Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko's Hysteric Birthday Bash Review
Release Date: April 10th, 2019 (North America)
Developer: MAGES Inc., 5pb.
Platform: PC (Steam)
It's no secret that Corpse Party is a series that means a lot to me, and visual novel enthusiasts will tell you that the long running series has made such an impact on the genre to expand into merchandising, anime, and a live-action movie. Since its inception in the 90's, it's been ported, adapted, and remastered on multiple occasions, and while Corpse Party has and will more than likely always be a visual novel at its core, how you go about "playing" each game is substantially different, making it one of the most unique and enthralling series to this day. Sachiko's Hysteric Birthday is no different, this time going for a more romantic comedy dating-sim style approach that still, somehow, works to its favor with its trademark sinister and twisted imagery with stellar writing to boot.
Sachiko's Birthday sees the cast of all the Corpse Party games - both recurring and new - come together as they wake up in an auditorium that's very familiar. Brought against their will, everyone finds themselves back in Heavenly Host Elementary - a place that's on a different plane of existence, where the dead roam free and eternally torment the living, much like Purgatory. To say Sachiko's Birthday is more "light-hearted" this time around would be a little misguided, just because its somber and grotesque nature is still very much intact, but it is a little easier to breathe this time around as you'll probably do more laughing than screaming and holding your breath. As is the standard, the game presents itself in chapters as you find yourself in Heavenly Host Elementary yet again, with tons of save files to take advantage of for different routes, choices, and bad ends that you'll more than likely come across. I've said before with previous Corpse Party games, but Bad Ends are just as exciting as normal endings, only because of how many there are and seeing how far the game is willing to go with its gore and torture. It's this weird intriguing thing of being so degusted yet you can't look away. In some cases, despite the more laidback nature of Sachiko's Birthday, this rendition of Corpse Party is one of the more ruthless thanks to it receiving the equivalent of Adults Only rating back when it initially released due to many depictions that may be construed as too aggressive both sexually and with its violence. This was mainly the case with its collector's edition, however, which came with some added content, and the base game itself as far as I can tell is identical to the one we've received here in the west, preserving the developers vision for the art and story they tried to portray.
Sweet Sachiko's Hysteric Birthday Bash is divided into roughly nine chapters including prologues and epilogues, with extra chapters unlocked after beating the game and achieving certain tasks and routes. Each particular chapter has a specific theme and style that differentiates it from the rest. Depending on how Sachiko is feeling and what she wants to see, one could be a spinoff of Phantom of the Opera, while the other could be a pop-quiz type game show. It's interesting yet equally as unsettling seeing Sachiko get such joy from having fun, despite her background. In an odd way the game makes you feel a little more empathetic towards her, seeing as she's just a little girl who never really got to have much of a childhood. The main games explain how truly disturbed she is thanks to a lack of closure among other things, almost giving a sort of Ringu vibe - particularly Ringu 0: Basudei - to it, but seeing her genuinely excited to celebrate something with a ton of people - even if they are coerced - is kind of adorable. Sachiko's Birthday more or less builds upon the events and gameplay style of Book of Shadows, but the biggest difference being you can control multiple people at once by influencing decisions, allowing for a wide array of possibilities and chances that may or may not have grave mistakes. Despite the spinoff nature of Sachiko's Birthday, it is still considered canon and should be a must play for those looking for some events in between Book of Shadows and Blood Drive.
Seven years after its initial release in Japan and I am ecstatic that the rest of the world can finally experience the one Corpse Party title that was elusive to most of us for so long. Sweet Sachiko's Hysteric Birthday Bash is different yet familiar, bringing back all that's made Corpse Party so great for decades with its memorable characters, iconic settings, and stellar music and writing that, to me, don't get enough credit. The music has always been a standout thing for the series for me, and Sachiko's Birthday gives us more Corpse Party music to love and get stuck in our heads, with recurring tracks and signature atmospheres that keep tension high at all times, even during the more comical moments where you'd expect nothing special to happen. The only real gripe I have with it is that, at the moment, it's limited to a PC Steam release, while the original was brought out on the PSP years ago. Even if the Vita is no longer as viable as it once was, it'd still be a great platform for it to release on, even digitally only. Switch not being considered (yet) seems like another odd choice as I feel Corpse Party would be eaten up by fans on the platform, giving the flexibility of big screen as well as handheld mode where I feel Visual Novels are the most comfortable. Maybe in the future we'll see a compilation of sorts similar to the Ace Attorney Trilogy, but for now I'm just happy we finally got the missing piece to a wonderful series that I will forever cherish and that, finally, for better or for worse, we got to experience and be invited to Sachiko's Birthday -- now do a romantic comedy or die.
Still inventive in its long running series
Dialogue is hilarious in all the right ways, giving lots of slice-of-life moments and genuine high school moments despite its setting
Arguably the longest of the series with 20+ hours, giving more Corpse Party for fans to love.
The art is still one of a kind, with unforgettable characters
It's a little more slow-going than others, but its big peak moments are worth the trouble
Audio issues are the same as they were in Corpse Party Book of Shadows specifically, where it's difficult to hear voices on many occasions, even with many settings tweaked.
A big thanks to XSEED for giving us the opportunity to review Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash!