Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review - An Exercise in Despair | Fanboys Anonymous

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review - An Exercise in Despair

Posted by Unknown Tuesday, February 11, 2014
How much horror can one person endure before they give in to despair and give up on themselves? It’s a heavy question—one that you certainly wouldn’t pose to a high school class of our best and brightest. Yet with sadistic intent, that’s exactly what Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc does.

Danganronpa let's play walkthrough

A murder mystery set in a high school, this is not a tale for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Don’t be fooled by the colorful, cartoony art style—this game earns its “M” rating. Much like a George Martin novel, characters that you like will die, and often in the worst way possible. However, if you decide to brave the halls of Hope’s Peak Academy, you will find a gripping story of betrayal and despair that is one of my favorite narrative experiences in recent memory.

Danganronpa murder victim list
Hope's Peak Academy class #78
In Danganronpa, you are Makoto Naegi, an exceptionally average student who is inexplicably accepted into a school for the gifted called Hope’s Peak Academy. At this school, “gifted” applies to anyone who is at the top of their game in any subject—you’ll meet the ultimate baseball star, ultimate fashionista, and ultimate fan-fic creator, to name a few.

Danganronpa Monokuma cosplay video
This would make for an interesting class culture to begin with, but things don’t really get moving until everyone realizes that they are trapped within the school grounds and at the mercy of the remote-controlled, half-white-half-black-all-evil teddy bear Monokuma. If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. With his high-pitched voice and maniacal laughter, he’s like a shorter, (slightly) more cuddly Joker.

Monokuma offers the students a choice: remain trapped within the confines of Hope’s Peak Academy for the rest of their lives, or murder a classmate and get away with it in order to graduate. If they are found guilty at the class trial, however, they will be executed.

A great deal of your time in Danganronpa will be spent looking at text. There’s a lot of it. Whether it’s Monokuma taunting you or a spirited conversation with one of your friends, you’re going to be reading. Don’t worry, though. It’s really easy to stay invested, mostly because the writing is so damn exceptional. Each character is very different in personality and motivation, and this is captured perfectly in the (limited) voice acting and excellent dialogue.

Danganronpa mastermind reveal video

Each chapter begins with Daily Life, during which time you are free to explore the school in first-person and interact with your classmates. Though exploring is interesting, the controls are frustratingly obtuse. Generally, first-person controls go something like “left stick moves, right stick looks.” However, Danganronpa moves the strafe command to the L and R buttons instead of the left joystick, which instead turns left and right. I frequently found myself stationary and spinning in circles as a result. It’s a minor gripe, but over my twenty hours with the game, I never felt comfortable or even competent with the first-person controls. Fortunately, this only comprises a minor portion of the Danganronpa experience.

Class trial solutionsOnce somebody dies, the game shifts into investigation mode. This is reminiscent of the Phoenix Wright series, as you comb crime scenes for evidence and grill your peers for clues. Each piece of collected evidence is stored as a metaphorical “truth bullet” for use in the class trial. Gather enough evidence, and it’s trial time. Each trial consists of a variety of mini-games, the most common being the Nonstop Debate. During the debate, your classmates’ testimonies and statements fly across the screen in real time, and it’s up to you to use the proper truth bullets to shoot down inconsistencies. While similar in concept to the cross-examinations in the Phoenix Wright series, the gameplay feels decidedly different, and that’s a good thing.

That’s not where the trial ends, either. There’s the Hangman’s Gambit, where you have to fill in missing letters to help Makoto think of a key concept; The Bullet Time Battle, a rhythm mini-game where you shoot down your classmates arguments by tapping buttons in time; and finally the Closing Argument, where you reconstruct the entire murder in a comic strip.

Danganronpa Execution scene videos
The Closing Argument
There are a lot of forces at work in Danganronpa, and for the most part, they come together masterfully. With such a diverse and well-written cast, I relished every opportunity to get to know them better and really felt it whenever anybody lost their life. Monokuma is truly a frightful villain characterized as much by carnival music and bear puns as he is manipulation and murder.

Danganronpa ending video
Such a charmer
The varied mini-games keep the trial portions of the game from feeling derivative, and watching your friends’ simultaneously silly and horrifying executions adds a sense of urgency to it all. As I mentioned before, there is a lot of reading, so if that’s not your cup of tea, you should steer clear of this one. Furthermore, the mature subject matter means that this is not a game for kids or the squeamish, despite the presence of teddy bears.

Although certain parts of the game feature a frustrating and impractical control scheme, this does little to prevent Danganronpa from spinning a tale that is both entertaining and emotional. If you have a penchant for solving mysteries, a taste for two-toned teddy bears, or simply enjoy a good story, you must experience Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

Like I said, Danganronpa’s story stuck with me long after I finished the game. What are some of the games that have left an impression on you guys? Sound off in the comments!

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