Note; This is a spoiler free review of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.
I will not spoil any of the plot points beyond the initial setting and the way things work, and I’m most certainly not going to reveal any of the murderers or victims. Being that this is the second game in a series however, this review may contain hints of spoilers from the first game; Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, which should DEFINITELY be played before starting Danganronpa 2 or reading this review anyways.
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you all; going into Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair I really didn’t know what to expect. The first game was amazing and had me on the edge of my seat the whole time – but could the second repeat that? I wasn’t so sure at the time, but I’m here to tell you now that it has.
It all begins like this; your name is Hajime Hinata and it’s your first day at Hope’s Peak Academy. You arrive at the front gate, ready to start school – only to end up at a door that leads somewhere truly strange.
Now; your memory of how you got there has been erased (along with why you were chosen to go to Hope’s Peak in the first place), you’re trapped on an island with no way off or to contact the outside world, and there’s a robotic plushie telling you what to do.
Does this sound familiar yet? Well it should – that’s the same basic formula (minus the location) from the first game right? Don’t fret my little Dangan fan, this one isn’t simply a repeat of the first incident ;).
Goodbye Despair is a game which can be even more misleading than the first – and is seriously adept at lulling you into a false sense of confidence. You may think you know what happened, or who did what where; but in the end you’ll see just how wrong you probably were. This game isn’t as straight forward as the first game was with its clues, and happens to contain more twists than a bag full of silly straws.
For starters, your goal is to gather hope fragments by interacting with the other students during your free time. These hope fragments will upgrade their report cards (found in the menu) with information which is given through conversation – as well as dirty details like age, height and bust size.
While this is considered the main goal of the game, a certain someone (*cough – Monokuma – cough*) shows up and gives the island’s residents another; kill someone and get away with it, and you get to escape back into the world. From there, the game turns from being mostly about interaction to being suspicious of everyone and looking for clues everywhere – as due to this new “goal” (for some of the residents), the killing begins.
Once someone is killed and their body is discovered by two or more people, an alert goes out to the other residents of the island who then gather at the scene for discussion of the events and to start the investigation. Once the investigation begins, it’s up to you to find all the clues you need in order to figure out who the killer is. These clues are found through a point-and-click like system which is similar to those used in adventure games like The Walking Dead or Machinarium (or pretty much any hidden item game). Once you’ve found a clue, it is then added to your roster of truth bullets (statements and facts that can be used to defend yourself and identify the killer during the trial) which you will be able to use during the trial.
Once you have collected all the clues you need, Monokuma will call you to a meeting area and you will have the class trial. During these trials you’ll have two gauges you need to worry about; trust and health. The trust bar deals with your influence over the group and will help you tip the situation in your favour more easily; the health bar takes hits when you mess up, but will recover slightly if you do something right. If either of these hit zero you’re going to have to restart from the last checkpoint (after an embarrassing “you fail” type scene), so try not to mess up. 😛
The trial is set up like this; first comes at least one nonstop debate truth bullet mini-game, where people will give statements and you’ll have to prove/disprove their statements with truth bullets in order to continue. These mini-games are the most common and are often dispersed between other mini-games to break them up and focus more on the flow of the story.
As you progress further into a trial, you’ll likely activate either a hangman’s gambit, rebuttal showdown, spot select or a logic dive.
A hangman’s gambit is sort of like the game hangman you used to play as a kid on paper, but a bit easier as you’re given a limited choice of letters. These letters float onscreen in pairs and must be grabbed and combined with “x” to create a stable letter which does not move, then shot with triangle to enter the answer column. Unlike hangman though, the letters must be added in the order they go into the words – starting at the beginning. Two dissimilar letters colliding counts against you just like a wrong guess would, so be careful and quick on this one.
Rebuttal showdown is a mini-game where you have to cut through your opponent’s words (using the left analog is the easiest, but there are many options) until you reach something you can refute, and then use a special cut sequence to rebuke their statement. Watch out though, as you have to consistently cut through the garbage statements (the white only ones) to keep the debate going; only if you have the upper hand at the end of each segment will you be able to continue on to the next.
