When it comes to the Sony Playstation Vita, it is considered somewhat of a “Dark Horse” among handhelds. Popular enough to garner enough attention to survive but nowhere near the success of the Nintendo handhelds, it seems the Vita finds its bread and butter mostly through Japanese titles, especially JRPGs. Dangan Ronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is one of the newer games to come out for the Vita within the last week. Originally released on the Playstation Portable back in November 2010, this updated version provides many improvements both on control and visuals. Nevertheless, is it still worth purchasing a game that originally came out on the last generation of Sony’s handhelds?
Like most JRPGs, the story for Dangan Ronpa is quite solid. The setting takes places in a school for the very gifted in their field known as Hope Academy. The “ultimate” players, artists, and specialists in their field are invited to attend. However, it is soon discovered this school is nothing more than a game of survival in which to only escape is to kill the others in the game without getting caught during the trial. The premise is very entertaining for a Japanese game and even brings a dynamic not seen in the gaming genre in quite some time.
Characters are eccentric and memorable considering each one is considered the ultimate in their field. For example, Sayuka is known as the “ultimate pop sensation” while Sakura is known as the “ultimate martial artists.” With these many ultimates (fifteen to be exact) stuck in this game, there are numerous personalities and interactions which assist in the both the dialogue as well as the flow of the plot.
Graphics-wise, this game did get an overhaul from its PSP counterpart. With the updated graphics and HUD, the game looks smooth and crisp in regards to an anime or manga. However, this may be a turn-off to some people since the settings and graphics are beautifully rendered but are designed to look like they came off of a manga (ergo, a lot of flat images in a 3D setting). Sound is also good too with some excellent voice-over dubbing. The music is entertaining to listen to but does not have the theatrical score of other JRPGs such as the Final Fantasy series.
Dangan Ronpa is divided up into two types of gameplay. Taking from visual novels, especially high school life visual novels, the player will take the role of Makoto Naegi who is considered the “Ultimate Lucky One” in the game. During this part, he’ll communicate with other students, explore his surroundings, and interact with the progression of the game in a way high school students would interact with each other. This is also the form of gameplay for investigation mode when you investigate crime scenes and question others in order to form an air-tight conclusion to committed crimes.
However, it is the trial gameplay which is very entertaining to participate in. During this part of the gameplay, you and the other students will debate and analyze what they’ve learned to find out who the true culprit of the murders are. This is done by finding fallacies in testimonies, presenting evidence, combining scenarios, painting the entire picture, and eventually shooting down the guilty. This part in my opinion is what makes the game very entertaining and may be considered the Ace Attorney fix for those who do not own any of the Nintendo handhelds.
Dangan Ronpa is a unique title with a lot of story with just enough unique gameplay to back it up. Gripes of the game include a very slow start as well as the possibility of someone not liking the art direction. I myself was interested in this game way before its release but I am very happy I bought it. In the end, I would suggest others to just give this game a try. In the end, it was worth the price tag of $40. Forty plus hours in the game, three difficulty levels, a lot of unlockables, and an engaging story helped with my decision for the rate of this title.