Corpse Party: Book of Shadows is not a sequel in the traditional sense. If anything, it is more of an expansion on the original game. I would say that it is similar to DLC but considering that the game is twice as long as the first game that would be rather demeaning. That does not mean Book of Shadows is bad though. Book of Shadows does do a nice job at telling an engaging story and an eerie atmosphere, albeit not as well done as the first game. What Book of Shadows does not do well at, however, is advancing the main story of the Corpse Party series. It certainly adds a lot of background to the Corpse Party mythos though, and it will satisfy fans of the first game as long as long as they are not expecting a full blown sequel.
In concept, Book of Shadows starts out with what one would actually expect to be a unique continuation of the first game’s story. The opening cutscene shows the depressing aftermath of the first game’s ending for where reality has been altered so that everyone who died during the events of the first game has never existed in real life yet the remaining cast members still remember them. This is shown to be particularly bad for Naomi Nakashima who is shown falling into clinical depression in the game’s opening cutscene. Strangely enough, this is the only part of the game that takes place directly after the first one until the game’s final chapter. Instead the chapters seem to take some really strange directions and seem to be as far from advancing the main plot as possible.
In terms of how the game plays, Book of Shadows is also different from its predecessor. Unlike the first game that had an overhead view of your player character, Book of Shadows is presented in a first person perspective, similar to a point and click adventure game, where you simply look at the various surroundings of the room and do not necessarily explore it. There is also a lot more text in Book of Shadows, but thankfully, the ability to fast forward through text was added as well. In addition to this, Book of Shadows gave you the ability to save at any point in the game in addition to a much larger number of save files than the limited amount you had in the first game. This makes attempting to see those other bad endings a lot easier now that you can save right before a decision and keeps you from having to re-play certain events. One rather annoying aspect, however, is the fact that you are unable to gain access to the last chapter unless you either import save data from the first game, or get every single ending in every chapter. Granted there is pretty much no good reason to play this game without playing the previous one first, but going so far as to punish those who decide to play this game first is a bit too much.
In terms of presentation, the game is not as good as the first but still done well enough. Sound effects are still just as great as they were before, but everything else seems a bit off. First of all, both the soundtrack and the voice acting do not seem to pack quite the same punch as the previous games, but that may very well be due to the inferior writing. I will say that the violence and gore was actually even MORE gruesome in this game because of its tendency to drag out the text for longer.
The first chapter had an interesting premise, at first, where it shows the events leading up to the first game happening as they normally did, with one exception. This exception is that Satoshi Mochida, another character from the previous game, already knows what will happen if the ritual is performed and, despite being literally in tears and begging them not to perform the ritual, the rest of the cast still does it anyway leading to the events of the first game. Overtime though Naomi, whose perspective this chapter is told from, slowly starts to remember what happens and tries to use future knowledge to prevent a certain major tragedy from the first game. Unfortunately it is destined that anyone who ever dies in Heavenly Host Elementary can never be saved, and if they are saved from what originally killed them then they will suffer an even worse fate. The same premise applies to chapter two and events occur in the same predictable fashion as in chapter one.
While chapter one and two had an interesting premise and could have really built upon the events of the first game very nicely, they were both executed very poorly for a variety of reasons. First of all the events that lead to our hero’s downfall tend to come about due to a plot mandated lack of competence, the typical “idiot plot” as coined by Roger Ebert. Despite the fact that this game tries to make you think that the reasons bad things suddenly start happening is due to being unable to change fate, the events more so are ones that could have easily been solved if the characters were half as competent as they were in the previous game. The second chapter was specifically bad in that not only did your protagonist make stupid decisions, but there was also a complete lapse of logic as well. Basically your character runs off to save another who was just literally cut in half by a madman who then drags off the body of this character. What is baffling about this is that somehow, the character that was literally cut in half is still alive up to half an hour after this happened, despite the fact that dozens of other characters died instantly from less severe injuries throughout both games.
