Corpse Party Articles RSS Feed | Corpse Party RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network What Makes a Horror Game? Wed, 15 Mar 2017 13:43:26 -0400 Angelina Bonilla

Horror is easily one of the most misunderstood genres in media. This is mostly because many people are still under the misconception that it’s all about blood, guts, boobs, and butts with a fair amount of idiot teenagers getting murdered.

It doesn’t help matters that one of the most profitable horror genres – the slasher genre – is the biggest purveyor of this trend, much to my annoyance.

However, now there seems to be another unfortunate plague infecting people’s minds relating to the genre: the inability to tell between a horror game and horror elements within a game. One could assert that if anything has the elements of a horror game, then it should be considered a horror game...

This is incorrect.

This assertion mostly originates from people who aren’t familiar with what horror is; a feeling, an overwhelming sense of dread and helplessness that can’t be fully explained. To further extrapolate on this allow me to quote one of the founding members of the Horror Writers Association; Robert McCammon. – from an interview in Twilight Zone Magazine:

"Horror fiction upsets apple carts, burns old buildings, and stampedes the horses; it questions and yearns for answers, and it takes nothing for granted. It's not safe, and it probably rots your teeth, too. Horror fiction can be a guide through a nightmare world, entered freely and by the reader's own will. And since horror can be many, many things and go in many, many directions, that guided nightmare ride can shock, educate, illuminate, threaten, shriek, and whisper before it lets the readers loose." (Twilight Zone Magazine, Oct 1986)”

With that in mind, what about those pesky games with horror elements? Well, those games make it a little tricky for those who are connoisseurs of the horror genre. While we do certainly appreciate them for adding the elements that help diversify the landscape of gaming and to change up a possibly boring formula, I’ll admit I take issue with people putting one game as “the best horror game of all time”:

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask.

Allow me to clear something up without a shadow of a doubt: Majora’s Mask is as much of a horror game as Doom 2016 is – that is to say, it isn't. It has elements that make you feel dread; the looming moon, Skull Kid, or the Mask itself, and it has elements that are meant to make you feel helpless, like how Romani will be taken away by aliens if you don’t take action.  These are what are called horror elements. However, there is one big thing that it gives the player to keep it from being a horror game: power.

Despite everything that Majora’s Mask makes you feel, it gives you the power to combat those feelings in many ways, primarily with the fact that you’re able to go back in time to the beginning after playing a quick song.  That gives you the ability to go back and change the events of the game, preventing many of the events from happening at all and effectively changing the timeline, with the only consequence being that you have to restart the three days over again. You can deposit all of your rupees, you can keep all your items and you come back being smarter and stronger than you were before. There’s a sense of you conquering the evil and saving the day which urges you onward despite the desperation in your heart from witnessing the world’s end.  Regardless of the crushing despair and anxiety that you may feel in Majora’s Mask, it leaves you with a sense of closure; a sense that things are going to be alright now.

Let’s contrast this with a common horror game element: a “bad” ending, an ending that can be combated by going back to a specific save and not doing what you did to cause the bad ending in the first place. Now, from an outsider’s perspective, that may sound like exactly the same thing, right? Here’s the difference: the only event in the game that you change is the ending. Many of the other events that lead up to that ending will still happen in the same way.

To use a game as an example, let’s talk about Corpse Party; that particular title has a basket full of bad endings. While you can go back and prevent the bad ending, you can’t go back and prevent the deaths that occur over the course of the story. There are all these ghosts and corpses around that you can’t do a single thing about all while you’re wandering about this abandoned school, wondering if the character you’re controlling will suffer the same fate. There’s no way of preventing it, no way of going back in time and fixing the fact that they died because of your character's actions within the realm of the story rather than the unscripted bad endings for poor performances. The characters themselves actually try to go back in time and fix what they’ve done, yet they make everything ten thousand times worse, resulting in even more suffering for our main cast.

