Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Super Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Gamespot Score: 8.0 (Great)

My Score: 9.0

(+) Pros: - Superb story telling and strong narrative, - Incredible cast of characters...Nagito is especially compelling, - Challenging, interesting murder cases and plenty of strong courtroom antics to back it up, - The resort island is huge, adding more variety during investigation segments, - Adds even more unique debate mechanics to mix things up, - Soundtrack is still top tier.

(-) Cons: - You can kind of guess when someone is about to die, final trial is not as amazing as the one in the first game.

Gameplay Time: 10-20 Hours

I'm actually convinced that the "Danganronpa" series has changed my life. Similar to how "Phoenix Wright" opened my eyes and exposed me to these kinds of games, it's the "Danganronpa" franchise that really took it to the next level. The original was one of the best games I've played and one of the strongest narrative experiences in gaming to me, it was so compelling that I had to play the game twice. Since I didn't have a Vita, I was kind of bummed that I wouldn't be able to play the sequel, "Super Danganronpa 2"...but then Steam came along and released it on PC. Thanks to them (and all who use Steam, seriously, keep buying games on Steam so that it stays relevant for future game releases), I had the chance to play this masterpiece on the PC, and I must say, like the original, this one is worth every penny. Every second I spent on this game was well spent, and I did not regret my purchase, not one bit. "Super Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair" is a worthy successor to an already amazing VN experience, evolving the series in many ways that make it a somehow even better game than the original.

The 16 students that are about to get f**ked on Jabberwock Island.

Similar to how the original started, the story stars a group of students who belong to Hope's Peak Academy, elites who will eventually go to lead the world with their various talents and skills. 16 students were sent on a vacation to Jabberwock Island, a resort island that was built to cater to top class tourists. Among them is protagonist Hinata Hajime, who can't seem to remember his talent, where as all 15 other students that were suddenly sent to the island alongside him all know perfectly who they are. A classic case of amnesia, as one would say. A pink stuffed bear shows up, Monomi, who introduces herself as the student's instructor. All is well as Monomi asks them to get along and build friendship with one another, until suddenly out of nowhere, Monokuma appears on the island and destroys Monomi. He locks off all means of escape, and tells the 16 students that their vacation will no longer be about building friendships, but killing one another. When the students obviously refuse, he starts providing them with motives to begin to kill another! Once again, a new killing game is about to start...

Right! Of course!

"Super Danganronpa 2" doesn't pull its punches. It tells a strong story through the eyes of Hinata Hajime, who is a lot different from Makoto, our previous protagonist. For that alone, we have a much different narrative style than before, and I must say that I very much prefer the way Hajime sees things. The writing and story telling is just great, despite many different arcs in the game itself, everything feels like one, cohesive tale that binds itself together. Similarly to the original, you'll be eager to press on, dying to find out what happens next.

Of course, a strong story means absolutely nothing without strong characters. As usual, we are presented with 16 characters that are incredibly different from one another. We've got those who are a little bit more normal, like the gentle Mahiru , the playful Kazuichi  or the pervertic Teruteru. Then we've got anti-socials like Peko and Kuzuryu...or crazies like Nekomaru and Akane. We also have enigmas like the delusional Gundahm or extremely apologetic Mikan. I'd dare say that the characters this time around are even more interesting than our previous cast (but by just a little bit) though in the end it all varies from person to person. Like before the game attempts to have you bond with them during free time for character specific events, though IMO the game's main story does more than enough to justify these guys. Even so, knowing that most of these superb characters will end of dieing is just a terrifying way to start off the game....I'll be honest with you, don't start pointing favorites when the game starts...it's going to hurt (my favorite died, obviously).

I cannot agree more....

I'll split the game up into it's 3 main phases, which are the same as the previous game. Whenever a new episode starts, the game opens you up with some story scenes followed by free time, where you have Hajime wander around Jabberwock Island to either explore its intricate exhibits that are sometimes guarded by vicious mecha-monsters (yeah, I'm not kidding), or mingle around with his classmates. You earn friendship with them, with sufficient friendship with certain characters you get character cut-scenes. You can speed up friendship building by showering your friends with gifts, and maxing out a character's friendship will net you special abilities which you can use in class trials. After some f**king around Monokuma will announce a "motive" for the remaining students to try and kill one another, which usually works.

When a body is found, somebody has been murdered (obviously), so thus begins phase 2, the investigation phase. Here, you go around the island, pricking around looking for clues about how the deceased was killed. You converse with classmates to find out about their alibis or certain testimonies that can help out with your investigation. You pick up items, examine bathrooms, theorize with some friends about how the murder was played out...in the end, its similar to how it was done in the original, but this time, with the massive amount of different locations in Jabberwock Island, this phase is both more challenging and more fun. Finally, when all is said and done, the game moves you to the famed courtroom phase, which is where the meat of the game is.

That's right Hajime, show that redhead how it's done!

Now, with the courtroom phase, it's here where the game is at its best. Non-stop debate and it's accompanying minigames make their comeback, and they're better than ever. As usual, your job is to look for contradiction via highlighted words or statements from your classmates as they continue to banter about certain subjects in the courtroom. Counteract with your own argument that you've built up through clues and testimonies collected through the investigation phase that appear as bullets for you to shoot. Finding the right thing loophole in an argument has you proceed forward into the trial, which is littered with new mini-games like the Rebuttal Showdown (which is hard as shit, I just spam slashes until I get it right) and the Hajime Snowboard (Logic Dive, but come on, Hajime Snowboard sounds better). Both add new and more unique ways to tackle on the trials, which is more than welcome.

When you're nearing the end of the trial, you are once again tasked by routing the killer through the reworked M.T.B and Climax Logic, both of which are still extremely satisfying to pull off. Choosing the right words at the end of an M.T.B while completely destroying your opposition as you look at their despaired face is utterly priceless and very nice to see. The Climax Logic as well, fitting the pieces is still as fun as ever, as you unfold the events of the crime in perfect sequence, all while laying out the plans of the killer for everyone else to see. That ending cut where the killer is truly revealed too is, incredibly satisfying. All while backed up with a kickass soundtrack. To be fair, some tracks are re-used from the original, but hey, don't fix what ain't broken.  

Man, Nagito saying "Sore Wa Chigao Yo" like a fake ass
Naegi was really, REALLY well done here!

Because the game follows some sort of a similar pattern with its phase splitting throughout the episodes, its kind of easy to see it coming when someone is about to die. While it's still a big question mark to WHO is about to die, you can kind of guess when a murder is about to occur, especially when Monokuma is so trigger-happy about his motives, which honestly get kind of old, there really should be a way to trigger killing without those motives of his. Finally, we have to talk about the final trial. Without spoiling, I'll say that it's WAY too predictable and foreshadowed for it to be epic. I mean, I feel like the final trial really pales in comparison to the rest of the game, ESPECIALLY when compared to the final trial of the original. 

All in all "Super Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair" sets up the universe well enough for the franchise to go into the anime sequel, which I feel is quite...stupid (they said they could only do what they wanted in an anime and not a game...what a bunch of bull). Still, being the final game before the franchise jumps into a whole new setting with "NEW Danganronpa V3", it works well enough. With 2 amazing games in its name, I can't wait to see what else the franchise can bring in future installments to come.

Happy Gaming!