I must say, in the world of Japanese style games there isn’t a whole lot out there that really speaks to me. Of course, there’s always going to be Final Fantasy and the like but nothing that really grabs or engulfs me such as that. This was my original thought until I started playing the mystery thriller that was Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Unfortunately, the first game left more of an impression on me than the second. Not to take anything away from the designers though, who did a wonderful job of porting the series from the Vita to the PS4, but the majority of what is written will follow the first title.
Danganronpa is a visual novel game series created by developers Spike Chunsoft. The game’s story follows a group of students who are the ‘Ultimate’ in their respective fields, such as the Ultimate Baseball Star or the Ultimate Fanfic Writer. These ‘Ultimates’, who are awakened with no memory within Hope’s Peak Academy, are quickly thrown into a killing game where their very lives are put on the line. This isn’t the only thing that occurs inside the school, however, as there are mysteries around every corner. Without wishing to spoil anything else, the story that is presented throughout the game is well-paced and detailed from top to bottom. The only complaint I really have about it is that it’s way too long. The amount of time characters spend repeating each other’s dialogue really makes it feel as though the creators were trying to pad out time spent playing. Which, usually, isn’t a very big problem, but for a visual novel based game where you’re going to be sitting there reading, it can become quite frustrating.
Fortunately, reading isn’t all you’ll be doing in Danganronpa as it features courtroom case style gameplay. When describing it overall, it’s fairly easy to put it into the same realm as Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. The player must find clues when a murder takes place during the killing game to figure out who is the culprit. This is achieved through careful examination of suspect’s stories and alibis, as well as determining which clues work with which stories in general. When an individual brings up something that’s relevant to a particular case, the player takes part in a bullet style mini-game where rebuttals are shot down with ‘truths’ in order to figure out what pieces fit where. After which, assuming you succeed, you begin to understand more and more about the case until you eventually find out whodunnit.
Gameplay can become quite difficult at times when new mechanics are given to you as you get further along. Aspects such as ‘using other suspects reasoning’ and ‘gaining new evidence as you play’ do a good job at changing up the tempo of the court cases so that they never get dull. However, where it becomes difficult is when the new features never really allow the player to get comfortable with a certain style. Yes, it changes the gameplay up so you have to think on your feet, but when you’re introducing mechanics past the halfway point, that may be a sign that you’ve overstuffed your game.
In terms of style and design, Danganronpa does a lot of good in that regard. The visual style is quite engaging and brings the world to life in wondrous fashion with detailed rooms and enjoyable 2D animations. As well, characters in-game have well-developed personalities that deviate them from each other, which is added onto even more so by the fact that you can form “friendships” in between investigations and get to know them better. Other than that, there’s isn’t too much to boast about. The personalities, although well defined, are a little typecast until later on but, again, the design itself is well done so I don’t really fault the game for it.
Now, as mentioned above, Danganronpa 2 didn’t have the same impact on me as the first title did. Which is really strange considering that, characters aside, everything is pretty much the same from a design aspect. Honestly, what really took me out of the experience the second time around are the problems that bugged me in the first game. Yes, I did enjoy the game’s stance on meta-humour and it felt like a lot of things were tweaked for a more enjoyable experience, but there seemed to be no adjustments to the length issues and most of the characters felt like they were pumped out for the sake of ‘going through the motions’. It’s a still a decent game overall and the ending is just as exciting, but issues that plagued the first title still remain here, unfortunately.
So, all in all, the Danganronpa 1.2 Reload package may have a couple of problems here and there, but it isn’t enough to stop me from recommending this set. With fluid gameplay, well-presented design, and intriguing characterization, Danganronpa is a title that’s hard to refute.
Danganronpa 1•2 Reload (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Although the first title grabbed my attention more than the second, Danganronpa 1.2 Reload are a pair of games that engulf you quite effectively into their worlds. These two titles come highly recommended.