There’s a lot of you out there who enjoyed Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc right through to the very bitter end. And while I wasn’t one of those who took the opportunity to see the cult classic bear its fruit, I can safely say that a few hours of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair left enough of an impression on me to understand fully why the original became such a huge topic last earlier this year.
I’m sure it isn’t news to the majority of you but Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is, just like the last game, essentially a PSVita port of the original PSP series – only with 100% more English translation. It may be new to us across the pond, but the Japanese have had all the answers to these string of murders long before the rest of us ever noticed them.
This time around, students of Hope’s Peak Academy – a school for the best of the best – are transported from their new classroom to a mysterious tropical island for a bond-forming vacation that quickly takes a turn for the worst. If the appearance of a solemn talking stuffed rabbit wasn’t enough of a clue, the dastardly bear, Monokuma, quickly returns ready to turn the fun and games into something a little more… interesting. The ‘Killing School Trip’.
Danganronpa 2 features a large cast of increasingly opposite and diverse characters who all bring their own touch to the narrative of the story. While the game can be seen as a glorified transcript, it’s hard to deny just how well each of the character’s manage to compel you to advancing though line after line of text. From a perverted Southern chef to a clumsy medic and a bad-mouthed girl who likes to squish ants into the dirt with her fingers, the cast are essentially what keeps the momentum flowing – and they do it particularly better than most other visual novels that have managed to graced English speaking territories.
While the majority your time may be spent pushing through large portions of text conversations, Danganronpa 2 isn’t a visual novel by the more conventional means; there’s a few different ways you’ll go about interacting with the game world. It doesn’t change all that much for the first part, but while a side-scrolling screen is controlled to move to each of the island’s locations, it’s actually a 3rd person point n’ click style adventure that you’ll find yourself manning for the most part.
Once the story kicks up the gear you’ll strolling around on your own accord and distributing your time away from in-depth murder investigations by shooting the breeze with classmates through casual chat and presents – you know, before they inevitably bite the dust.
While it certainly isn’t a case of “if” but “when” one of the island’s inhabitants reaches their end, you’re pushed straight into more point n’ click work to discover all of the “Bullet Truths” retaining to just what happened to the poor blighter who’s ready to but thrown into the ground. Alibis, murder weapons and sneaky clues eventually make up all that you need to piece the murder together and argue the facts against the rest of the class in round table trial of thought-provoking mini-games. While you’re brain may have deduced the perfect explanation, I can guarantee Danganronpa‘s cleverness will spin your idea into something with a little more bang.
It’s true; the game can drag a little between murder cases – but you can control that slightly by opting to end the “Free Time” segments prematurely and neglecting the cast. Shooting “Truth Bullets” for and against contradictions and agreements isn’t particularly well explained despite the fairly lengthy introduction to each portion of the trail process.
Sure, maybe I was just having a hard time grasping the concept, but it certainly took me more than few attempts to find when are where the game would let me produce the evidence I’d brewed together for my defence. It was more of a task to understand just why a single highlighted line was the correct point to act rather than the one before that seemed completely acceptable for the same call-out. It’s somewhat of a struggle to progress, but it’s certainly worth the effort in the end.
The constant shift in proof-producing mini-games found throughout the lengthy “Class Trial” segments can be finicky and difficult to immerse yourself with, but they’re certainly 100% more enjoyable that a realistic court hearing, and around 50% more involving than a standard struggle for Phoenix Wright. Rough numbers, of course, but that’s my best measurement.
Danganronpa 2 isn’t a ‘must have’ for any English player who’s just dying to play more localised visual novels – but it’s certainly one for those who enjoy a good a brain teaser. Fans of Hotel Dusk, Broken Sword or the creator’s earlier work – Virtue’s Last Reward – will find nothing but goodness in Monokuma’s second sickening death game; But you may need to be prepared to wrap your head around more than just the details of the murders themselves.