A while ago, there was a game released called Dangan Ronpa: Academy of Hope and High School Students of Despair for the PSP. It was a murder mystery interactive novel. It gained so much hype and praise that it was soon adapted into an anime as well as a light novel. Since the anime adaptation, the series has been getting plenty of attention. Recently NISA has released a remake of the first Dangan Ronpa game titled Trigger Happy Havoc. Remastered and redefined for the PS Vita, Trigger Happy Havoc showcases brilliant but morbid storytelling.
Murder mysteries are awesome, there are just not enough of them in the gaming world. Sure you get games that allow you to play stuff as a cop but that is only so entertaining. The setting of Dangan Ronpa is what makes the murder mystery so great. In a way, I like to think of this game like a modern version of Clue involving high school kids instead of petty adults.
You play as Makoto Naegi and he is a member of Hope's Peak Academy, a prestigious school that only the “Ultimate” kids of their specialty can go to. Surely there must have been some mistake as Makoto is very average. The group of kids are locked inside a school with no way to get out. There is only one way to leave Hope's Peak, to graduate. There are no grades, no homework, and not even any class. You must kill another classmate, and have no one find out about it. There is a terrible price if you graduate. Everyone else gets executed while you walk free. However, if you are found out to be the murderer, you are the only one executed. You can kill, or live out your life in the school forever.
As the game progresses people start dying and it is p to everyone else to figure out who is the murderer. There will always be one person throwing off the discussion to protect themselves but everyone else must work together for survival. Each of the characters have their own personalities you will love and hate. Personally, I like Sakura, Hina, and Makoto. However, people like Toko and Hifumi infuriate me. Nonetheless, all the characters are well written and voiced. I guarantee you that some murderers will surprise you.
This is a story driven game and everything hinges on who killed whom so that is about as much of the plot I will give you. Unlike other adventure titles, there is a surprisingly large amount of gameplay involved that doesn't require you to just talk to people to progress the game.
You can use your free time to develop relationships about the other classmates and the stronger the relationship, the more you learn about them and the more skills you get from them that will help you during class trials. The amount of free time you get varies for every chapter and it is the only amount of freedom you get through the game. This is a very linear story so don't expect multiple endings. Once people die, you can't get their skills so on your first playthrough, you will miss a lot because you will not know who dies next.
When someone is murdered there is a time period (that is fixed) where you must gather clues, once you gather them all, you will progress to the class trial portion, where all the gameplay is. The class is where you work out all the clues of a murder with the remaining students to make sure you are not executed. This is where all the puzzles are located, many of them are logic puzzles. Playing on easy makes things easier to point out while on hard everything seems normal and nothing stands out. The puzzles get rather difficult too. Trying to point out contradictions can seem to be overly challenging because of the wording used by the characters.
When you discover clues you gain Truth Bullets, you use these to break the arguments that other people make. Truth bullets can only be used to break the right contradiction though, shoot the wrong statement and you can lose HP or time. Many aspects of the “Make Your Argument” section of the Class Trial are added through the game. Other parts include “Hangman's Gambit” where you have to fill in the blanks of a word using letters that pop up. Then there are the battles, which can get pretty hard. You must tap X and Triangle in rhythm to break the opponent's statements, you can use your own power which allows you to spam the two buttons and deal massive damage, but the enemy can remove all the visual cue's and slow everything down to make it harder to break their arguments. The enemies get more and more HP as the game progresses, but you also get more powerful with the more skills you get.
The story of this game really shines and it is great figuring out who kill whom. The answers can be obvious, or incredibly surprising, especially since you can know nothing about your classmates so figuring out the culprit can be very challenging. Exploring the school is fun and the art direction of Dangan Ronpa is very interesting and not generic or riddled with fan service. In other words, you aren't bombarded with boobs every 10 seconds.
This game takes the best parts of adventure titles, murder mystery, and RPG storytelling and throws it all into one game. The game lacks some replay value and you kind of want the game to be longer just because it is a fun story being told, but Trigger Happy Havoc is a great title for the Vita. If you like games that tell a story this is certainly the game for you. If you were expecting a bullet-hell shooter or something along those lines, stay away.
I give Dangan Ronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc for the PS Vita a 9/10. You can pick it up digitally or in retail.