Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
PS Vita, PSP
Initial Release: November, 2010
Having been a fan of the ever so popular Telltale interactive story games, my eye kept coming across this weird niche game called Danganronpa. After reading the summary, I gave it a bash. An odd Japanese game about students locked in a college, murder and a devilishly cute talking bear? Ah sure, why not.
You play as Makoto Naegi, an average student attending Hope’s Peak Academy. Just so happens you were randomly chosen to attend the prestigious academy, how lucky of you! In fact, you’re titled as The Ultimate Lucky Student, kind of disparaging considering your fellow students have the titles of Ultimate Baseball Star and Ultimate Fashionista. You just plain suck.
As he enter the school, Makoto faints and wakes to meet his soon to be partners in hell. Only 14 other students are seemingly attending and have also fainted. The star of the show then introduces himself in spectacular fashion. Monokuma the remote-controlled cuddly bear. He’s the new headmaster and his rules are simple. The students have to live the rest of their lives there unless they murder another student. The only catch is that they must not get caught. Easy, right?
Well, not quite. You see, Monokuma decided to mix the movie Battle Royal and a Phoenix Wright game together. Yep, after a murder, the students then enter a class trial to try to weasel out that dirty murderer. If they succeed, that scoundrel is executed, if they are wrong, well…. lets just say the murderer is the only one graduating today.
As a visual novel, the characters are the highlights. At the start, it’s quite uncomfortable as a particular character takes an odd romantic shine to you. Portrayals of these sort of characters have plagued many games over the years. Please don’t let this deter you though, Danganronpa understands these tropes and twists them to subvert your expectations and creates its own glorious vision to make the characters shine, so much so that some murders affected me as a player and my judgement when conducting the trials. I’m a big softy apparently.
The class trials are conducted in a court style of room, with the characters in a circle and Monokuma as the judge, leaving the students to seal their fate. The camera then whips around as if it were a reality TV show and the cameraman decided to take some speed beforehand as the students debate and you present evidence to contradict statements. Whilst these trials are invigorating and incredibly clever, a complaint is that Makoto acts like a toddler struggling to fit a circular piece into its corresponding peg, the answer is so easy yet he looks like he’s going to drool on himself at any moment, bit of an idiot that one.
If you’re a fan of Japanese visual novels or Battle Royal (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) then I wholeheartedly recommend Danganronpa, it’s one of those games you not only need to play, but you need to finish too.