Needless to say, I absolutely despised this game during chapter’s one and two. Those two chapters avoided common logic like the plague, turned well developed characters from the first game into laughable caricatures of themselves, and simply missed the point of what was so great about the first game. By the time I was done with chapter two I had just about lost hope for the not only Book of Shadows but for the Corpse Party series in general. After the display of stupidity in chapter two, I thought there was nothing the game could do redeem itself. Book of Shadows got better, and it got better very quickly.
Chapter three thankfully decided to avoid the “what if” scenarios of the first two chapters and instead went with something different. Chapter three instead shows an event that occurred with the group’s teacher, Ms.Yui, five years prior to the events of the first game. Admittedly chapter three was a bit too text heavy and was not really all that scary, but it provided a nice change of pace and showed some interesting insight to the game’s world. The fourth chapter is similar in that it shows the events that occurred leading up to the events of the first game through the perspective of a previously unnamed friend of another major character from the first game. This chapter is where the game started to regain its steam. You started to get interesting insight as to what was going on and things finally started to get back to that shocking and disturbing nature that made the previous game as great as it was.
Chapters five and six were really well executed as well as they both provided some great insight to characters that did not receive that much development during the first game, and were legitimately scary. Granted I did not really care for the ending of chapter six but it was still light years ahead of chapters one and two. During chapter seven the game started to falter once again, although not nearly as badly as in chapters one and two. Basically you see the typical Heavenly Host routine with a different set of characters that have appeared previously, but were never interesting or well developed, which makes the chapter less interesting as a result. It also does not help that you already know what is going to happen at the end of the chapter based on what you already know from previous events. It is especially odd that this was the chapter that the end credits play after and serves as the final chapter if you do not try to unlock the last chapter.
Chapter eight represents my love hate relationship with the Corpse Party series perfectly. Unlike any of the previous chapters, this one actually takes place after the events of the first game without any what if situations or flashbacks. The main characters discover something that could count as possible info on how to bring back their friends and find out exactly what is going on. Things finally start getting interesting and the game finally looks like it will give some answers, and then it ends with a “to be continued” screen. While I could go on and on about why this is a terrible choice , I will simply say that that one of the game’s voice actors, whose commentary you can unlock as a bonus, felt exactly the same way I did about the constant cruel twist endings and lack of explanation. You know something is not a good decision when your own staff does not agree with you.
If I could sum up Book of Shadows in one word, that word would be “filler.” I say this because the game does not seem like a comprehensible story on its own and it feels more like a hodgepodge of random information dumps. While it is still intriguing and interesting for those who really liked the first game, the information could have been implemented much better if it were paced well enough and told along with the main story as opposed to having it all shoehorned into one game that simply serves the purpose of building up to Corpse Party: Blood Drive without actually giving any answers itself. I can already tell that, when Blood Drive comes out, less than thirty percent of what happened in Book of Shadows will be relevant and you will likely be able to skip right from the first game to it. (Note: I have played Blood Drive since then, and it was exactly as I predicted). Regardless, it is still entertaining on its own and serves more of a role as an expansion then a sequel and considering that the first game will leave you wanting more, this is likely the best thing to hold you over until Blood Drive.
Update: My opinion on Book of Shadows has gone down quite a bit since I reviewed it. My main issue is that it did NOT need to exist. There intro to the game leads one to believe it will be an actual sequel, only to consist of a bunch of unrelated filler content. What was the point of chapters 1 and 2 for instance? Yes, they do expand on a bad ending of the original but they contribute NOTHING to the main plot! Even if Book of Shadows was a non canon side story like Hysteric Birthday, it would have been for more interesting to see what happens with this “infinite loop” twist than the random shit we were given here.
However, I will say that I do still think Book of Shadows is an entertaining read, but I can only recommend it if you got significantly attached to the casts of the first game. If you thought the first game was merely “okay” then this game is entirely skipable.
This review was originally posted on GameFAQs on November 14th of 2013, and has been edited with enhanced presentation and to better reflect my current feelings.
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