First Impressions: Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Danganronpa is a series that I’ve wanted to get into for some time. All I’ve heard about it is that it’s sort of like a deadlier, teenage version of Phoenix Wright — a visual novel with a courtroom aspect and catchy music and sudden, surprising bursts of evidence. In my first 10 hours or so with the game (having completed the first two chapters), that comparison has held up pretty well.

I’m playing through Danganronpa 1.2 Reload on the PS4, which means I get both of the first two games in one package (along with some small graphical and quality of life upgrades). So far, I can see why this might be even more fun as a portable game — the ability to pick it up for a couple hours on the go would be pretty enjoyable. But I’ve still liked it to this point. 

We’ll keep things spoiler free, but here’s the basic premise: unremarkable student Makoto Naegi gets randomly chosen to attend Hope’s Peak, a prestigious academy that generally guarantees success for its graduates. He does some research on the others who were chosen and finds that they’re all the best in their respective field in some way, which leaves him at a disadvantage. Turns out that everyone is at a disadvantage when they arrive at the academy — they’re been imprisoned by a criminal mastermind and are about to be subjected to torment by the bizarre but powerful Monokuma, a stuffed bear with much more going on than meets the eye.

Eventually the deceit becomes clear: there is no escape, and the only way to return to life in the outside world is to kill a classmate and get away with it. As such, friendships and sanity are tested as these poor souls are driven to despair.

Essentially the gameplay boils down to two sections: school life, when you wander about the limited space you have access to and make friends with characters of your choice, and the trial, when something terrible happens and you have to piece together what went down and who the perpetrators were. They’re very tonally different, yet all of it has this undercurrent of dread that permeates your activities and actions.

Without giving anything away, I’ve been surprised by a couple directions the story has already taken to this point. Let’s just say that even though certain tropes are present, the early going might not go exactly how you expect.

I’m looking forward to getting further in this game and the series as a whole. I don’t know that it’s blown me away to this point, but it’s been entertaining and I think there’s more in store once they take the kid gloves off a bit (the first case essentially serves as an hourslong tutorial, though it’s appreciated with this many mechanics to introduce). And someday I might get a chance to strangle a teddy bear for his puns, which will be immensely satisfying for me.

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