Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft, NIS America
Platform: PS Vita, PC, PS4
Tested on: PS4
Danganronpa 1.2 Reload – Review
Danganronpa has been getting its time in the spotlight as of late, not only by this rerelease for the two original games, which now made their way to the PS4, rather than remain a PS Vita exclusive, but also in the way of different anime series, where two of them aired last year. Boring facts aside, those without a Vita are now finally able to enjoy this series, which could easily be Phoenix Wright’s shady brother. While it would have been nice if the spin-off game was also added to this package, we already had to pull out our magnifying glass, pipe and Sherlock Holmes hat in order to find the many murderers that would cross our paths.
Both games share a rather similar story, but seeing as they are somewhat direct sequels, we aren’t going to dive into the specifics too much, but if you wish to read our original review of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, be sure to do so, as it contains a bit more information about the story.
Both games will revolve around new students who will attend Hope’s Peak Academy, which is pretty much the top school of the entire country, or perhaps even the world, as only those with ‘ultimate’ skill can attend. For example you’ll find the ultimate pop sensation, the ultimate base ballplayer, the ultimate clairvoyant and so on. Nonetheless, in both games, the protagonist is a character that doesn’t really have his own ultimate skill, thus differing from the rest of the students, and while having this lack of skill wasn’t already bad enough, both classes in each of the games will soon find themselves trapped in a situation where murder is the only escape. Danganronpa situates itself in Hope’s Peak Academy itself, while the second installment takes you on a trip to a deserted island, where the students will have to commit murder to graduate. The only catch is that they have to do it without being caught, and without being convicted in the class trial that ensues later. The latter is quite important, seeing if the villain is caught, he will face execution, if not, the rest of the class will meet their demise, while the killer walks home without a care in the world. You, are of course a character that does not want to murder anyone, thus in the end, you’ll be the main problem solver, by solving the crimes, by pointing out the true murderer(s) and so on.
Both stories are brought with a fair share of humor, partially thanks to the graphical style, but if you think about it, both games are extremely grim and sinister, as in the end it revolves around young teenagers having to kill each other, or otherwise face a life of solitude.
Graphically both games are pretty much the same, safe for the different cast of characters and the totally different location you’ll find yourself in. The game mixes a rather weird visual style, in which everything and everyone looks like cardboard cutouts, with a more visual novel-esque representation during conversations and the execution segments. Nonetheless, this game looks good in its specific style, where characters show a decent amount of different expressions, the environments are more diverse than you’d imagine and the usage of colors also shows the game’s wicked side.
The somewhat lighthearted visual interpretation, with the psychotic colors make this series actually even more gruesome. When thinking of the storyline of both games, you’d expect a gritty and dark game, but you’re pretty much treated to a colorful comic book-like experience, safe for the murder scenes. All of this adds an extra layer of horror to Danganronpa, and we can’t help but like this approach.
You’ll notice that most of the time the music is rather upbeat and not overly grim, but in mere seconds it can change to something very ominous and certain situations are even void of any music. The latter is often used in the middle of conversation to stress a certain quote or to prepare you for a rather intense event to come.
There’s a reasonable amount of voice acting present in the game, both in English and Japanese, but sadly not the entire game is voiced. Key scenes are fully voiced, but normal conversations often only have a few words that are actually spoken, most of the time simply to express the emotions of your character. Nonetheless, the voice acting that is present is rather exquisite.
Both Danganronpa games are somewhat a mix of a murder mystery and a visual novel. This means that you’ll be plowing through many conversations, as well as constantly looking for clues for items that could serve in a murder, and of course you have to put two and two together when an actual murder transpires. The offset is rather simple, but actually finding all the proper clues, and putting them together at the trial will prove to be a rather difficult act.
Even though every single one of your classmates is a potential murderer, you still try to make the best of it, and even form bonds with those, who might as well end up dead soon, or those that actually commit a murder. Nonetheless, this adds a bit of depth to the game, as you’ll have to make choices on who you wish to get close with, by spending time with them during ‘free’ moments, and by presenting them gifts. The latter isn’t always the easiest to do, but it adds a fun layer of gameplay.
In both games you can also run around the different locations of the school or the island, investigating and interacting with the many items and classmates. You can already discover a lot by snooping around, even before the murders start happening. The investigation sequence is pretty much the same, as you’ll get to investigate the location of the murder, the possible location where the murder weapon came from, the evidence etc, and this will all be saved for you to use during the trial, if necessary.
After the investigation period is over, you’ll go to the actual trial, hoping to find the murderer. It has to be said that these trials are fast paced, extremely intense, and they take a while, thus you can’t let your guard down for a certain amount of time. You’ll have to pay attention to point out discrepancies in what your co-students say, and hopefully convince everyone of who the murderer is. Be wary of trying to be too quick, or hardly paying attention, because screw-ups may result in the class thinking you are the killer, and thus you might end up seeing the ‘game over’ screen sooner than you’d like.
Danganronpa 1.2 Reload is a great opportunity to play these excellent games if you missed them the first time around, or simply if you wish to play them on the big screen and want to play them together with an extra pair of eyes to help you uncover the truth. You’ll be treated to two rather similar games, but each still has their own very interesting cast of characters, surprising twists in the story and of course solid gameplay. Don’t let the otherwise cute appearance of this series fool you, Danganronpa is a very eerie series when you put some thought in it.