That’s the biggest difference between horror games and games with horror elements:  the pain, the suffering, the anxiety and the emptiness can’t be filled with just a game over screen. By the end of a horror game, you’re not meant to feel as though everything can be okay once more. You’re meant to feel that everything has changed and that these characters are never going to be the same again. This suffering you’ve gone through with them isn’t over, not by a long shot, and now there’s a body count in addition to all of this – one that you couldn’t prevent even if you tried.

Even if the ending is a lighter one within the genre, such as in Silent Hill with you holding baby Cheryl with Cybil the police officer, there’s still that sense of “I just witnessed a crazy cult that was responsible for all sorts of horrors summon a demon lord after burning a child alive” in the back of your mind that no awkward CGI smiling at each other can wipe from your head.

When looking at a game, before you decide to view it as a horror game, I want you to take a moment to figure out just how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel helpless, then that’s a good start, but there’s a lot more to it than that.  When you’re able to ruthlessly tear down the monsters that plague you as if they’re tissue paper, then you might have found a game with horror elements, but not a horror game.

Finding the latter means that you’ll be exposed to concepts like the inevitability of your own demise, or be confronted with your insignificance in fates' design, or be faced with machinations of the void, or perhaps even the depths of your own psyche. This is what makes a horror game, it's not just about fear, it's about transporting someone to a place where they're confronted with something that they wouldn't want to face and then not allowing them to look away, not even for a second.

Why Too Many Horror Games Rely on Isolation for Scares -- But Shouldn't Fri, 27 Jan 2017 03:00:01 -0500 Michael Llewellyn

Successfully using the feeling of isolation is a staple of the modern horror genre with games like Amnesia, Alien: Isolation, Outlast and even the new Resident Evil using this dynamic to its full effect. All of these games go out of their way to make you make you feel truly alone, and with this feeling naturally comes fear. Humans as social animals seek comfort in others for support and guidance. Exposure to prolonged isolation can make us uncomfortable, and a good horror game capitalises on this by putting the player in potentially dangerous and creepy surroundings.

The use of isolation in the horror genre has proven successful and will continue to be for a long time to come, but developers can be in danger of overusing this one sole mechanic and the genre could again be in danger of becoming stale.

Going back to the psychology of isolation and human beings being social animals, it can be just as scary and tense when you are seeing your companions being killed off one-by-one or dying as a result of the choices you made as the player. This adds a new layer of fear and worry because we find safety in numbers and if implemented correctly in a horror game it can put the player in potentially uncomfortable situations -- especially as we grow attached to these characters.

The Walking Dead - Telltale Series

What makes The Walking Dead television series so good isn't so much the zombies but it's the character development and how the said characters grow that you eventually come to care for them as individuals and that is what drives the story forward -- so when you lose a major character in the series you really feel its impact.

This is what makes the Telltale Games series such a perfect match as you effectively craft believable relationships with the characters in the group. What adds to the tension is that all your choices matter, and almost every action you make has a reaction, and in common with the TV series the tension and the fear comes from the genuine worry and concern you have for the characters you've grown to like in your group.

Zero Escape Series

A visual novel at heart, the Zero Escape series focuses on nine seemingly unrelated characters who are captured and tortured by a masked villain called Zero who, separates them into three groups and informs them that in order to escape, they have to decipher a six-part password, which is revealed bit-by-bit every time someone dies. Adding to Zero's twisted sense of enjoyment they are fitted with a wrist bracelet that injects them with an amnesiac drug every 90 minutes.

The Zero Escape series forces you to make difficult moral decisions that affect all the characters in the game, and the well written scripts force you to question what is or isn't evil -- if there is such a thing -- as well as your own personal identity. It is narrative elements like these and the shocking consequences you're faced with that add a great deal of fear, tension and stress.

Corpse Party

Don't let this games cute 16-bit visuals fool you, Corpse Party is an unnerving, sinister, gory and a deeply disturbing experience. Taking a minimalistic approach it's psychological horror at its best because its a game that leaves your imagination and the sound to fill in the blanks -- the sound effects in the game are really horrific.

