Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review

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Title: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.3 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes 

When it comes to exclusive games for the PlayStation Vita, many feel that there aren’t a lot out there.  While there aren’t a lot of First-Party-Specific exclusive games, there are exclusives.  Looking around at the Vita’s library, completely, you can find them.  Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment.  Gravity Rush.  Demon Gaze.  Soul Sacrifice.  Games that you cannot find anywhere else, at least for the moment.

Looking into exclusives, you can see a lot of action games and RPGs.  These are definitely popular genres, but they aren’t where the Vita’s exclusive games end.  If you take a closer look at the library, there are others as well.  Some seem more niche and others have gotten quite popular, over time.  One genre that has gotten a fair amount of popularity on the Vita is the genre of Visual Novels.

Visual Novels come and go, though not many of these games cross over to the West.  Some have, like the recent Xblaze CODE: Embryo and others.  Some Visual Novels are more interactive, though.  Some of them have brought people in, making them feel like they’re watching and playing an anime, but also adding a fair amount of mystery to the game as well.  As we prepare to slink down into despair, here is our official review of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc!

Story

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Hope’s Peak Academy stands tall in Japan.  It is a prestige high school that was built to house only the world’s best and brightest.  It brings in the “Ultimate” of every possible field to train them to better the world as they grow into adults.  The Ultimate Baseball Star.  The Ultimate Fashionista.  The Ultimate Martial Artist.  All of them are gathered together to attend school and better the world when they greet it upon graduation.

Makoto Naegi arrives at the school as the Ultimate Lucky Student, a seemingly normal face in the midst of celebrities.  As he comes in for his first day of school, though, something goes terribly wrong.  All 15 members of the class pass out and awaken in a school not welcoming and fresh.  On the contrary, every window and door are sealed shut.  They’re trapped in the school, and a maniacal being whom goes by the name of Monokuma appears to bring them into despair.

As the unsettling truth sinks into their hearts, the situation becomes clear.  To leave the school, they must kill another student and not get caught.  Otherwise, they will live there forever, constantly sleeping with one eye open.  As the students begin to question everything around them, a plot that involves both them and the entire world begins to unfold.

The plot of Danganronpa is a very good one.  It plays out much like an anime, and the characters are easy to become attached to.  It has emotional tugs and twists in every chapter.  If you can get into visual novels, anime or mystery plots, this game will draw you in further the more you play.

Gameplay

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Danganronpa can be described as some sort of mix between a visual novel and a point-and-click adventure game, along with some 3D exploration elements.  It’s hard to judge all it has within it.  But, if it could only be classified as one genre, it would be classified as an interactive visual novel, similar to games like Xblaze CODE: Embryo, but with more options and interaction-heavy elements.

Danganronpa is a visual novel that focuses heavily on the story and plot that is going on around you as you play.  Much like games like Persona 3 or Persona 4, the game goes by in day segments, like morning and night.  Also, like those games, you are able to spend your Free Time with other characters of the game.  During these times you can learn more about them as well as increasing your vocal skills and Skill Points of vocal skills you can equip.

As you progress through each chapter, though, a murder will eventually take place.  When this happens, you will be switched from Free Time to Investigation Mode.  In this mode, you will have a set amount of time to inspect objects and parts of any room in the school, particularly the crime scene.  You will do this as well as talking to the other people around to collect evidence and testimonies known as “Truth Bullets” to be used in a Class Trial, where you will try to identify the culprit.

Truth Bullets and Skills are stored in your e-Handbook, which works as your Main Menu for the game.  When you open this up, you can look at your Map (to warp to various locations and floors), Truth Bullets, Report Cards (information gathered from spending time with other characters), Skills, Gifts (to give to characters), as well as Saving and Loading the game.  The handbook can be opened and used to save at almost any given moment, including during a trial, which makes it extremely convenient.

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Class Trials are where the game gets most of its interest and interaction from.  Once you have collected all of the Truth Bullets for a case, you will be taken to a Court Room, where you will participate in various mini-games in order to solve the case of the murder as well as re-enacting the entire thing, in the hopes of revealing and punishing the culprit.  This will be done with Debates, Presenting Evidence, , Bullet Time Arguments, and Closing Arguments.

