The Evils of Free Will -- Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness Review
Is our free will ultimately what leads to our downfall? Is it really possible to save anyone in a world where civilians are always monitored and one particularly stressful day can lead to someone being arrested and having his/her life ruined? These questions, and more are brought up in Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness, a visual novel side story to the Psycho-Pass anime developed by 5pb and published by NIS America.
The game is set at some point near the beginning in the first season of the show, and it follows two new characters written for the game: Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi, who is searching for a lost childhood friend, and Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi, an emotionless woman with amnesia. These are the two newest members of the Division 1 police team in the Public Safety Bureau's Criminal Investigation Division. With the ability to choose between either character at the beginning of the game, players are given the opportunity to experience the story in two radically different ways. The two protagonists have polar opposite view points in many categories, and cannot act anymore different. With that, and many twists and turns that the story can take, the biggest thing going for the game is the high replayability it offers.
Another big plus is that along with two interesting leads, the main cast from the show appears as the game's supporting cast. While they are still as lively and likable as ever (mostly due to being voiced by the actors from the show), none of the characters have had their respective arcs yet due to the game being set at the beginning of the show. So, due to the time frame in which the game takes place, the cast is unfortunately rather flat and don't go through any major changes.
This forces the game's story to focus on the two new leads, and the villain Alpha. While the focus on these three characters works out great for the most part, bits of the story are also the game's biggest downfall.
The game's most notable failing is the handling of the big twist when playing from the female lead's perspective. Less than halfway through the game, it became so apparent what was going to happen that I found myself just waiting for it to reveal itself so that the game can continue focusing on the actual plot. Now, this is a problem that only exists should the player choose to play as the female lead (Kugatachi) first. It's still somewhat obvious when playing from the male lead's (Tsurugi's) point of view, but it's not nearly as bad. Because of how poorly the twist was handled from Kugatachi's story, I recommend the first playthrough be done from Tsurugi's perspective.
Other complaints I have about Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness are the bad tropes that visual novels tend to follow from a production standpoint. For instance, due to budget limitations most likely, the characters will only be given a basic blinking animation and some lip movement as they stand in front of a completely static background. The action sequences are somehow worse with some being a static image at best and some slashes at the screen in front of a black background at the very worse. And boy, does the game have quite a few of them due to being based on a sci-fi action show. That being said, it does look very nice and clean, and the art style represents the show extremely well.
Can I recommend Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness to someone looking for an action-heavy game with high production values? Absolutely not, as the most riveting action the game offers is pointing a cursor at an option, and pressing the X button to select that option. Can I recommend this game to a fan of Psycho-Pass or a good cyberpunk noir story? Yes, as the story is almost as strong as the first season's story, with the only thing holding it back from being brilliant being the incredibly obvious twist.