Spot select is a mini-game in which you must select a suspicious spot in the image, pointing out something useful to the trial’s outcome. It’s the simplest of the mini-games and also the most infrequently used.
Logic dive is a mini-game in which you use something that looks like a snowboard to ride a strange glass-paneled enclosure. The game will give you logic questions, which are then mapped to routes with pointing arrows. If you follow the arrow of the correct statement you’ll be able to continue, and if you choose the wrong answer/path you’ll fall off the world. Get enough answers right and stay on the glass panels and you’ll be done this one in no time.
At the end of the trial, there’s usually two special mini-games; the Closing Argument and Panic Talk Action.
The Closing Argument is laid out like manga with a few panels missing (coloured in red with question marks). Reading from right to left (like manga, this isn’t a comic book :P) you put the given scenes into their correct panels to fill in the details and show the sequence of events. Upon completion, it’ll play you a little cut-scene which explains it all in order.
Panic Talk Action (aka; Bullet Time Battle, renamed from the first Danganronpa) is a rhythm mini-game where you must match button presses to indicators which scroll along the bottom of the screen. The tempo (and the visibility of the indicators) may change, so be careful you’re matching your presses correctly!
Once the murderer has been caught and you’ve picked them out of the group, Monokuma will tally the votes and dole out the punishment – which is almost always a cruel but ironic form of death. From there, it all starts over again as you’re ushered back to your every day locations to await yet another incident or twist in fate.
Progressing through the game means lots of interacting, exploring, investigating and trials – but they’re woven together in a way that I was never bored or too anxious. Goodbye Despair really lives up to its name, both in the fact that it’s so enjoyable to play and the theme of the game. I won’t ruin any more of the game’s key points for you as they’re all plot related, so you’ll just have to trust me that this one will blow your socks off with its amazing storyline.
Aside from the main story, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair also contains a few side-games and activities that you might enjoy kicking a little time into. There’s the Tamagotchi-like pet-care simulation game in your menu screen (that also acts as a pedometer), and a five-stage battle game called Magical Girl Miracle☆Monomi which unlocks after the prologue. Both games are good for a few laughs and a few trophies, but the main game will be your real time sink.
There’s also a few mini-games/features that are rewards for beating the game once, such as Island Mode – an alternate universe mode where the students don’t go through the killing game and instead follow the original goal, and Danganronpa IF – a short story depicting an alternate storyline for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. These two additions were less appealing to me (other than the notion of trophies drawing me to Island Mode), but I’m sure they’ve got their fans as well and are just as well put together as the main game.
With regards to graphics, this game doesn’t really do anything too over the top – but for what it does, it does it to perfection. Character models are clear, scenery is colourful and crisp and the frame rate is as stable as that thing you board horses in.
The sound quality in Goodbye Despair is top notch, to say the least. The game offers voice overs in both English and Japanese right in the game (no additional download), and though I played in Japanese I was able to speak with other reviewers who played in English and they were just as pleased with the voice acting as I was.
As for the music, though the same tracks were used repeatedly depending on the situation, I still found myself enjoying them as the game came to an end. Like Persona, this one manages to do a lot with a little in this department – and the little piano riff (you’ll know it when you hear it) will forever stand out in my mind.
Here’s the part where we come to the conclusion and I tell you the bad and the good parts of the game in order to justify my score, right; but what if I can’t think of a single issue with the game? Everything I feared they might pull with the sequel they avoided (I’d elaborate, but spoilers!), and the journey they laid out was not at all what I expected (just when you think you know what’s going on – left turn!).
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is every bit the game that Trigger Happy Havoc was, only more refined and paired with a fresh story and features in a longer (but more enjoyable) package. I honestly couldn’t have hoped for a better sequel, and have no idea how Spike Chunsoft is going to top this in Danganronpa 3.