Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Danganronpa:Trigger Happy Havoc

Gamespot Score: n/a

My Score: 9.0

(+) Pros: - Amazing cast of extremely diverse characters, - Excellent cases that will challenge the minds of even the most methodical players, - Well padded game-flow and sequence for each chapter, - Incredibly in-depth investigation gameplay mechanics, - Class trials are intense as all hell and involve multiple interesting gameplay mechanics to function, - Wrapping up an entire class trial overall feels satisfying and sometimes uneasy, - Solid soundtrack during the majority of the game.

(-) Cons: - You need to play on Malicious difficulty to get the full experience.

Gameplay time: 10-20 hours

Okay, so ever since I've finished the game, I wanted to do the review for "Danganronpa". Why? Because its so damn amazing, one of the sleeper titles of the PSP. It never saw the light of day for a US  release...until next year where they'll be doing an enhanced port to the PS Vita. But me? Luckily I didn't have to wait that long, because the folks at "Project Zetsubou" ( did a KICKASS English translation patch of the game. Of course, I was among the fortunate folk that got to play the game in English, and holy F**K was I blown away. High school murder investigation PLUS badass court room action? Hell f**king yes, this was the game for me. If you ever thought the "Phoenix Wright" games were badass, you apparently haven't seen "Danganronpa", because ever since I've played this game, no other game has made me felt as badass. From now on, OBJECTION should be changed to SORE WA CHIGAU (You're wrong!)!

If you've read my review for the anime, you should know the gist of it. I've played the game before watching the anime, so in retrospect, this review should have come out first, but oh well. The game centers on Makoto Naegi, Super Duper High School Luckster, one of the super students sent to be enrolled in Hope's Peak Academy, a prestigious academy that only accepts the best of the best into its doors. All students enrolled here have a special ability or lineage, which earns them their title, such as Super Duper High School Swimmer/Idol/Fighter etc. Naegi's title was Luckster, meaning that he is super lucky, which is probably the most useless talent out there, even he considers it so. However, despite that, he comes into the school with high hopes, only to black out the moment he steps into its gates. When he awakes, he finds himself trapped in the school with no way out, along with 14 other students. The school's headmaster Monokuma appears, and explains a deadly game to the students. The only way to leave the school is to kill someone....

Yeah right.

From the very get go you'll find that the game's cast of 15 students is incredibly diverse....right during the introductory sequence you'll see some....interesting faces. Needless to say that this is part of the game's charm, everyone is so different that you'll want to invest time into knowing them more. Of course, you'll grow to like the individual characters of the game (yes, even Togami guys, his time will come) over time, and their camaraderie as students will grow on you. Celes is a two faced "ojou-sama" character, Fukawa is a delusional book worm, Ishimaru is a leader figure and Oowada is a friendly gangster kind of guy. These many different characters will pretty much make you want to discover more about them.

Of course, since this is a game about murder investigation, it goes without saying that the previous paragraph I just wrote about the characters will be very contradictory. Murder, this word speaks for itself. The characters that you took time to learn about and like will be murdered...OR, they may be the ones doing the murdering, taking the life of some other student that you care so much about. There are 15 students and a total of 6 cases. The trial system goes so that the murderer will be executed if convicted during a class trial. So that means that, give or take, there will be a murderer and a victim for each case, which means at least 12 people will die. That's devastating, no? I'll leave it to you to make out the most of my statement (assumption is key in this game).

Evidence, make sure you have them sorted out!

The act of murder in the midst of the characters you love is bad, but it gives birth to such excellent cases. Rivaling or even besting the cases from the "Ace Attorney" series, "Danganronpa"'s cases are pretty much what Hope's Peak Academy is all about, despair. Many times, you won't know what the flying f**k is happening, and you'll just be mindlessly collecting evidence, trying to cluelessly piece together what you can find and seek a solution, but the game denies you that right. Its really hard to see the outcome and circumstances of all the cases, and when the case finally sheds the truth, you can do nothing but nod in awe at how brilliantly it was all written out. The last 2 cases especially, are so brilliantly mindf**king.

