Danganronpa 1-2 Reload Review – More Hope Than Despair
The students of Hope’s Peak Academy are back in NIS America’s Danganronpa 1-2 Reload, a collection of the original two games in the Danganronpa series. Will these two titles bring you hope, or will they lead to nothing but despair?
Danganronpa 1-2 Reload Review
The Danganronpa series is an interesting one, in that it doesn’t fit any clear genre. Though it may have its roots in the visual novel side of things, gameplay is far more action oriented than what is usually expected. Players will still read a good amount of text and make some crucial decisions along the way, but they will also be navigating areas, buying gifts, searching for clues, and participating in class trials. There is a lot of variety at play here, and while both titles can become overly verbose, there is never a dull moment.
Of course, a game of this style is only as strong as its story, and both titles tell a solid tale. In the original title, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, a number of students that each excel at a different skill (dubbed the “Ultimates”) are locked away at Hope’s Peak Academy by the diabolical, multi-colored bear Monokuma. To escape, they must kill one of their classmates and get away without anybody finding out. After a murder happens (and they will happen), it is up to players as “Ultimate Lucky Student” Makoto Naegi to figure out who the culprit (or the “blackened”) is each time among the survivors.
This dynamic is a thrilling one, as the personalities of each character packs serious depth. Was it the programmer Chihiro, or maybe it was the burly Sakura? The game also keeps players on their toes by including a number of off-the-wall twists. While they do come off as a little outrageous, those who roll with it will find one of the most original tales around. The game keeps the twists going to the very end of its 20+ hour playthrough, and does so without overstaying its welcome.
Of course, finding out who the culprit is is where Trigger Happy Havoc truly shines. After investigating the scene of the crime and collecting clues (dubbed “Truth Bullets”), players use logic and reasoning to figure out exactly what happened. Through these “Nonstop Debates,” each character spits out part of a conversation on the screen as they talk things out. It is the player’s job to find the specific phrase that relates to your clue/Truth Bullet, and then counter them with evidence. Conversations can move fairly quickly, but finding the right thing to present is a satisfying feeling.
There are also a number of minigames that make up class trials, which can be hit and miss. Creating a closing argument with comic book-style panels is fun, but slowly collecting letters to find out what to say in the “Hangman’s Gambit” minigame can sometimes drag on.
Its sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, takes a number of the core concepts of the original and runs with them. A new batch of “Ultimate” students is present, with some real standouts among the bunch (especially Gundham Tanaka – the dark lord who leads the hamster group “The Four Dark Devas of Destruction”). The action has moved to Jabberwock Island, giving players a far more dynamic environment made up of theme parks, nightclubs, and factories. There’s even a new face in the form of Usami, the rabbit who (tries to) foster love, friendship, and good manners.
However, things quickly escalate like they did in the original, which each of the 16 students forced to kill one another (and get away with it) in order to escape the island. As Hajime Hinata, it’s up to the player to find clues and figure out who the killer is among the bunch of students, and figure out what is going on. Class trials are back, and there are a number of new minigames rounding things out. Players can now dig deeper in the “Logic Dive” snowboarding minigame, or cut down others’ arguments with the “Rebuttal Showdown” mechanic. All of the new minigames are welcome and bring some complexities to the title, though a modified “Hangman’s Gambit” does make its return. There are just as many twists and turns in Goodbye Despair amidst its 25+ hour playtime.
Danganronpa 1-2 Reload is an incredible value for fans both old and new. Those interested in a darker tale with some of the most unique anime flair ever created could do far worse than these two titles.