When you’re in the middle of debates, everyone will be talking non-stop, one after another.  During this time, they will say various things, with weak arguments highlighted in yellow text.  One of these Weak Arguments is false.  It is your job to determine which one it is and use a Truth Bullet to be fired at it while it is being said to present a counter argument and push the trial closer to the truth.  Timing is absolutely necessary in all of this as arguments will only stay up for so long, and you have an overall time limit for the trial, so you will want to do as few retries as possible.

Bullet Time is a big part of the difficulty of the game.  Bullet Time happens when someone refuses to believe what you are saying and presenting in the case.  In order to make them understand, you enter a Bullet Time battle.  In this, you will be hearing constant arguments from them while a beat-to-beat rhythm is playing.  In this mode, you must keep your arguments in beat with the rhythm as well as your counters for them until their willpower runs out and you can finish the battle with a Truth Bullet.  This can go a little more extensive as well, as the rhythm will constantly be getting faster and there will be white noise statements and other tricks happening while you go through each Bullet Time battle.

At the end of each trial, there will be scenes that will take you into the next Chapter.  Every time you clear a Chapter, you’re able to go back and replay it from the Title Menu.  Outside of replaying chapters or using School Mode that unlocks when you finish the game, Danganronpa will take about 25 hours to finish.  Despite being a Visual Novel, there’s a lot of game here, along with going back to max out everyone’s Report Cards and collecting all of the hidden Coins in rooms and Presents to give to your other classmates.

Controls

As far as how the game controls, there are a lot of options here, and some are more comfortable than others.  First of all, there are touch screen controls for the game.  While you cannot control everything with the touch screen, there are button controls for each part of the game you can use the touch screen for.

When you’re wandering around the school, you will be using the Left Analog Stick to walk around and the Right Analog Stick to move the “target” of what you’re looking at as you wander the 3D school halls when you’re not in various rooms.  Be it in rooms or the halls, you can use the X Button to choose and investigate an object or doorway, as well as using the X Button for this feature.  You can also use the Triangle Button to pull up your Map and the Square Button to open your e-Handbook.

The L and R buttons are mostly used in the Class Trials, like slowing down time to fire your Truth Bullets.  The face buttons are used here as well, with Circle being used to speed through debates and the Triangle and X Buttons being used for firing Truth Bullets and proceeding through Bullet Time.

All in all, the controls aren’t hard to learn.  Though only the button controls are explained to you.  The touch controls are there to learn as you go.

Presentation

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Being a Visual Novel, there won’t a lot of PS3-level 3D graphics to look for in this game.  This is not to say there aren’t any here, but you shouldn’t go into the game, expecting to see them at every twist and turn.  In some scenes there are 3D visuals, and those do look very impressive.  They definitely look on the level of PS3 or PS4 games, but they only take place about 8-10 times throughout the entire game.

The rest of the game is done with hand-drawn characters as well as some 3D elements in the school, itself.  Each character is set up as a flat, 2D render.  Even when you’re walking through the 3D school, characters you come across are in the 3D environment as a 2D figure.  This helps them keep their renders clean and crisp, but it almost looks out of place when everything around them is rendered in 3D.

While the rooms do have 3D objects in them, they look partially 2D in design.  These objects are not perfect objects, but still look decent.  For example, some of the beds, tables, weights, or chairs may have some jagged edges around them.  This does pull the presentation down a bit.  For the most part, though, everything looks good.

The game plays well as well.  There are Load Times between each area, but they are short, only taking a few seconds to move from one room and load another.  There aren’t Load Times for anything in the game that takes more than a few seconds, and I did not notice any lag while playing through the game, including through the 3D segments.

Overall

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a visual novel in the vein of games like Ace Attorney.  The game’s plot definitely isn’t for everyone, and those expecting a gameplay-heavy game will be surprised at how much the story carries the game.  For everyone else, there is a tear-jerking tale of murder and mystery that any anime fan can get immersed in and enjoy.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc an 8/10

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