Anime is something I’ve always held near and dear to my heart. Nowadays, I’m too busy trying to play every type of game that I can to even think about starting a 25, let alone 500, episode series. That’s where Danganronpa comes in. It combines everything I love about anime and video games, two birds with one stone. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the sequel to one of the Vita’s best games, nails the head of everything that makes an anime good, but struggles to find its identity within its Class Trials.
With Trigger Happy Havoc ending ambiguously, I was pretty let down by the fact that its sequel would have an all new cast of characters. I immediately wanted to see what kind of world was in store for the survivors. But instead, Spike Chunsoft gave me an experience I didn’t even know I wanted. A brand new set of characters to delve into, but at the same time continuing the story of Makoto and the others of Hope’s Peak Academy. It was the best of both worlds.
The new characters were very hit or miss for me, some were on par with the greatness that is Byakuya, one even surpassing the mentally unstable Genocide Jill, but others were annoying, even useless at times. It never felt that with the original cast. A huge improvement was the main character, Hajime felt much more real, and reacted as any teenager put in that position would. It seemed like Makoto always handled things too well. Either way, they were just as delusional, which once again worked in their favor in the end. As the game progressed, the ties to the original became stronger and stronger, powering you through all the murders, just so you could finally uncover Hope’s Peak Academy’s dark secrets, since the original failed to finish exposing what it is they really do.
The concept was the same, murder a classmate, or should I say Islandmate. If you get away with it, then the shackles of despair will get cut off. If busted, then down the drain as nothing but bones and blood you go. Using the same concept as the first, it got to be a little redundant, but tried its best to counter that. With the game taking place on the island, it allowed the writers to get a little more creative with how they approach the murders, obviously trying to take away the repetitive nature of the game. Different islands were available to explore, as each Class Trial concluded, as opposed to a new floor of one building. One island was an amusement park , while another had a Terminator vibe to it, which was welcome with open arms. Monokuma even has a Terminator eye himself. Did I mention that he was built in a machine run factory? Hm. But Class Trials were still… Class Trials.
Just like in Trigger Happy Havoc, a Class Trial took place at the end of every chapter, where the remaining students would gather and solve the mystery of the murder that had occurred right under their noses. Class Trials were once again set up so that it’s tough to reach the truth, even if you know how a murder went down. Except it made it a lot more fun this time around. New to Danganronpa, are Logic Dives, and a new and improved Hangman’s Gambit. I loved Logic Dives, you had to ride down a pipe, on a skateboard, while answering questions pertaining the case. There’s a reason why I always got giddy with excitement every time I saw “LOGIC DIVE” on my screen. It’s because it was a game. You have to overcome obstacles, jumps, and using what you knew about the case to clear the stage. This is the type of stuff I love to see out of the Class Trials, make it as much like a game as you can, because it is after all, a game. The new Hangman’s Gambit also made you work through a small puzzle game, whereas in Trigger Happy Havoc, all you had to do was tap on a letter. As much as I enjoyed them, it also seemed out of place. Did Class Trials want to be more formulaic with the nonstop debates, or let loose and play through a mini-game in Logic Dive and Hangman’s Gambit? It never seemed to pick a side. Making half of the Class Trials a pain in the ass, and the other half nonstop fun.
Investigations went the exact same as Trigger Happy Havoc. You have time to gather up clues after a body as been found, but the game pushes you towards a funnel, not really letting you draw your own conclusions. There were times where I went into the trials not piecing together a single clue, yet I wasn’t lost at all when it was time to find the blackened. It has to do with the arcadey mini-games that I mentioned above. I enjoyed them but, looking back on it, it barely felt like a detective game. You obviously need to know at least the basics of every case, but there was never a need to study it like you would for a class final.
Free Time is also a lot like Trigger Happy Havoc’s. You use that time to get to know the Island’s Inhabitants, or just to explore Jabberwock Island to your hearts content. There are a lot more incentives to explore now, mainly appealing to those that thrive in collecting. Then there’s your useless Tomogachi ripoff pet, it grows based on how many steps you take. Me being the lazy type and teleporting everywhere I went, I put mine through some intense malnourishment. Monokuma coins also make their return, with the addition of Monkuma dolls (yes, this guy is obsessed with himself) scattered throughout the island. That and the fact that you don’t always have to walk in that uncomfortable first-person view, it made exploration a lot more inviting.
Spike Chunsoft set out to make Class Trials as easy as possible for you. Instead of SP points, you get Hope Fragments, they let you purchase various skills to aid you in your battle against the blackened. And when you get to know someone well enough, a cheat code will unlock. They were indeed worth the trouble of asking one person to hangout a way too many times. Sorry about that, Chiaki.
As always, NIS America’s localization is exceptional. Something I didn’t praise enough in my last review. From American pop culture references, to the seamless translation of comedic dialogue, there was never a dull moment. But come on, where was my Terminator/Monokuma joke?
Like its predecessor, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a must have for Vita owners. Its story comes together better than a Vita and PS Plus. You’re in for one heck of a ride, but there were times when I was being forced off the ride, when all I wanted to do was enjoy it. With NIS’ top notch localization, Spike Chunsoft’s work is presented just as well in English as it is in Japanese. Here’s to Danganronpa: Another Episode coming to the states sooner rather than later. You absolutely can’t go wrong with murder mysteries of the century.
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