INTROductionDanganronpa 1-2 Reload takes two cult-classic PSP and PS Vita games and enhances them for a remastered collection on PS4. The collection includes Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the series’ debut, as well as its direct sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair to help players get ready for the new entry, Danganronpa v3: Killing Harmony later this year. The series is a good blend of anime art style, over-the-top characters, and satisfying “whodunnit” mystery.
STORYIn Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, you play at Makoto Naegi, a new student a Hope’s Peak Academy. Every student at the school is incredibly gifted at something, so everyone is an “Ultimate” of some kind. Some examples include the Ultimate Baseball Player and the Ultimate Gambler. Makoto is the Ultimate Lucky Student, because he was the only student enrolled in the highly exclusive school by random draw.
What starts as an exciting new school adventure quickly turns dark with the introduction of the game’s mascot, Monokuma. This black-and-white robotic bear reveals that this is not a typical high school, and the students are trapped inside. There is only one way to escape the school: commit murder without being caught.
GAMEPLAYThe Danganronpa series plays out as a visual novel, so most of the interaction is through conversing with other characters. Through important plot developments, the game guides you through as you endlessly click the X button to go from text box to text box. This includes dialogue with other characters, interactions with items in the environment, or Makoto’s/Hajime’s thoughts regarding the current situation.
When you aren’t reading (which is a vast majority of the game), you wander the halls of Hope’s Peak Academy. The walking mechanics are a little strange, with no left and right strafing options. Instead, moving the left analog stick to the right rotates the camera, just like the right analog stick. It takes a little getting used to and could be frustrating at times, but overall it’s inoffensive.
The “action” sequences come from the class trials. If there is a murder committed, all of the students gather in a courtroom and try to use evidence and logic to try and solve the cases. There are three mini-games here: The first where you aim and shoot your counterarguments at weak points in others’ statements, the second being a hangman game of sorts, and the last being a rhythm-based elimination game.
The bulk of the trials are fun, forcing the player to think about every little detail over the last three hours to piece the case together. The rhythm game has its ups and downs, with its biggest flaw being that the required input tempo is different from the tempo of the opening music playing. The hangman mini-game should have been scrapped, since it barely adds anything to the development of the story and could potentially cost you a life if you aren’t given the letters you need.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair copies almost off of these mechanics, but there are a couple changes. Moving around the world is changed slightly; instead of walking around hallways in first-person, you explore the beach in a third-person side-scroller. The class trial system is the same, with the main mini-game of shooting your counterargument bullets at classmates’ sentences.
Both games use skills to improve Makoto’s/Hajime’s ability during the trials. These vary from changing aim speed to giving you more time to slow the action down and improve precision. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc would give you certain skills if you built ups strong enough relationships with the other characters. In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, however, you earn Hope Fragments, which you can spend on skills. You earn these skills or fragments through your Free Time, which you can choose to build relationships, or just skip completely to advance the story.
GRAPHICS & AUDIOThe series uses an anime art style, which accentuates the differences between each character. If you see someone from across the hallway, you can tell who they are immediately just by their general shape. There are also certain cutscenes that are essential to the plot, and the art style shifts to more of a Tim Burton tone, which is dark but very well done.
The environments are nothing to write home about. While walking the halls of Hope’s Peak Academy, the walls are completely bare other than a basic color. This helps you remember what each area is (for example, the dorm area is the only area colored red), but it shows the little effort given to the design, especially compared to the characters. Individual rooms are set up like little dioramas, set up so that players can easily spot the objects they should be interacting with when exploring or investigating.
Music is very memorable, with a soundtrack that changes just frequently enough so you never get sick of one track. The voice acting, however, leaves much to be desired. Some sections of dialogue are completely voiced, but most interactions are text-based, accompanied by a sound that is vaguely related to the actual words the character is saying. This was more of a distraction than a complement to the dialogue, so it improved my experience to lower the voice volume entirely.
If you’re looking for changes from the first game to the second, you’ll be disappointed. There is a new audio track to accompany Usami, but other than that, you will hear the same tracks you heard throughout your time in the first adventure. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you decide to start the second game right after the first, you will probably start to get sick of the same few tracks.
CONCLUSIONDanganronpa 1-2 Reload might be lacking in terms of having interesting game mechanics, but it definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. The narrative driven adventures are full of twists and turns that only increase interest in the plot, while never seeming out of place. Both games do a great job of using details and logic to piece together every case, leading to satisfying conclusions.
The series adds a great deal of variety to the narrative-driven adventure genre, which has been revived with the likes of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, Gone Home, and Oxenfree. The Danganronpa series embraces its weird characters, dark stories, and surprisingly dark settings to give players adventures that will surely stay in their minds for a long time.
|+ Memorable cast of characters||- Lackluster mini-games|
|+ Intriguing story with great twists||- Inconsistent voice acting quality|
|+ Attention to every detail||- Occasionally drags out dramatic scenes|