Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness, developed by Mages, and published by NIS America, is a visual novel taking place in the Psycho-Pass anime story during the first season of the show, but with its own story. It features many of the same characters found within the show, but follows a story path of its own, with the introduction of a few new characters, mainly the protagonists and antagonist. Choices hold significant importance, every one you make has consequences in the outcome of the given situation as well as how the story will end. You can buy the game for the PlayStation 4 and Steam for $49.99, and PlayStation Vita for $39.99 on September 13, 2016.
The year is 2112, and the setting Japan. Technology has been created (the Sibyl System), that can judge humans from the earliest of age to predetermine their future and keep them on track until they die; where and what they study in school, who they marry, and employment. A system so influential and strong, any transgression from its determinations would mean unemployment and outcast from society. Also, and most importantly, everyone is given a "Crime Coefficient" that determines their likelihood of committing a crime or harming someone else. A "Hue Meter," measurements of varying emotional stress that potentially could raise the Crime Coefficient or lower it, is a color coded system that can be scanned by a number of drones. When either one of these reaches too high of a threshold, rehabilitation and therapy is mandatory for the good of public safety.
While technology is able to take constant measurements of individuals, there is little ability for it to enforce its proceeding requirements. This is where the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), located in the Ministry of Welfare's Public Safety Bureau building, protects the agenda. Two man teams, comprised of one enforcer (an individual with a high crime coefficient, chosen due to their higher understanding of criminal thinking), and one inspector (low Crime Coefficient individuals who act as supervisors of their enforcer partners). You will pick to playthrough two different protagonists' stories: Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi or Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi, partners of each other regardless who you pick.
The Introduction of the game sets the immediate backstory of recent events. Narration of a man searching intensely for "his toy" deep inside the tower leads to the discovery of his search. Lying on the table is a blonde haired guy, later explained to be a gender-less cyborg with human thoughts and reasoning programmed in, who he instructed would move as his body and fulfill "a mission." As you'll find early in the game, the antagonist of the story is a hacker who goes by the name "Alpha." His intentions are to disrupt the Sybil System and bring happiness to those negatively effected, but doesn't understand when he helps one person, he usually significantly hurts another.
Cases will be given throughout the game, and will deal with real-world occurrences; a teenage girl being kidnapped by her boyfriend, the abuse and abduction of an infant, etc. They'll take you to many different locations, have you interact with multiple individuals, and challenge your judgements as a member of the CID. Meshed into the flow of the main story perfectly every time, each case gives more opportunities to understand the antagonist hacker, Alpha. It's a mentally exhausting and stressful job doing what you will be asked to do, so its strongly recommended you take your supplements to keep your Hue measurements low, but even this becomes a choice. The story is at your control in the game, how will you have it told?
Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi; a childhood best friend, Yukari Himekawa, who was chosen to pursue medicine in Tokyo instead of their mutual hometown of Sado Marine City, went missing, Tsurugi takes it upon himself to find answers, ultimately leading to him to stray from the Sybil System and into the city of Tokyo. As desperation grew from lost leads and unhelpful inquiries, he becomes reckless and in return has his Crime Coefficient raised. Just as his immediate future begins to look grim at best, he is approached by Nobuchika of the MWPSB CID, who felt his aptitude was qualifying for employment within their program and is offers Tsurugi an opportunity to become an enforcer. Energetic about his work as a police detective he meets his peers of the office. When being introduced to his partner and supervisor Nadeshiko Kugatchi, he feels warmth in his heart as everything about her, from her demeanor, seriousness, and sternness, reminds him of Yukari. But he doesn't let this initial meeting sway his true objective of finding Yukari and pursues the search for her whenever he can in-between cases.
Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi; her story will begin at the Metropolitan Public Welfare Hospital, where during training at the respected training facility, she fell victim of an accident. Traumatic enough of an injury, she loses all of her personal emotions and childhood memories and even the memory of the accident itself. She only remembers basic skills of life and knowledge regarding the field she works in; she's studied healthcare and psychology, making her more than suitable for work as the Sybil System deemed her qualified to be an inspector for the PSB. Her new office sits within the Criminal Investigation Department, in Division 1, just as Tsurugi is assigned. As the first case takes her to Sado Marine City with Tsurugi and the other CID agents, she feels a since of comfort and attachment to the city, but doesn't recall having ever lived there.
