DANGANRONPA 1.2 RELOAD (PS4) REVIEW
For some fans of the Danganronpa series, it may come as a relief that the cult favorite PlayStation Vita is finally releasing on the consoles. The decision, in no doubt, is an attempt to get original fans to visit Hope’s Peak Academy, to gain new fans as well before the upcoming re-release of Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, as well as build up hype for the new entry, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony this September on both the PS4 & Vita. While the handheld market brought the popularity of the series to the forefront, can the console versions live up to the admiration?
There are no mincing words about what Danganronpa is exactly; a visual novel with some game play elements. For fans of the Phoenix Wright games on Nintendo’s DS system, it is a mystery game that eventually ends up in courtroom situation where you will need to use the evidence to convict the culprit. Danganronpa is like an anime version of Law & Order where the police, lawyers, and murderers are anime teenagers during the worst season of Big Brother ever. If director David Fincher took psychedelic drugs during the death scenes, it may look like Danganronpa.
The first game, Trigger Happy Havok, is set inside of an abandoned school that once taught superlative students in each of their respective fields; math, writing, art, etc. When regular student Makoto Naegi wakes up to find himself trapped along with fourteen other students. Soon after it is revealed by an animatronic teddy bear named Monokuma, that seems to serve as the ringleader, that they students have the chance to escape the school. The catch is that they must murder someone and get away with it. If the class proves that a person committed the act of murder and is caught after a trail, then that person dies. However, if they convict the wrong person then the rest of them die and the perpetrator can leave the confines of Hope’s Peak Academy.
The sequel, sort to speak, Goodbye Despair, is essentially that same gimmick along with some new game play elements and a better exploration system. In this game, a different set of students find themselves stranded on an island with their “headmaster”, Monokuma playing the puppeteer once again in the murder game. This time around you play as Hajime Hinata; a Hope’s Peak Academy student with amnesia that is caught in the deadly game along with fourteen other students. While the majority doesn’t appear to have much in common in relation to the first besides the antagonist, and the gameplay, there is a deep story that does tie into the overall Danganronpa series including the anime.
In both entries, there is a simple system that is reminiscent of newer Persona games; the Daily Life system, and the Deadly Life sections. The latter of the two consists of discovering a murder, and then discovering clues which you will need in the evitable trial that follows. The Daily Life section of gameplay allows the player to travel around the available map to find fellow students to converse with so you can potentially unlock skills that can benefit the player during the trials, and trigger special events.
After the short luxury of doing what you want during your free time, the inevitability of a murder will happen in which you are then thrust in “investigative mode”. Essentially you will be examining the body, and anything else that is suspicious in the room where the murder took place, and even travel to other rooms within the school, or island, depending on which game you are playing. Discovering clues gives you what is known as a truth bullet.
Then there is the fun part that is the class trial called “Nonstop Debates”, which is the crux of the game that has you firing truth bullets to “shoot down” any statements that may contradict what you have discovered. On a “gentle” difficulty you will only have one truth bullet to select from, but other difficulties will present multiple bullets that you must choose from to match the false statement. If you shoot the wrong phrase, with or without the correct bullet, you will lose some of your life. Lose it completely and you must start the trial over. This is where the game gets lengthy at times due to the repetition that will inevitably happen.
Besides the “Truth Bullet” areas of the trial, there are other games within. Hangman’s trial has you playing a literal game of hangman to expose the clue, “Final Strike” has you hitting buttons at a beat to defeat someone’s unwillingness to accept the truth, “Closing Arguments” has you piecing what happened in order in the form of a manga comic, and “Logic Dive” that has you sliding down a tube to avoid pitfalls and other obstacles. In Goodbye Despair, the “Truth Bullets” are done a little differently as you will have bullets to agree or disagree with a statement.
As much as I enjoyed the original Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, I believe that the second game, Goodbye Despair is the better game. The ability to travel to different areas is more of a relief in the second game than the claustrophobic feel I got from the school in the first. I also found the class trials way more enjoyable in Goodbye Despair as they improved from the first, and added some more. While the second game is my favorite out of the two, the characters from Goodbye Despair were more annoying. While the characters from the first game had there goofy moments, I found the second games leads, incredibly unbelievable. Then again, I shouldn’t expect anything less from a game that has anime tropes to begin with.
One aspect that I didn’t think I would miss is the touch controls. On the Vita versions of the series, many of the mechanics, especially the “Non-Stop Debates”, use your fingers to fire the bullets. Not only that but using your hands to cut through statements during the trial was satisfying. While I do understand the complexity of trying to integrate that into the touch pad, and that there is too much going on in the game for it to be precise, I just had to be glad that a whole new set a people will have the ability to enjoy Danganronpa.
In the end, Danganronpa’s voyage to the PlayStation 4 is great for those who are interested in the series that will never own a Vita handheld. However, the lack of touch controls will alienate some fans as they may yearn for those fun mechanics again. There is nothing wrong with this port in anyway, but if you can play the first two game in the series, and even the third possibly on the Vita when it releases, then I would suggest doing so as you will probably have a more memorable time.
*Review copy provided by NIS America
*Review copy provided by NIS America