Corpse Party is series designed to terrify and thrill anyone who plays it. After all, it covers most horror story bases. It’s set in a familiar location that suddenly becomes unsettling, there are ghosts and undead individuals, it’s gruesome and there are plenty of moments that make you want to shout at the protagonists for their idiotic behavior. But, for all those imagery and grotesque storylines, some of the most normal fears in Corpse Party can be its most frightening.
We all have fears that nag at us from day to day. These are the ones that involve the most natural parts of life, rather than the supernatural. Getting good grades, not letting the people who love us down and finding a place for ourselves. These are the real things that get under our skin and lead to our lives being either simple or scary. It’s easy to focus on the more obvious horrors we’re forced to confront in Corpse Party; sometimes, we overlook the game when it tackles more commonplace anxieties.
The game begins with one of these fears. The events of Corpse Party take place because a group of friends is afraid of moving on with their lives. Mayu Suzumoto is going to be attending a new school. She’s afraid of starting over in a new place, while everyone else is afraid of what this means. If one friend can be separated from the group, they all can. They perform the Sachiko Ever After ritual in an attempt to hold on to that friendship and guarantee it will last forever. Instead, the failed ritual tears the group apart forever.
Right away, Corpse Party is using the supernatural to make the fear of separation more tangible. Once the kids are in Heavenly Host Elementary School, they’re split up. They may not even be in the same time and space. A minor loss has turned into the worst possible situation, all because they tried too hard to ensure it didn’t happen. It’s an analogy; perhaps even a cautionary example to warn players that we shouldn’t attempt to force things to happen. We should relax, do our best to gradually work toward a goal and not rely on a quick fix.
Moving on is a part of life. The heroes and heroines of Corpse Party are all students in a transitory stage. While Mayu is the only one immediately undergoing a move from one place to another, they’re all in that phase where they’re no longer children, yet aren’t adults either. Being trapped in a school in another dimension is a means of better showing the state of limbo these young men and women are in. Many of them are at the crossroads of their life, on the verge of dealing with issues they’ll have to address once they’re out of Heavenly Host Elementary School.
Each of these characters’ situations touch on fears we may have all carried inside us at some point. Yuka’s a 14-year-old junior high student, but she looks and acts like she’s in grade school. Maybe she clings to that role, because it means she has her elder brother’s attention. He’s close to being an adult and moving on, but maybe he’ll still make time to take care of her if she remains vulnerable. Naomi has feelings for Satoshi, but has always been afraid to act on them. But, if she doesn’t do something, she could miss her chance at their being together when they both graduate. Ayumi wants to be an illustrator and follow her dreams, trying hard to put up a brave and mature front as a class representative, but she’s really as lost as her fellow classmates. She keeps turning to her teacher, sister and even strangers online like Naho Saenoki, who shared the flawed Sachiko Ever After ritual online, for guidance. She’s eventually going to need to rely on her own strength and judgment.
What really makes Corpse Party scary is seeing all of these insecurities we may have once held thrown back in our faces. The fears of growing up, being separated from the people we love and forced to step into a new situation on our own can be as terrifying as Heavenly Host Elementary School’s many horrors.