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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

By on September 25, 2015

Danganronpa Cover

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is the eye-catching and confusing title from developers Spkie Chunsoft. Danganronpa, which even having completed the game I’m still not sure what that word means, is a detective point & click, high-school, courtroom, murder mystery game. It also happens to be one of the most Japanese games I’ve ever played (in a good way). (Edit: “Dangan Ronpa” means “winning an argument with a bullet” or “bullet rebuttal’, which makes sense. Thanks Google).

Monokuma

You play as Makoto, an unremarkable teenage boy selected seemingly at random to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, the premier establishment for the ‘ultimate’ specialist students from across the country. Things go weird almost as soon as you arrive at Hope’s Peak, and it’s here you’re introduced to the undoubted star of the show, Monokuma. Monokuma is a walking talking teddy bear, half cute polar bear, half demonic spawn, with a saccharine voice you will probably never be able to forget. He’s the defacto headmaster of Hope’s Peak, and rules with an iron claw. Monokuma explains that you’re all trapped in the school, and that the only way out is to murder another student and get away with it by pinning the crime on another student. Succeed and you graduate while everybody else dies; fail and you’re executed, and the game continues.

As a premise for a game, it’s pretty bold. I initially struggled to get into the flow, but eventually settled, confident enough on the games systems to allay any fear of missing important plot points by having to search every scene with a fine tooth comb; the game will generally tell you if you’ve missed something and the important parts are relatively linear.

Danganronpa Hope's Peak Students So, after the inevitable first body is found, the free roam high school adventure turns into a detective sim where you search for clues. After that, the class trial, a set of mini games set in a courtroom, where you uncover the grisly details of each case. It’s during these courtroom mini games where Danganronpa almost lost my interest. Specifically, one of the games is an out of place quickfire rhythm game (the humanity). Other courtroom sections rely on somebody else’s definition of logic, that will sometimes clash with your own. This isn’t an uncommon problem with crime games however, with the excellent Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments and the middling L.A Noire both on occasion offering you several viable evidenciary options for breaking an argument open, where only one will work due to the specific logic paths designed by the game. Luckily these sections are all pretty quick, and the checkpoints generous enough to make failure tolerable. There are a lot of systems thrown at the player during the class trial, but on the whole the learning curve is well managed.

Danganronpa is a relatively long game (for a handheld title especially) with my play through clocking in at 34 hours. The first few cases progress slowly then eventually the overall mystery comes into play. At this point the linear format of gameplay segments is delivered masterfully, really drawing you in, making you oblivious to the various regimented cycles at play.

NIS America should be given serious praise for their work translating the Japanese original. Usually when you play a smaller game that the 1st party doesn’t choose to release in the west, you prepare yourself for some dialogue that doesn’t make sense. Although obviously I don’t speak Japanese, so how would I know whether the original was already gibberish? With Danganronpa however the translation is excellent, the dialogue is consistently well written throughout, smart and genuinely funny. There’s even a strong line of puns.

Monokuma Puns _2015-01-14-142435

For a game featuring a cartoon teddy bear as a feature character, Danganronpa is somehow not aimed at kids. Not only is the main theme about desperation induced murders, but the conversation throughout is littered with knowing sexual references and flat out bad language that both surprised and delighted me in equal measure.

While the final part of the concluding case does drag on, Danganronpa is easily the best game I’ve played on Playstation Vita. It’s interesting, funny and utterly unique. Play it.

I’m off to buy a Monokuma figure for my shelf….

Impawsibly good /10

About Mr Vandelay

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