Editor’s Note: The first section of this review, which considers the history and background of this game and its music, is found verbatim in the Vol.2 review. A subheading below denotes when the unique review content begins.
I don’t know what it is about Corpse Party that keeps bringing me back. One could easily dismiss it as low-brow, B-grade anime horror put into RPG Maker and/or Visual Novel format. But when you dig deeper, there’s a lot more. If nothing else, there’s a lot of history.
You see, Corpse Party has been ported and remade nearly as many times as Ys, or Final Fantasy IV. That’s a lot of rework. And yet, in attempting to find the true, original source material music written by Mao Hamamoto, I have come up short. The two-volume set for Corpse Party BloodCovered is the closest I’ve found.
In the past, I praised XSEED Games for their immaculate trilogy coverage in the two disc compilation songs of the dead. That album, an enclosure released with the limited edition physical copy of Corpse Party: Blood Drive for PSVita (the end of the original trilogy as laid out by Mages and 5pb), pulled together three separate enclosure albums from Japan, as well as some commercial singles, into one incredible set. However, the music on that album as it relates to the original Corpse Party was for the PSP port of Corpse Party BloodCovered, whose full title in Japan was Corpse Party BloodCovered Repeated Fear — if you’re confused by now, don’t worry, you’re in good company. Basically, the game went from an free, indie doujin project on RPG Maker to a commercially viable PC release (BloodCovered), and then ported to PSP and other platforms (Repeated Fear). By then, Mao Hamamoto had done some upgrades to the music.
But if you wanted to hear the music at what we might call “stage two” of the process (stopping at BloodCovered), Americans were also treated to a surprise from XSEED Games. The album Haunting Melodies, despite being packed with an even newer port of the game (3DS), pulled music from the BloodCovered source material as it was originally released nearly a decade prior. In that single disc, XSEED packed in nearly 80 minutes of music, a total of 41 tracks. They are second-for-second, decibel-for-decibel equivalent tracks of what you’ll find on the albums Corpse Party BloodCovered Sound Collection Vol.1 & Vol.2 — save for track gaps being truncated to fit more on the disc, and a handful of songs (including the epic Chapter 3 Ending) cut halfway: which is to say, no loop.
Here’s the mathematics behind it all: the two-volume import albums from Japan total 31 + 35 tracks, so 66 in total. The US BloodCovered compilation has a total of 41 tracks, which means they skipped 25 tracks. The combined total disc length across the two volume Japanese set is 125 minutes, whereas the US combined disc is 80 minutes, so that’s 45 minutes split against 25 tracks. Suffice to say, many of the tracks XSEED skipped were short jingles or forgettable melodies. In this review, I am going to focus primarily on the tracks that XSEED chose not to include in Haunting Melodies, mostly so potential importers might know the added value of pursuing these albums.
As a caveat before going any further — if you truly wish to collect BloodCovered Vol.1 and Vol.2 from Japan, know that there is an enormous disparity regarding pricing and availability. Volume 1, which was printed in 2008, seems to be an easy item to find across second-hand markets. At any given time, I can find at least two used copies available at a variety of online outlets, and rarely does the price stray above the $30 mark. Vol.2, on the other hand, is an ethereal little item. I myself put nearly 3 years into searches into second-hand markets. At the 2 year mark, I was so desperate that I contacted composer Mao Hamamoto directly via Twitter in a horrid broken mix of English and Japanese, asking how I could obtain a company, and he simply replied “Sorry, it’s out of print.” I have no idea how many (how few?) were printed. But it’s clear that the circulated supply for Vol.2 is significantly lower than Vol.1. When I finally found a copy, I engaged in a bidding war on Y!J and ultimately won the item for approximately $50. So, the demand may not be too bad either, but again, I wish you luck in finding that second volume if you want a complete set of music.
And Now, Regarding Vol.1
Starting at the end: the three bonus “Arranged Ver” tracks on Vol.1 are unique to this album, not to be found on XSEED’s enclosure albums. Among these three, “Soul of Steel” is co-composed by one Rio Hamamoto, who is also credited for composition on track 27. “Soul of Steel” is basically track 27 with some added emphasis from Mao Hamamoto’s Chapter 1 Main BGM mixed in. I am not aware as to the relationship between Mao and Rio, though the text “by Mao & Rio Hamamoto” on the packaging suggests that they are in fact related.
“It continues” is another arrangement of the classic Chapter 1 Main BGM, now with some haunting vocal strains added for dramatic and emotional effect. Unfortunately, this final arrangement is woefully short, clocking in at a mere 90 seconds.
Working backwards to the Chapter 3 section, the tracks found on this disc that are not found on the XSEED publications include “Opening CP3Ver,” “Past start,” “Fall,” and “Manitou of impact.” Compared to the other tracks in Chapter 3, it’s fair to say that XSEED did a great job culling the best of the best from Chapter 3. However, for those who appreciate dark ambiance, you can’t get much better than “Fall.” It’s textbook ambient VGM, on par with some of the sparsest tracks on the Myst and Riven OSTs.
As for the main event, the classic themes found throughout the early chapters of Corpse Party BloodCovered … XSEED managed to include most of the great stuff here, as well. Strangely, the version of Chapter 1 Main BGM found on Haunting Melodies, entitled “Chapter One (Ambient Version),” is not the same as “Chapter1-MainBGM” here. The versions are clearly distinct, and I enjoy both, so there’s one unique track from this 2008 release. What else is unique to this release? “Opening,” “Impact,” “The dark space,” “Becoming turbid,” and the item get jingle “Acquisition.” Among these, the tracks most worthwhile for me were the Main BGM and “Becoming turbid.” The others are either too short or too ambient to mention … though, “The dark space” has some truly terrifying moments, especially for those listening on headphones.
So that’s it. That’s Vol.1. Most of the good stuff made it into “Haunting Melodies,” so if you’re able to get that album with the 3DS game, I’m not sure this is worth the import. The arranged tracks are good, and the “original” version of Ch1 BGM is a nice find … but again, none of this is truly original, as it seems there has never been a retail or enclosure release for the oldest form of the Corpse Party soundtrack, as it was found on the 1996 PC-98 release, built in RPG Maker.
With that in mind … if XSEED managed to capture so many great tracks from Vol.1, how did they do with Vol.2? There are a lot of great tracks in Chapters 4 and 5, so be sure to read on to discover if achieving “complete collection” status is worth it for this franchise!