Danganronpa as a series is a bizarre concept to take up front. Mix Ace Attorney with everything from the Hunger Games, a room escape game, a rhythm game, and sort of a dating sim but not really? Oh, but we can’t forget that it’s also technically a shooting game sometimes, along with a fill-in-the-blanks word puzzle, a Tamagotchi knockoff, a rousing game of hide-and-seek, and of course, Pokemon Ranger where you control a rabbit with a stick circling killer robots.
…That last one is optional, I swear.
Regardless, to cut out spoilers and simplify it all, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and its sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Both of the games included in this compilation) are point and click mystery games with a few minigames sprinkled about. Much focus is placed on character interactions, friendships, and betrayal in an environment where getting away with murder is the only escape from the metaphorical prison you and your friends, are trapped in.
Of course, you’re not the one doing the killing. Rather, you act as a beacon of hope in this world of despair, trying to solve the murders in question, defeat the mastermind, and free everyone from the clutches of the devious Monokuma. To this end, the game plays much like most mystery games; you move around, consult your “classmates,” and collect evidence in the form of “Truth Bullets.” You also get some time to hang with your peers and get to know them, granting you special abilities the more you do, on top of just getting to know the characters better.
Don’t get attached though. I’m warning you.
The second main part of the game are the Class Trials, arguably the most important part of the game. Your logic and reflexes will be tested, because, in a twist on the typical “courtroom” format seen in some mystery games, the Class Trials act as somewhat of a shooting game, using your “Truth Bullets” (The aforementioned evidence) to pierce through contradictory statements, shattering them and exposing the truth. These segments, while simple in concept, get incredibly hectic and difficult as the game goes on, causing you to rely heavily upon the special powers that interaction with your classmates earns you, each of which doing something different.
The Class Trials, in this regard, are a nice change to the formula and add a lot of fresh variety to the typical logic arguments seen in these types of games. The actual gameplay is much appreciated, and there are a few other elements to the trials that I won’t quite spoil. I will, however, tell you that “Improved Hangman’s Gambit” in the second game is nowhere near improved, and in fact sucks massive balls. That’s really the only “bad” one of these minigames; the rest are usually a total blast, especially “Logic Dive”, another one of the minigames present in Goodbye Despair.
Graphically, the game looks alright for a visual novel, although beside the sprite work, style, and cutscenes, it’s fairly barebones. It is a port of a slightly enhanced port of a PSP game, after all, so don’t go into these games expecting Uncharted 4, but for what it is, it works well enough. The music is an absolute joy, and you’ll find many of the investigation themes (particularly the ones during the respective fifth cases of each game) working their way back into your head months after playing.
Now, seeing as this is a compilation, and seeing as how they are both incredibly plot and character heavy games, where any discussion on the matter can spoil a whole lot, I’ll try to keep this next section relatively spoiler-free. Both of these games, under their relatively bizarre premise, do genuinely have plot development that makes a lot of sense out of the absurdity and explains everything, something especially important in the second game, which has a series of absolutely delicious plot twists and a setting that may not be what it seems. The first game plays itself a lot straighter with its concept, although even discussing that is a heavy spoiler, really. Just know that no matter how strange things get, it will always make sense in the end.
In both games, you play as a student enrolling in Hope’s Peak Academy, a school for only the best of the best. These Ultimate students are literally the best at what they do, whether it’s sports, mechanical engineering, or even just being the luckiest person in the world, and these abilities each of them possesses leads heavily into the murders and cases, creating some incredibly unique scenarios. Now, even despite their special abilities, the motley crew of characters present in each game offers a great deal of variety and personality. They’re all a bunch of really zany, fun characters, but some of them aren’t what they seem, and some of them have surprising hidden depth once you get to know them.
Now, of course, there’s a lot I’ve left out. Even the screenshots used, I had to carefully pick from the very beginning cases of each game, solely to avoid spoiling SOMETHING, but if you’re at all intrigued by what I told you about these games, this collection is probably worth picking up.
That is if you haven’t played them already.
I will confess, I have played and beaten both of these games before touching this compilation, both on Vita a long time ago, and I played a bit of the PC versions as well. If you had played the Danganronpa games before, or even played one of them, this compilation is probably not worth the money. It does look very nice on a large screen, but it is a straight port of the Vita/PC versions of the game. Nothing new is added really to entice returning fans of the franchise, the only graphical enhancements being the high-res textures and sprites from the PC port. Unfortunately, there are no exclusive bonus features beyond just a stylish game select menu.
If you haven’t checked out this series before, this is the ideal way to do so, as the RELOAD will end up costing you far less than both games alone, but if you’ve played even one, the PC versions will run on even low-end laptops without issue just because of the simple nature of the game and one of the games on Steam is cheaper than RELOAD, so if you don’t need one of the two, it’s not worth it.
I suppose that truly is my only gripe. This is exclusively for the newer players looking into experiencing the series before Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony comes out this fall. I can in no way recommend this collection to an existing fan unless they are a collector or very desperate to play on PS4. There really is nothing else here for you, and if you’re looking for something to tide you over until the next game, this isn’t going to do it. Instead maybe check out this previously Vita-only spinoff game coming out for PS4 this June if you haven’t yet.
Thanks to NIS America for providing us with a digital copy of Danganronpa 1.2 Reload for the Playstation 4.