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.1 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.2
Of the 35 tracks on Vol.2, 17 tracks are unique to this release. That’s almost half the album! The Haunting Melodies US release, interestingly enough, has some material belonging in Chapters 4 and 5 that do not appear on this album, and were likely made for later versions of the game. On the other hand, one of the unique tracks on Vol.2 is a vocal track “Requiem for dream (Sound of grief EndingVer),” part of the Chapter 4 partition. An instrumental form of “Sound of grief” appears both on this album (as “VerA”) and the XSEED release (simply titled “Sound of Grief”). “Requiem for dream”, alongside “Eternal Prayer” and “Crimson Sign”, are the three vocal tracks on this disc. I believe “Crimson Sign” was released either commercially or on other enclosures, but “Requiem for dream” and “Eternal Prayer” seem to be unique to this disc. In my opinion, these two tracks alone make a strong, appealing case for fans to seek it out.
For those who want the full list of unique tracks on Vol.2, here goes:
01 – Opening CP4Ver
04 – Dark footsteps
06 – Bottomless pool
08 – Requiem for dream (Sound of grief EndingVer)
11 – Snag
12 – Opening CP5Ver
14 – KIZAMI FullVer
17 – Chapter5-MainBGM
21 – Deep mystery
23 – Pool insect
24 – Light to Despair
27 – Eternal Prayer (Underground corridor)
30 – Escape
32 – Two
33 – Ending Chapter5
34 – Crimson Sign (short Ver.)
35 – BloodCovered
Given this subset of music, one can draw a pretty obvious conclusion: XSEED decided to cut a lot of music from Chapter 5 when they released Haunting Melodies. Fans of the game know that Chapter 5 is very long and packed full of content — I’ve heard criticism from gamers that this chapter is, in fact, too long. Even if that is the case, I’m glad that Hamamoto wrote so much great music for the final chapter. Alongside the immediately brilliant “Eternal Prayer,” I also find myself drawn to tracks with excellent use of piano and string ensemble. Among these, “Light to Despair” and “Two” stand out most. The arranged medley “BloodCovered” also fits the bill nicely here. It’s a great capstone for the two volume set.
For those more inclined to electronic, gritty, and/or industrial style music, there’s “KIZAMI,” as well as “Snag” and “Dark footsteps.” The last of these three almost qualifies as ambient noise, but there’s enough tonal quality there to think of it as enjoyable music composition. And by “enjoyable,” I mean something like this — effective as a middle-of-the-night alarm ringtone to ruin your roommate’s sleep and possibly cause bedwetting.
To this day, I still do not understand why this album is so rare. I imagine it had a small print run. And, considering it was published 4 years after the first volume, perhaps the Japanese fan base didn’t justify a large printing at the time. I have also pondered about the possibility that the vocal tracks may have been published on this album, but perhaps they were not supposed to be based on agreements with the performers? I have no idea what the situation is here, but I for one would like to see a reprint, or a digital release if nothing else, so fans can complete their Corpse Party audio collection.
That, and, a soundtrack release for the original PC-98 Corpse Party from 1996. “Dream on,” you say? Perhaps I will. But if I fall asleep listening to this gem of an album, the dream may end up a nightmare.