I’ve reviewed all three Danganronpa games to have been released in English so far, and all three I’ve loved and found to be amongst the best games available on the Vita. With the two main games now available on PS4 with Ultra Despair Girls appearing later this year, I’ve found myself falling in love with the series all over again.
Both games revolve around a group of children who have been taken hostage and trapped inside of a school by the monochrome bear with evil intentions Monokuma. They’re forced to either live inside the school forever without any contact with the outside world, or to kill each other. If a murderer is successful in not being found out then they can leave, but if they get found out in a class trial then they’re murdered instead. These aren’t ordinary children though as each child is the best at what they do, whether it be swimming, cooking, writing or a variety of other things but the character you play as isn’t quite like the others for their skill is being lucky — unlucky is more like it, though!
The wonder of Danganronpa is in its storytelling and character development. Each game lasts around 25 hours with a story that never lets up on its twists and turns, with plenty of free time where you can spend time with a character and get to know them better — chances are you’ll get to know someone who’ll eventually die, making the game all the more heartbreaking. They’re both captivating adventures that’ll keep you glued to the screen as you try to work out who is the killer and lament the loss of those who’ve been killed, and it’ll have your attention until its ending note. If you want more then you’ll get more, as you can play through each character’s individual story in a free time mode so you can go through each of their individual routes. I’m not sure if I felt this way with the Vita versions too, but walking around the school and island (depending on which game you’re playing) feels pretty clunky, and accessing the menus and maps feels a little less than smooth, too.
Being a visual novel, there’s plenty of text to absorb but with the games unique class trial system, there’s on-rails-like mechanics that smoothly slot into place. At the end of each chapter once a murder has been committed and you’ve done all of your investigating, you’re taken to a class trial where you’ll all put your clues together to work out who the murderer is. You do this by loading your ‘truth bullets’ which you can fire at character’s contradicting sentences as they scroll across the screen. You’ll sometimes have to fill in the blanks and play other various mini-games in your pursuit of the truth, culminating in you putting events into chronological order to provide one irrefutable truth and pin down the murderer. It’s intense and hard to put down, providing some of the thrilling moments I’ve had in gaming where I’m kept guessing until the characters and I come to the same conclusion.
The 2D portraits look brilliant in full HD but it’s a shame that backgrounds and some other assets seem to have been pulled directly from the Vita version rather than redone or upgraded for the PS4 version — the portraits look clean and detailed, whilst a good few other things look blurry and jagged. I adore the artist’s style and their stand-out character designs, and its general aesthetic is atmospheric with the games feeling uncomfortable pretty much all of the time — you know when you get that knot in your stomach and can’t shake it? That’s basically Danganronpa. The deaths are animated and are made to be more comical rather than violent, but that didn’t stop me from wincing away sometimes and thinking about how horrible it would be to die in such a gruesome way. Reload still features the series’ excellent music, which mostly serves to again make you feel unsettled or tense, along with undeniably great voice-acting from the likes of Bryce Papenbrook, Erika Harlacher and Josh Grelle. There’s plenty for your ears to enjoy and you’ll find yourself humming the class trial themes soon enough!
Danganronpa 1.2 Reload could’ve had a better remaster in regards to visuals but overall the content, characters and story are the same, and they’re just as engrossing as ever. If you’re looking for a murder-mystery that’ll keep you guessing and get your palms sweaty, then you should pick up this collection and see what you’ve been missing out on — even on a second playthrough though they’ve been very enjoyable! Both games together can easily keep you busy for a good 50 or so hours and even then there’s more to do if you’re aiming for that beautiful Platinum trophy. Let the class trials begin!