Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: NIS America
Review Context: After watching the animated series, I began my descent into playing the Danganronpa games. They were my entryway into playing the visual novel genre. I’m a huge fan of mystery point-and-click adventure games, so I felt at home while playing Danganronpa.
Date of Playthrough: August 2015
When I originally heard of the Danganronpa series, I wondered how on earth this weird setting of a game would work. A talking killer bear, a murder mystery where high school students kill someone to survive, all trapped in a place where they can’t escape. It sounds like something crazy, straight up out of a dream you once had that swirls into a nightmare. This wonderfully stylized version of a murder mystery seems more like a point-and-click adventure game than a visual novel, making it one of the more inventive and truly immersive visual novels. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair follows the original, and is a fantastic sequel that captures all the intensity and fun the first had. With an entirely new cast and a new stage to play this killing game on, did Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair turn out as a great second game in this new franchise, or pale in comparison to the original?
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a sequel to the original game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Instead of having the students stationed within Hope’s Peak Academy, they are forced onto a field trip to a tropical island by a new “stuffed toy” called Usami. Usami wants the students to all be happy and collect these so-called Hope Fragments. Though in Danganronpa, nothing ever lasts as Monokuma lands on the island and quickly turns this happy field trip into yet another killing game. You play as Hajime Hinata, as you try and uncover the mysteries created by your fellow classmates, as they desperately try to escape their new found hell. Each chapter will have a killer and their victim, then there will be a round-table debate called a “Class Trial” in order for the students and the killer to square off in a game of wits. You must break through the arguments and find out the killer, or else you and everyone else will perish letting the killer go free. Each mystery is more exciting than the last. With the twists and turns becoming more and more at the borderline of logical and insane, you must create hope for all among this ever growing despair.
As a sequel to the first game, Danganronpa 2 often pays tribute and makes reference to its previous game. They often use meta-humor, making fun of both the insane situations and the fact that it is a game. This is not an alternative setting to the first game, and it does build upon the foundation that the first one started about the mystery behind everything. Thus it should be played after witnessing the first game, as it does spoil the endgame. That being said, Danganronpa 2 clearly adds onto this crazy world with new locales on Jabberwock Island. From a tropical resort to an amusement park, the variety of locations certainly make it stand out more than the original game. That, coupled with far more inventive mysteries, up the ante to the point that one could say this was the definitive version, despite both games being very good.
When it comes to most visual novels, you make choices to lead you towards a certain path in the story. This would allow you to have a special ending that coincides with your choices. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair does not follow this traditional system, but rather follows a more streamlined and thematic story. Each death is predetermined and the killers will always remain the same, but there are two different styles of play to the game. The first is “Daily Life,” which follows traditional visual novel format of going through several hours of discussion. Here you progress through the story as you slowly learn about each person, and during free time attempting to become closer with said people. This leads up to the inevitable “Deadly Life” section, where you discover the crime scene and enter the investigation sequence.
The Daily Life segments are the building blocks of the story, like the calm before the storm. You progress with a sense of uneasiness as to who the next victim will be, all while learning more about the island and the story at hand. Traversing through island after island, you grow bonds with people you share time with and earn Hope Fragments, to which you can buy abilities with to help you during the School Trials. These segments at times can become tedious for those who do not feel entirely invested in the story, as there is a lot of dialogue as per a visual novel. That would be one of the major problems people can have with a game like Danganronpa 2. Those who are not fans of reading long passages of dialogue between characters, or visual novels, will certainly feel drained through this section of the game. I feel as if the game has a great enough story and cast to make that a non-issue, but I can understand that problem some would have.
The Deadly Life segments are where the real action comes in, and this visual novel turns into a sort of point-and-click murder mystery game. Searching crime scenes and questioning people, you earn ammunition to use during the School Trial. After you are finishing uncovering all the clues, you will then enter one of Monokuma’s Class Trials. Here there are a number of ways for you as a player to enter in on the roundtable discussion. These Class Trials have certain difficulties ranging from Gentle to Mean, and it cannot be changed halfway through unless you restart the Class Trial, so be prepared for the worst on higher difficulties. These sections are fully voiced in order to give the full sense of immersion to the player, as it feels like a rapid fire debate. At times the soundtrack will make it hard to hear the voice actors, but that happens on a rare occasion and does not hinder the overall Class Trial. The voice actors were terrifically chosen and give very distinct and memorable performances to their various characters. The camera angles definitely add a fast-paced and tense atmosphere to everything, and I give the cinematography great praise in these sections.
The gameplay of the Class Trial is in the form of decision making, nonstop debates, Hangman’s Gambit, Logic Dive, and Panic Talk Attack. Decision making is just making logical choices from a number of answers to a question. Nonstop debates are the most complicated sections to the Class Trials with a lot of what goes on. You use your ammunition from the investigation sequence to break through the arguments of your classmates, or support them if they are on the right track. This segment of the Class Trial is a perfect example of how immersive the game is. I love the adrenaline rush from the soundtrack and the fast-paced thinking you need to figure out which argument you need to break or support. The Hangman’s Gambit and Logic Dive are some good little minigames, but I felt they slow downed the momentum rather than keep it rolling. The Panic Talk Attack is certainly the hardest segment, as you need to keep to the beat, and rhythm challenged people like me will have problems with it, especially on the hardest difficulty. These Class Trials always end with a great stylized comic segment of the murder plan which is a nice closer.
The aesthetics of the game is what has me hooked on the series. The style and colors all pop, and each setting fits to a specific theme really well. Every character’s design stands out and is certainly memorable especially when they match/contrast their personalities really well. The executions of each of the killers are some of the most insane moments of the show, and are tailor-made to the specific killer. The soundtrack is nothing to shirk either. While during the Daily Life sections, it sets a tone and ambiance, as it is at the forefront of everything, creating a great atmosphere and at times amplifying either a tense or emotional scene.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a near perfect game. While it is does not have a great replayability factor, it does not need to in order to be a fantastically thematic game. Being in the visual novel genre, Danganronpa 2 is at times a slow game because of the Daily Life segments not being everyone’s cup of tea with long dialogues. It certainly is one of the best story driven games I have ever had the pleasure of playing. Besides a few rare spelling mistakes here and there, and some voice actors being overpowered by the soundtrack, it is a technically sound game. The evolution from the first game is there, and for lovers of the original this is an even grander game to take up the mantle. From the meta-humor, to the intense murder mystery, to the terrific character and world building, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a “must play” game for fans, and shows newcomers why they need to pick up the original in order to play this game.
Similar Games Liked:
DanganRonpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (Vita)