The other day I was in my local BOOKOFF and I ran across a copy of a PSP game called Corpse Party. Actually, the full title per the official site is Corpse Party – Blood Covered… Repeated Fear, which is pretty awkward. But it looked like horror material, and the back of the box made the game appear to be a 2D JRPG-style adventure, which sounds interesting enough (anything but a visual novel). So I put it back on the shelf and wrote it down in my mental list of games to research for the Quest.
Later that day I was talking to Pixel (see previous post) and he brought the game up. Apparently, he told me, Corpse Party is the work of a single developer. It was originally built using RPG Maker for the PC, and the PSP release is a recent console translation. Pixel himself has gone through something similar; his excellent Cave Story game is now available for Wii via WiiWare.
I have a thing for lone developers. Not only are people who are talented enough to put together an entire game from beginning to end totally awesome and amazing, I find that such games are often extremely focused. Some of my favorite PC games came from lone developers: Jordan Mechner and Eric Chahi, known respectively for Prince of Persia and Another World / Out of This World, are totally my heros. Pixel ranks up there too; Cave Story is the best side-scroller I’ve played in years. These games stand out because they do things that other games do not. Prince of Persia had amazing animation, innovative combat, and careful, paced platforming game play. Another World, another animation powerhouse for its time, remains today an example of how traditional game mechanics can be used as visual storytelling. And Cave Story manages to feel like a retro game inall the ways that are good without feeling dated and clumsy, as most retro games actually are. It reminds you of how games used to be without actually throwing away the twenty subsequent years of game design.
I have a sneaking suspicion that these games are as good as they are because they were made by a single person, a single holder of the vision who was also capable of rendering their vision to code, art, level design, and sound. These games are also labors of love; in each of the cases I’ve mentioned, the developers toiled away for years on their projects, spending much longer than a traditional game team would have on the same project. I think spending time on game development is a good thing; it takes a while for games to bake and for the real stars of the experience to become evident. Few teams can afford to spend five years on a side scroller, but Pixel did just that. Most developers don’t have what it takes to work without pay upfront for three years to produce a next generation game for a dying platform, but that’s what Mechner did when he built Prince of Persia. These works are special because the people who created them are crazy awesome, and also because the circumstances of development were special themselves.
I have no idea if Corpse Party is any good. The fact that somebody took an RPG Maker game and turned it into a PSP release means that somebody, somewhere thought that it was really good. The fact that it’s been developed by a single person increases my interest in it ten fold.
If you’re interested in Corpse Party, siliconera has some info about it. I’ll probably pick it up when I return to Japan in a few weeks. Gotta finally buy a PSP first, I guess.