Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Before you read
This is the very first time I’ve played a Danganronpa game, and to an extent also one of the first times I’ve played a sort of Mystery/Detective game. Therefore my experience with the genre is limited. Before making this review however, I tried my best to talk with a few people what their opinion was on how the game implements said genres, because I personally was confused and didn’t want to have my review be influenced by unfair opinions. More on that later of course. I did a single playthrough on the normal difficulty and tried out the school mode several times to get my bond to the max with all characters, as well as complete the game 100%. Therefore, I have done everything you could do in this game before making this review. I have played the game on Steam, and have at this point in time not played any of the sequels or watched the anime.
Here’s a short playlist to listen to while you read the review! I like Discussion -Heat up- the most, always a good listen while you’re providing evidence that the world is shaped like a spiral.
I’ve got a confession to make. I… honestly never really had an interest in Danganronpa. My reasoning for this is that to an outsider, some of the extraordinary character designs and their expressions just did not appeal to me at all. I am not saying it’s bad because everyone has a preference with art style. Then again, I don’t want to unfairly judge a game just based on something as nitpicky as that, and some friends eventually recommended me to give it a try to the point where I never even bought this game; a friend gifted it to me. I can’t just simply ignore that now can I? I went in with as blind- and unbiased as possible, so was I able to look past my nitpicks?
I think it’s best to start off with the part I was conflicted about, as veterans can then determine ”wow, this Neppy surely is a handsome person but he has no idea what he’s talking about” and leave. Don’t want to make the fans angry after all. I had to talk with my friends to clear what confusion I had: I came to the conclusion that you’re technically not solving the case yourself; you’re gathering mandatory evidence to counter your classmates with that evidence. You can’t even miss out on evidence since you can’t leave a room without exploring everything, and what evidence you can use against what argument is shown to you. Buuuuut many people I’ve talked to have said that the detective part of the game is not the main appeal of the franchise so… maybe I have misunderstood that from the beginning. That said, I do still find it sort of lame that you can’t leave a room without having found all evidence, which makes them mandatory instead of having your own skills used. But let’s put all of this aside for now and instead reflect on why people are generally positive on the franchise because it’s not like the killer is handed to you on a gilded platter. I was always playing the detective myself and speculating about who the killer might be before the trial starts, because you gather a lot of evidence- and alibi’s that get you thinking who it could possibly be. Spoiler alert, half of the time I was wrong because Danganronpa does present a lot of clever twists. I thought it started off pretty predictable with how many death flags were raised, and at times you probably already know what weapons- or places are going to be used before the murder even happens. But all of that was instead just the base of the case (nice rhyme), as far more comes to show and potentially throws you off-guard. Finding out who the actual culprit is and how the murder came to be are the real treat of the game, especially with how many plot twists there are. This is further helped by an overall good cast of characters. I don’t really consider any of them amongst my favourite- or least favourite characters in gaming, but there is an interesting development when humans–who are far superior to others in their speciality–fall into despair despite living a fancy life up till that point. That, and you get to discover their struggles with being an ”Ultimate human” via bonding scenes, making them look not even that much different from regular people.
Don’t agree with my evidence? I’ll just shoot you
Evidence is gathered after a murder has happened and as stated before, all of them are mandatory for the game to progress so you don’t really have to worry about missing some. My opinions aside, it’s a good thing to thoroughly investigate the crime scene and remember everything since they will be of use in Danranronpa’s unique trial system. All students are standing in a circle discussing what they’ve found and who they think the culprit is because if they get the killer wrong, they all die. But not everyone finds the same evidence, and thus it is up to you to debunk other people their statements. How do you do it? You just shoot them with the truth. I did not make this up by the way. Statements are flying across the screen, and it’s up to you to counter highlighted ”fake evidence” from others with your own statements. For example: when someone says ”the world is flat”, you probably have counter-evidence that says ”the world is a triangle”. That’s loaded into your truth gun, shot at your opponent and voila, you won that argument. Eventually you get the choice of what evidence to shoot, or can even use evidence from one classmate to use against the other. It did get confusing sometimes with what evidence to use against what lie since it sometimes consisted of just a word, but the game is pretty forgiving and won’t punish you too harshly if you shoot the wrong lie. The segment is repeated and if you lose all hearts, you can simply start over again at the same spot. If you still really have trouble, there’s a hint system in place. Other than debunking evidence, there’s also the parts where someone completely refuses to believe you when you say ”the world is a hexagon”, so you have to smack some sense into them. The trials were always the part of the game I looked forward to most because they’re a fun- and satisfying conclusion to a chapter. Unless your favourite character dies of course, then it’s less satisfying.
