Danganronpa 2 Review: Hope versus Dis-Bear

I bought Danganronpa because the guy behind the Zero Escape series said it was good. I absolutely loved the premise and gave the game 8 out of 10 on a podcast review. This is higher than Gamer Horizon’s 7 out of 10 review of the original game, but I wasn’t the one reviewing the first one in the article. Right as Danganronpa was coming out, it was announced Danganronpa 2 would be localized for a Western release. Well, here we are. To use a phrase in a completely different genre, and to use it somewhat inappropriately, Danganronpa 2 is bigger, better and more badass than the original. Despite some gameplay flaws and questionable choices, I can say, this is good. This is very good. Even if you haven’t played the original, you can pick this up.

Tropical Paradise Lost

That attitude will get you killed, Hajime! Well, a lot of things will get you killed.
That attitude will get you killed, Hajime! Well, a lot of things will get you killed.

You are Hajime Hinata, attending the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, THE number one high school in Japan. Yet the first thing you do is go on a school trip to a tropical island with 15 of your schoolmates? By the way, these 15 students are the Ultimate in what they do, meaning they are chosen for their unique talents. Sounds like a sweet deal, even though your teacher is a… stuffed rabbit princess named Usami. However, evil forces interfere and turn the tropical paradise into a living hell by the psychotic monochrome stuffed bear Monokuma. Blocking all paths off of the island, Monokuma overpowers Usami, and forces the 16 students to play his killing game: The only way off the island is to kill a classmate and get away with it. When a student is killed, a trial is held, and if the killer is found, they and they alone are executed. If the killer is not found, everyone else is executed, and they alone win the right to leave the island. With nerves fraying ever shorter, what lengths will these kids go to in order to protect or destroy each other? If you’ve played the first Danganronpa, then this should be familiar to you, but one point I really want to stress is that I don’t feel like you need to play the first Danganronpa to fully enjoy this. There are references to the first game in this visual novel adventure, but you don’t need to know them. In fact I feel like you can get two different perspectives by playing Danganronpa 2 either with, or without. The cast of characters this time around is more colorful, with wackier personalities and less regard for social decency. One of my favorite exchanges is with the Ultimate Breeder, Gundham Tanaka, about an earring of his: “So, about the earring you dropped.” “Are you referring to the Hell Hound Earring?” “Yes, when you dropped the earring-” “Are you… referring to… the Hell Hound Earring?” “Yes… when you dropped the Hell Hound Earring…” The dub cast does not hold back a single ounce, and quite frankly outshine the Japanese cast. Lately with a lot of  localizations, the dubs have been of great quality, but Danganronpa 2‘s cast goes above an beyond. Special shout out to Kira Buckland who did an interview with a site I worked for many many years ago, who has come so far from doing flash video voice work to voicing Hiyoko Saionji in this game, which is no small part. Chris Tergliafera destroys the script as the self-assured Gundham, and the main character Hajime Hinata is voiced by veteran voice actor Johnny Yong Bosch (Bleach, Power Rangers, everything). The best part, or the worst part, depending on your mood, is that you make real connections with these characters, thanks to their acting and their portrayals. What starts as a one-sided caricature turns into real character development as these kids are thrust into more desperate situations. I said worst part above because it isn’t a spoiler to say that you won’t end with 16 students alive. Woe be to you if you end up liking a character that gets theirs.

The Mechanics Of Despair

This does not make sense.
This does not make sense.

