Danganronpa 1.2 Reload (PS4 review) – Murder and a psycho bear

Danganronpa 1.2 Reload
The PS Vita is home to a vast array of visual novels, some of the best being the Danganronpa series. It’s centered around different groups of colorful teenagers as they fight for their lives in a dangerous game of death. Since then, the two currently released games have been released on PC, Mac, Linux and now PS4 in the essential Danganronpa 1.2 Reload. The package features the first two games, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. With the third installment Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony coming out in September, is it a good time to finally get into the series with this collection?

Visual novels are a genre that’s new to me as a gamer. Sure, you might think the Telltale or Quantic Dream games count as them, but visual novels, in this case, are exactly what they sound like. They feature very minimal animation and rely almost solely on reading text-based dialogue to progress a rather linear story. When done right, these stories can become as gripping as a great book or Netflix series you can’t stop watching. Both Danganronpa games in Danganronpa 1.2 Reload are just that: gripping.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

The first game puts you in the role of an average student named Mokoto Naegi. She has been accepted to Hope’s Peak Academy High School, a place where only the most prestigious students go to receive guaranteed success in life. When he arrives though, he is knocked unconscious and wakes up to find the school completely boarded up by a high-tech safe and metallic panels on every window. This is where he meets a colorful cast of characters, such as Hifumi Yamada the Ultimate Fanfic creator, Sayaka Maizono the Ultimate Pop Sensation, and Sakura Ogami the Ultimate Martial Artist just to name a few.

Each student was sent to Hope’s Peak because they are the best in their field, with Mokoto being the Ultimate Lucky Student who was randomly selected to attend. It looks like he isn’t so lucky though, seeing as Hopes’ Peak is home to a deranged, mechanical bear named Monokuma who aims to keep the teens in the building for the rest of their lives unless they successfully kill someone without anyone figuring out it was them.

More than Meets the Eye

At the surface, these characters seem like walking stereotypes, but there is much more to them than meets the eye. It’s revealed by simple conversations to outrageous plot twists which I won’t spoil here. The same can be applied to the characters in the second game. Although the characters in that one are more outrageous, with some of them bearing resemblance to the ones in the first game, which isn’t coincidental. Seeing as these games are visual novels, they mostly rely on story progression by talking to characters and sometimes building relationships through them via Free Time. This occurs when nothing plot-related is happening within a day at the academy.

When you’re not talking with somebody, the game goes into first-person mode. There’s a pointer allowing you to look around certain areas to gather clues and analyze the environment. Doing so will reward you with coins that you can trade in for prizes at the gift shop, which you can then give to people you build relationships with. In the main hall of the school, you can move freely throughout the environment. The camera controls can be a bit wonky as they aren’t like traditional first-person controls. But it isn’t too much of a problem considering you won’t be doing anything too important in these sections.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

However, in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the setting is dramatically different. The students still get accepted into Hope’s Peak Academy. But when they arrive at the school, they are knocked out and woken up on an island. When traversing the island, the first-person perspective is gone. Additionaly, your character is put in a 2-D perspective to easily go to different areas of the island. You assume the role of Hajime Hinata, whose ultimate role isn’t revealed until later in the game. At first, the students are promised no one will get hurt on their “field trip.” Of course, that rule went out the window once Monokuma reared his ugly head and promised the same thing he promised in the last game: kill without suspicion and you will graduate.

How do they determine who graduates? Through a trial of course, and this is where things in the Danganronpa games get really exciting. Whenever a student gets killed, it’s up to you, the player, to gather evidence before the trial begins. During the trial, the evidence gets turned into a bullet. You will use it to fire on people’s testimonies if they say anything that contradicts the evidence.

This is the case for both games, but the mini-games that occur between the testimonies are different. They range from guessing a word, to rhythm-tapping the suspected killer’s claims of denial, to rapidly tapping a button to prove someone wrong. The best part is that these gameplay elements don’t appear all within the first trial; they can come up unexpectedly during different trials to shake things up a bit. It is exciting, tense, and best of all, fun. And when the killer is found out, you are treated to a grotesque video of their execution.

Danganronpa 1.2 Reload Final Reaction

I decided to play Danganronpa 1.2 Reload after briefly trying it at the NIS America event earlier this year. And I’m glad I did. The stories are incredibly exciting and keep me begging for more, aided by some spectacular voice acting and riveting trials. With the Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony coming out in the States in September, now is a perfect time to get into the franchise if you’ve never owned a Vita. Unlike the characters, these games will not fill you with despair.

Rating: 5/5 Atoms

The Danganronpa 1.2 Reload review copy was provided using a download code provided by NIS America.

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Joey Ferris
Joey Ferris 260 posts

l love to play games and write stuff about them. I can't play something and not tell anyone how I feel about it. Call it a sickness, because it is.