Studio: Spike
Publisher: Spike
Available on: PlayStation 4, PC

For most people high-school is murder. You’ve got cliquey clubs, stupid hall rules, bullies, homework, and a uniform you wouldn’t want anyone seeing you dead in. So imagine all the above in a school ruled by a talking stuffed teddy bear with a desire for high-school to become literal murder; what do you get? Danganronpa, that’s what.

Danganronpa 1.2 reload compiles “Trigger Happy Havoc” and “Goodbye Despair” in one package on PS4 and Steam. Trigger Happy Havoc sees the player control Makoto Naegi, while Goodbye Despair charges them with Hajime Hinata. Both are average guys dropped into Hopes Peak Academy, where students who are Ultimates in their field study towards graduation, and a certain setup for life.

Unfortunately, said results do not happen, instead both characters pass out and awaken with no idea what’s happened, how long it’s been, or what exactly is waiting for them, other than around fourteen students sharing the same confusion. Things only get worse when Headmaster Monokuma reveals that to graduate, a student must commit murder and survive a class trial. High stakes considering that if a trial identifies a killer, they suffer a deadly punishment. High reward, however, if they fool the trial, as then everyone else is punished in their place.

Each game features a first-person perspective structure which fuses elements of point & clicks adventure titles, with RPG character elements, and a dusting of quirky dating game mechanics. Well, until a body is discovered.

At this point grinding friendships and farming monocoins are put on the back burner, and instead, you must conduct an investigation into the killing.

Here is a full-on detective experience with you collecting clues, taking witness statements, and reconstructing events on the fly. Once complete, you progress to the class trial, where evidence must be presented and the killer unmasked to avoid a game over. To help here, the game utilises a wide variety of mini-games which freshens up the experience beyond any other visual novel.

Nonstop debate tasks the player with observing a constantly repeating discussion, where they must identify weak arguments and agreement points, which the player either supports or shoots down via firing truth bullets. Think Phoenix Wright crossed with a rail shooter.

Truth bullet success

Logic dive puts the player in control of a character avatar trying to navigate towards a potential debate point in a mode that fuses Final Fantasy VII’s snowboard mini-game with visuals similar to Rez. You not only steer, but must avoid pitfalls, walls, and choose the correct path.

Hangman’s gambit forces you to shoot together a word from flying letters like a 2D shooter or piecing them together in a Bejewelled style puzzle game (depending on which game you’re playing).

From Trigger Happy Havoc, the mechanics are different in Goodbye Despair

Bullet time battle pits the player in a head-to-head debate that requires rhythm game timing of identifying and destroying rebuttals. Similar mechanic Rebuttal showdown has two characters arguing, with the player having to cut through arguments as if wielding a sword.

Finally, the closing argument requires the player to go full lawyer and present a step-by-step account to the court of what happened via piecing together a manga comic in the protagonist’s mind.

Part self-insertion RPG and part Sherlock mind palace

The constant change of pace and gameplay mechanics keeps you on your toes as there is no set order to which game you play. Not only this, other elements such as multiple choice quiz questions can crop up as an extra layer of surprise.

Supporting the gameplay across both titles is a wonderful cast of characters. Some you’ll love, others you’ll hate, and a few will straddle both spectrums. In-keeping with the Closing argument the art style is a pure Japanese manga, with a script that is heavily skewed towards Japanese culture. Any anime fan will find this a welcoming home, for those outside anime, it’s an excellent introduction as it breaks multiple tired tropes and springs surprises often. Plus you get some truly brilliant music which spans everything from pulse-pounding techno to 70’s TV cop show.

The only things bringing this down is occasional slowed movement in Trigger Happy Havoc and an unnecessary modified Hangman’s Gambit in Goodbye Despair which takes a needless step into the obtuse.

Despite this, you get tonnes in terms of content, both games each have playtime over 30 hours (not including unlockable bonus modes) and while £34.99 for what is two PS VITA ports may seem very excessive, such an engrossing and refreshing game more than makes up for the cost.

RATING – 9/10

Thanks to sswishbone for this review, you can check out his stuff HERE or you watch him play the Pt1 below **videos contain spoliers**

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