As brilliant as the original Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is, I worried that Spike Chunsoft would turn the franchise into a string of formulaic sequels, the luster of the original diminishing upon each return. At first, I thought Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair confirmed my suspicions, but that’s where Spike Chunsoft got me. While it mostly adheres to the same structure of the first, it quickly subverted my expectations, spinning aspects of the original into something fresh yet familiar.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc was ultimately about hope overcoming despair, and the second game plays along with this idea until it suddenly decides to shift the balance. As in the first game, a group of ultimate students are gathered in a secluded area, this time on Jabberwock Island, for a school trip hosted by a sentient stuffed animal named Monomi. While they are initially led to believe they can escape the island by befriending each other, the students are caught off guard when series antagonist, Monokuma, usurps control from Monomi and begins providing motives for the students to kill each other. This might sound familiar to fans of the original.
However, the key word is seem, as Danganronpa 2 takes a more meta approach to the story, and it isn’t afraid to play with its players’ expectations. This time, in addition to wondering who will make it out alive, Monokuma sets up a timer of unknown purpose, giving players something else of which to be fearful. Some characters take on qualities of the ones from the previous game, although they take on different extremes than the characters on which they’re based. The others are weirder than their Trigger Happy counterparts, but they seem to acknowledge this and gradually accept their role as a cast of ultimate misfits. Even the main protagonist Hajime exhibits similar detective traits as prior protagonist Makoto; however, he isn’t overflowing with positivity like Makoto, making him seem, well, extremely average. But the biggest surprise comes when Monokuma nonchalantly claims in the first chapter that every twist in the previous game is present in the first, giving him plenty of opportunity to overwhelm players with new ideas.
The trials also attempt to shake the foundation with small additions; some improve the experience more than others. As with the first game, Hajime needs to spot the correct color-coded contradiction, pick the appropriate truth bullet, and shoot down the contradiction in order to present the real truth. The challenge is players may know what the truth is but need to conform to the game’s logic in order to solve them. This time, the other students will challenge your arguments. When this happens, Hajime and his opponent stand on opposite sides, ready with truth swords sharp enough to cut through even the subtlest of contradictions. With only a limited number of cuts, Hajime must slash through his opponents’ nonsense–players emulate this with either the analog stick or touchscreen–in the most efficient directions, and stay primed for the moment in which he can launch his counter argument. It’s a new direction that makes sense, and I hope to see the conflict expanded in future entries.
Spike Chunsoft provides other additions, be it improving old mini games or introducing new ones, to the trials albeit with mixed results. An example of a positive improvement is found in the closing arguments; it still consists of placing missing comic book panels in the correct spot, but this time players are given only a few panels at a time, which, combined with the time limit, increases the challenge. Hangman’s Gambit, on the other hand, was never the strongest mini game; however, it has since become a cluster bomb of ideas that assault the senses. The new minigame, Logic Dive, initially seems like a fun, action-packed minigame to break up the wordiness, but its sequences stretch on for too long, and seems out of place, considering you’re dodging obstacles and jumping on platforms to answer three questions. These are all minor improvements or inconveniences, and it’s still just as fun to shoot down every lie, which is the core of the game.
Whether you wanted a carbon copy of the original Danganronpa or something completely different, like the third-person shooter Spike Chunsoft announced at SCEJA, Danganronpa 2 is an excellent sequel with a new mystery that will overwhelm your free time. The change in scenery and mechanics are a welcome change of pace, and Metal Gear Solid 2-styled plot twists will stay in your mind for months to come.
– All images are provided by NIS America
This review of Danganronpa 2 is based on a review code which was played on the PlayStation Vita and was provided by NIS America.