The “fan disc” is a relatively common thing when it comes to visual novels. After pouring hours of life into reading through a story, some people will surely come to care for the characters therein and want to spend more time with them. That’s where the fan disc comes in – a game release with a bunch of extra content, often a brand new story, letting these fans spend more time in the world they’ve fallen in love with.
Often, these fan discs are utterly drenched in fanservice. I don’t mean that in the sexual terms its often used for (although that kind of fanservice is common for these kind of releases), but rather as “content created specifically for fans.” Hell, it’s right there in the name: fan disc.
As such, these kind of releases are most definitely not the place for newcomers to jump into a series. For one, fan discs usually rely on players already having the background knowledge from the games they’re based on, and won’t go out of the way to assist in bringing in newbies. Secondly, the plots contained within these games are often side-stories or unimportant to canon, keeping them from being considered a true sequel.
Obviously, it’s rare for visual novel fan discs to make their way to English speaking audiences. We’re already talking about a niche genre here, so releasing a game for a specific niche within that niche just doesn’t really make sense to most publishers.
It’s these unusual releases, though, where XSeed Games shines. Having worked on bringing the mainline Corpse Party games to the west for the past few years, XSeed has seemingly decided it was time for us to have the chance to read the horror franchise’s own “fan disc.”
Developed by MAGES. Inc. and 5pb. and published in the west by XSeed Games, Corpse Party: Sweet Sachiko’s Hysteric Birthday Bash was released on April 10th, 2019, exclusively for PC.
Heavenly Host Elementary – an otherworldly site of grotesque horrors, ruled over by a malevolent and vengeful spirit named Sachiko. For years, unsuspecting people have been finding themselves within the walls of her domain, and if they die there, their souls are doomed to remain for all eternity, reliving their painful deaths over and over.
Sachiko is also a young girl, and she’s really excited for her upcoming birthday. She wants to throw the best party ever, and everyone in Heavenly Host is invited! Even those that have died have been brought back to life for one day to participate in this *ahem* Hysteric Birthday Bash!
Yes, this game is, somehow, a comedy spin-off of a rather gruesome horror series. Presented in a visual novel style, Sweet Sachiko is divided up into eight or so chapters detailing the different events Sachiko decides to have for her birthday. These range from cooking competitions to scavenger hunts, all with a dark twist. Hey, the birthday girl is still an evil spirit after all.
First things first right out of the gate, if you have not at least played the first Corpse Party game, Sweet Sachiko is definitely not for you. This game is a fan disc through and through, relying on the player already having knowledge about the series and its characters to get any kind of entertainment out of this title. If you have no experience with the franchise, don’t even bother with this game.
For those that are fans of the franchise, though, what you’ll find here is some relatively entertaining writing…for the first hour or so. Sweet Sachiko is, when I really boil it down, one joke told in different ways over and over and over for about eight hours (if you’re a fast reader). Put the cast in a ridiculous situation, have them play these seemingly normal party games in a horror environment, get Sachiko to threaten them every once in a while to remind you she’s still out to kill them, rinse, repeat.
To be fair to the game, I did find the first chapter entertaining. Much of the opening portion revolves around the game’s setup and Sachiko’s main request: for the students trapped in her domain to perform a romantic comedy play for her. She then sets up an obstacle course and promises freedom to whoever finishes it, and we proceed to watch some of the cast die horribly trying to complete it. But, it’s still Sachiko’s birthday, so they’re all brought back to life by the end.
The following chapters, though, proceed to take this premise and beat it to death with similar stories. One chapter has the cast making a play for Sachiko’s entertainment, but another has them making a movie (so it’s different!). Both see many characters taking up the same roles between them, making the later feel like a rehash of the former.
The same thing happens continuously. Let’s have a cooking competition, but Sachiko decides to mentally torture the losers! How about a game that forces a handful of the female characters to dote on a single man, but said man is forced to endure horrifying pain multiple times! I really just became numb to the “humor” after a while.
Another disappointing aspect of the game is the sheer number of characters. Being a fan disc, Sweet Sachiko brings together a couple dozen characters from the series, but doesn’t actually do much with them. Many of these were simple side characters from previous games that were hardly developed, and I could barely remember who they were here. The game even tries to poke fun at this, with a few characters I couldn’t recognize mentioning how they’re never given the opportunity to play any of Sachiko’s games.
The final little punch in the face comes from the story’s premise itself. Sachiko is giving those trapped in her domain 24 hours of freedom for her birthday, after which everything will go back to how it was before – death and horror. None of the cast will remember what transpires during this day. Thusly, no character development in this game (and there actually is a very small amount of it) will carry over to the franchise as a whole. Nothing in this game is canon.
Actually, that’s a lie. After completing the game’s main chapters, an Extra chapter is opened up, focusing on two new characters to the franchise who are introduced in Sweet Sachiko: Azusa and Ran. This chapter appears to be canon to the franchise…and it is the only well-written one in the game. Things go back to the tense horror of the mainline Corpse Party games, and the 45-minute-long story gives more character and development to Azusa and Ran than any of the main story chapters did.
I was practically falling asleep on my couch waiting for the game to be over by the final chapter, but this Extra story actually had me gripped to the game. While I understand the main game was supposed to be a “comedy,” if the rest of it was at least written as well as the Extra chapter was, I’m sure I could’ve gotten more enjoyment out of it.
Surrounded by the Party
Sweet Sachiko uses the same character design introduced in the PSP release of the first Corpse Party. We get some fairly standard anime designs, but the sprites are often very expressive. There are some points where it seems obvious the game ripped assets directly from previous games, but there are enough unique character outfits tailored to specific points in the story that I didn’t take much issue with it. Much of the music seems ripped from previous games as well, but admittedly I haven’t played the original Corpse Party in a number of years, so I’m a bit uncertain on that point.
The series’ trademark binaural sound is present here as well. While it may not seem as impressive today as it was back when I played the PSP original, having the voice acting and sound effects playing out in a 360-degree space is still great for immersion. Unfortunately, it’s not used to its best here; binaural sound is definitely much more suited to horror than comedy.
Along the same lines, I can at least praise the voice performances. Just the acting alone is enough to increase the tensity of some of the scenes in the game…although here, those scenes are few and far between.
Overall, Sweet Sachiko is the kind of game where I question its existence. The mainline Corpse Party series is one that I still believe to be handling anime horror extremely well, so creating a light-hearted comedy spinoff just seems so…dissonant.
The real killer, though, is that the game just doesn’t pull off it’s “comedy” well. Repeating what’s essentially the same joke until its dead and buried just isn’t my kind of entertainment. The sole bright light in this package is found in the Extra chapter, but you have to wade through hours of pointless crap to get to it.
As I said before, if you have no experience with the Corpse Party franchise, there’s nothing to debate here – do not play this game. For fans of the series, though, I still don’t think I’d recommend this game. Between the weak storytelling and pointless nature of the narrative, I can’t say that it’s worth your time.
Review copy provided by XSeed Games for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.