Danganronpa is one of the most bizarre anime games I’ve ever played. The art style for the cutscenes is unique and adds to the surrealness of the experience. The story is intriguing. Right from the start of the game, it goes from 0 to 100 real quick. There are a ton of “what the heck” moments caused by both confusion and horror. Even for an anime game, it is weird. The best part of the game is the characters. They aren’t exactly realistic characters, but they are dynamic and memorable. The player gets invested so easily because of how engaging these characters are. This is what makes Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc such an unforgettable experience.
Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc (PS4): ★★★★★★★☆☆☆
I highly recommend this game. The story and the characters create a truly phenomenal experience.
Dangonronpa is rated M, so while it may look like a happy school-life visual novel, it is not. There are a lot of gruesome moments. You have been warned.
It’s hard to capture the vibrant weirdness of this game in a review. Several factors mesh together to create a vibe of ridiculous anime awesomeness. The music is intense, immediately recognizable, and creates the perfect emotional background to what’s occurring. The character design is fantastic. All of the characters have unique personalities, designs, and reactions. When cutscenes begin art styles shift abruptly. This adds even more drama. The gameplay is most definitely dated and at times frustrating, but this adds to the experience. Danganronpa is a great game because of its weirdness, insane story, and memorable characters.
You would like this game if
- Like watching anime
- Own a PSP or PS Vita and want to actually use them
- Enjoy wacky characters
- Want a visual novel that’s not about the romance
- Think murder mysteries are fun
There is a school called Hope’s Peak Academy. At this school only the very best are admitted. It doesn’t matter what skill it is, so long as you are the best. There is one exception, every year a lottery is held. The winner can attend Hope’s Peak Academy as the Ultimate Lucky Student.
The protagonist of this game is Makoto Naegi, the Ultimate Lucky Student of the 78th class of Hope’s Peak Academy. He goes to school early on his first day. The next thing he is aware of is waking up in a classroom without remembering how he got there. He soon realizes something is wrong when he sees giant, heavy metal plates bolted to the wall covering up windows. Once he leaves the classroom he finds a group of fourteen people standing in front of a sealed entrance. After talking to them, it becomes apparent that these people are Makoto’s new classmates. They are in the same position as him, they don’t remember how they got there or why.
This is when a strange talking bear named Monokuma shows up. He claims to be the headmaster of the school. Monokuma tells them that this place is, in fact, Hope’s Peak Academy and that they are to spend the rest of their lives here. Naturally, everyone is upset at this news. Which causes Monokuma to elaborate on the rules. There is a way to “graduate” and earn the right to leave the school. If someone murders someone else they will no longer be allowed to stay. Once this happens, an investigation and a class trial will commence determining who the murderer (the “blackened”) is. During the class trial, if the correct person is identified as the “blackened” then they will be executed. Then the rest of the students can return to their communal life at the academy. If they convict the wrong person, then the “blackened” gets to go free while all of the other students are executed.
Now Makoto must try to survive while attempting to solve the many mysteries of Hope’s Peak Academy.
Danganronpa, for the most part, operates as a visual novel. It’s always in first-person view. You explore rooms by panning the camera and selecting items to examine and people to talk to. When you leave rooms you can freely roam the halls to navigate to different areas of Hope’s Peak Academy. You have an electronic handbook that serves as the menu system. The most important thing to remember is to use the map. The map can be used to fast-travel and to see where all of the other students are.
There are story sections where you can only scroll through dialog and can’t control what’s happening. However, you will have several days in between events called “Free Time”. During this time you can choose to hang out with the other characters. You can even give them a present after hanging out with them. The dialog options you choose can increase or decrease their opinion of you. As you become better friends with your classmates you unlock more of their information in the handbook and it will unlock abilities that make class trials easier.
Spoiler alert, I guess. Class trials do happen, meaning characters are going to die. That’s all the non-gameplay details you’ll get from me. The story and characters are the best part of the game and I don’t want to spoil it.
Once a body is found an investigation is started to collect evidence. During the investigation, you interview classmates to figure out their alibis and what other information they may know. You also scan through multiple rooms to find evidence. The handbook is very helpful during the investigation because rooms that need to be investigated will be marked with an exclamation point.
The class trials function as a giant group debate. People present evidence and make statements, assumptions, and ultimately conclusions based on the evidence found during the investigation. This happens as a mini-game. Everyone’s dialog will be moving across the screen. The evidence you gathered during the investigation becomes “truth bullets” that you use to shoot down the incorrect statements made by the others. You have to use the correct evidence with the correct statement to continue the trial. If you get it wrong too many times, game over and you will have to do the trial again from the beginning.
There are also other minigames as a part of the class trials. They will be added in as time goes and the rules will always be explained before you start. One is a spelling game where you shoot the letters to fill in the missing blanks. I don’t know why it’s important to know how to spell “knife” to present it as evidence. Best not to question it. Then there is a rhythm game. My best guess, the purpose is to make people shut up by throwing off their groove. At the end of the trial, you will build your “closing argument” by placing the missing pictures in the comic book that sums up the events. It’s trickier than it sounds because there are more pictures than there are empty panels, and which picture is the right picture is unclear at times.
- I like the minigames of the class trials and all, but they could get annoying sometimes.
- Getting the perfect present for someone only for them to die off. What am I supposed to do with this now? The perfect person is dead now.
- The game treats you like an idiot by repeating information multiple times. I am not a child, I am paying attention, you don’t have to tell me the same thing five times within ten minutes.
- I wish there had been more voice acting. I get that they had limitations when the game was first released and couldn’t have voice acting for every line. It still would have been nice as when the voice actors did a fantastic job.
- Telling people they’re wrong in the class trials. It’s just so much fun to dramatically destroy their arguments.
- The story is intriguing right from the start and it’s easy to get invested in figuring out why things are happening.
- All of the characters had so much personality to them. Admittedly, they were somewhat exaggerated and trope-heavy at times. Instead of breaking the immersion by being unrealistic, it made them fit in with the over the top, anime weirdness. They also got further character development throughout the events of the game. The Danganronpa characters are all unique and memorable.
- Hot pink blood. I know the developers did this to prevent the game rating from going higher than “M” but it adds to the surrealness of the art.
- The big plot twist at the end. I won’t spoil anything, but the mastermind is one of my all-time favorite video game villains.
- There’s a lot of shocking moments throughout the game. I appreciate that as it’s not easy to surprise me multiple times in a story.
- When the dialog was good, it was fantastic!
- I really like the music in the game. It’s especially cool to see the audio equalizer in the corner.
*Image does not belong to me. It belongs to the creators of Danganronpa.