Make love, not war
The other activity in Danganronpa when you’re not murdering each other is your usual visual novel trope: get to know your classmates. You can hang out with them, give them some presents and build a steady relationship. All of this is completely optional, though you will learn some skills for use in the trials. It’s nothing different from what we’re used to; in fact, you could even say it’s just about average when compared to other visual novels since you don’t get a visual or anything whenever you have max bond with a character, just a skill. This further extends into the unlockable School Mode where it’s just more of the same, though there is at least an interaction scene at the end with each character you’ve max bonded in that mode. Might be a good time to go more in-depth about that mode as well, though it’s nothing special. It’s a sort of resource management dating sim I guess? Send all students out to ”work” every day, have them gather resources and talk with them during free time. It’s a decent mode for one playthrough but if you’re a completionist like me, make that at least three to four times because you are unable to max bond all characters with less than three playthroughs. It honestly left me a bit braindead as any playthroughs past the first one just don’t offer anything new, and instead become way easier due to progress made in previous playthroughs. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t hate this mode, but they could have offered more to actually warrant more playthroughs.
Despite my initial prejudice of the game, Danganronpa pleasantly surprised me. While I am still conflicted on how the detective part of the game was handled with unmissable evidence, the actual trials themselves are a joy to experience. They are fast-paced, and the knowledge you have about your own gathered evidence will be put to the test albeit not punished harshly if you fail. That, and even with the gathered evidence trials still take an unexpected turn quite occasionally with the different viewpoints other students might have. The characters overall are a good group of characteristics, but what I liked most if the chemistry between them being ”Ultimate” and it being made completely irrelevant in the setting, causing even them to fall into despair despite their happy-go-lucky life before they went to this school. You can bond further with them as well, of which most is done in the extra School Mode. It’s… okay I guess, decently fun for one playthrough but it makes you braindead every playthrough after. The main attraction–the story and plot twists–are executed very well however, and therefore Danganronpa gets four Monokuma’s out of five on the fun-o-meter from me!
I added the fun-o-meter text to my chart, may possibly make my score a bit more clear without me having to post an entire disclaimer that it’s not based on the quality. Anyhow, I had a good amount of fun with Danganronpa and am glad to say that indeed, I am planning to play the sequels… someday. That is a huge step-up from someone initially not having a single digit of interest in the games I’d say. Anyhow, next time I’ll be back with… a game that I still have not finished the review of even though I’ve beaten it a few weeks ago. I’m slacking, but I just have trouble writing that review I guess. Oh well, we’ll see~
Games like Danganronpa:
(all games below are recommendations from my friends or the internet, as I’ve played none of them as stated in the ”Before you read”)
Zero Escape Trilogy – A series often compared to Danganronpa as they’re from the same developer, Spike Chunsoft. Like Danganronpa, they are Mystery Visual Novels with a unique setting.
Corpse Party – Also a Visual Novel but instead of being Mystery, it’s full-blown horror. I have heard from many people that it’s one of the better Horror Visual Novels out there, so definitely worth a shot!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy – You can’t just recommend similar games to Danganronpa without bring up the Ace Attorney Trilogy now can you? And with them recently being remastered in a collection, it’s the perfect time to try them out!
Question of the Review: What is a game that you initially had no interest in but ended up liking or even loving? Let me know down below, or reply to me on Twitter!