Danganronpa 1-2 Reload is a collection of PS4 ports of the first two Vita games – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. The third mainline game will be coming to PS4 as well, but is said to be a completely new story. Even though its unrelated, players can now get a taste of what this franchise is all about.
In both games, 15 students are chosen to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, a school which nurtures the talents of child prodigies. As such, every student selected is deemed an “Ultimate” in their in own field. This can range from an ultimate baseball star, pop idol, fan fiction writer, gamer, chef and so on. But just when they think they are beginning their new school life, they are all kidnapped by an evil robotic bear named Monokuma. The first game takes place inside Hope’s Peak Academy itself but the second game is set on an island.
They are completely cut off from the rest of the world and are told that they are forever trapped, unless they can manage to escape via graduation. The only way to graduate is to kill a fellow student and get away with it. Once a murder takes place, all students take part in a class trial where they try to figure out the identity of the killer. If they can find out who the true culprit is, that student will be sentenced to death; but if they choose wrongly, the culprit can graduate and the remaining students will be killed. With no idea of where they are, who their captor is and why they are being forced to play this game, Danganronpa tells a tale of survival, betrayal, love, loss, hope and despair.
Danganronpa can be very easily described as a mixture of the setting of Zero Escape and the concept of Ace Attorney. You begin the game in a phase known as Daily Life, where you can hang out with fellow students and give them gifts. This is also where most of the story progression takes place. Its followed by Deadly Life, which starts when a body is discovered. Very similar to the investigation sequences in Ace Attorney, you collect clues and talk to all fellow students to get an account of where they were when the murder was taking place. Finally we have the Class Trial, which features a wide assortment of mini-games as you piece together what really happened.
During a Class Trial, all students are standing in a circle and make their arguments with regards to the topic or sub-topic currently under discussion. Specific words or phrases are highlighted and players must fire clues, also known as Truth Bullets, to refute their claim. Others include hover board sequences where you must follow the correct path to the answer, a hangman game where you must form a word by selecting correct letters and a whole assortment of rhythm based mini-games.
While it may sound simple, a health bar depletes every time you answer incorrectly and a timer is constantly running down, giving you unimaginable tension. Danganronpa introduces layers of systems that you need to be mindful of at all times, in addition to the thumping soundtrack and the absurd ways words shake and move about. There is a sense of style which elevates even the most basic argument to thrilling encounters, giving you incredible relief whenever you finish a sequence.
In this way, Danganronpa tests several mental attributes. How quickly can you connect the dots, maintain you thought process, and apply logic to solve problems in a timely manner. Gameplay offers just enough red herrings that you are engaged throughout.
While both games were great on a handheld, the PS4 version is nothing but a port. This unfortunately shows some of the technical drawbacks of both games. The cardboard representation of characters seems way too unnatural on a TV, as do the shockingly low resolution textures. Where the environments added to the atmosphere in the Vita version, they now stand out as low budget assets. Due to the visual novel nature of the game, its not a big annoyance. But that doesn’t make the low resolution any less distracting.
Danganronpa 1-2 Reload is a collection of two great titles, a must have for fans of adventure games. The lack of an upgrade in the PS4 version is disappointing, but it doesn’t take away from the quality of the titles. The added benefit of playing with a home theatre makes it worth the price alone. With Danganronpa V3 being developed from the ground up for PS4, I hope they make significant changes to the presentation.
- Visual Novel/Adventure
- Spike Chunsoft