What do you get when you combine colorful action with a courtroom drama? You get Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, which is an intriguing blend of mystery and adventure within a distinctly Japanese presentation. Gamers familiar with the previously released Trigger Happy Havoc will know what to expect, as the gameplay mechanic remains mostly unchanged. And of course, there’s that surreal sense of zaniness inherent in most anime, which fans of the artistic style always appreciate. Corny cheeseball humor is standard stuff; I’m just hoping they don’t have too many obnoxious characters.
Those characters, by the way, are “ultimate” characters. What I mean is, each one has a specialty and nobody surpasses him or her in that discipline. For instance, there’s the ultimate mechanic, the ultimate princess, and even the ultimate breeder (who is always ready to prove his prodigious animal husbandry skills by carrying around a pack of hamsters). Interestingly enough, these gifted students are all part of the same class, and their teacher has brought them to what appears to be a quaint island getaway. Unfortunately, everything turns dark and grim when Monokuma returns and the kill-or-be-killed mentality kicks in.
You can explore the island and you’ll be given opportunities to improve your relationships with other characters. This is also quite common in many Japanese productions, and it reminds me a little of the relationships you have to forge in the Persona franchise. How important these friendships are in regards to the gameplay; well, that remains to be seen. However, neither the relationships nor the exploration of the island will get your attention. No, it’s those courtroom battles that will quite often take center-stage: Who killed who? Why? And who might be next? It sounds like a very interesting system.
The sequel will boast improvements to these courtroom cases. Your argument can now be countered, so you no longer have the final word. You have to prove your contention before it’s ruled upon, and that could take some work. Another new mode is called “Dive Logic” and while we haven’t seen any gameplay just yet, the developers say it’s akin to the cult classic Rez. These little mini-games within the courtroom atmosphere will add more action to the proceedings, and your performance could have a significant impact on the outcome of the case. You’ll have to be observant, thoughtful and insightful if you wish to prove your point!
If you’re one of those gamers who always complain about a lack of variety in big-budget productions, you need to go smaller. This particular title is a great example of a game that gives you a completely new experience, even if it’s somewhat off the wall. Sure, there are some crazy characters and the premise is bound to be utterly absurd (which means you really can’t take it seriously), but where else will you participate in courtroom battles? Honestly, you should consider giving it a try. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair will release for the Vita and PSP in North America on September 2.
8/5/2014 Ben Dutka