Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a visual novel-like game for the Playstation Vita. Aside from the traditional visual novel aspects, the game does tons of things that are just outside the genre as opposed to just text-based decisions. There are a number of mini-game styled parts, as well as an overall puzzle in each section. For me to elaborate about that properly, you need to know the setting.
The basics are this. Hinata Hajime is given access to Hope’s Peak Academy. This school is for the incredibly gifted in their respective fields, and aims to produce world leaders in whatever it is the student is good at. Despite this, the only way to get into this school is through being scouted by the school itself.
Coming from this, when Hinata goes to enter the school for his first time, he ends up being brought into a classroom by some unknown means with another 15 students. And shortly after they are greeted, they take a ‘class trip’ to a group of islands surrounding a main island named Jabberwock Island.
There, the group of ‘Ultimate’ students get to socialize and learn a bit about each other. Among them are various ‘Ultimate’s like the Ultimate Musician, the Ultimate Nurse, Ultimate Mechanic, etc. Then, the so-called fun begins.
The teacher that brought the class to the island was a bunny named Usami. Unfortunately for her, shortly after the trip begins, Monokuma shows up. He quickly kicks Usami out of the leading role and takes over entirely. Instead of letting the students enjoy their class trip, he puts them in a bit of a bind. He rewrites the rules of the trip and make it into a death game.
First, the only way to get off the island is to murder another student and get away with it. Second, after every murder there will be a trial. If the murderer is found out correctly, the murderer will be punished – that is, killed. If the murderer gets away and the wrong person is chosen, they get to walk away and everyone else will be killed.
At first, this leads the class to more or less agree to just live on the island and not kill each other. While it is certainly a precarious balance, they manage it for a day. Things get interesting when Monokuma reveals that they are actually Hope’s Peak graduates, and have had their memories erased, it sends them into turmoil. Further, Monokuma offers to restore the memories of anyone who gets away with murder.
And barely a day later, someone turns up dead.
I don’t want to discuss much further because the story is where it’s at in this game. In fact, when I got to the first trial, I was unable to put the game down until I finished the trial – and that was at 6a.m. The class trials are incredibly exciting, and tons of fun too. The first one may seem a little easy, but they get quite a bit harder, and very quickly too. Of course, figuring out what led to what is crazy amounts of fun.
Now, let’s talk about the game. The first thing you’ll probably notice is the art style. It’s very different from the norm, even in anime-styled games. The art is all very stylized with heavy lines and a very serious feel to it somehow. The colors are varied, but all darker shades, for example. It creates a very heavy atmosphere, which is perfect for the game. I really loved the art style here.
In addition to that, the way the areas are created looks great too. Everything looks like a cardboard cutout, with very few things having any real 3d presence, especially the characters. It’s an awesome design choice, and really gives the game it’s own kind of style.
The last design choice I feel the need to mention are the character designs. Each and every one seem just a little over the top, but in a good way. It also helps that when you look at a character, you’ll be reminded of what their title is. The Ultimate Mechanic looks like a mechanic. But at the same time, the characters don’t all look stereotypical either. They all manage to lie just outside of trope-y designs, and I feel the need to give the character designer recognition for these awesome designs.
Alright. Let’s talk gameplay next. The game is split into three sections which are more like two sections. First there is the visual novel/point-and-click adventure style part. This section is broken up into two smaller sections. First is daily life. During the daily life sections, you are free to spend your time mingling with other students and getting to know some of them. This includes hanging out and the option to give them presents. This is where most of the less exciting stuff happens.
The next part is deadly life. This section occurs after one of the students is murdered. deadly life consists of going around to gather the other students’ accounts of the murder as well as clues about the body and crime scene. It’s certainly more exciting than daily life, but I still was able to put down the game during most deadly life sections. There wasn’t too much there to really keep and hold your attention other than just the interest in what’s going on.
Third are the class trials. Now this part is where all the action is. The entirety of most of the class trials will keep you on the edge of your seat. They are fun to play through, incredibly fast-paced, and just generally fun. This is also where most of the gameplay is – and that’s up next.
There are a few types of gameplay sections within a class trial. The most common one is the debate section. All of the students are arranged in a circle for a continuous debate over what happened. Using your information gathered during the deadly life section, you need to refute or support given arguments throughout the debate.
This is done in the form of “Truth Bullets”. Basically what happens is this. Each character’s lines will appear on screen throughout the section. Some phrases will be colored differently. You aim and shoot a truth bullet at a phrase to refute or support it. As long as you pick the right phrase and bullet, you’ll move on. If you pick wrong, you take damage in the form of losing everyone’s trust. It moves rather quickly, so you’ll often find yourself going through the debate more than once to find the right weak point to attack.
Also to be noted – if you end up failing too many times, all of the other student’s will stop trusting you. This comes in the form of an unanimous decision that Hinata is bullshitting everyone and is in fact the actual killer. This results in a game over, of course. The game does however offer you a retry starting where you failed.
There are several mini-game styled parts of a trial that lead you to the closing argument. There are Rebuttal Showdowns in which you face off with a single other student literally slashing their arguments apart until you find a spot at attack with a “Truth Blade”. Another game is the Hangman’s Gambit which takes the form of a shooting-styled game where you must pick letters in order to form an answer to a question without letting letters moving in the field hit each other. It gets rather intense later on, but it’s a lot of fun.
There are also a number of other simple games like spotting an important part of a picture to figure something out, and even a snowboarding minigame that visualizes the logical steps to a specific conclusion in which you must avoid pitfalls and make correct decisions. The final two parts of the Trial are proving who did it.
First there is the Panic Talk Action, or PTA, in which you must time your button presses to music to shoot down arguments being made by the accused. In addition, once you have lowered their defenses, you must quickly put together a four word phrase to make them accept what they’ve done.
And lastly is the closing argument. This is done in the form of a comic strip in which you must put a number of panels in the correct place to piece together the whole story from start to finish. With that done, the clas trial will come to an end, and you will be able to progress.
There are also a number of other parts to the game aside from the main game. After completing the game once, you gain access to a mode that lets you play out the class trip as originally intended, without the death game. There’s also an alternate story route to the original Danganronpa unlocked after completing the game once. There’s even a minigame in which you play as Usami to defend the world from creatures as a magical girl bunny thing.
Overall, Danganronpa 2 is one hell of a game. The story is where all the action is, so if you don’t care for mysteries then it’d be better to stay away from this one. However, if you like mysteries and visual novels, Danganronpa will be right up your alley. You should probably even check out the first game on psp – it’s much the same and if you haven’t played it, you should before playing this one as they are, in fact, directly connected.
Ok, I realize my bad stuff is essentially all the same. I found myself saying throughout the game that I wish I could change the course of the game. Whether it be through like…getting close to a character and therefore protecting them as the story goes, or even something smaller than that like just getting a bad/good ending.
Unfortunately, there is only one route through the game, and you can’t change it at all. Looking at the game from a visual novel perspective, that’s a big minus. But as the game isn’t a visual novel per se, I figured it would be better not to hit to hard for the lack of endings. Danganronpa 2 is fantastic for what it is.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair was reviewed on using a code provided by NIS America. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s reviews/ethics policy here.