Review: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (PlayStation Vita)

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc: Official GBAtemp Review

PlayStation Vita 1,965 view 0 likes 14 comments
Reviewed by Thomas Hugh, posted Feb 11, 2014
Visual novel games are a bit of a niche in the West with some of the best examples of the genre appearing exclusively on handheld systems. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc was originally a PlayStation Portable title only released in Japan as Danganronpa Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukousei (Academy of Hope and High School Students of Despair).
Feb 11, 2014
  • Release Date (NA):
  • Publisher: NIS America
  • Genres: Adventure/Horror
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, developed by Spike Chunsoft exclusively for the PlayStation Vita is an interactive visual novel in the same vein as the Nintendo DS title: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999) and the 3DS and PS Vita title: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. The game is a remastered version of the PSP murder mystery, popular enough to have also been ported to android and ios devices, as well receiving an anime and manga spin-off.
Thomas Hugh

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Hope's Peak Academy is a school for the most talented and gifted students across the land, and is also the setting for the murderous tale of Danganronpa. You take control of Makoto Naegi, the story's protaganist, who wakes up inside the academy alongside 14 other 'Ultimate' students.

The students range from the Ultimate Baseball Star, Pop Sensation, Programmer and Martial Artist, to yourself, who has no ultimate ability to speak of and is only at the academy by chance. Some of the characters are typical stereotypes, like the fat geek or the pretty athletic swim star, but their back stories and personalities are memorable and are strong enough to keep you invested in their relationships.

 

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The cast are really varied and each character is interesting enough for you to care about what they have to say and what their role in the overall story may be

 

The premise for the story is that all of the students can live in the school in peace for as long as they want, but should one of them choose to escape, they must first murder another student and get away with it in order to 'graduate'. So far, so Battle Royale. You can walk around the school in the day time and gather clues by searching the enviroments.  You can also talk with the other students to gain more knowledge or back story, as well as gift them presents to build up friendships similar to the social link mechanic in Persona 4.

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Presents can be won from a gift machine played with coins found from searching areas

 

This continues day by day until someone stumbles upon a murder, at which point you get the chance to search the scene and school for clues. Once you have enough intel to make a case against someone, everyone has to go to the trial room.  This is where the game gets all Phoenix Wright, however the mechanics at play here are deeper than those found in any Turnabout trial.

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The trial room is initially a daunting area where anything can happen!

 

The English translation for Danganronpa is literally Bullet 'Dangan' Refutation 'Ronpa' and is the central mechanic used in the trial room when interrogating the cast.  You are usually armed with 'truth' bullets. These are the facts and statements from clues you have found from investigating previous crime scenes and talking with other the students prior to the trial.  As the trial starts, various lines of text (often fully voiced) will sprawl across the screen and it is your job to spot the contradiction, or misinformation and 'fire' off one of your 'truth' bullets, which will always contain a correct statement to dispose of the contradictory statement. 

The mechanics become deeper the further into the story you go, but the basics remain the same.

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Should you weed out the culprit, what follows can only be described a bizzare set of mini-games.  I think this was a way for Spike Chunsoft to pad the game out a little, as the mini-games feel out of place and are a sorry replacement for actual involving puzzles.

First we have a game of Hangman called Hangman's Gambit where we must fill in the missing letters to uncover one of the clues.  This is done by touching the letters with the touch screen or you can use the analogue stick with the X button:

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After a quick round of Hangman, we are then treated to a Machinegun Talk Battle rhythm game, where we must refute the accuseds statements in time to the beat in order to seal the guilty parties fate once and for all:

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I'm not sure this fits, the game is wacky enough without it, possible filler?

I should note that failing any of these games throughout the trial has no real consequences as should you lose all of your 'lives' you will just be prompted to retry.  At least on the normal difficulty.

Now you would think after all of the above, that would be enough to catch your current culprit and win the trial... WRONG!  You must now put together a comic book style account of what actually happened, step by step, so even the dumbest of characters can understand what happened.  You are given a bunch of clues that you already previously found, and a manga comic strip that has 10 blank spaces on it for you to fit the clues into.  Once you have completed the comic and played back the scenes, which are partially animated and voiced (around 50% of the entire game is voiced in English), you have cleared the trial and the guilty will be punished.

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I don't really want to go into too much detail about the antagonist (Monokuma) for fear of spoiling the game, in fact it is a very hard game to review without spoiling anything.  If you have seen the anime or read the manga you will already know the outcome as I hear it doesn't vary too much from the video game.

Overall I think Danganronpa is a solid entry into the Vita's library and I just hope it stays exclusive to the handheld. It's a bit whacky sometimes but in a good way, and never too much to put you off continuing. 

Commercial success seems to have done the series well as the sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has just been announced for localisation in the West.

If you enjoy Virtual Novels, or liked 999, Virtue's Last Reward, Umineko or Phoenix Wright, then Danganronpa should be next to appear in your Vita library.

 

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Verdict
Pros
+ Interesting story
+ Varied cast
+ Fun 'Trial' mechanics
Cons
- No puzzles
- Not much variation to daily routine
9 Presentation
The artwork in Danganronpa is exceptional, with many styles of drawing and animations being used throughout the adventure. As usual the Vita's OLED screen really makes the game's visuals come to life.
8 Gameplay
Plays like most modern visual novels but throws in a few wacky mini-games for good measure. 3D movement around the school could use some work.
8 Lasting Appeal
The main story clocks in at around 25hrs but there is also some good post game content called 'School Mode' which is more of a simulation on how the school would play out if Monokuma was a 'good guy'. It is a good bit of extra content giving you further chance to get to know your class mates.
8.5
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is must buy for any Vita fan that likes Visual Novels. It is a fine example of the genre and feels like someone threw Persona 4, Phoenix Wright and Zero Escape into a blender and came out with Danganronpa! Even if you are new to the genre, Danganronpa is a great entry point for any novice.
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