I’ve always been a fan of quirky Japanese games and the Danganronpa series definitely fits the bill. Originally released as Playstation Portable games, the series grew in popularity and was ported to Steam. Now NIS America has gone one step further and has provided a duology pack for the Playstation 4 which includes both updated versions of Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair.
I do want to disclose that I’ve never played or beaten the other versions of the Danganronpa games, but have some familiarity with the franchise due to the anime series. My thoughts are based on the Playstation 4 version only due to this being my only hands-on experience with the games. Since the series is heavily story based, I won’t go into much detail besides basic plot points.
Trigger Happy Havoc follows Makoto Naegi, who is the embodiment of an average high school student. One day he gets an invitation to attend the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy – a school where only the best and brightest are allowed to enroll. Each student at Hope’s Peak is the absolute “ultimate” at what they do, which might leave you wondering why an average kid like Makoto was invited. Apparently his talent was being chosen as the “Ultimate Lucky Student” during the school’s yearly raffle which allows one average student to attend.
Unfortunately for Makoto, Hope’s Peak Academy isn’t the bastion it’s made out to be. All the 15 students who were chosen to attend have been locked in a game of life or death, led by a tiny black and white bear known as Monokuma. The only hope of escaping the school alive is killing a classmate undetected.
On the flip side, Goodbye Despair follows Hajime Hinata and a different set of “Ultimate” students also attending Hope’s Peak Academy. This time, the school transforms into a tropical island called Jabberwock Island and a new bear known as Usami joins the mix. It’s not long after that Monokuma shows up and turns the fun tropical getaway into another year of murder and mystery.
Both games core mechanics involve conversing with your classmates, with whom you engage with in typical visual novel form. Within each conversation there are highlighted words that allow you to attain more information regarding specific events or characters. These words are important to drawing out crucial details for each murder, so paying close attention during conversations is a must.Outside of the dialog system, you’ll be able to explore the school within a first-person dungeon crawling perspective. This allows you to quickly navigate Hope’s Peak Academy and investigate the school for clues and easily interact with classmates who appear as two dimensional cutouts within the first-person perspective.
Each protagonist is tasked with uncovering who is responsible for each murder by participating in Class Trials, Mini-Games and exploring their surroundings. As I’m sure someone’s made the connection before, Danganronpa is like a mashup of Persona’s social interactions with Ace Attorney’s trial gameplay. What you get is a satisfying blend of story, characters and gameplay that doesn’t get stale.
Danganronpa features an excellent soundtrack that’s hard to categorize into a single genre. Each musical piece was constructed to meet each situation and Masafumi Takada has done an excellent job of composing a soundtrack that fits the tone and unique style that both Danganronpa titles offer. As I tend to do in my reviews, my favorite track from Trigger Happy Havoc is New World Order with Ekoroshia being my favorite in Goodbye Despair.
Since the games were originally Playstation Portable games, I was unsure of what to expect in terms of visual fidelity. Unsurprisingly Spike Chunsoft and NIS America have done a great job bringing the portable experience to the big screen. Character art looks fantastic and crisp and the game runs at a locked 60fps. Everything looks great from the couch and if I didn’t know it was originally a portable game, I’d have thought it was built for the Playstation 4.
With the ability to choose dialog language at the beginning of the game, I was disappointed to find out I wasn’t able to alternate between English and Japanese on the fly. Once you pick the language initially, you’re locked into that decision unless you choose to start a new file. This isn’t so bad if you can hold off until a chapter change, since Danganronpa allows you to start off on later chapters.
If you’re in the market for something new and have never given the Danganronpa games a try, Reload is definitely worth checking out. With over 50 hours of gameplay between both games, this pack offers plenty of content and offers the easiest entry point into the series. On the other hand, if you have already played both Danganronpa games I couldn’t say it’s worth the purchase since the content is basically the same.