Our Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc review goes into depth about the first of the PS4 collection.
Going into Danganronpa, I didn’t know quite what to expect, except perhaps for that half-cute half-deranged teddy bear I’d seen all over the internet. What I found I actually found was a flawed, albeit interesting experience.
One of the first things I noticed about the game was that it was in fact a visual novel, a genre in which my direct familiarity is limited mainly to the Phoenix Wright series and the 4chan smash hit Katawa Shoujo. As a visual novel then, what it hinges on primarily is first its visuals, and then how good the writing is, or the presence of erotic material. This visual novel has no T&A of that sort, but what it does have is good writing.
The highlight of the writing in this first Danganronpa is its humour, traipsing the delicate boundaries between being self-aware, but not annoyingly so.
Who are the Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc characters?
Another positive is the characters, who all have diverse personalities and good chemistry. We have Mondo, who is a hotheaded punk type. Asahina, an athletic girl who’s a few fries short of a happy meal – if you know what I mean. Taka, who is a total straight peg. Byakuya, who is a haughty rich kid. And Sayaka, who is pure waifu material. And that’s just to describe a few. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned our bear friend, Monokuma, who serves as the principal antagonist throughout.
Without spoiling the game, the relationships between these characters and others that I did not mention develop in fascinating ways.
As to the actual story of the game, it goes something like this. You are Makoto, who has been selected at random to go to the prestigious school of Hope’s Peak Academy. But once you arrive, you faint and wake up and all is changed. Windows are covered in metal plates and the environment takes on a sinister feel, with some rooms having slightly off-looking walls that slant from certain perspectives.
Anyways, you meet 15 other students and find out that you have to either stay there forever or, if you want to get out, kill another student without being caught. Basically, the prisoner’s dilemma.
Each chapter has its own murder mystery plot, in addition to the overarching mystery of the school. This is presented in a way that is generally engaging, even if the murders can seem quite convoluted at times or a tad predictable.
Yet while I did generally enjoy the writing of this game, I found issue with its occasional long-windedness, especially during the class trial sections that you strangely can’t save during. This is a really peculiar oversight considering Danganronpa origin as a portable title.
What does the Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc involve?
As to the game part of the game, it’s pretty basic and divided into three primary parts. The first is the free time, in which you walk around the building and approach other characters to hang out. This involves very little player input. You simply give them presents that come through an RNG machine, and you have no way of knowing whether that person will like the gift. Hanging out with characters gives you extra SP or abilities for the class trials.
The second part is the investigation section, which plays more or less as it does in the Phoenix Wright games. You have a crime scene that you investigate by clicking on items in the environment. You then discuss with people a bit more until all possibilities have been exhausted.
The third part is the class trials, which again play similarly to the courtroom battles of Phoenix Wright to the extent that you feel you should be yelling objection after figuring out the contradiction in the argument. The argument sections, as well as the Hangman’s Gambit, involve a letter or phrase coming onto the screen that you have to shoot at or hit with the correct ‘truth bullet’.
If you’ve played Yakuza 0 recently (if not, stop what you’re doing and do so), this will remind you of the telephone club mini-game. The other part of the trials is a rhythm mini-game called ‘bullet time battles’, which I found to be the most enjoyable and engaging parts of the trials. The others at times felt either strangely difficult, absurdly easy or just long-winded.
Are the technical aspects of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc good?
Now on to how Danganronpa looks. The game has an interesting blend of very simple 3D graphics and 2D anime, which work to generate a colourful, stark and slightly surreal aesthetic that feels like a papercraft diorama.
However, there are a few technical issues that detract from this. Often, many of the sprites are very noticeably low resolution to a point where it becomes distracting and makes the overall image look inconsistent.
Pre-rendered cutscenes also appeared a bit blurry. Yet it had little macro-blocking, making it difficult to tell if this was intentional or a result of upscaling. Regardless, it looks quite odd. I suspect that in portable versions of the game this isn’t so much of a problem, but when you up the resolution and expand the screen size from PSVita to fucking huge (compared to the Vita) without altering the assets to compensate, it looks inconsistent and occasionally just shit.
Overall, even in spite of the visual issues of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, as well as its occasional feeling of long-windedness, it is a very competent port and an entertaining and humorous visual novel. However, it’s engagement and this feeling of being overly-long does seem to come from this visual novel format, so it is self-limiting in a way.
If you’ve played Danganronpa before, this edition of the game probably won’t do much for you. But if you’ve never played it and are open to experiencing visual novels, then it’s definitely worth checking out.
My Rating: 7.5/10