Taking place not before or after the events of the first Corpse Party but rather a retelling of the final days of the students of Kisaragi Academy, Book of Shadows seeks to scribe its way into a library of ever-growing survival horror slash visual novel titles on the PlayStation Portable.
Let’s check out what’s HOT and what’s NOT in our review of Corpse Party: Book of Shadows.
What was once a game made entirely of 8-bit RPG Maker-esque (rather, PC-98 graphics) sprites and exploration are instead swapped for a simplistic Zelda-esque map design and single background rooms. Most of the gameplay consists of moving a cursor around and interacting with highlighted objects, typically notes or corpses of various classmates. This cuts down on a lot of the wasted time from the first Corpse Party spent wandering around the abandoned halls of Heavently Host Elementary School for a key or obscure puzzle object. Book of Shadows plays just as any other visual novel can be expected to run only with an additional layer of exploration and ingenuity with its occasionally obtuse puzzles. Probably the single greatest innovation to this sequel is the option to fast-forward text. When you’re replaying a scenario for the second or third time after getting one of the series’ infamous Wrong Ends, it’s helpful to just fly past the idle chit-chat between classmates or descriptions of what was just inside the main character’s bowels.
Horrifyingly good audio
In Book of Shadows, nearly every mundane conversation is voiced over in Japanese. Gasps, sighs of relief, the sounds of vomit hitting the floor; all of these are captured wonderfully with binaural 3D sound for those playing the game with headphones. With a genre that relies so much on visuals and audio alone, it’s good to see that Book of Shadows does both wonderfully. That being said, be forewarned that the game (as most visual novels are) is presented in the original Japanese dub without any option for other languages. Some players may find the occasional character to be high-pitched or obnoxious, but there’s always a mute option if you get annoyed by this.
Deja vu in more ways than one
Book of Shadows, despite being tagged as a sequel to the original Corpse Party, comes across as an expanded retelling of the previous title. Unless you’ve had a previous attempt to survive through the halls of Heavenly Host Elementary School, much of the story feels lost. The story opens up with more story on the first girl you play is, Ayumi, and her more-than-just-a-friend classmate Seiko than on the actual basis for the game. The primary story mechanic to Book of Shadows is ‘deja vu’. Many of the characters will be reliving through the events of the first game just as before, only with the occasional premonition of events both prior and future. Sometimes it comes just in time to try and save a fellow classmate’s life; other times it’s enough to relive the moments of how someone died just by gazing upon the ghastly remains. Many story choices pop up as characters get an occasional sense of premonition with only seconds to react. Following the original course of events, or even trying to change the future in one way or another, typically leads to a Wrong End. Plenty of these exist within each scenario of the game and I personally discovered half a dozen before I was even done with the second chapter.