Publisher: Xseed Games
Developer: Team GrisGris/MAGES./5pb
Medium: Vita Card/Digital
I imagine most people reading this review already know whether they want to play Corpse Party: Blood Drive. After all, it's the third entry in a series of visual novels, one that relies heavily on a thorough knowledge of the previous two games and that has a very niche appeal (to put it mildly). While I'm sure there are some people — a very, very small number, presumably — out there who are just discovering the Corpse Party series for the first time now that it's arrived on the Vita, I have to imagine that by now, people generally know where they stand in relation to the game.
If you're in that tiny minority, here's Corpse Party: Blood Drive in a nutshell: gruesome deaths (via murder, suicide, ghosts and curses), gory self-mutilation, language so harsh it would make the saltiest sailors blush, and random scenes of teenage bathing that ensure you'll want to avoid playing the portable game on a bus or in a public setting. All that and, as I said, an intricately-woven story about a group of teachers and students who are trapped in a nightmarish alternate dimension. Playing through the first two Corpse Party games is a must if you want to even have a shot at understanding Blood Drive, but you'll only want to do that if you have a strong tolerance for blood and guts, and a strong stomach to match.
Of course, if you've already played through those first two games, then you'll know what to expect here, too. And you'll be pleased to know that Blood Drive delivers. I mean, you get a girl pissing blood and trying to slit her wrists, another young girl screaming as her father chokes to death in front of her, yet another young girl having her back broken and collapsing in a pool of blood — and that's just in the prologue! Needless to say, that tone mostly keeps up for the rest of the game, which means if you can read that last sentence without feeling a little queasy, you'll probably be fine here, too…though even then, there are plenty of moments that may test just how much you can stomach.
It's not a slam dunk that you will be, though. While Corpse Party: Blood Drive may mostly live up to its predecessors' stomach-churning standards, there are a few annoyances here that may give fans of the franchise pause. Most noticeably, there's the switch to 3D.
No, let me rephrase that: there's a partial switch to 3D (much of the game, after all, consists of lengthy exposition and infodumps told via the traditional 2D characters flashing in and out on the screen), with that partial switch consisting of everything getting a chibi makeover. (To some extent, that design was there from the beginning, but the switch from 2D to 3D — not to mention the switch from the PSP to the Vita's higher resolution screen — really drives it home.) I didn't think it was possible for Corpse Party to get any more off-putting than it already was, and yet, somehow, seeing a chibi-fied teenage girl slashing at her wrists as blood spurts everywhere does it. Then again, I guess, if you've made it this far in the series, you're probably okay with a little guts and gore, which means the switch may just add to the overall experience for you.
The deeper problem for most fans, though, may be the save system. Save points are few and far between in Blood Drive, which means that if you haven't budgeted long stretches of time for every playthrough, you'll be resorting to suspending your game states quite frequently. Obviously, that's easier to do on the Vita than it would be on a console, but it's still not ideal.
If you can live with that, though — and you've made it this far in the series — then you'll probably find Corpse Party: Blood Drive to be a fitting end to the trilogy. Personally, it kind of makes me want to throw up, but given how squeamish I am, that just means it's doing what it set out to do. Newcomers will find it baffling, but for anyone who wants closure on the kids of Heavenly Host, you may just find that here.