Over the years we’ve seen a number of new genres pop up. Among the most interesting is the visual novel, which combines the pick your adventure book concept to games. This approach has been met with mixed results. For every Steins;Gate and School Days there is a Psycho-Pass. Danganronpa has always been a weird one, with its bear mascot and silly premise, yet it managed to find success. Now that the franchise has evolved beyond its humble beginnings, the first two games in the series have been ported to the PlayStation 4. With hours of content, tons of mystery and Monokuma, is Danganronpa 1.2 RELOAD something you need to experience or is it another franchise that appeals to a very specific demographic?
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is the first entry in the Danganronpa series and follows Makoto Naegi. He is an ordinary high school student who happens to win a raffle to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, a school for the worlds elite and a reputation for guaranteeing success.
At first things seem normal, but the situation quickly changes. Upon getting to Hope’s Peak Academy, Naegi discovers he and 14 other students, are trapped in a mysterious location. Shortly after it’s revealed that the only way to escape is by graduating. The requirements for graduation are simple. Kill one of the other students and get away with it.
Despite the simple concept, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc presents the story in a way that is exciting and filled with twists and turns. Odds are you’ll see some things coming, with other things taking you by surprise. The majority of your time will be spent interacting with the world.
Prior to someone being murdered, you’re allowed to explore the school, build relationships and interact with the other students. All the other students are extremely talented at something, with their own quirks. A lot of them follow standard archetypes, making certain interactions tedious, but interesting in the long run.
Once someone is killed, you need to investigate for clues and participate in a trial. Trials are both interesting and frustrating. On one hand, they’re an interesting way to have you interact with the world. They include things like someone making a statement that you need to chime in on, selecting the right response, piecing together the story and more. While all this is good, they also have some bad parts too.
The biggest issues with trials is that they’re long. You need to shoot down multiple arguments, throw in several details, reexplain what happened and other such things. From there, the reasoning can seem purposefully slow.
Trigger Happy Havoc’s first case has several details that allow the case to be solved much faster. Without spoiling things, some of the evidence can be used to prove, with relative ease I might add, who is innocent, with the evidence against the guilty party being quite straightforward. Instead of this short, maybe two-minute road, you get one that takes like half an hour to an hour.
In the sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, it follows Hajime Hinata and his experiences with Hero’s Peak Academy. Even though the premise is the same, it does a better job of presenting the information. Partly because it assumes you played the first game and partly due to learning from the first game.
Here you start with a situation that is far more cheerful. The students are on an island and are basically told to work together and find happiness. The concept works, since it gives an eerie sense of unease as you wait for the murder game stuff to come into play.
After about an hour the hammer drops and the fun begins. From there the story goes in an exciting direction, one that starts to fill in more information about the world around them. This does mean you need to finish the first game if you want to truly enjoy the second/not ruin the first, but other than that it’s a solid journey.
It also features the same mechanics found in the original, but they’re also presented a little better. The exploring aspects are simpler, the world looks nicer, trials are better presented and so forth. It doesn’t correct all the errors of the original, but it offers an experience that is noticeably better.
Danganronpa 1.2 Reload isn’t the best visual novel around, but it has a bit for point and click and murder mystery fans. The story has some nice twists and there is definitely more than meets the eye, but it takes a while before it gets interesting. Trials are a cool concept, but they’re a tad on the long side. Combine this with parts that drag, a low budget feel and generally stereotypical characters and you have a decent experience. Obviously one that could be better, but certainly okay for what it is.
[Editor’s Note: Danganronpa 1.2 Reload was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Danganronpa 1.2 RELOAD Review,