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Marcus Estrada

Review: Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

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Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: September 2, 2014

ESRB: M for Mature



Earlier this year, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc launched on Vita. With little time to rest, NIS America promptly announced the sequel would also head West. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair throws players into a similar situation as the first game, but this time with a new cast in tow.

In case you missed the original, Danganronpa 2 is an adventure visual novel focused on solving murder mysteries. As such, this review can“t delve much into the storyline, but you“ll still get a taste!

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Danganronpa 2 begins without much explanation. All you know is the protagonist is named Hajime and he has just been accepted into an incredibly prestigious high school named Hope“s Peak Academy. After meeting up with the other new students, a weird rabbit creature appears and spontaneously transports the group to a tropical island. Apparently, it“s time to relax and have a heart-pounding school trip! Unfortunately, this oddball party is quickly broken up by another, more nefarious character named Monokuma. Monokuma“s aim seems to be causing absolute despair by forcing classmates to kill one another in hopes of leaving the island.

Despite the anime aesthetic, this is a surprisingly dark theme. Of course, it takes on more of a black comedy vibe thanks to the many awkward jokes and ridiculous circumstances that everyone gets into. Initially there are so many characters that it“s even difficult to really feel for them. Once numbers begin dwindling, players do start to care about these incredibly unfortunate teenagers. In between more pressing matters such as solving murders, you can chat with various characters and increase friendships in the process.

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The meat of Danganronpa 2 is in its writing. As with most visual novels, you“ll spend a ton of time reading dialogue. The localization certainly feels anime-like, with excessive flamboyance and weird conversations, but the storyline should hook most players relatively quickly. Solving each crime is also full of convoluted, but logical, twists and turns. Unfortunately, both titles attempt to bring more “gameplayé elements in via minigames during each class trial. These were never that fun to begin with but this version actually made them worse.

You see, what makes the game so fun is the storyline and interactions between characters - not Spike Chunsoft“s awkward attempts at gamifying a visual novel. Old minigames such as Hangman“s Gambit have the gall to call themselves “Improvedé and are anything but. New minigames include Logic Dive which is a supremely useless board racing game where you try to avoid obstacles. Even the rendition of a rhythm game is marred by awkward controls. All of this is compounded by the fact that the explanations for each minigame are vague and rarely clarify what you have to do. Thankfully, you can view specific controls per game once you“re in the middle of one.

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That“s not to say issues begin and end with the multiple minigames. There are also a handful of issues with the class trial segments themselves. As with the original, players enter into a trial after collecting evidence. Once there characters will all argue for what they believe happened. Using Truth Bullets (aka evidence) you can refute or strengthen people“s remarks by firing them at the respective statement on screen. Every once in a while though you“ll be stuck guessing as to what Truth Bullet is even needed. This is due to some odd wording/suggestions which don“t seem particularly clear. For the most part everything is logical, but these few instances do dampen the experience if you get stuck because of one.

It“s definitely sad to see that minigames were somehow made more annoying and that some puzzles are obtuse, but Danganronpa 2“s story is still what matters most. After all, you“ll likely spend 10 to 20 hours working through it, and most of that is pure visual novel. Once you beat the game there“s also a few extras that fans might like to look into. People interested in a sizeable murder mystery storyline will likely fall for its charms regardless of issues. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a lovely game with a few blemishes but those shouldn“t detract from the overall experience too much.

 

Pros:

+ Unique cast of characters to befriend
+ Intriguing storyline with a surprising amount of twists
+ Each murder mystery is entirely unique and fun to solve

Cons:

- Minigames somehow made worse for this version
- Some puzzle solutions are more unclear than they are complex


 

Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
Good


Danganronpa is an appealing murder mystery-focused visual novel. Although it stumbles, the overall experience is worth playing.


Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS Vita code provided by the the publisher.



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And now another VN about murder and mystery is on my queue. Ugh, well here's hoping that this sells well enough for them to fund Zero Escape vol 3!

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The thing I've noticed about the Chunsoft visual novels is that I don't really care for the actual gameplay part generally, but I can't entirely say that I just want their games to be pure visual novels either (even if I'm sure I'd find it more engaging if it was). In DanganRonpa 1 in particular, I thought it was cool when it comes together in the student trial segments... even if the minigames and the point & click parts got pretty repetitive or too drawn out (although, I usually liked the manga-esque thing at the end of a trial). Sort of similar to VLR and puzzles. I don't usually care for VLR/999 puzzles, but it sometimes helps create a bigger connection to the narrative (even if they they halt the pace of the storytelling a lot of times...).

 

Either way, I'm definitely looking forward to playing 2. I'm trying to finish a certain other visual novel 1st (Steins;Gate) before I get to this, so I hope I don't encounter too many (/any) spoilers before playing it (then again, I saw huge spoilers 1 one, but didn't realize it until I got to those parts... so maybe it won't matter). Either way, I do appreciate the spoiler-free approach to the review, dawg. 

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