Let’s get this out of the way: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a great game that you need to play. Before you do, you owe it to yourself to play the original, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, first.
Still with me? Good. The Danganronpa franchise, newly available to us English-speaking folks, is one that is beyond quirky. The premise of the sequel is fairly close to the original game in that a group of high school students are gathered together in an inescapable location, wiped of most of their lifelong memories. Aware of their name and, in most cases, the unique talent they possess that earned them a spot at the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, the students face a very, very strange situation.
A mechanical bear named Monokuma reveals he’s the one behind the students’ kidnapping (well, kind of). Worse yet, Monomuma presents the students with only one means of escape: kill a peer and don’t get caught. Upon a murder, the students are collectively given time to investigate the incident. A class trial follows, with the group tasked to find the guilty party. If the killer is successfully caught, he or she is put to death and life continues. If the killer is successful in hiding their actions, and an innocent party is convicted, the rest of the students are put to death. The successful killer not only gets to escape the situation but gets his or her memories back.
The game is part CSI and part Choose Your Own Adventure, except there’s only one plot to follow. You spend your days going through – admittedly well-developed and intriguing — walls of text, also interacting with other students and your environment at large. The murders are generally carried out during the night, so your days then become ones of investigation. While investigating, you’ll check out crime scenes in order to gather evidence. That evidence is then turned into Truth Bullets to use during class trials. From conversations to investigations to firing said Truth Bullets, the game has an interface that was meant for the touchscreen of the PS Vita.
Of the ‘Ultimate’ students – that’s how Danganronpa designates the supreme talent that each possesses – there are some friendly, weird, annoying and very stereotypical types. Ultimately – and pardon the pun – each of the characters is well-rounded; it’s great fun getting to know each and every one of them. Be warned though: the Ultimate Nurse is certainly a case unto herself, constantly finding herself in overly ridiculous sexual situations. The game is mostly adorable and quirky, but the Ultimate Nurse really shows how different the cultures of Japan and the rest of the west truly are. Prepare yourself.
See? I wasn’t kidding. Do I need to tag this review as NSFW now?
One of the best parts about Danganronpa 2 is that it full-on acknowledges that it’s a video game. This self-awareness provides for a lot of comedy, but also means the game can directly assert it knows it’s a sequel and has to up the ante. If you’ve played through the original’s bonus game, you’ll already be aware of the mechanical rabbit named Usami. She plays a very large role in the sequel, although seemingly quite underpowered compared to her first appearance. While this changes dramatically in this game’s after-campaign mode, we won’t spoil it for you.
Danganronpa 2 improves on a number of pieces of functionality compared to its predecessor. Rather than walking around during the day in first-person mode exclusively, that view is reserved for a couple of areas on the island you’re trapped upon. To get from location to location, you’re presented with a side-scrolling mode, where you can run from place to place. Sure, you can fast travel, but walking is crucial to evolve your Tomogachi-like electronic pet. Hate the idea of an electronic pet? Well, you can pretty much ignore it if you want.
All up, walking, proper investigations and pet care provide your character with XP. Levelling up helps you with your investigations, as does befriending your other students. Thankfully, this sequel does a much better job of showing you how upskilling will actually help you out.
The worst part about Danganronpa was its class trials, and sadly that remains consistent with the sequel. The class trials are full of mini-games that are tedious to play; as with the last game, you can change settings on these sequences to at least make them as painless as possible. “Logic Dive”, a new min-game, is really the only fun one. As for the trials themselves, they’re quite like the Phoenix Wright series of games. You’ll most likely have a good idea of who a murderer is, but will be left scratching your head to figure out how you have to get to that conclusion via in-game logic.
Danganronpa 2 is hard to explain – and to pronounce, for that matter – but a delight to play. It’s one of those games that’s better left a mystery, ripe for you to delve into and discover on your own. So, go get discovering.
Review: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair