Corpse Party: Blood Drive has finally arrived on the PS Vita in full 3D glory. After starting the series on the PSP as a point-and-click style adventure game, it was only obvious that the newest entry to the series would take advantage of the powerful hardware that the Vita provides. But by making the change to 3D, it seems that technical problems and the new art style dulls the experience of an otherwise fantastic story and premise.
Corpse Party: Blood Drive is a completely story driven game that takes place immediately after the events from Book of Shadows (yes, you need to play this game). If you’re a newcomer to the series, you’ll be completely lost on the details of the game and setting. But as a game that stands on its own, it can be enjoyable to a point. The lead characters from Book of Shadows are still searching for a way to bring their deceased friends back to life, which leads to a return trip to the world famous Heavenly Host Elementary School that was featured in the first two mainline entries to the series. The story is told through a combination of anime styled artwork and the chibi 3D characters. It works fine for the most part except when the 2D animation completely clashes with what happens in the game (certain injuries aren’t shown when you’ve actually seen them happen) and this can ruin scenes and the atmosphere for some.
With the new change in graphics, characters can now have full movement in all areas of the game. Unlike in previous games, you are no longer stuck moving in the north, south, east and west directions. This proves useful when avoiding traps and deadly hazards as well as looking for those elusive name tags. In addition to the traps, players must safely navigate from deadly ghosts that can and will kill you in two to three hits and can get pretty frustrating, especially when you’re far away from a save candle or out of spirit talismans.
A big part of the previous games (especially the first one) was the inclusion of puzzles and different ways to see all types of endings (good and bad). Navigating the map can be overwhelming and difficult at first as the game offers no assistance on where to go. It’s mostly a trial and error until you reach a new cutscene. In the end, the game play is largely forgettable, and all I wanted to do was to find out what was going to happen next in the story.
Graphically, I’m not sure that the new art style fits the game. I can’t help but think that the graphics and character models are too “cute” for this type of game. The deaths and actions don’t hit the same way as the sprite based style did for the previous two entries in the series. Instead of being creepy and disturbing, it ends up being a comedy of sorts because you just can’t take the chibi art style seriously in a horror game like this. Other than the character models, the background is generally well done and gives off the vibe that you need and want in a game like this. With blood on the floor and gross stuff growing on the wall, it will give you that sense of fear that you’ll be looking for.
For those of you anti-dub fans, be rest assured that Blood Drive is fully voiced in Japanese, and I can say that the localization is terrific. XSEED has done a terrific job with the dialog and translation. Some of the conversations can be sad and some are hilarious. I loved the change of pace that the XSEED team threw in there. Very well done. One thing is needed for this game: a great pair of headphones. I played the entirety of the game using Astro A40s and I was blown away with the audio work on the game. From full 3D sound, it seemed like I was there at Heavenly Host. I cannot recommend playing this game just using your Vita’s speakers. A good pair of headphones are a must.
Even with a strong story and creepy atmosphere, it’s hard to ignore the blatant technical problems that plague Corpse Party: Blood Drive. The first noticeable issue that you’ll encounter is the longest loading screens you’ll ever see on a PS Vita game. It almost seems like there’s a loading screen for the loading screen. They’re everywhere! From every room, to the start menu, to the pause menu, leaving the pause menu. It’s exhausting and tiresome when you make a mistake and enter in the wrong staircase or room. It kills any kind of atmosphere that’s going on at the time. For instance, say that you are running from those deadly ghosts and need to heal, you need to get into the pause screen… loading… loading. Heal then loading… loading. At one point I turned off the game because I was so annoyed and got away from it for a few days until I had the itch to see what was going to happen next. The issues don’t stop here though as the framerate in Blood Drive are bad enough to make Borderlands 2 blush in embarrassment. For not much going on with 2-3 characters on the screen, it seems that the framerate drops to the teens or even lower with the flashlight on. It’s clear that the game engine struggles mightily when there’s some kind of light on during the dark sequences of the game.
If I were to judge Corpse Party: Blood Drive on personal hype and story alone, it would be my runaway game of the year for the PS Vita. But due to the technical issues that plague the game, it’s hard to give it the perfect score that I think it deserves. From framerate drops, long loading times and a curious art decision, it’s far from perfect. If you can look past these issues, there’s a wonderful game, that story-wise, is one of the best on the Vita.