Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a detective-style mystery visual novel from Spike Chunsoft for the PlayStation Vita (and soon PC). The story follows a group of high school students trapped in the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, who remember nothing beyond entering the school for their first day. The students are given a way out of their prison though – murder someone and get away with it.
- Thrilling Story
- Character Variance
- Stunning Soundtrack
- Little Challenge
- Repetitive Gameplay
The story of Danganronpa is fantastic. After meeting the game’s diverse cast of characters, you are introduced to the antagonist, Monokuma, who reveals that they will all be trapped in the school unless someone murders another person and gets away with it. If they do, then they walk free and everyone else is killed. But if you and the others discover the murderer, then only they get a flashy personalized execution.
The game very closely follows the theme of hope vs. despair, where you as the main character (Makoto Naegi) represent hope by solving the mysteries behind the murders. You work against the despair that Monokuma brings. Would you murder someone if it meant you could escape? After all, if you don’t then no one gets out…right?
The gameplay is linear and lacks difficulty. It consists of free time, where you choose who to socialize with for dialogue (and benefits if maxed), investigations in which you look around the school for clues, and class trials where you use all those clues during a debate with the other students to find out the truth. The lose condition is if your influence gauge reaches zero, you redo the trial. You lose influence by choosing incorrect options during the trials or by failing the mini-games.
Once you have found all the clues, if you have been paying attention you’ve probably already worked it out -- especially given that you cannot progress to the trial without finding all the clues. The trials continue to hand-hold, as you are always given a choice as to whether you should choose an option or a clue -- and this is usually preceded by an intelligent student heavily hinting at what you need to do.
During the class trial, you will go through nonstop debates, where the students discuss the murder. During their speeches there are highlighted weak points – shoot the right weak point with the relevant clue to break their argument and find contradictions that bring you one step closer to the truth.
Hangman’s Gambit is a mini-game during the trials -- it's a game of hangman where you shoot the correct letters to fill in the blank and progress the trial with this word. Bullet Time Battles happen towards the end of a trial. Once someone has been pushed into a corner and they panic, they'll begin shouting or blindly denying that they had any involvement with the crime. To break them out of their hysteria, you participate in a simple, fun rhythm game.
Finally, the closing argument is the end of each trial. You go over the trial from start to finish by filling out the missing images in a manga-style summary of the case. The gameplay is fun, but does not pose much challenge. And lthough there is a scoring system for each trial, all of the solutions and conversations are the same each time, so there is little replay value.
The release of Danganronpa in the West was a remake of the original PSP Japanese game, and in this remake an additional mode was added, which is unlocked after you beat the game. This ‘school mode’ follows a comical ‘what if’ situation with a fun time management game and, most importantly, the ability to freely speak to all the characters and completely max out everyone’s social scenes. These scenes add a lot to each character, so this mode should definitely be played.
The graphics are in a hand-drawn anime style, mostly as still sprites with a plethora of emotions, and a couple of smooth, pleasing animated scenes. Each of the character’s designs perfectly show what they are all about, each design suits each character. There are a couple of artistic quirks to separate the art from similar games. When seen in multiple dimensions, the characters almost seem to be cardboard props, an artistic choice that was kept in the Danganronpa anime. The other, most startling, artistic choice is the censoring of blood – bright pink blood! This is not the only game to use this technique, and although it seems a little silly for the dark themes of the game, it actually adds to the surprise and shock of seeing a dead body.
The Danganronpa soundtrack is a strong point for the game. The music adds to the atmosphere -- fun music while everything is calm, tense music during investigations. But most important is the timing of the music. It felt like it changed with me: calm while I was going through free time, quiet and gripping as I investigate the body of my favorite character. But the best music happens during a trial, when you make that final revelation. BAM! The music is right there, catchy and resolute.
The voice acting in Danganronpa is also fantastic. The PC port will have dual audio like the Vita, and both have top class voice actors. The English voice cast includes Bryce Papenbrook as the main character Makoto Naegi, Erin Fitzgerald, and Brian Beacock. The Japanese voice cast includes Megumi Ogata as Makoto Naegi, Koki Miyata and Yoko Hikasa.
I recommend this game. The story is fantastic, the characters are well-designed, and the mysteries are gripping. The visual style is pleasing to the eye and easy to follow, while the soundtrack really keeps the atmosphere and draws you in. Overall, just knowing that Danganronpa is a text-heavy, story-based game that sacrifices engaging gameplay, will tell you whether or not it is the right game for you.
Be sure to check out the Danganronpa PC port on Steam releasing on 18th February 2016!