The game plays in visual novel fashion; there is no personal control of the character themselves, where they go, or who they interact with at any given moment. There is a lot to read but it never gets boring, even when characters are conversing about their love for manga, hometown reminiscence, or throwing in inappropriate comments regarding the cases being worked on. Characters are constantly jumping in and out of the conversations, as if everything is a giant group discussion. Dialog has been translated and fitted for english readers, and they did a great job doing so; I failed to find any cringe material due to awkward speech choices. Only two people will be on the screen at once during these dialogs, but many times will say a couple lines then switch out with someone else, rotating around until the whole topic is finished being discussed. This is what leads to the constant high tempo of reading as well; you're never stuck into dialog with one person for an extended amount of time where you could easily become bored.
The first gameplay choice comes about an hour into the game when, during a case involving a kidnapping, you're asked to either inquire information from investigations, or track the kidnappers location via the advanced technologies available. While it took some time to get to, the build up to the moment made everything feel extremely important. Choices become abundant from this point on, and usually have those significant outcomes based on what you choose, even taking you all across Tokyo and the Sado Marine City. In-between conversations with other characters, the protagonist you chose to play as will narrate everything going on. The text narration is one of the best I've seen in a game; it provides all the support for the protagonists' thoughts and their story, helps understand what's going on, blends smoothly throughout other dialog, but doesn't spoil letting you piece all the information together on your own by being too simple and bland.
Constant music is played in the background, which gratefully broke up the feeling of reading a book in a library. It kept the tempo upbeat, magnified moments of happiness or intensity, and knew it's limitations by not clouding the the other sounds. Characters are all voiced in Japanese language, meaning the task of reading is more abundant for those who only speak English, and I often found myself ignoring them outside of seeing how they fit with the character it was representing. Sometimes I felt it didn't really match the appearance of the individual but every voice had enough distinction that I often didn't need to look at the name tag in the top left corner of the text boxes to recognize who was speaking.
If you're knowledgeable in the Japanese language, you can even go back through the dialog logs and replay the voiced scripts from before. The game adds a depth to the presentation of voice acting, changing it slightly depending on how it's spoken (if listening to voices through the cities street cameras, it sounds slightly distorted and static surrounded, and when a character is yelling through the intercom of the police car, it sounds as you would imagine).
Again, since the game plays as a visual novel, graphics are of the utmost importance to its core value. If you've seen the Psycho-Pass show, you'll see all the same illustrations and characters, just without the moving cinematic. The camera movements still provides a sense of moving depth in the pictures, and at times I felt like I was watching the actual show (a scrolling shot of the PSB tower from top to bottom near the beginning of the game comes to mind). The characters, when speaking, appear a layer closer to the screen with the setting used as a backdrop. They will show facial expressions (smug, excited, cocky, nervous, scared, etc.) and their lips to sync very well with the Japanese voice acting.
Psycho-Pass Mandatory Happiness offers an amazing story, full of captivating moments, exciting plot twists, emotional cases, and a constant tempo that prevents it from ever feeling slow. The choices you'll make carry a great influence on the story, and you feel it every time you're asked how to proceed with a situation. Although reading subtitled texts will take up most of the time, the game presents the setting and characters in an intriguing way with the constant switching of them regardless of the conversation. The uniqueness found within every scene of talking, action, and investigating provids the depiction of a living world inside the story.
The game ran perfectly smooth, with no bugs or hiccups along the way, but is to be expected from a visual novel. Music felt like a perfect match throughout the story, and the characters, although speak in Japanese, made the setting of Japan feel even more real. The game pays close attention to details, changing the audio pitches of the voices based on if someone is being listened to through a street camera, talking through microphones, whispering, or even when they are expressing emotions like frustration, anger, happiness, and compassion.
The graphics are top notch, but I would have liked to see more of it in action. I would have liked to see more visuals regarding the interactions and altercations between the characters and the story; the story constantly gets extremely tense or brutal but fails to show it at times. No moving cinematic cutscenes were implemented into the game, which would have definitely made it feel a lot closer to the show, but this is why it is called a visual novel. In conclusion (of the conclusion), the game is an amazing adventure, and regardless of the few minor storytelling choices that personal opinion finds didn't hit the mark quite like everything else, offers an intense and immersive experience full of replay value due to its focus on choices and consequences.
|+ Incredibly interesting plot||– No English dub|
|+ Significant choice making and consequences||– No moving cinematic like the show|
|+ Multiple protagonists and possible endings||– Could have shown more illustrations for events|
|+ Avoids ever feeling slow and boring|
|+ Tech concepts within are deep but easy to follow|