I’m going to say at the start of this review that I had noooooo idea what to expect when I was handed a copy of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc earlier this year. Our resident NIS expert, James Bacon (of Your Daily Bacon Fame), passed along some information through after his interview with Phoenix Spaulding but, outside of the words ‘Phoenix-Wright-style-investigations’ and a cover that featured a Frank-Gorshin-like bear The cover gave me no indication of what to expect from this title.
Fast forward 30+ hours later and the game had me captivated like the aforementioned Phoenix Wright games of the past. A incredibly well spun ‘whodunnit’, DanganRonpa: Trigger Happy Havoc had you playing as a desperately average teenager who finds himself accepted into the most prestigious high school imaginable only to see the students engaged in a battle for survival against a twisted mastermind who has taken them all prisoner. When I heard that Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair would be arriving just a few scant months later, I preordered my copy immediately from the NIS America site.
Upon downloading the digital version of Danganronpa 2 (which we did for this review) we were treated to another strange creature icon that we would later be referring to as “the Magical Girl Miracle ? Usami” (or “Usami” (??? Usami) for short). First order of business was to put this icon right next to the Monokuma icon on our home screen so they could keep each other company as we dove into our first play experience with Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.
The feelings from playing the first game instantly came back and watching the rooms and environments spring to life are always a great deal of fun to behold. Upon seeing the familiar territory, I had expected to find my dorm room, pop on over to the cafeteria and be chillin’ it ol’ school with my Trigger Happy homies, however the game immediately whisks you away from familiar territory into a *gasp* tropical paradise. “What on God’s green is going on here”, I wondered as I began interacting with other students during my Daily Life on the island. Shortly thereafter, with Monokuma’s appearance, I knew everyone here was going to be f*$%^ over, just like old times, and so I settled in on just letting this game wash over me like the tide.
Monokuma throws down the gauntlet and, because teenagers are so prone to following orders put down by authority, students begin turning into the thing they hate the most; cold blooded murderers. This first spilling of blood triggers the Class Trial in which players must determine the identity of a culprit in order to stay alive themselves. In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair there are new gameplay elements added into the mix including additions to the Nonstop Debate (the “Phoenix Wright part” where players look for contradictions in testimony) where “Truth Bullets” segments now include blue-colored weak points which must be shot with evidence that indicates someone is speaking the truth. Hangman’s Gambit and Bullet Time Battle remain with the latter being renamed as “Panic Talk Action” in which players press buttons in time to the music to shoot down arguments. Lastly, during the ‘closing argument’ section of the trial, the comic book finale has been made simpler by making users fill out one page at a time (instead of the full book at once).
Additional new gameplay elements have been added to the Class Trial including Rebuttal Showdowns, “Truth Swords”, Logical Dives and Spot Selects but there are plenty of new modes outside the main game as well. Players now have access to a virtual pet which can be accessed from the pause menu (which I killed at least 1000 times by accident), that grows as players take steps in the game. Magical Girl Miracle ? Usami is a minigame in which players control Monomi fighting off against waves of cute monsters. There’s “Island Mode” that opens up after you clear the game once which allows the students to NOT kill each other but instead make friends with everyone and earn Hope Shards. IF, that weren’t enough (get ready for the pun) Danganronpa IF(dur) becomes unlocked (upon finishing the game once) which featuring a short story depicting an alternate storyline for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.
Verdict – 9/10 (++Good): While I haven’t been able to spend as much time as I’d like with the unlocked modes, I will say that in order to get the MOST out of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair you should absolutely invest in playing through Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok first. It’s not mandatory by any means, but you will be able to get much, much more bang for your buck if you play Goodbye Despair with some of the story under your belt. Now’s the perfect time as Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok has just dropped under $20 on PSN.
Again, if you haven’t played through the first, you can always get your bearings on Danganronpa 2′s Jabberwock Island and work backwards because, I assure you, if you get your teeth into this game on Vita, you’ll want to get more, more, more of this great franchise in you…any way you can.