Congratulations, you’ve been chosen to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, a very prestigious school with quite a reputation. Success is guaranteed to those lucky enough to graduate our program, however, we only seek our the best. Every individual that walks our halls excels in a specific talent and thus have been given the label, Ultimate. We look forward to helping you in this journey and sincerely hope that you have an (as the kids today say,) killer time…Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (or Danganronpa 1 in this bundle) is a murder mystery visual novel, coming to you from the minds that have brought you such games as Dragon Quest 1 – 4 & the Zero Escape franchise. If you’re a fan of the latter, you’ll feel at home since the mechanics are display here is both similar, yet differ enough to be unique. In this game, you play as Makoto Naegi, a high school student that is lucky enough to be chosen to attend Hope’s Peak Academy. Upon being introduced, you catch him in the middle of monologuing at just how average he is. Kind of ironic, isn’t it, especially given the sort of students Hope’s Peak allows into their halls & here lays the first of many mysteries. So, strap in boys and girls because you’re all in for one hell of a bloody ride. Trigger Happy Havoc is the first part of Danganronpa 1 & 2 Reload.
Right off the bat, I was slapped in the face by the fantastic writing; not only is it well executed for the most part, but it’s quite consistent and quirky. Every question that came up was answered in a very timely manner, leaving you satisfied and making sure you were not confused by any loose ends. There are elements of 4th wall-breaking here, but nothing too spectacular (definitely don’t expect to find Deadpool level quips.) One part of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc that left me impressed was the characters; each had their own personality with their dialogue being representative of it. However, as a novelist myself, I did find issue with the way a certain piece of vital information was given in the story. One of the key mechanics in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is what is called “Class Trials”. As the name suggests, you are tasked with finding contradictions to statements that are made, reminiscent of the Phoenix Wright franchise. During one of these, a dead-end was hit and as you’d expect, some information came to light that would help. Here in lays the problem because it didn’t feel organic; there was no build-up or foreshadowing that in fact felt very convenient. Something else I found rather pointless was half of the choices you’re given serve no purpose. For example, around the middle of the game, you notice something surprising while still in a groggy state. Then, when your classmate notices your expression and presses you for an explanation, the game gives you a pair of options. One option is the choice to keep quiet until you can verify what you’ve seen, while the other if to blurt out everything, despite not knowing the entire story. I chose the first option but as I did, this just made me curious of what would happen if I were to talk. So, I restarted my game, replayed that portion, picked the second option to only be told by the game that I shouldn’t and I was immediately pushed towards my first choice.
What about the artwork in Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havok? Well simply put, it is fantastic and each character design matches perfectly with their mannerisms. What I found particularly interesting was the choice to make the blood pink which I believe I read was because of censorship. However, it quickly became a stylized choice and I could not be happier because I think it matches up with the atheistic of the game perfectly. Because this game is predominantly 2D, those not much to say about graphical fidelity but there is a 3rd person POV here. If I am being honest, even though the environments resemble Playstation 3 styled graphics, as a mechanic in the game it serves no purpose. I understand that it was implemented for traveling purposes but not too long into the game, you gain the ability to teleport between areas. That contradicts what the 3rd person point of view is trying to do but I will say one thing, at least it’s keeping with the main theme of the game. Another piece of praise would have to go to the subtle genius that is the series mascot design. It’s a bear, split down the middle, black and white on either side. This mascot, named Monokuma, is neutral on the white side and angry on the black side. I have no idea if this was intentional, but it perfectly represents the key theme of the game; good versus evil, light versus dark and hope versus despair. Finally, let’s hear about the punishments which I found to be both brutal and yet kind of artistic.
I suppose the only thing left to talk about it the music, which I found to be alright at best; it was nothing spectacular but it did suit the game. At first, I’ll admit, I didn’t exactly care for it but as my time with Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc continued, it grew on me. To be honest, now when I hear the theme or execution music, I get really pumped up and want to return to that world. As for the voice acting, there wasn’t much negative to say about it honestly; I enjoyed it all.
In conclusion, if you’re an avid Zero Escape fan, are alright with innuendos and fan-service, while also enjoy quirky, over-the-top anime characters, I recommend this game. The writing will keep you enthralled and the sense of humor will provide you with some laugh-out-loud moments. So, if you found yourself missing the initial 2014 release on the Vita; this is definitely worth it. If you played it on Vita, the only difference between the two versions is that it has better resolution as a PS4 game so it might be harder to recommend. I do want to say one thing and it relates to button mapping two actions onto a button. Granted, it differs in that one is activated by tapping while the other holding, but because of the high sensitivity, I got frustrated a few times. With its sequel bundled together in Danganronpa 1 & 2 Reload, You can’t go wrong with picking up the two games together.
Now on to the second half of Danganronpa 1 & 2 Reload, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.
Once you arrive on the island in Danganronpa 2 you’ll meet Nagito who, after describing himself, draws your attention to a very familiar tale, especially when he reveals his talent as luck. You start thinking that perhaps the developers are rehashing the same plot but in a sudden twist, the game mentions this very thing. Now, yes, it’s true that at first, the story is almost a direct call-back to the first but as I continued, I found those concepts taken in different and interesting directions. Danganronpa 2 does a great job in answering the questions you might have and also clears up any confusion. For instance, after the first trial, I was lost as to how it made sense and it even seemed like the writers were extending themselves too far. However, as the game began explaining things, it all made sense and tied together very well. Now the experience certainly isn’t perfect. I did manage to find a few issues with the biggest being that the game explained itself far too much. This resulted in it repeating itself far too often. Honestly, these sections could have easily been taken out and it wouldn’t have hurt the flow of the story at all. All that information bogs down the game and slows it down to a point that will just get you yawning. I also found translation errors that ranged from misspellings to just outright missing words. The biggest improvement that I personally saw was the reasoning behind the murders; it felt like they all had a backstory.
During the second trial, there’s a piece of evidence that needs to be shown. When the time came, I was confused and had to look it up because from the options I was given, nothing made sense. Normally after finding out the answer, I would promptly hang my head in shame because it was clear by what was and I had just forgotten. But there was nothing like that here because I didn’t see any reference to the truth. Instead, it seemed to me that it required that player to think outside the box to determine the answer themselves. Nothing is wrong with that but for those like me with horrible memory, it interrupted the flow of the overall experience and was just frustrating. Unlike the first game, the characters mannerisms and their habits seem to have played a much bigger part in solving the murders. I found myself getting stumped here as well to which I looked it up but unlike the time with the evidence, some of these clicked very well and were satisfying.
The music here is ultimately the same and the voice acting is spectacular like it was before but I did have one major issue. One of the characters named Peko had her voice drowned out by the music playing, specifically in class trials. If it weren’t for the text boxes, I would have been lost in terms of the story in these areas.
Overall, this was a very enjoyable experience. Much better than the first and with its only glaring issue being the repeated explanations, it was never for the whole story. This game and Danganronpa 1 & 2 Reload are worth your time. With Danganronpa V3 in September and Ultra Despair Girls in June, you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to get this bundle. Oh, and hey, you might see some familiar faces when you decide to play this game, so isn’t that prospect enough to peak your curiosity?
A Playstation 4 Product Code for Danganronpa 1 & 2 Reload was provided by NIS America for the Purpose of this Review