Back in February, a truly unique game was released for the PlayStation Vita. Now, several months later we have it’s sequel; Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Surely it could never be as enjoyably bat-shit crazy as the first, right? Wrong!
Like it’s predecessor, Danganronpa 2 is a revamped version of a PSP game (that never made it’s way out of Japan). The franchise has proven to be a huge success with an anime adaptation, multiple manga series, light novels and even an upcoming action game, “Another Episode” due to be released in Japan this year.
Goodbye Despair places you in control of Hajime Hinata, a boy who has just become an ‘Ultimate student’ at Hope’s Peak Academy, alongside fifteen others. Graduating from Hope’s Peak opens all kinds of doors and guarantees you a life of success. For Hajime and his ‘ultimate’ class, that is not to be. The group mysteriously find themselves on the remote Jabberwock island. If that isn’t confusing enough, these hopeful youths are met by their teacher, who turns out to be a pink remote-controlled rabbit calling herself “Magical Miracle Girl Usami” who explains the goal is for them to become good friends and deepen their bond. However, the trip takes a turn for the worse when everybody’s favourite black and white, sadistic bear, Monokuma returns and the killing begins anew. Escaping the island is simple, fall into despair, kill a classmate and don’t get caught, piece of cake.
Like the previous title, the game is broken into sections: The text-heavy, visual novel side, where you and your classmates bond and learn more about the island. As you explore you’ll receive Monokuma medals, which work as currency. You can use them to buy presents for fellow-classmates, strengthening your bond with them and unlocking new skills for Hajime. You can also buy art and other goodies. The story is gripping, accompanied by a perfect cast that allows you to totally despise them one minute and love them the next. The motivation behind each murder and the way the mystery is slowly untangled is not only thrilling, but scary. As expected of the series, the character designs are incredible, matching each character’s personality and making them even more memorable. Of course the violently unpredictable Monokuma is still as tantalising as ever and nobody’s favourite magical girl Usami is also a nice addition to our cuddly line-up.
The gameplay has improved dramatically since the previous game, with exploration being a lot more open and enjoyable. A great 2D sidescrolling feature has been added, so you are now able to wander freely around the island. As you do you’ll gain experience points enabling you to level up. That isn’t the only big change; you also have a tamagotchi-like pet inside your e-Handbook that matures as you move. Your pixel pet has two meters; one for despair and another for hope. How far each meter is filled will shape how it evolves. Players will need to check regularly for stinky ‘presents’, if it’s left sitting in it’s own mess for too long it’ll lapse into despair and die. It’s a little nostalgia trip for those who love tamagochis, and another good reason to walk around the beautiful island.
The ‘Deadly Life’ section begins after a classmate has been found murdered. Carnage kicks off after you investigate the scene, interrogate classmates or perhaps be interrogated by them. Again, the game does a little too much hand-holding during this section, not allowing you to leave a particular area until all the clues have been found, but it’s still an engaging process and interesting to see how each of the characters will respond to the crime.
During the ‘Class Trial’ you’ll once again be using “Truth Bullets” to pick apart your classmate’s feeble arguments. However, you now have a chance to agree with a character’s remark, smashing apart the opposition’s claims. With the chance to ally yourself with your classmates, instead of mentally beating them to death, it’s a morally satisfying addition to the gameplay. The Class Trials have become an even more fascinating part of the game. With new ways to argue in the “Rebuttal Showdown” section, where you’ll be using the touchscreen to slash and bash your opponent’s speech, making them bow to your superior knowledge. “Logic Dive”, is a fun, snowboarding mini-game, requiring you to answer questions by moving to the correct answer. There’s even an improved closing argument section, which allows you to wrap up the case with unprecedented style and grace.
The biggest gripe with the previous game was during the exploration, which has been totally resolved in this title. While the characters remain 2D paper cut-outs, it works much better thanks to an increase in quality of the art and graphics. It has to be said, the game is beautiful. The soundtrack parallels Danganronpa’s insane tone, mixing the dark and sinister with the light and fluffy and the vocals in both Japanese and English are once again brilliant. After you’ve completed the story, you’ll have plenty of extras awaiting you.“Magical Girl Miracle Monomi” where you have to use magic to take down waves of Monokuma’s minions. “Island Mode“ where the murders never happen and you get to spend time bonding with your friends. There’s even a novel included.
Danganronpa returns, giving players a mind-blowing 30 hour story and extras that will keep fans busy for quite a while. The original game was a deep genre-blending experience, it was hard to imagine a sequel would be able to match it. Thankfully the game goes above and beyond. Danganronpa:Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair shouldbe played by every Vita owner. Thank you Spike Chunsoft.