Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Review
Remember that game where you play as one of the fifteen students isolated in a school forced to commit murder to escape (Forget the anime though, doesn’t seem as promising as far as I had heard)? There’s a sequel, but now instead of a school, this time it’s on an uninhabited island, as Monomi would put it-“lovey-dovey, heart-throbbing school trip”.
The concept behind Danganronpa 2 is mostly the same. Every year 15 students specialized in specific skills and courses are chosen to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, an extremely prestigious school which nurture and provide guidance to the brightest of students. These students are dubbed “Ultimate”, and the game puts you in the shoes of one of these students, Hajime Hinata, attending the academy as a first year. Strangely passing out en route to the school, Hajime recovered in the classroom, and met his other classmates and a robot bunny which claims to be their homeroom teacher, Usami. Suddenly the image behind them shifted away into a tropical island, with Usami claiming they are on a school trip. Said school trip was cut short however, when the series’s very familiar nemesis, Monokuma, emerged and turned the trip into a “killing school trip”, forcing the students to kill each others to escape.
5 minutes in, the game instantly reminded me why Danganronpa is such an appealing series. The narrative is written in a zany way, but also in a way where you had to take things really seriously. You are forced to share the disbelief your own characters felt-that gap between reality and ridiculousness. All in a while, you know the inevitable deaths would be occurring soon, so despite the slight slice-of-life nature, it’s extremely gripping. I personally couldn’t put down my Vita when I was playing the game.
Just like before, the game is divided into different segments. Daily Life, where you progress the story in visual novel-like segments, Deadly Life, where you need to investigate the murders Ace Attorney-esque and the Class Trial segments. The individual cases are extremely well-written just like before, some of the cases seem more clear-cut and makes you think you understand the whole picture, while in some cases, so many shocking revelations are presented that you’re practically going to the trial blindly full of questions still. Nonetheless, the trials are very nicely written in a way which slowly first showed you what you know, and slowly worked your ground up, even finding new information beyond your own investigations as you seek the truth behind the murders. While there are definitely a lot of details just on the individual murder cases alone, the narrative also smoothly blended in some plot points from the overarching storyline here and there, a meticulously-integrated foreshadowing and twists which grab people’s attention effortlessly.
The concept behind having a group of students stuck in a location, forced to kill each other, and then forced to expose the killer and his crimes-all in all, it’s mostly a reused idea, and even the execution of the idea is almost identical-but it’s an idea which worked flawlessly; an idea which is hard not to feel anything with such an engaging setting.
Like Daganronpa 1, Danganronpa 2 has an extremely large character cast. 15 of them excluding Monokuma, Usami/Monomi and some miscellaneous characters. Just like before, it’s very difficult to focus on all of them aside from some of the more major and plot-centric ones. In most cases, these characters mostly had to rely on their quirks to get them the appeal as characters, something which Danganronpa does extremely well, even if they don’t contribute much to the plot. This only applies to the lesser characters though, with ones that actually did got the attention and character development, they are written in a smooth and organic way, and meshed effortlessly with all the murders and mysteries on the forefront. One of the cases like the one in chapter 2, showed me one of the best character development in the game by far.
For a game like this, you would think the gameplay aspects would be mostly a sort of supplement to the story, but instead of being a “supplement”, the gameplay is just as huge as it’s seemingly large-scaled storytelling. I might even miss a few but will try my best to cover all the gameplay mechanics. From a gameplay perspective, the game is best compared with the likes of Zero Escape or Ace Attorney series. During investigative periods of the game, you will be able to roam around some places in first-person 3D view, reminiscence of Danganronpa 1, and investigate destinations when you reach them with a point-and-click system. The exploration also has an overworld which makes traveling around easier, you can also choose to run manually or “quick travel” between locations. Throughout your explorations, you can earn Monocoins along the way which you can use to buy things from the vending machine and the beach (the latter randomized).
Of course, the main bulk of the gameplay is the Class Trial, which is basically a plethora of minigames. This is also a plot thing but I will just mention it here again in more detail, the concept behind the Class Trial is that, the “blackened”-the one who committed the murder, is hiding within the group in the trial. If you managed to expose the “blackened”, he or she will be executed, but if you couldn’t manage to do it, the rest of the students will be executed instead and the “blackened” will be able to escape the island. The Class Trials are best described as a wacky Ace Attorney gameplay style with an action RPG gimmick-there is a sort of HP bar which depletes if you fail at these minigames and even skills you can equip with (which I will get to in a minute).
First off, is Nonstop Debates, where dialogues of the characters will be flung around the screen, and with the right Truth Bullet (evidences you found during investigations), you need to shoot the right text to either object or consent (the latter a new thing in Danganronpa 2). The new Hangman’s Gambit (a mini-game with letters to form the right word) was actually one of the most frustrating ones to work around with, as letters will explode when in contact with each other, and tapping too rapidly with the touch-screen also yield the same result of letters exploding even if it seems faster and easier. Sometimes, some other characters will object your opinion, which adds a new addition to the gameplay-Rebuttal Showdown, which worked just like the same with Nonstop Debate, but instead of a gun gimmick, this one has a one-on-one sword duel gimmick, players will choose a Truth Blade (again, evidences) and slash at the contradictory text flung around the screen.
