Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: NIS America
Review Platform: PlayStation Vita
Review Copy Provided By: NIS America
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Let’s be honest; sequels don’t always live up to the hype. When a game comes along that is instantly a favorite-especially a very unique one-it becomes incredibly difficult to please its fans with the sequel. Fans often have an idea in their head of how the sequel should be, how it should make them feel, how it should sound, or any other aspect of the game. Unfortunately, due to these preconceptions, the fan is often left disappointed if the game doesn’t live up to what they believed it would be. With that said, there are developers that know not only how to make a great sequel, but how to expand on the original formula while still giving the player a sense of familiarity. In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the same type of ridiculousness exists and it’s great to see the developers made sure to take it even further. This game will break the fourth wall quite often, speaking directly to the player, or even make slights at the twists in Trigger Happy Havoc. Without a doubt, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is one of the best sequels I have played and the few negatives are almost forgotten when surrounded with all the positives.
Much like Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the game involves 16 students that have all entered into Hope’s Peak Academy, a prestigious school whose students are often set for life upon graduation. The students from Hope’s Peak are all called “Ultimates” and each have a specific skill or discipline that they are the very best at. Like the first game, there are plenty of normal skills that some of the Ultimates have while others have…interesting ones to say the least. While it’s nothing out of the ordinary to meet the Ultimate Photographer or the Ultimate Gamer, it becomes a bit stranger to meet someone called the Ultimate Breeder who calls his extremely cute hamsters the “Four Dark Devas of Destruction.”
Like the prior game, the fight here is hope vs. despair and both make themselves very apparent at the beginning of the game. Along with the other students, you wake up on a deserted island with no idea how you got there. You are greeted with a surprisingly upbeat and adorable bunny, Usami, that wants nothing more than for all the students to live on the island in harmony. With rules like “No littering”, it seems like Usami truly does only want hope and a bit of relaxation for the Ultimates. Unfortunately, this hope is very short-lived as Monokuma shows up and lets the students know that the rules set by Usami simply won’t do and are far too boring. Thus, the killing game begins once again, with the same rules as before. In order to go back home, one must kill a classmate and get away with it. There’s nothing new to add to the process here: a body will be found, an investigation will occur, and a class trial will take place. With that said, there is plenty of new enhancements and changes that will keep you from feeling like it’s the same game as Trigger Happy Havoc.
One of my favorite changes made in the game was the choice for the setting. While the first game kept the students in a single building, Goodbye Despair chooses to go a very different route. With a central island and surrounding islands, you are no longer confined to one area. No, instead you get to breathe in the fresh air while investigating Jabberwork Island. With a ranch, a supermarket, and a hotel just on the first island alone, you’ll find that all of the islands have something to discover. When you discover these places, you will find yourself not only in first-person view, but also be shown a side-scrolling view as you traverse between the multiple buildings and islands. Not only does this take away the need to constantly have the map open, but it gives you the chance to take in the gorgeous scenery and buildings as you travel. Accompanying you on these travels and throughout the game is a very similar (and great) sounding soundtrack. Though the game doesn’t boast a huge soundtrack, I found that I had no qualms hearing the same songs over and over. Each song felt perfect for the scene and you quickly begin to realize that each song signifies a very specific feel that the game wants to create at that moment.
Now, though it does boast an impressive amount of new improvements, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some issues. For one, during the “Class Trial” sections, there are some new types of mini-games you will be playing as you figure out who the murderer is. Unfortunately, these new additions aren’t all fun nor are they all explained extremely well. While the game reminds you that you can view the controls at any time, that doesn’t really help when the instructions themselves don’t give you a clear picture of what you’ll actually need to do. It was due to this particular issue that the first trial easily took me 15 minutes more than it should have. The need to throw in new aspects to the (much longer) class trials does make sense, but I found myself often frustrated during the first trial which took away from my enjoyment and the great story. These small pieces of the game that may cause frustration are very quickly forgotten when experiencing the rest of the game. Whether it’s traversing the islands, trying to get to know your classmates better, or enjoying the twists and turns the game has to offer, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is not a game that should be passed up. If you haven’t played the first game, I highly recommend you do so right now so you can play the sequel that much faster.
While you may run into a few frustrations during the class trials, they do very little to take away from the rest of the game. Far more than just a visual novel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is an experience and a ride crafted with great care that will have you fascinated as you watch the battle between hope and despair.