Game Title: Psycho-Pass Mandatory Happiness
Developer: 5pb, NIS America
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Availability: Retail, Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
Visual Novels are something that I like getting into, when I want to do some reading and really dive deep into the plot and lore of the stories they tell. Sometimes, it’s because of romance between characters but other times, it’s the story itself that captivates me.
Recently, I played through Under Night In-Birth’s Chronicles Mode, which was like an extensive Visual Novel that showcased that game’s world and it gave me an itch for more VNs. Thankfully, a VN I’ve been interested in for a long time was free on PlayStation Plus last month, and it had just been sitting on my Memory Card, waiting to be played.
As a part of an anime franchise I have already watched and enjoyed, here is my review of the Visual Novel, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness!
Psycho-Pass’s setting is a world where a computer intelligence now governs everyone’s well-being by judging their mental states as Hues, similar to color changes in a Mood Ring, deeming them fit or unfit for society, offering counseling for those at risk or lableing particularly unstable citizens as criminals and dealing with them as such.
Mandatory Happiness takes place during an unspecified slot of time during the first eight episodes of the Psycho-Pass anime series. The plot revolves around two Inspectors, whom join the Public Safety Bureau for a set number of cases involving a renegade Artificial Intelligence known as Alpha, showing the entire Unit’s investigations into many crimes as they seek to stop the perp responsible.
The plotline of Mandatory Happiness is good in that it not only gives readers a taste of the cruel and messed up world the anime first showcased, but it caters to a lot of series fans, bringing its few original characters in with nearly the entire cast of Season 1 of the anime, including Main Characters like Akane.
What I don’t like about its storyline is part of what I’ll talk about in the next section, regarding the game’s length, but also that newcomers to the series really don’t get much explanation outside of term definitions as you play through the game.
It’s definitely a game made for previous fans of the anime and, without spoiling anything, I would not suggest you play the game until you watch the entire 1st season, as it spoils what is arguably the biggest plot twist of Psycho Pass.
Psycho Pass MA is a Visual Novel, so you’ll be spending most of your time reading through dialogue scenes as the plot plays out. The interactive parts of the game mostly come from dialogue choices and story branches you can navigate through as you play the game, moving the plot forward in different directions.
Speaking of Direction, you can play this game as one of two characters, the female Inspector Nadeshiko, or the male Enforcer Tsurugi. However, both characters join the same group. Outside of some scenes and perspective dialogue, you’re mostly seeing the same story play out, just from a different perspective.
What really gives you branching paths are the choices you make as you play through the game. Each investigation you enter has a lot of choices, which could be as simple as whether or not you take a mental supplement to improve your mood or as intense as choosing whether you reason with or physically assault a group of rioting students. All of these choices are important as they will eventually decide which Ending Path you go through and will also dictate how long the game is.
Aside from all that, you have a lot of information thrown at you since this game doesn’t really have a “Welcome to the World of Psycho-Pass” introduction area. The game throws terms like Sibyl System, Dominator, Latent Criminal, and Enforcer like they’re common knowledge, only to have them pop up in the Tips section of the pause menu for you to read up on, yourself.
There’s good and bad about this system. It’s good that all of these terms have explanations for you to read through, but the text is so small that even on the PlayStation TV, it’s extremely hard to read it without hurting your eyes. It’s like they intentionally made the text of the explanations half the size of all other text just so you never have to scroll through the descriptions of each term or person.
That’s also going into the fact that the game never explains this to you. It just pops up with Tips on the top of the screen each time one unlocks and expects you to just know you can then tap Square to open the Main Menu and go into the Tips section to find more information about what was just said. Like most VNs, the game mechanics are not explained to you at all, and this felt crucial considering that’s what was supposed to clue newbies in on everything about Psycho-Pass.
Now, going away from that, we come to the biggest complaint about this game from Day 1 and one that I agree with: Game Length. Psycho Pass MA is one of the shortest VNs I have ever experienced. Across the entirety of the game, I barely spent 5 hours going through the entire game for the True Ending, and that’s with the extra chapter built into that path. If you were to not get the choices just right for the True End Path, you would get the Normal/Bad Ending after only about 3 hours of game time.
The problem with this is that you’d essentially be chucking out $40 for 5 hours of content. Of course, if you got it for free last month off of PS+, then that’s not a big deal, but even after all this time, you’ll still be spending $30-40 for 5 hours of content, regardless of platform and that’s a pretty tough choice for putting your money into.
First of all, Mandatory Happiness is 100% compatible with the PlayStation TV, so Vita TV owners can enjoy this Crime-based Visual Novel on the go and on the big screen.
As far as the actual controls, there arent many. The D-Pad is used for navigating menus. The X button selects options, Circle cancels options, Square opens the Main Menu and Triangle opens up the Story Log. That’s pretty much it. If there are any other controls that were also not explained, I didn’t come across them while I played through the game’s plotline.
Graphically, I didn’t find anything wrong with the game. All of the environments and the character renders were drawn with good detail and the returning characters looked faithful to their anime counterparts.
There is nothing wrong with performance, either. Although I didn’t like that the game prevents people from taking screen-shots, there were no actual problems with frame-rate, freezing, or crashing.
In conclusion, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness offers a unique, original story in Gen Urobuchi's dark world of mental help and cruel society. Although the tiny text in the Tips section of the menu along with its incredibly short length is frustrating, seeing the original cast coming together in an original story is something that series fans are sure to enjoy.