Once upon a time, it seemed like a miracle that Team GrisGris’ Corpse Party was localized. It was a horrific adventure with lots of visual novel elements and an indie game. However, Xseed Games took a chance on it, then kept taking chances on bringing more ports and spin-offs to other countries. A fanbase grew, and it made a name for itself. But one title seemed exceptionally unlikely: Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash. Miraculously, it too has received a localization! It’s interesting, to say the least, but its laser focus means it is very much a game for the fans.
Okay, there are going to be spoilers here. Namely, the big one that Sachiko is the big bad of the Corpse Party series. She’s the evil spirit haunting Heavenly Host Elementary School, the otherworldly academy where all sorts of innocent children, high schoolers and teachers are trapped and tormented. Except today, everyone gets a reprieve. Today is Sachiko’s birthday. In honor of this most sacred event, everyone gets amnesty. She pulls them into the school auditorium, brings the dead back to life and lets everyone reunite for a cultural festival.
A cultural festival that Sachiko, a demented and vengeful little girl with the power to warp reality, is hosting with the help of her massive giant zombie and various malicious ghost pals; clearly, it is only going to be a good time for her.
A cultural festival that Sachiko, a demented and vengeful little girl with the power to warp reality, is hosting with the help of her massive giant zombie and various malicious ghost pals; clearly, it is only going to be a good time for her. Well, her and the people playing the game, because this is an omake installment. Weird stuff happens. Goofy stuff too, though at the same time it can also get a little gory and unnerving. She has a list of demands. There are activities she wants to participate in and performances she wants to see, and all of the people in the auditorium better do their best to appease her.
The highlight, and perhaps greatest pitfall, in Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash is how much prior knowledge of the series you need to get by. The main characters are the people abducted from Kisaragi Academy Senor High School, who appeared in the original Corpse Party, and the Paulownia Academy High School students who showed up in Corpse Party: Book of Shadows and Corpse Party: Blood Drive. For example, Shame Upon the Battlefield focuses on watching groups from both of those schools attempt to survive an escape room situation, with some side characters who only appeared as ghosts or nametags in the original game also showing up. Stranger in the Spotlight stars Corpse Party stars and a handful of nametag people from Musashigawa Girls’ Middle School as members of the supporting cast. Trans-Bomb Shelter Ultra Quiz only follows Paulownia Academy High School characters. It is a lot to digest.
This means even if you love Corpse Party and are a fanatic, you could very well find yourself checking online to find out who certain people are and if you should know them. A lot of these characters are people you might have only learned about by finding their nametags in the original game, so there is chance you maybe never even encounter these people back then. The Bonus section does have Case Books that lets you review different games in the series’ events and see a timeline, but the Character Dossiers require unlocking. I first checked in with it after the introduction, to find nothing was open. I stopped back again during the first real chapter, Shame Upon the Battlefield, and couldn’t see anything. When I finished Trans-Bomb Shelter Ultra Quiz and still saw I couldn’t click any of the 49 profiles to learn about them, I gave up on using it as a resource.
On the plus side, as long as you do know the main characters from the original Corpse Party, Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash can be a lot of fun. The characters are well aware of the situation they are in and the horror they are about to return to. They don’t trust Sachiko. This whole birthday celebration is a trap, and everyone is doing their best to get by. This means a lot of the choices people get to make in its nine chapters involve damage control. A problem you might face early on is making the choices you think would be the right ones to "survive." But really, you sometimes need to think about the ones that would amuse Sachiko the most. Humor of all kinds is employed, which means things can be very goofy one moment, then get quite black the next. Weird stuff happens.
The highlight, and perhaps greatest pitfall, in Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash is how much prior knowledge of the series you need to get by.
This means fanservice. There is a lot of it in Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash. Heroines from the original game dress up as maids, including Satoshi’s younger sister Yuka. Morishige and Yoshiki dress up in feminine costumes. There are relationships of all sorts highlighted between characters, pairing people up that couldn’t be together in the original games. There is a scene with tentacles. Your mileage may vary on whether you do or don’t enjoy it, but it is wise to know it is there before heading into the adventure.
Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash is also one of those rare visual novels where, well, you may want to try and earn every bad ending. You can check and see how many bad endings there are in each chapter as you play, which also lets you see how many you have or haven’t earned. They can have custom CGs associated with them. You can unlock bonus stories or songs. Keeping constant save files at every major decision is a very good idea, because this is a game where you never know which choice could lead to a wrong end. People who get invested might really want to seek every part out.
However, there are some visual novel mainstays that aren’t present in Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash, and I wish that they were. There is no option to skip all text. You can only skip text you have seen. If you open up the message log, you can look back to see what had happened and hear it being read, but you can’t click a line to jump back to that prior place in the story. They aren’t completely necessary, but sometimes those little conveniences can help.
If you love Corpse Party, then this is it; Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash is a game you probably have to own. It offers all sorts of insights into characters, lets you see people interact in a more peaceful environment and can often be quite amusing. It often pays tribute to the original games, calling back to blink-and-you’ll-miss-them characters and offering nods to events and endings from other installments. Characters you (may or may not) remember are all back. It is essentially a gift from Xseed to the people who have supported this series over the years. However, it is definitely for the hardcore devotees, and people who have a passing interest in it should know the original Corpse Party is required reading first.