Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Danganronpa is stylish as hell, crammed with catchy music, some interesting gameplay hybrids, and a pretty pointed bit of commentary. High school students, the ultimate in their respective skills, are trapped in a school where the only escape is murder. It's been described as Ace Attorney x Zero Escape, among similar comparisons, and that is accurate — making, unsurprisingly, a pretty excellent combination.
The game is, essentially, a visual novel with minigames, each chapter having three general sections. For the first couple days in each chapter, the majority of your time is spent talking to your fellow students in a Persona Social Link kind of system. This yields some skills for use in the third section of the chapter. Eventually the free time is interrupted by a murder, and you have a fairly procedural murder investigation to conduct, inspecting crime scenes and bodies and beginning to string together your evidence in the form of Truth Bullets. These bullets are used in the third section, the actual trial, where you have to present evidence, shoot down lies, and engage in various minigames to uncover truths and ultimately prove the case.
The murder investigations are never too obtuse, and set a pretty good balance between "easy, but playable" and "full of expected twists". People familiar with games of this ilk will probably not find much outlandishly surprising, but will have enough to latch on to to have a good time with the investigations and trials regardless.
An awful lot has to be said about how stylish the game is. The character designs and art style are very distinctive, and especially on the Vita, have a large degree of "pop", both chromatically and as a style. The blood, for example, is not blood in order to skirt Japanese ratings, but the bright pink hue is more distinctive and just as memorable. The entire game, in short, just looks great.
It sounds great, too. The game has a number of earworms, composed by Masafumi Takada, that play at certain thematic events through the chapters, and the voice acting is strong and impressively diverse. A huge breadth of character is shown throughout the game among the eclectic cast, and for the most part the voice actors nail it.
Without wandering too much into spoilers, because essentially the rest of the internet has at this point, the game revels in the message of despair — and with the game's murder mystery investigation trappings, it has plenty of space to do so. But as the game pivots from straight murder mystery to an overarching metaplot, it makes sure that you do not forget despair. The final chapter of the game, of course, brings its themes and messages to the fore, to great effect, and perhaps in a future post I'll write more about what I thought of the final chapter and epilogue. It's pretty great though.
I have to do the bonus content still, so I'm not done, but yeah — pretty great. I hope to eventually do the more spoilery post, too.
This review originally appeared on my site on 2014-02-22.