns.
Death is inevitable.

Any hope of rescue becomes less and less likely with each passing second, causing some to resign themselves to their fates and simply accept the first chances at sweet release that come their way – which usually take very unpleasant and deeply disturbing forms.

Corpse Party for PSP

Make no mistake, there is a way out – for some, anyway. But finding it takes more time than you have, and more effort than you can reasonably expect most high schoolers to muster under such ludicrously taxing circumstances. There will be casualties, no matter what choices you make. The question is, how many will live, and how many will die? With over 20 endings (most of which are aptly-named “wrong ends”), you can expect to see (and hear) every single character in the game suffer greater cruelty than you’d ever considered possible… and try as you might to be disgusted, you will be morbidly intrigued. These deaths are so creatively sadistic, so drawn-out and convincingly acted, that you’ll hang on your unfortunate protagonists’ every knell – and will never forget the horrors to which you are subjected.

Oddly enough, Corpse Party’s 16-bit-style 2D visuals contribute to the terror. This visual style provides a sense of distance between you and the characters under your control, which has a rather chilling consequence. Effectively, you’re given more than adequate visual feedback to comprehend the exact situation that’s occurring, but since most everything is shown through animated character sprites, you’re left with the task of envisioning the gory minutiae on your own. And as any true horror fan can tell you, the human mind is capable of imagining pain and torment far more potent than anything a screen can display.

Corpse Party for PSP

Sound plays a major role in this as well. Every line of dialogue is expertly voice-acted in Japanese, and many of these lines were recorded binaurally – using two microphones instead of one, to create the illusion of a 3D soundscape. Play with headphones, and you may suddenly hear the spirits of long-dead children whispering directly into your ear. Some scenes relish in killing the lights, too, playing out entirely through squishy, unsettling noises and screams of indescribable agony that sound all too believable.

Corpse Party is scheduled for release on the PlayStation Store later this year as a PSP download. We’re sorry to have missed Halloween, but we wanted to make certain everything was perfect before unleashing this demon upon the English-speaking world.

If you’re a fan of true horror, Corpse Party will most definitely be worth the wait. But do prepare yourself: This is no hayride.

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7 Author Replies

  • I’m excited for this. Xseed has released some really cool and unique games in the past, and it seems this one won’t disappoint. The only thing I don’t really like is the lack of English voice acting, but Japanese voice acting is better than bad voice acting.

    I just hope the price will be low enough for it to sell well, especially in the crowded November month.

    • Not sure what price we’ll be giving the European version just yet, but we’ve tried to make all of our European releases nice and affordable, so I see no reason why this would be any different. ;)

      As for the voice-acting, remember, emotions cross all language barriers, so I think you’ll come to really appreciate the Japanese voices in this game — the actors all play their parts superbly.

      Thanks for the kind words, and I hope you greatly enjoy the game once it’s released!

  • No physical release for this? It’s understandable but a little bit disappointing. I should be happy about this since the Vita plays digital PSP games but I really like the PSP game cases. I will definitely be picking this up when it is released!

  • It’s weird seeing you appear on the EU Blog Tom, though I think we all hope to see more of XSEED around here!

    Really looking forward to playing this and I hope it proves the downloadable route a good source for the weird and wonderful games that wouldn’t make it in a retail environment! ; )

  • may pick this up when i get a vita but money will be tight with the console, atleast U:GA possibly Resistance and a memory card so depends on the price

  • There is a reason we don’t have the mega drive or SNES any more

  • sold, i´ll buy it i like unique weird games.

  • this looks awesome, I’m definitely going to buy this, even if there is no PS Plus discount but is it really as scary as you are trying to portray it? I’ve been disappointed by a lot of movies and games that say they are scary

    • I guess it’s a bit more “unsettling” than it is “scary.” You won’t be screaming a lot, but you WILL become rather jumpy when you play it — especially if you play with the lights off. Every little movement or sound will startle you, and I believe you’ll be “on edge” the whole time.

      That’s just my experience, of course… but considering that I, too, have always felt that horror games and movies are typically not scary at all, I suspect it may be your experience as well.

  • @SHadowDoGGG

    Fortunately, there are companies that don’t forget how to make good games with 16-bit looking graphics.

    Some of the best games in gaming history have the same graphical style as Corpse Party.

  • Looks cool but is it a regular PSP title or a mini?

  • please let me know when this come out ASAP

  • Its a small world Tom!

    I go under the name TrailsRich on your forum. I’m looking forward to this game, I’m up for a scare here!

  • horror games dont scare when the are and i quote “CRAP”. e.g resi 5 a perfect example of how not to scare

    • Well, I’m certainly not going to name names, but in general, I agree that horror games aren’t very scary these days. There are definitely exceptions — Clock Tower, Fatal Frame, Haunting Ground and, of course, Corpse Party, to name a few — but as a rule, horror games seem to think that simply including superhuman monsters makes them scary, when it really does not.

      The first step to creating a scary game, in my opinion, is understanding what makes us afraid. And that’s where a lot of developers fall short, I believe.

  • @Tom Lipschultz

    i diden´t read about the jap voice dub it´s a plus on my list english dubs are horrible instead off japanese if you guys plan any future releases keep jap dubs. eng dubs makes me not wanna buy a game i hate em that much.

    • Oh, believe me, we’d ALWAYS keep the Japanese voices in our games if we could. Most of the time when we release a game with only a dubbed voice script, it’s because we HAD to dub it. Maybe the Japanese voices were unavailable to us for legal reasons, or there were contractual obligations that required us to provide a dub, etc.

      Ideally, every one of our games would offer both the original Japanese voices AND an English language track, so players could choose whichever they’d prefer. But oftentimes, that’s simply not possible, and we’re forced to pick one or the other.

      ‘Tis the nature of the business, unfortunately!

  • got to be the one!

  • Gonna be excited for this.
    Xseed localize real good games, they know what to pick :D
    Blasting my way through Trails of the sky and loving it. Super cool translations you guys made, but the voice acting cool have been more fitting. But thanks for giving the option to turn it off :P
    Gonna get this and Trails of the Sky 2 when your done translating it.

    Keep up the super work :)

  • Very interesting.
    I was just thinking earlier about the only games to scare me: Silent Hill 2, Siren Blood Curse and Dead Space.
    They all focused on sound to build up the tension, and it seems like you guys are too.
    Colour me intrigued! May well be the last PSP game I buy before the Vita, make it a good one!

  • Would of liked this title to be compatible, with the PS3 :(

  • Why don’t you release it on the italian psn? :(

  • should be on ps3 as well would be awsome

  • I’ve been following video walkthroughs of the game on youtube for awhile now and I was THRILLED to hear it was coming to the English market. I honestly thought such a game would never make it to our shores. But in a twist of fate, it appears we will be getting it xD

    I can honestly say that the game IS pretty scary. You wouldn’t think so from a game with such cute pixels. I thought so too at first, but the deeper that you get into it the more twisted it becomes. The Japanese review’s I managed to find on youtube all had voice commentary. In all of them they jumped or were freaking out in various parts of the review. No matter how confident they were; so give it a chance guys :3

    There are real time chases, people will turn on you when you least expect it and lots and lots of gore :3 The game makes it so that you’ll never know if that empty bathroom you entered, or that useless object you happened to find, will cause you to end up in pieces. I can’t wait for this game, I really want it xD It’ll be great to finally understand whats going on and what the story line is. Thank’s for bringing it over Xseed :3

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