Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a visual novel that puts the player in the shoes of Makoto Naegi who has been luckily accepted into the elite school of Hope’s Peak Academy. Upon entering it’s doors, the strange occurrences begin to unfold a story of a school that is now considered the school of despair.
Tossed into a kill-or-be-killed stay at the school, the game plays out like a visual novel that has many aspects of beloved titles like Ace Attorney, Persona, and even includes some music game aspects in which the player must keep up with the beat to continue on in the game.
The only way out is to graduate. However, there is a morbid twist to this “graduation” process. Thus enters the kill-or-be-killed suspense in which there will only be one who will graduate. To do so, the graduate must kill one of the other students and be “blackened” in the process. Which means, they must get away with the murder. At the end of the trial, the students select who they think the killer is, based on how well the player presents evidence discovered throughout the prior dedicated investigation time. If the class selects the wrong person, then the entire class is executed, leaving the murderer “blackened” and will result in his/her graduation. If they select the right person, then the killer is executed and the circle begins again.
Monokuma is not one to sit and wait around for the next murder to happen, for those who refuse to play into this grizzly game, so he offers up incentives and motives to get things going in the direction of a murder. Monokuma has a very likable, yet dreaded and evil existence in the game and his presence brings forth anticipation whenever he enters the scene.
Monokuma, a half evil-half adorable (visually and through actions) bear has imprisoned the selected fifteen students for the “rest of their lives”. These students are elite in their own special abilities, such as an Ultimate Fashionista, an Ultimate Affluent Progeny, an Ultimate Swimming Pro, and so on. Being hand-selected to attend the school, there is an intriguing connection to each of the characters that draws the player into wanting to get to know each one, individually. The player can build up the relationships with each character that will add attributes that can be used in the courtroom during the class trial. They didn’t seem to really enhance the gameplay during the class trial and some of the additional interests that are learned through building up these relationships were not really relevant, nor did they really enhance the storyline. This was a great opportunity to dive deeper into the story, that was not fully taken advantage of.
The aesthetics are intriguing and take on a fun anime-comic book feel. It will feel like the player is opening up a comic and watching the events unfold, with some room for exploration and free-time to meet up with other classmates. As each class trial ends, a new floor in the school opens up, leaving room for more areas to investigate. During this time, the game takes on a first-person view that feels natural and leaves the player wanting to explore every inch of the school. The player is rewarded for doing so by receiving hidden Monokuma Coins throughout the academy. A great inclusion is a school store, where Monokuma Coins can be spent on a gachapon machine to gain items to give to fellow classmates that will assist in relationship building.
It is interesting to see the players pop into the scenery, as the player enters a room. The environment seems to unfold like a pop-up book, which is a nice touch to keep the visual novel feel. Gameplay elements, such as arranging events in chronological order in a comic book during the class trial, also adds its own touch to this, as well.
Other gameplay elements that were rather interesting was the inclusion of Truth Bullets, which are facts pertaining to the murder case. During debates in the class trial, these Truth Bullets are loaded in a gun-style fashion and it is up to the player to find holes in each classmates testimony. Once a contradiction is found, the proper Truth Bullet must be selected and shot at the inconsistent statement. Since it is all timed, it can get rather heated because if missed, time was wasted and partial health is lost. So, it can get really intense and some contradictions may not be as obvious as others, which really keeps the player on his toes and the gameplay intense. On harder settings, it is intensified with distractions that the player must focus even harder on the statements given. Not everything in each trial will be clear and laid out, upon entering the class trial, and more clues will make themselves apparent as it progresses. This was a great way to offer up more to the storyline. It is always a relief to be greeted with a crazy Monokuma execution at the end of an intense class trial, as creepy as that sounds. Some of the executions were not as notable and creative as others, but nonetheless, they were still eerily fun to watch. They truly bring out the morbid side of the player.
The soundtrack is definitely pleasing to the ear, as it is a computerized-orchestrated mix of industrial sounds that has an anime feel. It is soothing and never gets overbearing. The sounds and music compliment the game and the experience that the player walks away from.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a soulful game that will appeal to any type of gamer. Of course, due to its mature content, it is not recommended for gamers of all ages. What can be said is that if the player is not really a fan of visual novels, the story will definitely engulf the player to keep them hooked. The game is definitely a must-own for any PS Vita owner. So, pick up a copy, take your seat, don’t be late….class is about to begin.
- Robust storyline filled with plenty of unexpected plot twists
- Great cast of characters that add their own personality to the story
- Harder modes offer up even more of a challenge that offers more gameplay fun
- Some of the executions were not as notable and creative as others
- Relationships built by time spent with other students could have offered up even more of an insight into each character’s life before Hope’s Peak Academy.
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