The best worst field trip you’ll ever have.
DanganRonpa 2 originally released in 2012 in Japan for the PSP, but NIS America decided to bring this popular series to the Western audiences more recently, starting with DanganRonpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (but that’s a different review written by a different person). Back in September they released the sequel, Super DanganRonpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Was it received well by the western audience? Is it just another crappy sequel? Can it justify owning a Playstation Vita? And is this game even good? Rather than waiting until the end of the review, I’ll just answer all of them right now:
Maybe, no, probably, and hell yes.
The first game revolved around Makoto Naegi, a student who finds himself trapped inside a school by the evil Monokuma, and forced to partake in a “game of mutual killings”. DanganRonpa 2 follows Hajime Hinata, who is taken with his classmates on a “love love field trip” by a magic rabbit claiming to be their teacher. I know that sounds strange, but bear with me on this. Everything is going fine until Monokuma arrives, takes the teacher’s power away, and forces everyone to partake in a field trip of mutual killings, where one student has to get away with murdering another in order to escape the island.
The gameplay has three different parts. The first is traditional visual novel gameplay, during which the player can advance the story and spend time with the other characters. Then, once a murder occurs, the gameplay shifts into investigation mode; here, the player has to find evidence to uncover the murderer. Once all the evidence has been found, the game will enter the school trial mode, where the player has to deduce who the killer is by presenting evidence Phoenix Wright-style and compare testimonies with the other students.
This time the setting shifts from the first game’s school setting of Hope’s Peak Academy to the more open Jabberwok Islands. This allows for a better variety of settings for the player to experience. Each chapter of the game opens up a new island for the player to go to, and each of these islands have unique buildings and scenery that keep the setting fresh. For example, one island has the feel of a small city while another is basically a huge amusement park.
The trials feature several minigames that the players must complete to advance the debate. Some are simple to play, while others are downright difficult, the hardest in my opinion being the rhythm game style P.T.A battles that occur at the end of each trial. During these minigames, the player has to break their opponent’s shields with word bullets and piece together four phrases in a proper order to reveal a decisive piece of evidence. Failing to arrange the letters properly results in having to redo the battle. I have gotten most of my game overs because of this feature.
In my personal opinion, the strongest part of the game is its characters. Each character is well-written and has a distinct personality that makes them stand out from the others. For those unfamiliar with the DanganRonpa series, the characters are all students at an elite school and are the best in a specific talent; for example, there’s the ultimate mechanic, an ultimate gamer, and even an ultimate gymnast…although she never does anything remotely related to gymnastics. I found myself liking most of the characters in the game, even ones I initially disliked, which made it all the more saddening when they died or got executed for murder. The only two characters I didn’t like were the previously mentioned Ultimate Gymnast, and another character who is completely insane.
The game features a full English dub track. I really liked the voices for each character; the voice actors fit the characters very well. But if you’re one of those sub-only people who wish to experience the game “with original Japanese dialogue” you can switch between the two languages in the settings, but you’ll be missing out on hearing Todd Haberkorn talk in a Cajun accent.
Completing the game unlocks the bonus Island Mode, an alternate storyline where the killing game was prevented and the field trip goes as planned. This allows the player to complete any free time events they missed and spend more time with their favorite characters, and plays almost like a dating sim.
The game holds up very well on its own, something I like in sequels in particular. You could play this with no prior knowledge of the first game up until the last chapter. But unfortunately, the last chapter is when the game starts declining. Without spoiling anything, the final trial throws a lot of information at the player relating to the first game that may be confusing to those who have only played the second game, even going as far as to reveal a major plot twist that had minimal buildup and would only really make sense to those who know how the first game ended. So just to be safe, I’d recommend playing the first game or watching the animated adaptation of it before starting DanganRonpa 2.
The game also throws a lot of features at you that are optional and easily forgettable, such as a Tamagotchi-like virtual pet, a minigame revolving around a teacher that reminded me a little too much of Pokemon Ranger; and the ability to buy additional skills for the class trials which I didn’t even know about until after I beat the game.
Does this ruin the game? Not in my opinion, because everything else is great.
DanganRonpa 2 has a decent story with plenty of twists and turns, great characters, more than enough post-game content to justify playing after the credits roll, as well as a good voice cast. Although some features are completely unnecessary, trials have some minigames difficult at even the easiest difficulty, and the story does take a few unnecessary turns, I’ll proudly say that this is my favorite video game of the year. If you enjoyed Persona 4 or the Phoenix Wright games, I’d recommend you play DanganRonpa 2.
Super Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair gets five over-the-top executions out of five.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Playstation Vita (Reviewed) ; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Spike Chunsoft; Players: 1; Released: September 2, 2014 ; ESRB: M; MSRP: $39.99