Imagine living at a tropical island resort. You have your own personal cabin, food and amenities available at your finger tips, and a beautiful beach setting to spend your days relaxing. You will be able to do just that in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the sequel to the cult classic Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. There is only one catch; a maniacal stuffed bear named Monokuma is forcing you and your friends to kill each other in between the brief respites of tropical living.
If you don’t know what the Danganronpa games are about yet, allow me to give you a brief overview. A group of freshmen students from the prestigious Hopes Peak Academy, a school that literally only accepts the “Ultimate” students, are tasked with killing one another in order to survive. Students who do ultimately kill someone must then cover up their tracks as the rest of the students will be working to figure out who did it. All students will partake in a class trial in which they debate on who the killer is, eventually coming to a conclusion. If they discover the correct killer, that student is then executed. The kicker is if they guess the wrong student, the killer goes free while the rest of the class is executed.
In Goodbye Despair, players take control of Hajime Hinata. Or rather, follow his perspective. Make no mistake, Danganronpa is a visual novel. While it does distinguish itself from other novels creatively (Something we will get into in a moment), the majority of gameplay is spent clicking through dialogue.
Regardless, as Hajime, players are dropped on a tropical island resort alongside 15 other students, each representing themselves as the “Ultimate” in their field or hobby. After being greeted by the rabbit-like Usami, who only wants to promote peace and love among the classmates, things quickly take a turn for a worse as Monokuma, the series’ mascot, shows up to present the class with their task of killing.
Perhaps the most important aspect to Danganronpa are its characters. Each of the 16 students are given the title of ultimate in their field, but they are often more than just their title reveals. Many, if not all, of the characters are given a surprising amount of depth. You are always learning new things about them as the game progresses. Unfortunately, this is not a game where you want to pick favorites. By the nature of the game, your favorite character will probably not make it to the end. It’s a cold hard fact to face. To the game’s discredit, the story also only focuses on certain characters despite the large cast. 15 – 20 hours into the game, and I really only knew the names of a handful of characters. Players can choose to meet the less prominent characters during “free time,” but it is a shame that the story does not take advantage of everyone, at least when they haven’t killed someone.
Being a sequel to such a story-heavy game, Goodbye Despair actually holds up surprisingly well on its own. Players will scarcely be left scratching their heads, wondering what is going on sans a few jokes and references to the previous game. The only warning I might give to those looking to jump right in is how Goodbye Despair handles the ending of Trigger Happy Havoc. While they don’t just flat-out say, “This happened,” some major plot spoilers are revealed early on. As such, I might suggest playing Trigger Happy Havoc beforehand if you intend on getting into the series, or at the very least, watching the excellent anime adaptation. Otherwise, Goodbye Despair can easily be enjoyed as a stand alone entry.
Beyond the story, gameplay is somewhat limited. Players can walk around the island in both side-scrolling and first person maps, but most of the walking can be circumvented as a fast travel map is easily accessible from the menu, even complete with a handy list of who is where. At some point, characters will begin to die. It is then that players will enter an investigation. At this point, the game turns into a sort of pseudo point-and-click adventure game where you attempt to find all of the clues that will help solve each murder. Murders themselves are actually quite grisly. The overall tone of Danganronpa is along the lines of insanity mixed with humor. In a game where characters raise “demonic” hamsters and fall asleep standing up because they were up all night gaming, it’s often jarring, and very grounding, when you finally see one of the many dead bodies.
After the investigation comes the class trial, the real meat and potatoes of the game. These lengthy (read: potentially 5+ hours long) sections are where most of the interactivity in this visual novel takes place. The player must determine who the killer is, obviously. However, the game makes it somewhat difficult to do so. Rather than just presenting evidence and answering questions like many other similar games, players must complete mini-games. These range from listening to the students argue among themselves and choosing precise moments to interject, using a metaphorical gun to shoot evidence at their phrases, to literally surfing through your own mind in order to get the facts straight. While some of these mini-games are fun and enjoyable, others, such as the unfortunately boring Hangman’s Gambit, will have you wishing the trial was over already.
Once a trial is complete, players are rewarded with one of the many crazy execution cutscenes. Executions are as creative as they are ridiculous in Goodbye Despair. You will often find yourself rooting for the killer considering the overkill that goes into their death. Regardless, the scenes are well worth going through the trails, even if you don’t enjoy some of the mini-games.
Being on the PC now, Goodbye Despair has a few perks. For one, using a mouse makes pointing and clicking pretty easy. Keybindings for the most part are pretty well-placed. Having F1 being the menu key is a little unfortunate, though the menu can also be accessed with the X key, so it isn’t a big deal. Unfortunately, there are a few issues I ran into. I run a pretty powerful rig, yet I ran into slowdown during some of the mini-games. It is especially prevalent during the rhythm game, Panic Talk, a game you don’t want slow down on. It lead to some unfortunate mistakes.
Even with its faults, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a very good game. Being a visual novel/puzzle game, it might be difficult to recommend to other people, but for fans of Phoenix Wright or Aviary Attorney, this game is right up your alley. Even those who just enjoy a good story with good characters should find something to love about Goodbye Despair. If you missed it on Vita, you should definitely check it out on PC!
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