Which shall prevail? Hope or despair? You can never really know another person completely.
Anyone here a fan of visual novels? Drenched in horror, mystery, and adventure? Ever wanted to experience a game that has Phoenix Wright-esque game trial mechanics, fused with Zero Escape? Come and check out Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, developed by none other than Spike Chunsoft! Initially released in Japan on the PSP (PlayStation Portable) back in November 2010, the game transformed visual novel games as a whole and created a mass cult following. In addition to the games, there now exists Danganronpa TV show adaptations, books, spin-off games, and more.
Once upon a time, 15 students were invited to a prestigious private school known as Hope’s Peak Academy. They were the best and brightest Japan has to offer, and each student has an “ultimate” ability. Everything started off innocently enough, where students learned about each other and their quirks. But…Not all is as it seems in Hope’s Peak Academy. As time passed, students soon learned of their situation. They are trapped within the confines of the school walls. They are not alone… Trapped with the students, is an adorable yet psychotic teddy bear called Monokuma. The bear explains that the students are henceforth to live together for the rest of their lives at the school. They, however, have a chance to “disrupt the peace” and escape their fate. In order to do this, the student must “graduate”. What does “graduating” mean in this scenario? Murdering a classmate in cold blood.
It’s not geniuses that change the world. It’s ordinary people who make every effort they can.
So with that, let’s discuss gameplay in Danganronpa. For starters, there are about 6 chapters available. Each chapter takes approximately 3 or more hours to complete and follows a pattern. You are Makoto Naegi, the “Ultimate Lucky Student”, and you wake up at the school with no memory. You are able to talk with other characters, and you are also able to interact with the environment around you. There is a strong emphasis on character development in Danganronpa, where your character can get to know and befriend some of their fellow classmates. Want to get close to a classmate? Be careful! It’s possible that they might not live for much longer. Each chapter has a brutal and senseless murder, and it could very well be that character you were trying to befriend.
Now, this is where investigation comes in, where you will look around the school and interact with classmates for clues. The more you explore the school and interact with your surroundings, the more likely it would be that you would be rewarded for this. Monokuma has scattered gold coins with his face all across the school, and finding enough of these would allow you to buy presents for your classmates. Optional sequences will then be opened up! And remember, anything you learn could be important in an investigation later down the line.
Once investigation time is over…
…you and your classmates are then thrown into a life-or-death trial. You must prove and convince others as to who’s responsible for the murder. It’s possible that you will also have to defend yourself and provide alibis. Now, with the trials… there are no prosecutions nor defense. You are about to enter a very chaotic blame game, and you must get that trigger of yours ready to counter anything that comes your way. There are several different mini-games during the trial. The first is Nonstop Debates. Here, students will be making many statements, some of the text popping up in orange. Why is the color change important? That’s because a lie has been detected, and these are called “Weak Points”. To challenge these points, you need to attack statements with “Truth Bullets”. Not just any “Truth Bullet”, but a Truth Bullet that will match or directly contradict it.
There are other mini-games that become available during the playthrough too. For example, Bullet Time Battle is a rhythm-based and you have to contradict what is asserted by a student. Another is Hangman’s Gambit. This mini-game has you trying to complete a game of hangman, and form the correct word by shooting at letters floating on the screen. Then, there’s the Closing Argument. This mini-game will have you placing the order of events leading up to the murder by selecting manga frames. Some of these will be incorrect so you will need to select the correct ones and put them in the right order. After completing all of this, the students will select who they think the killer is, and a gruesome “Punishment” or death sentence will be issued to that person, and it is often related to their talent.
There’s nothing worse than expressing doubt about your friend when you don’t have evidence for it…
Danganronpa’s is rather unique, boasting a 2D cardboard-styled cut-out, paired with gorgeous neon aesthetic pop art designs. The PC port of the game certainly adds to the beauty that already exists. There are many moments where the game can be rather silly and upbeat, and the game’s aesthetic fits that standard too. The UI looks simply amazing, intuitive, and not at all chaotic. You can tell that the color scheme, in general, was carefully thought through as nothing feels out of place. The 3D graphics aren’t anything special but the 2D art style has a really unique look that adds to the overall aesthetic of the game.
You might notice that the blood is pink instead of red. This is an artistic direction Spike Chunsoft originally chose to censor part of the violence throughout the Danganronpa series. It soon became a trademark of the series. The music playing throughout the game, composed by Masafumi Takada, is simply stellar. Each piece played during a particular scenario is perfectly crafted to match the tone and seriousness of the character’s predicament.
Fear is proof that your imagination is functioning.
I think that for its time, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is an amazing game. The story delivers a chock full of suspense that will have you constantly wondering how much worse it can possibly get for the cast. Playing the game on PC as opposed to the phone or handheld made some of the segments a little easier to handle. To those of you uninitiated to the series, give this game a chance! It’s pretty addictive and at 20$ on steam, is worth every buck!
You can purchase Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc on PC (Steam).
You can also purchase it on Android, PlayStation Portable (physical), PlayStation Vita (physical), and iOS.