"...until I can play additional chapters, I cannot commit to saying this story is superior to any entry in the original Corpse Party trilogy."
Corpse Party is a horror-themed adventure/RPG hybrid title with humble origins. In its earliest incarnation, the title was released chapter by chapter for the Japanese PC-98 utilizing RPG Maker software for development. Over time, the original title was remade many times over and the original Corpse Party story would extend into its own trilogy with the help of popular Visual Novel publisher 5pb.
So, then, what exactly is Corpse Party 2?
While the original Corpse Party trilogy focuses on a handful of high school students and the haunted, dimensionally distorted Heavenly Host Elementary School, Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient is set in a hospital. And, yes, everyone on the planet knows that schools and hospitals are effective-if-overused settings for horror stories (cf. Silent Hill). The ominously named Amare Patriarcha Crucis Hospital seems the perfect setting for an all-new entry to the franchise, allowing for a new cast, new mysteries, and interesting tie-ins to the original Corpse Party.
Unfortunately, when I say "all-new entry," I have to place a caveat on those words. While the original Corpse Party may have been ported and remade so many times that nobody could properly tell you just how many iterations exist, one thing is certain: the entire five-chapter story existed in the first iteration, prior to any remakes. The same cannot be said about Dead Patient. Though multiple chapters are planned (likely five, though no one knows for sure), the only chapter to ever be released is this one, right here. Chapter 1. Want to know when Chapter 1 was first released by Grindhouse & GrisGris in Japan? The answer might shock you: it was six years ago, in 2013.
This requires additional investigation, as well as some context. Consider that the same handful of people who made Corpse Party via RPG Maker are the team now fully responsible for Corpse Party 2. They are not leaning on the muscle of 5pb and Mages to pull out a high-budget, glossy title. They have made it plain to their die-hard fans in Japan that they want to do Dead Patient on their terms. So much so that, after releasing Chapter 1 in 2013 and gleaning feedback from said fans, the team decided to build their own 3D engine for the game. Said engine, "KENIX Engine NEUES," took them years to build, and while it may make game development easier for them, as a consumer I cannot say I'm particularly impressed with the end result. The re-made "Dead Patient NEUES" Chapter 1 in Japan was released in 2017, and as a surprise release just prior to Halloween 2019, XSEED localized this first chapter and published it on Steam as a stand-alone title for 9.99 USD.
Before I can judge the content of Chapter 1 with a clear conscience, I remain stymied with questions. Was this a strategic release on XSEED's part, armed with knowledge that future chapters are soon to hit the Japanese market? Could this be a simple cash grab for the last bit of Corpse Party content left to localize to date? Or, as some Steam users have theorized, could this be XSEED attempting to demonstrate international appeal for the franchise in an attempt to motivate and rejuvenate the original development team to finally churn out the remaining chapters? And then, once those chapters are localized and ready for sale and distribution via XSEED in English-speaking regions, what kind of sale model will be used, and at what price points?
Without having answers to these questions, I would ask the reader to forgive me, as I am going off of limited knowledge when I judge Chapter 1 on its own. It is truly a difficult thing to do, as the chapter ends with an enormous reveal and cliffhanger, but no sense of what may come next. With, say, the many games that Telltale Games made in episodic fashion before folding, I knew that a cliffhanger's resolution was only a month or two away. Japanese fans have been waiting six years for the resolution of the Chapter 1 cliffhanger. And the big problem here is that we're all working with a very incomplete story. If the "pay-off" of this cliffhanger, so to speak, is even more interesting plot and character interaction, then I feel comfortable giving high marks to the game's story. And certainly, the potential is there. I am hoping for solid execution. But since I do not know, I have to judge cautiously, hence my hesitation to give an "A" level grade to Chapter 1's story. Everything builds in the right direction, and it certainly maintains the campy-yet-gory vibe of the original series. The story flows simply and naturally. The few, limited choices that direct the character to different chapter endings work effectively to keep the player engaged. The bonus chapter, a short side tale that demonstrates how the original game's cast fits into Dead Patient, also gives me high hopes. But until I can play additional chapters, I cannot commit to saying this story is superior to any entry in the original Corpse Party trilogy.
As for the rest of the game? There really isn't much to say. The new engine allows for simplistic "boss battles" that involve luring dark creatures into the light in an enclosed room. The soundtrack, so far, is very limited, with the best parts of it being reused material from the original title, as well as a decent end credits vocal track. The hand-drawn manga-style stills are nice, but the 3D animated characters and environments in the hospital look "indie" in the lesser sense of the word — lacking in polish, with an overall clunky set of polygons to showcase the hospital's many rooms and corridors.
When it comes to playing the game, character control is generally simple and intuitive, though I found myself struggling with the wonky "throw an empty can" feature, presumably to distract ghosts and other menacing creatures. While walking is slow, there is a much appreciated "run" function here that did not exist in the original Corpse Party. Interestingly, it does not appear that protagonist Ayame Itou ever slows down while running, but she does become noticeably winded, panting loudly after about five seconds of continuous running. I experimented with this, trying to determine if the gasping-for-air sound effect would also alert enemies to my presence. As best as I can tell, it can't, meaning this is just an audio asset thrown in to add some tension to the game. One would think that sprinting in a game like this would come at a cost, perhaps a forced super-slow walk after reaching maximum effort expended. But no, outrunning that bad guys in Dead Patient is a surprisingly easy affair, with more than ample bandages scattered throughout to keep the player from feeling too punished for the occasional slip-up.
Like I've stated many times throughout this review, I am fairly uncomfortable offering final judgment on the opening chapter of a game that, to the best of my knowledge, may never have a proper conclusion. However, given that this team has made at least one high quality story (in my opinion) with the original Corpse Party, I hold out hope that Corpse Party 2: Dead Patient will not be dead on arrival. And, with a little bit of polish to the KENIX Engine NEUES and a few worthwhile modes of gameplay added to future chapters, I still think the small GrisGris/Grindhouse team can take this game's shocking premise to a fitting conclusion.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.