- Release Date (NA): December 3, 2021
- Release Date (EU): December 3, 2021
- Publisher: Spike Chunsoft US
- Developer: Spike Chunsoft
- Genres: Adventure
As a site we've talked about the Danganronpa series a lot. Favourably reviewing the first two games on Vita, as well as, surprising to some, Ultra Despair Girls, and giving the whole series a recommendation, it's clear there's a lot to love. My relationship with the series has been a rocky one. Originally playing a fan translation of the first game on the PSP, I fell in love with the cast of Super Duper High School students and the murder game genre. Having bought the second game on Vita when it released, I tweeted my excitement, only to have a random person online ruin the plot and every killer. It sucked. I shelved the game and decided I would wait for it to come to the Switch, hopeful I'd have forgotten enough for it to feel fresh. Nine years later I'm back, and I'm loving it.
For those who somewhat out of the loop with Danganronpa as a series, allow me to provide a brief rundown. You have a prestigious private high school called Hope's Peak that only takes in people who are the best at what they do. In my delightful fan translation these people were referred to as Super Duper High School students, though this was shortened in the official translation to just Ultimate students. You might have an ultimate baseballer, an ultimate idol, or an ultimate clairvoyant, to just name a few from the first game. Those who graduate from Hope's Peak are said to be set for life, but naturally you aren't here for another run of the mill high school visual novel. Through varying events in each title, your cast of ultimate students are trapped in a foreign environment. The only way to escape? To kill a classmate and get away with it.
Each title follows a similar structure. You have your cast of hopeful Ultimates starting out in their daily life. These are peaceful times used to advance the plot, and usually have you going from place to place in a goal-oriented and generally linear manner. Sprinkled in the daily life segment is free time, where you're able to meet up with the characters and bond with them, building relationships and giving gifts. Though you can skip free time if you're particularly engrossed in what the main story has to offer, it's invaluable to those wanting to get the most out of the game. With at least two characters dying per chapter, that is somebody being murdered and you assumedly catching the murderer, you're on a timer to get to know everybody. If you find yourself attached to one character in particular, you want to be utilising free time from the start to make sure you at least get a moment or two with them before they potentially find themselves cloaked in the florescent pink paint of death. The conclusion to each daily life section sees a character die, throwing you into the chaos of deadly life.
Deadly life is where the meat of the game lies for me, bringing about a period of investigation to piece together what happened, and ultimately, find the killer. Much like daily life, the investigative part of deadly life is fairly linear in nature. You'll get to an area and tap on all the available places to collect information, then move to the next place. Repeat until you've seen all there is to see and you move onto the finale of the chapter: the class trial. These are fantastic, and it's here you'll be tested on how much you paid attention during the investigation. Characters start by discussing the events of the murder. These conversations moving in real time, you need to pay attention and spot discrepancies. Where something sounds off, you have the ability to launch a piece of evidence from your investigation, a truth bullet, to counter it. This ends the current discussion and moves the trial forwards. The basic structure of the class trial sees you go through a number of discussions, transitioning into a fairly wide range of minigames to get to the bottom of exactly what happened. It makes for a really fun means of storytelling, with you generally not aware of the culprit from the outset. The series as a whole does an incredibly good job of presenting pieces in a way that feels satisfying to put together, even when playing on the easiest difficulty settings. By the end of the trial you point out your killer, they face their deadly punishment, and more of the map becomes available to you as a result of your victory. This additional map space keeps both daily life and the investigatory part of deadly life fresh, and allows the games to follow maintain a satisfying loop even as the cast starts to thin out.
Each of the games find much of their success in their writing. Coming back to it again after so long I've been completely enthralled in it. It takes a special kind of series to make death and despair so contrarily comical and absurd, while not necessarily dimming down the severity of the situation. The story on offer is easy enough to follow for the most part, but keeps you on your toes with twists and turns you often realise you can piece together retrospectively. As a trilogy, they tell a fantastic tale that I hope will now reach more people thanks to the popularity of the Switch. But we have more than just a trilogy here.
Danganronpa S is the obvious outlier of this collection. It certainly isn’t your average Danganronpa game, but I can appreciate it as a bit of a bonus title. Characters from all three games featured in this collection, as well as those from Ultra Despair Girls, all gather together for a summer camp in a virtual reality world. The gameplay on offer is that of a board game in oppose to the usual murder mystery adventure you may have come to love, though it’s not entirely new, being largely an expansion of the minigame from Danganronpa V3. There’s some good bits here, but not really enough for me to recommend anybody pick this up by itself.
For those who have experienced all the series had to offer beforehand, you can think of this as one of those cross-over episodes from your favourite childhood TV shows. This is the Danganronpa equivalent to when all the Red Rangers teamed up in Power Rangers, only with a beach setting and more swim suits. It’s not a terrible concept, and the lack of murderous games means you have ample time for every character to interact in ways they’ve never had a chance to before. This is the highlight of the game. There’s a huge amount of interactions that simply weren’t possible, and as a series fan they’re great to see. Having said that, it’s a tough one to recommend playing.
The board game isn’t fun. There isn’t really a better way to put it. You roll a dice, land on spaces, make your character’s stats go up, and then fight some bosses. Each play through lasts 50 turns, and when that time is up, the game somewhat unceremoniously ends. When you want to come back and play another round, there’s just not enough that’s different to make it interesting. You end up in a cycle of mashing A until you get a chance to see a few characters have an interesting conversation. I really wanted to like this. As one of few to defend Disgaea 5’s Chara World board game, I have been known to find fun in an otherwise mindless and monotonous board. Even compared to that it just feels lacking. Perhaps the worst part of all is that you can’t even play as your favourite character from the series, with the game implementing real-money gacha mechanics for reasons far beyond my comprehension. If you bought this game outside of the Decadence collection, you’re looking at £17.99. This isn’t a budget title. This isn’t free to play. I just don’t get it. You are drip fed coins to spend on the gacha machines as you play, but the rate at which you get them for completing associated achievements is dire.
If you pick up the collection and have Danganronpa S as a bonus, it’s just about serviceable. You can skip the drivel and enjoy the conversations fine. It is in no way worth £17.99 however. If you pay anything more than a few pounds for this I’d be surprised if you felt anything short of scammed.
Can I recommend Danganronpa Decadence? Of course I can. All three games on the Switch is something I’ve been wanting for years, and the game we got is exactly that. With the option to buy each title individually as well, those new to the series can jump in at a relatively low cost without necessarily having to commit to the whole thing. Looking past the missed opportunity that is Danganronpa S, this collection is undoubtedly one to pick up.
- All the content of the main series in one neat package
- Runs perfectly fine on the Switch
- Each title available individually via digital download
- Danganronpa S is a bonus package of wasted potential