Panic Talk Action worked almost the same way as it’s Bullet Time Battle equivalent in Danganronpa 1, in that it’s mostly a rhythm game where you had to lock on to the your opponent’s assertion and shoot them down with bullets. The biggest difference would be that you had to reorder four words by the end of the rhythm game. Closing Argument, which summarizes everything we learned in the trial in a manga format, also worked mostly the same way with some improvements. All in all, these minigames provide some needed dynamics and interaction to the story, and while they are mostly the same ones with some newer additions and improvements on existing ones; they complement nicely with the overall wacky atmosphere of the game. However, as far as complementing to the wacky atmosphere goes, there are still some, like the new Logic Dive (a minigame where Hajime revisits past information to see if he can learn anything new) which went a little too far.
That’s the main chunk of the gameplay, but there is also a “Free Time” sub-segment within Daily Life segments, where you can freely walk around the place and interact with the characters. If you spend time with any of them, your bond with them will grow stronger and you will obtain a Hope Fragment (There are a total of five Hope Fragments for each character), this was apparent in Danganronpa 1, but it’s still a nice gameplay mechanic which provide a brief sub-story for the characters… that is, if you managed to get all of them before their seemingly inevitable deaths. You can also get skills from completing their sub-stories,
and panties too while I’m at it. These skills are extremely useful to have during Class Trials which assist you in a variety of ways like increasing your HP gauge, increasing the power for your silencer, increasing sharpness of your blade, and so on; though you can also get them from purchasing them off Monomi or raising your tamagotchi pets.
If you’re still with me (describing these gameplay aspects is unsurprisingly getting lengthier than I thought), yes, there’s a tamagotchi minigame, which actually gave me more frustrations than it is fun. This post nicely sums it up so you can check it out.
There are also many gameplay modes outside of the main story, though most of these don’t contribute much in reinforcing the impact of the main story, as they are more of a complement to the story. There’s the Magical Miracle Girl Monomi, where you play as Monomi in an action minigame where you had to defeat the Monobeasts on the island. You can earn Monocoins and some presents or equipments which only just helps within that minigame itself. There’s the Island Mode you will unlock after you finished the main story which portrays an alternative scenario where Monokuma gets defeated and Monomi proceeded the “heart-throbbing school trip” the way she originally wanted-it most closely resembled a dating sim. It however, is extremely repetitive since it required at least multiple cycles of playthroughs. You can also unlock a summary of Dangnronpa 1 as a form of sound novel by completing the main story, but in the first place, you’re kinda doing it wrong if you played this game without playing the first anyway.
As far as technically goes, both the visuals and music are mostly the same flair as they were in Danganronpa 1, though the Vita upgrade makes it pretty obvious, as I noticed the graphics are more crisp and the 3D explorations more dynamic. The characters are rendered in a peculiar cardboard cut-out manner seen in 3D explorations, investigations and on the Class Trial themselves, it’s a recurring unique style from Danganronpa 1, but worked wonders with the game’s atmosphere. Maybe because it’s an island setting this time too, instead of a typical school, but the environments feel rich and vibrant so it’s really fun to roam around the places, even if the places you can actually roam around are pretty limited. During Daily Life conversations, it’s mostly standard visual novel with anime sprites and dialogues on the bottom. In some of the CGs, you can notice that the lines are kinda thick but fits thematically with the game. Onto the character visual design themselves, they look as eccentric as their “Ultimate” quirky nature would suggest. Komatsuzaki Rui always has a knack for designing his characters and fitting them into their roles, yet over-exaggerated for good measure, which is also another element which just works. The soundtrack is decent, and did a satisfactory job of immersing players into the mysteries or the gripping Class Trials. The full tracklist isn’t entirely big too, so some songs can be a bit repetitive, in fact, a major portion of the songs are recurring tracks from Danganronpa 1, some used as it is, while some re-arranged. The voice acting is fantastic though just like before, the game also doesn’t feature full voice overs, only on some specific events and the Class Trials.
Danganronpa 1 was a great game, while it wasn’t exactly revolutionary, it was able to borrow the main gameplay mechanics from other point-and-click graphical text adventure games, tweaked, restructured, and somehow made it it’s own unique style. Danganronpa 2 used mostly the same structure from Danganronpa 1, but it’s just something which works, and like it’s predecessor, Danganronpa 2 lives up to the promise and proved to be an excellent game. It’s thrilling atmosphere, multifaceted mysteries, improved gameplay and unique art styles are the game’s greatest points-it’s a game I recommend anyone who owns a Vita to try it, but if you haven’t already, do make sure to play Danganronpa 1 first though.