Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Review

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Coming off the heels of the overall well received port of the first Danganronpa game on PC, Spike Chunsoft and Abstraction games released Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.  I originally reviewed the Vita version in 2014, but I like to think that I’ve grown substantially as a writer since then, and I am always willing to support companies, especially Japanese companies, when they support the PC marketplace with niche titles.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Review
Platform: PC(Reviewed), Playstation Vita
Developer: Abstraction Games(PC Port), Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft

Danganronpa 2 centers around a group of highly skilled attendees of the prestigious Hope’s Peak academy who are imprisoned by a sadistic and despair loving teddy bear by the name of Monokuma.  Where they are thrust into a killing game, fueled by their own motives and desires, or those devised by the malicious little monotone bear whenever he gets bored.  Thus leading to a scenario rife with superstition, intrigue, and betrayal, much like the first game.
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On that note, just about everything I praised about the story in Trigger Happy Havoc can be repeated here.  While the description is that of a tragic little tale, there is plenty of levity interspersed through the story.  It’s not afraid to be silly, or goofy, or simply crack a couple of jokes even as awful things are happening.  It maintains an optimistic tone even in the face of horrific occurrences, but never so much that they are underplayed or devoid of the sting that accompanies death.

This is of course helped by the characters, who are representative of many tried and true tropes, but work well within those formulas, and manage to be both entertaining and endearing.  Their personalities bounce off each other well, and they all have an interesting story to tell within the greater narrative.  Plus, it makes it all the sadder when your favorite character inevitably dies, along with most of the cast.
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Now, I could, and have said the same thing about Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, but what exactly makes Danganronpa 2 different?  Well, aside from a mostly new cast of equally lovable characters, Danganronpa 2 is designed as a sequel, and in turn subverts the expectations of the player, as it assumes they are already familiar with this basic setting.  

It allows the story to do things that could not have been done without a foundation to both break and build upon.  Resulting in a more complicated story with more moving parts that is never too overwhelming, and keeps the player on their toes.  Seriously, an eleventh hour twist from the first game is revealed in chapter one this time around.  Then the ending from the first game is made clear in chapter two.  It’s great.
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I could go on about the more intricate and spoilerific parts of the plot, how well the mystery of the story held up on a second run through, or praise the story for its balance of comedy, absurdity, drama, and tragedy.  How the themes of despair and hope are explored more deeply and made more interesting.  Or… everything having to do with Nagito Komaeda as a character.  It’s not devoid of all faults, as there are plenty of little things I could point out if I feel like nitpicking, but what’s there is excellent.  Even if there are a couple hiccups in the localized text beyond the blatant ones like “my throb is cheating”.

As for the gameplay, there was a conscious effort from the developers to improve and iterate on just about everything.  For example, the point and click investigation and first person world navigation are still there, except now you get experience points for doing both of those things, and have a tamagotchi to raise or neglect by leaving it alone in a room filled with poops.  Although, most of the attention went to the Class Trials, where you need to uncover the murderer through a series of simple and logic based minigames.20160421221240_1

They are still primarily driven by a game of spot the contradiction and shoot it in the face with a bullet of truth, except now your actions are a bit more dynamic.  You can also support someone’s claim, backing it up with evidence.  Get into a one on one argument with another person, where your bullets become blades, and you slice their words away.  Or go through a rhythmic dismissal of shouting before discrediting a hyperactive student with cold hard logic.

That said, there is an underlying problem that comes with this entire genre, that of following the trail of logic, and figuring out what piece of evidence the game wants you to use and when.  It’s kept pretty clear for the most part, but there were a few instances that left me stumped for a short while.  It’s probably not a problem for some people, but this persisted even though I remembered every key point of the story, and required me to guess at a few points.
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Other minigames, such as Logic Drive, offer a small divergence from solving the whodunit, and focus more on snowboarding through a halfpipe, entering the right gates to guide the main character’s trail of logic.  Then there’s still Hangman’s Gambit, or rather (Improved) Hangman’s Gambit, which is actually a lot worse.  It tasks you with grabbing two of the same letter, shooting them into one bigger letter, and either destroying that or using it to fill in a phrase one letter at a time.  It is tedious in place or boring, and the only saving grace is that of mouse controls.

I’ve already gone on about how much I love the general art direction, look of the characters, and how it all manages to maintain a distinct identity while still well under the umbrella of “anime”, and that remains true here.  The characters are expressive and diversely designs.  The event CG art pieces are plentiful and look wonderful.  Plus with a more diverse setting, there is more than can be and is done with the distinct pop-up backgrounds.  I downright adore just about everything about this game visually… aside from two things. 20160423112800_1

One is the HUD that adorns the majority of the game, and supplies unnecessary and distracting information about the time, the chapter, your level, and a tempo icon for the catchy and memorable background music.  It’s simply garish, and is weirdly preferable in the class trial sequences, where it’s kept comparatively minimalistic.  

The other annoyance comes from the fact that every asset of this game, character sprites, backgrounds, text, UI elements, and so forth, were made for a 544p screen, and don’t look very good when upscaled to 1080p, even with several layers of anti-aliasing.  Especially some environmental art and the main character’s overworld sprite when exploring the new tropical island setting.
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This is because Danganronpa 2, much like part one, is a very straight forward Vita to PC port beyond the inclusion of keyboard controls.  Which I could never get behind, even though they seem perfect for this type of game.  Menu navigation doesn’t feel right with a scroll wheel, and I wasn’t fond of the key bindings, which cannot be changed for whatever reason.  Probably a good one.  This nevertheless makes the game preferable with a controller, even though mouse and keyboard is perfectly playable.

Now that I’ve had some time to ruminate on the game, and a chance to revisit it, I’ve come to realize just how much I like Danganronpa 2.  It’s gripping, silly, and ultimately engaging, with a memorable cast of characters who I came to love by the end of it.  Yes, there are a few nagging factors my brain cannot simply ignore, but I still think this game is among my all time favorites.  This PC port is nothing special, but is a perfectly good way to go through the game and experience the story, which I would naturally recommend to anyone who played the first game, as it’s kind of required to really appreciate part 2.
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Oh, and there are some minor bugs I encountered in the PC port.  One regarding the audio and a HUD element in Magical Girl Miracle Monomi, and another regarding dark purple artifacts attached to certain sprites in class trials.  Chances are these will be fixed in a week.

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