16th September 2016 (EU), 13th September 2016 (NA)
PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Steam (TBA)
Publisher / Developer
NIS America / MAGES, 5pb.
Psycho-Pass is back, and in Visual Novel form, with Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness available on both PlayStation 4 and PlayStation, with a planned release coming to Steam. Based on the hugely popular anime series Psycho-Pass, which aired back in 2012, Mandatory Happiness is set during the first eight episodes of the original series and features some familiar characters.
Set during the year 2112, an ever-online surveillance system named Sybil has systemically erased crime from the world by monitoring the mental state of every individual. The Crime Coefficient represents someone’s potential for committing a crime and is measured by one’s mental hue which is then given a number based on how clear the hue is. When a hue becomes clouded and reaches a certain number, then that individual could be deemed in need of enforcement and if they become a Latent Criminal then lethal measures will be taken. Sybil, by dealing with potential criminals before a crime has even been committed has changed the world, but crime is not extinct and it is the role of Public Safety Bureau’s Criminal Investigation Division to enforce Latent Criminals.
Fans of the Psycho-Pass world will no doubt understand the potential of depth that Mandatory Happiness could offer. I will keep the review relatively spoiler-free and while newcomers to the franchise can easily jump in here it is probably recommended you familiarise yourself with the anime first. It’s not a must, however, having some prior knowledge of the world would greatly increase your enjoyment.
You’re given the choice of two characters at the beginning of the game with the other playing a role in the story either way. Nadeshiko Kugatachi – a new Inspector at Criminal Investigation Division 1 who lost all of her memories as the result of an accident prior to starting her job but returns after being medically cleared to do so. Takuma Tsurugi – another new employee at Criminal Investigation Division 1, who became a Latent Criminal due to the disappearance of his friend, eventually turned Enforcer in the hopes of finding her.
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is a visual novel right to its core and there’s little else on offer here. Unlike other similar titles, we have seen over the years such as the Zero Escape trilogy and Danganronpa series Mandatory Happiness does not feature any form of puzzle or evidence collecting sections. A surprise as I expected something more akin to the Ace Attorney series in Mandatory Happiness. That’s not to say that Mandatory Happiness is a poor game by any means but be prepared that it will involve a lot of reading and little else.
Without much in the way of actual gameplay, Mandatory Happiness relies largely on its story. Luckily, as fans will already know, the world of Psycho-Pass is an intriguing and deep experience which leaves me with no doubt that this game will impress. It does. While it relies very much on the player reading their way through the entire game it definitely channels what made the anime popular. Even when Psycho-Pass isn’t at its best during the series it’s still pretty good and Mandatory Happiness works much the same.
Thankfully, there’s a lot going for the game and while your choices during each case won’t necessarily affect its outcome it will have an affect the character you are currently. Your choice throughout the game will affect the hue of your character which can, in turn, affect how much you learn about them. It’s definitely a nice change to see the characters you take charge of aren’t just there as a portal for you to view the story but they are themselves largely connected to it.
Visually the game is nice, you’ll be spending a lot of your time staring at static images which are fine but adding a little movement wouldn’t have hurt and we’ve seen it in other games. To help you along with all the text you’ll be ready the game comes fully voiced in Japanese with returning voice actors from the anime. The only issue here is that only the Japanese audio is available which while nice probably won’t help much. Still even not understanding Japanese it’s still my preferred choice regardless.
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness does a great job and bringing the world that fans have come to love to a visual novel and while it could have been better in areas it’s definitely an enjoyable experience. I reviewed the game on PlayStation 4 but it would feel more at home on the PlayStation Vita which, thankfully, it is also available on. I actually spent a good deal of my time with it using remote play as it’s just a much more comfortable experience when you’re having to spend a lot of your time reading. Ultimately I feel the enjoyability of this game really comes down to how much you like reading though there is a minigame to mix things up a little but that’s only necessary to unlock gallery items.