Danganronpa 2 is a visual novel, meaning a linear story without a lot of skill-based gameplay. General gameplay allows you to explore the island, talk to the other students, and move the story forward with cutscenes. Eventually, a murder will happen, and you will have to begin investigating, which just consists of clicking on the right areas to receive information. You can’t proceed to the trial until you have all necessary parts investigated, so there’s no fear of failure here. The trials are where you win or lose in Danganronpa 2. Characters in the trial will speak lines that will also appear on the screen in text form. These words are occasionally colored orange or blue; that is your cue to find a piece of evidence, from between 3-9 you have at the ready, to “shoot a hole” through that particular argument. In each debate, only one weak spot will actually be the refutable argument, the others are red herrings, and you’ll be penalized if you guess wrong. You also are penalized for using the wrong evidence. Miss too many times and it is game over (though you can restart right away). There are also other game modes, and they are the weakest part of the game, due to the fact that there is a disconnect between what you are doing and the mechanics of the game mode. In Rebuttal Showdown, you have to swipe the correct way on the screen to break apart your opponents’ arguments, then at the right time, use the right piece of evidence to cut through a weak argument. What is the point of aiming the right way? There is also Hangman’s Gambit, changed from the first game and made even worse. In Hangman”s Gambit, you have to guess letters one at a time to make a word that has some bearing to the case in question.Now, letters will fly out from the sides of the screen. You have to press X on one letter to suck it in, then press X to fire it at the same letter to combine them. Then press X again to delete it, or press triangle to guess that the selected letter is the next letter in the word. If two different letters collide into each other, you will take damage. I hate this mode terribly. There’s also something entirely new in Logic Dive. You’ll race through a half pipe of your own mind, jumping over pits, dodging obstacles, and catching sweet air. Occasionally the path will branch off, and you have to take the path that corresponds to the correct answer to the question being asked. Admittedly this is kind of fun as a pace-breaker, but what does this have to do with anything? Man, it is weird. There is the Panic Talk Action, which is generally the moment where you break through the killer’s lies. This is done by him or her shouting phrases at you. You have to hold the X button to the rhythm of the song being played to lock onto these phrases, and release it on the beat to shoot them down. Does this make sense? No? You’ll understand when you play it, but seriously what is the point of this? Finally, there is the summary of the crime, which is told like a comic book, only it’s missing panels which you have to put in the right places. This returns from the first game, and actually makes sense in the context of the trial. If you’re still with me after those several negative paragraphs, I want you to know: This is the only thing I hate about this game.

This Whole Game Is Spoilers

Part of the condition of me receiving the review code for Danganronpa 2 from NIS America is that I can’t talk about anything past the first chapter for fear of spoilers. Quite frankly it is worse if you are a veteran of the first game; in my opinion the trailers are spoilers. Here’s what I can say: If you are a veteran of the first Danganronpa, some of your expectations will be right on. Others will be shattered to bits. I also want to add that it was extremely unclear as to what the “events” in the first game were. You know what I mean if you have beaten the first DanganronpaDanganronpa 2 does us all a favor by going to much more detail about the “events”. And yet, there’s more. Much, much more. I’m writing this review less than 24 hours after I completed the game’s main scenario. I won’t dare speak a word of it to anyone. Quite frankly, knowing what I know doesn’t affect the review score anyway (unless the ending sucks, which it doesn’t). Please trust me when I say the adventure is worth it, but there are certain details which I think you’re all going to love that just can’t be talked about.

Like It Never Happened

There are a bunch of extra modes in Danganronpa 2. You can take control of Usami as she battles the evil monobeasts by circling them with rainbow attacks. This mode wasn’t well documented and it took me a moment to figure out how it worked. I didn’t play it much, to be honest, but it’s there. There’s also Island Mode. Like the first Danganronpa this is an alternate universe where the killing game never happens, and you work together to build items which are requested of you. You can further relationships with students from the main game, and even go on trips. This is the perfect thing to play after you finish the game. Last but not least, the entire Danganronpa IF light novel is included as a bonus for beating the game. Fully translated, this is pure fanservice for those that have finished the first game, but this kind of thing is awesome and should be done more. I actually haven’t finished this yet, but this only adds to the value of the package. It even saves your place and lets you set bookmarks. Take that, Metal Gear Solid 2’s long exposition thingy.

Wrap It Up (In A Body Bag)

Where other games try to shout at the top of their lungs that they are cool, Danganronpa 2 just is cool and knows it has nothing to prove. The music and atmosphere bely a truly mature game for a mature, discerning audience. Where it missteps in game design mechanics it makes up for with a gripping, tense, twisting atmosphere that you cannot control. Just hold on for the ride.

Ted played through Danganronpa on Kind (Medium difficulty) in about 35 hours. He was given a copy of the game from NIS America for review purposes.

8/10+ Dub cast absolutely kills it.
+ Crazier plot than the original, with a wider array of scenery.
-New gameplay elements are as bad or worse than the original.

Available on: Vita

Version Reviewed: Vita

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