Danganronpa 1.2 Reload Review

Time to get familiarize with the franchise. 

The Danganronpa series has a very low exposure here in the west, almost to a cult status.  A lot of people know it simply as its 2013 anime counterpart, but didn’t know it’s based on a game.  That’s really a shame, as the anime didn’t quite capture the game’s true beauty.  Now that the biggest entry to the game, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, is set to release tomorrow (September 26th), it’s time to catch up on the franchise with the PS4 collection of the first two games.

Danganronpa 1.2 Reload is the HD Remake of the first two Danganronpa games- Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.  The games are a mix of point-and-click adventures, visual novels and logical investigation games similar to the Ace Attorney franchise.  The franchise centers around the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, where each student has an unique “Ultimate” talent.  The first game follows Makoto Naegi, the Ultimate Lucky Student,  and how he found himself trapped in the academy with 14 other classmates.  The only way to escape the school is by murdering another student and getting away with it.  Also, the principal/mastermind of the whole murder ordeal is a cute mascot bear called Monokuma, just to add strange to the already bizarre.

The second game opens with a similar premise to the first game, but with a new protagonist, Hajime Hinata, and on a tropical island instead of school.  The new group of Ultimate Students found themselves on a “school trip” hosted by a sweet-talking rabbit named Usami.  It’s a pretty carefree setting until the evil Monokuma took over the trip and turned it into another murder fest.

The gameplay can be split into two sections- Daily Life and Deadly Life.  This is a chance for you to explore the setting, interact with characters, or check out objects.  One of the strongest part of the game are the characters, and Daily Life allows you to understand who your classmates are and develop relationships with them.  Things change when a body is discovered.  In Deadly Life, we investigate the murder scene, search for clues and evidences to help us in the upcoming Class Trials.

Things can be slow during the process, and there’s a lot of reading involved.  I’m a avid reader myself, and it can still be a little too much from time to time.  Clicking around trying to find clues can be a bit of a hassle, but at least the game gives you highlights on things that need to be investigated.

And this brings us to the Class Trials, the main course of the franchise.  This is an intense school court showdowns where others will plead their case, and your job is to use evidences and other testimonials against them.  Their words will fly across the screen, and you have to literally fire Truth Bullets to shatter their arguments into pieces.  The trials are also mixed with other minigames such as Bullet Time Battles, Hangman’s Gambits and Logic Dive.  These are all additions to make the game more interesting.  However, I’m not really an action game person, and these minigames can be a bit frustrating for me especially if I already figured out the trials logically.  Thankfully, the trials difficulties can be set between logic or action, so i can make the action part easier while maintain the difficulties on logic (or even makes it harder!).

Out of all the minigames, my favorite one is the Closing Arguments.  This is where you go over the entire case again in the form of manga.  You have to pick the right panels to fill in the blanks, and it’s a nice way to review the whole thing before the culprit’s execution.

Danganronpa does a wonderful job creating the characters and an immersive surrounding.  The pacing can be quite frustrating, but it doesn’t stop the game from being an addictive one.  The games play on tropes of murder-mystery genre, with masterful writing and plot that draw us in.  This is especially the case for Danganronpa 2, as the first game already exhausted most of the typical tropes, but the second game still finds ways to surprise me.

That said, I like Danganronpa 2 a lot more than the first game.  It adds more favorable elements, more complex plot, as well as deeper connections between the characters.  The bond between the classmates are really established in the second game, so when they started to kill each other, the despair becomes more obvious than usual.

However, the HD remaster part of the game can be a bit disappointing.  The first game was first released back in 2010 for PSP, and the background are obviously pixellated from the handheld roots.  Thankfully, this doesn’t really effect the game’s unique visual “psycho pop” style, as concept artist Rui Komatsuzaki’s distinctive design really stands out on the big screen.  Other than the art style, the franchise’s main attraction is the is the soundtracks, and the remake really enhanced on that.  It’s easy to hum to the music, or tap your feet to the jazzy, bluesy theme song.

Overall, Danganronpa 1.2 Reload is a great way for newcomers to jump into the franchise.  There isn’t much for old fans, but enjoy the games once more on the big screen, and a great way to refresh the games before the newest installment.  I highly recommend the games to those who enjoy visual novels, or murder mysteries, but a little bit of patient is definitely required.