Corpse Party's story centers around a group of students and their teacher who wake up to find themselves separated in a decaying elementary school that was once the site of multiple horrific murders. You're tasked with uncovering the secrets of these murder and the horrors of the events that happened there and search for one another in order to escape.

The tension and horror is built around the decisions you make and the helplessness you feel when your characters are killed because of those decisions. You're also forced to listen to and experience a disturbingly lengthy death scene.

Siren: Blood Curse

The story of Siren: Blood Curse centers around a team of American Journalists investigating human sacrifices in a mysterious lost Japanese village.

The twisting narrative is told through the perspectives of seven different playable characters, whose story unfolds over a series of twelve episodes.  The episodic nature of the game allows the characters to develop in a more natural way -- very similarly to a televised box set series.

Until Dawn

Until Dawn's storyline follows a group of teens who stay overnight in a log cabin who one-by-one get picked off and murdered by a mysterious serial killer.

Like other titles listed here Until Dawn's fear and tension is built on choice everything you do has impact on how events unfold for your characters and whether that decision has lead to a character's death or if it saves them.

You'll take control of each character individually over the course of the game and every decision you make on their behalf will ultimately have good or bad consequences.  This helps raise the tension and fear especially if you're focused on seeing one specific characters ending in one of the many playthroughs the game offers. It's a clever mechanic that works beautifully in a game that emulates and puts a unique spin on the cliche teen horror genre that we're so used to seeing on film -- while adding more scares on each replay.

Groups can be scary, if done correctly

The horror genre whether it's the survival horror or the adventure game approach is flexible enough to successfully combine group based horror games like the ones I've mentioned here and develop into sense of isolation and tension in a similar way to both Corpse Party and the Zero Escape series while maintaining the ability to tell a good story.

Horror games that use a similar narrative mechanic to tell its story and interact with other characters to such a level of depth like Telltales Walking Dead series or Until Dawn can allow the player to feel a certain amount of companionship and camaraderie with them, and when those companions begin to die one-by-one around you this feeling of loss and helplessness will give way to a more organic sense of isolation, instead of those where you are forced to be alone against all the odds.

More info released on Corpse Party 3DS and Windows version Sun, 17 Apr 2016 06:17:08 -0400 Mark Elgie

XSEED Games released new information Thursday on two new versions of the acclaimed horror adventure Corpse Party.

The PC version of the game will release via Steam, and the Humble Store for $14.99 on April 25, and the 3DS version -- a remaster of the PSP version of the game -- will be released digitally for $29.99.  There will also be a limited edition physical release on 3DS for $49.99. They're all slated for this summer.

This makes three platforms that the first Corpse Party title will be available on in English. Each of the three iterations of the game has something new to offer. According to XSEED Games, the PSP version of the game is the more accessible version:

"If you want to easily play Corpse Party on your living room TV, or you own a Vita or PSTV and want the entire Heavenly Host trilogy (Corpse Party, Corpse Party: Book of Shadows, Corpse Party: Blood Drive) in one place, the PSP version is for you!"

The PC version has an entirely different voice track (still in Japanese) and 4 extra chapters, with one being the "Tooth" chapter from Corpse Party: Book of Shadows for PSP and iOS.

The 3DS version has 14 extra chapters, four of which are exclusive to the 3DS. These new chapters help serve to fill in story gaps and develop some side characters who haven't gotten a lot of focus. The 3DS version also has higher resolution character sprites than the PSP version of the game, as well as some new music tracks. The physical 3DS version will be receiving a "Back to School" limited edition, which includes character figurines for Naomi Nakashima and Seiko Shinohara and a soundtrack CD containing 80 minutes' worth of music from the PSP and 3DS versions of Corpse Party that didn't make the cut for the Songs of the Dead soundtrack release.

Visit XSEED Games' Tumblr for more information.