That being said, the game is not just about murders only. There is a proper sequence that the game follows so that it can inflict despair on you. First, there's a short period between each murder that allows the story to progress. Here, characters get to know each other, spend time with each other, making futile efforts to escape Hope Peak's Academy without having to abide to the ridiculous rules of murder, of course, to no avail. They bond with one another, and the game even gives you free time periods to choose to hang out with any of the game's characters that are still alive, allowing you to learn more about them and deepen your friendship (you know, like in dating sim games). You can even give them gifts and stuff to further deepen the bond between yourselves.

The words of a true naive protagonist on the very first case....

Then the game smacks you in the face and throws that all out the window by abruptly killing off a student. Whether or not that was the student that you liked or had hopes on, it doesn't matter. If they die, they die, that's how it is. And even if they weren't the one found dead, they might be the murderer, and if that was the case, you'd have to convict them at the end of the class trial, which also spells death for them. Its a beautifully f**ked up sequence, really, and that's why its pretty awesome to play through. When a student is found dead, the game throws you into investigation mode, which has you running around Hope Peak's Academy, looking for clues about the murder and getting testimony or advice out of your other friends that are still alive.

Investigation plays out a lot like "Ace Attorney" games, only there's cool ass music in the background. You loiter around the murder scene and any suspicious areas, inspecting the areas with your trusty cursor for anything that might catch your eye, be it a blood stain, a disarranged set of bottles or even a slightly torn piece of cloth. These pieces of evidence add up to your ammunition, which is basically evidence that you get to use during the evident class trial. The game really allows you to investigate to really deep ends, like inspecting a body up or item up close to look for any clues. 

Its time to get serious!

Then when the time comes, Monokuma throws all the students in a class trial, a mini courtroom that allows the students to debate against each other, using their thoughts and gathered evidence as weapons. It is here that the students will compare facts with each other and convict the most suspect-able culprit. If the students deduce correctly, the rightful culprit will be executed, but if they deduce wrongly, the students themselves get executed and the culprits goes free, as the sole survivor of the school. The class trial breaks down into several phases, and all of them are equally intense. Non-stop debates feature the students all throwing in a piece of their mind, adding into the heated discussion. Your job as Naegi here is to listen to the theories that all the students put out in rapid succession, then select through your ammunition (your evidence, as mentioned earlier). If you find a statement contradicting to your ammunition, its time to prove some errors!

Some points of the class trial require you to even piece out a word or phrase, those this segments are really easy. Then there are parts where you have to calm down an agitated student through the MTB (machine gun talk battle). This segment plays like a rhythm game, where you listen to the beat of the student's claims and proceed to fire at their speech bubbles. Then there's the incredibly badass climax logic segment which usually plays at the very end of a class trial. This one involves you arranging a manga strip to re-layout the events of the murder, as the finishing blow to the culprit. And needless to say, wrapping up an entire class trial, feels epic and satisfying as hell...with a bit of uneasiness inside. You just convicted a classmate to his/her death, whether or not they deserved it. Most of the time its justified, but seeing a character that you may like or have taken interest in die just makes you sigh. 

Oh yes, the ost, it f**king rocks. There's no words needed, just give it a listen Great music play just at the right time, making the entire game an ear-orgasmic experience.

Ah, Togami you and your smirk never fail to make you look cocky.

I can think of no rightful flaw in the game, other than the fact that it might be too easy at times. If you don't play on Malicious difficulty (the hardest difficulty mode in the game), the solutions are almost always spelled out to you in a class trial, or at least, heavily hinted. Not that it hurts the experience too much, but I just feel like its proper to solve and find out the solutions to these cases yourself. On a higher difficulty level, you are allowed less screw-ups (you actually have a timer and health points for a class trial), and you have to choose solutions from a much wider set of evidence, making the ticking timer actually a menacing thing for you if you don't do anything. Other than that though, the game isn't too mechanically demanding, its just a matter of quick thinking and problem solving.

"Danganronpa" might just be one of the best games I've played on the PSP. I may or may not get the port on Vita when it comes, seeing as I've already played the game through once, played the final 2 cases TWICE, and watched the anime. If it has new content, I may consider picking it up, just as I'm going to pick up "Persona 4:Golden", but otherwise...I just want the second game. After this first game, I feel like I've triggered something stupidly addictive within me. I call this "Danganronpa fever", because this franchise is just mind-blowing. I love it.

Happy gaming! May you be filled with despair!