High school life can be rough for just about anyone in life. For Makoto Naegi, life is just good simple normal fun. That is until he received a letter to join a school designed around teaching the best students in the world. We’re talking about students who go above and beyond the norms to earn the moniker “Ultimate.” So what brings an average person like Makoto into a school full of enormous talent? Good old fashioned lucky of the draw, or maybe he’s the Ultimate unlucky student after all.
The story is filled with twists and turns, and draws the player in with unpredictable murder scenarios.
Welcome to hell, or how it is otherwise known: Hope’s Peak Academy. Danganronpa is in essence a video game novel in the frame of titles like the Ace Attorney series. A deranged Teddy Bear has trapped a group of students in a school with the ultimatum to get live the rest of their lives there, or kill each other and graduate. Now of course it would be fun to just get crazy all Battle Royale style, but a student who kills another must not be discovered.
The tale of a group of students forced to kill each has been told before in a variety of ways – Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, and more. However, it’s the first time that I’ve ever experienced it in a video game. It looks and feels like many an anime show would, but carries the weight of a hardboiled murder mystery. The story is filled with twists and turns, and draws the player in with unpredictable murder scenarios.
Players can move around in a 3D space investigating the school and the surround environment. Like many adventure games that came before it, players will be able to scroll over items to study them by way of the analog-stick or the touchscreen. The action doesn’t pick up until someone is killed and a trial begins. All the evidence that you’ve collected will come into play as you and your fellow students take on the role of Judge and Jury.
Unlike another well-known series involving trials and objections, Danganronpa expects the player to solve the crime within a time-limit. Using the evidence you’ve discovered over the course of time, you will have to shoot Truth Bullets at statements to reveal the truth. You can fast forward the conversations speeding up the time, and rotate your chamber to discover the correct Truth Bullet to fire and continue the trial.
It contains a unique graphical flair and takes a stylistic approach to animating the murders in a comic book style.
The cases become more difficult as time goes by as players can single out certain dialogue to trigger truth flashbacks, or shoot down static covered text with a silencer. A game of hangman also appears, with the player guessing a series of letters to discover the missing truth. Finally, when the culprit is cornered players will have to participate in a rhythm mini-game to reveal the final truth. The rhythm game is the only weird part about the game, and it isn’t necessarily needed in the formula.
This is a Visual Novel, so you can expect to walk around getting to know men and women. Unlike most dating titles though, you earn Skill Points from engaging each character in your free-time. With each successful conversation your maximum SP will increase, and you’ll gain a useful skill once you’ve learned everything there is to know about a person. It’s best to get to know the other students as quickly as possible, because you’ll never guess who will get the axe next.
The art style is a bit wacky, but the sound design and voice work is fantastic. The school looks great in 3D, and the various rooms cascade down like dominoes as Makoto discovers them. It contains a unique graphical flair and takes a stylistic approach to animating the murders in a comic book style. The incredibly wordy visual novel filled with adult themes, are the only things to dissuade anyone from getting involved. This title is about the act of murder, and it only pulls one punch regarding it. The blood is bright pink, but curse words and vicious killings are aplenty. You should not be buying this game for kids of any kind.
This title is not for everyone, especially not those who don’t like to see a bunch of text and still frame characters on screen. For the rest of us Visual Novel nuts, this title is a faster paced and more adult version of the famous Phoenix Wright titles. It can give the long running series a run for a money, and it’s much more deserving of the mature rating. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc receives four stars out of five. This oddly intriguing mystery novel is a fantastic addition to the Vita library.