Back in February Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc was released on the PlayStation Vita. It was a game that mixed up the visual novel format by adding murder investigations, social simulators and court room trials, showing some similarities to Persona 4, Ace Attorney and Virtue’s Last Reward. Now in the same year we have the sequel which was released this month, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. This is a game that players will only get the most out of if they have played the original. The story carries on from the first game so while it would still be playable for newcomers, they will be increasingly left in the dark as the game’s plot progresses.
As in the first game, you take the role of a high school student about to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, a school that only allows students who have an exceptional talent to enrol. The cast of characters are new and have unique talents such as the ultimate cook, ultimate photographer and ultimate gamer. I found the majority of characters to be less likeable than the cast from Trigger Happy Havoc, the character designs and personalities seem to be reigned in a bit and while still far fetched, aren’t as extreme. What surprised me was the way they portrayed some of the girls, at the beginning you see an introductory video that flashes the faces of the male students across the screen but almost all the girls also get a scene flashing their legs. During the game as well it becomes a joke how one of the girls keeps falling and getting stuck in different comprising poses. This sort of “fan service” isn’t new to anime style games but it did catch me off guard here as I don’t remember it being so prominent in the first game.
After arriving at the school you are brought against your will on a school trip to a mysterious tropical island, as fans of the series may expect, the only way to escape the island is to kill one of your classmates and not get caught. If the killer is caught, they are executed. If the killer gets away with murder, all other students are executed and the killer is let leave the island. You’re one of the good guys here so rather than killing your classmates you will be tasked with investigating the murder scenes and making sure the real killer is caught so that you can find a hopefully less violent way to get home.
Danganronpa 2 sticks with the same gameplay that made the series popular, this is more of the same but that is a good thing here. You will still be left with the dilemma of trying to decide which of the other students to spend your free time with and get to know better, hoping they don’t end up being killed or killing someone else in the process. After a murder occurs you investigate the scene by either tapping areas of interest on the Vita screen directly with your finger or by moving the cursor with the analog stick and hitting the X button. After investigating the crime scene the class will go to court to have a debate and try to find out who the killer is. This section is full of mini games, most of which are slightly different versions of the same games from Trigger Happy Havoc but there is a new one, Logic Dive, that has you racing down a tunnel avoiding obstacles and answering questions about the case. Some of these mini games can get frustrating when you know the answer but have to wait for your game character to catch up on what you have figured out.
At it’s heart Danganronpa 2 is a visual novel, waiting to see who will be killed next and then trying to figure who did it is the highlight of the game, the overall plot slowly starts to be revealed too as you see who was behind it all and how it ties in with the story in the first game. This overarching plot starts to get very far fetched but still kept my interest waiting to see how it would all end.
If you enjoyed Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc then Danganronpa 2 is definitely worth playing. Personally I didn’t enjoy it as much as the original since I connected better with the characters in the first game and found the claustrophobic setting of being trapped in a school more fitting than the idea of being trapped on an island paradise. That said each murder is still just as creative and finding out who the killer is can be surprising and sometimes even unexpected. For those who haven’t tried the series I strongly recommend it, finding a physical copy in Ireland is difficult but it is available to order online and is on the PSN for €39.99. The series has enjoyed popularity in Japan with an anime, short novels and a spin-off game being released there.