Hello all! Last week, I wrote about a simple side-scroller that wasn't so simple at all.
This week, I fired up the Vita and checked out my favorite title on the oft-neglected handheld.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (How great is that title?!) is a bit more recent than my usual picks. The North American Vita release is only a year old now, but it quickly became a favorite of mine, and certainly gave my Vita some use. And it's one of the inspirations for the game I'm working on now, so it's a good time to revisit it.
Primarily a visual novel, Danganronpa casts you as Makoto, a young high school student wh wins an opportunity to attend Hope's Peak Academy, a school that only Ultimate Talents can attend. Literally right after he shows up, Makoto and the other students, a group of increasingly wacky, well-developed characters find they are trapped in the school, forced to play a game wherein one student needs to kill another without being caught, in order to escape the school. It's all overseen by Monokuma, one of the best video game villains to come along in some time.
He looks like this. He's awesome.
So the general idea of Danganronpa, in true visual novel fashion, is to explore the school, and talk to the other captive students in order to get to know them. Of course, that only lasts until one of them is killed.
It's a kind of a grim game, told in a cheerful anime style. When someone is killed, you again talk to the other characters and look for clues. It's when the "class trial" starts that things get pretty nuts.
Like Phoenix Wright, during a trial, you talk over the evidence with the rest of the class (everyone's involved in the trial at the same time). That's where the Phoenix Wright similarities end. Trials in Danganronpa play like some kind of twisted fever dream; you counter arguments by shooting them out of the air with your own arguments, called Truth Bullets. I can't describe it any clearer than that.
You also take part in increasingly tougher minigames during trials. Along the way, you'll shoot letters to form a word Makoto is trying to think of, go one-on-one in a debate with another student via a rhythm game, and re-assemble the crime (and identify the guilty party) by putting comic panels in order.
So, yeah, the game is pretty madcap, but it's got a style all it's own. I for one enjoy the 2D anime characters against 3D backdrops; it shows Danganronpa's roots as a now five-year-old PSP game, but it's unique. Every character is uniquely drawn, and their personalities vary widely; there's a biker, a bodybuilding high school girl, a pop singer, a rich snot...it goes on and on. And the best part about the characters is how developed each one is. Every character is well-written, to the point that you can't identify who's going to die and who will live. For the most part, you're genuinely surprised at who dies, who commits the murder, and their motives for doing so.
That's one of the main reasons I love Danganronpa; it kept me guessing. It kept me on the edge of my seat, and it angered me when a character I liked died, and generally left me wondering how exactly these students were going to make it out without killing each other off (well, any more than they had already). Like, I literally had no clue where the story would go next. And that's pretty refreshing. It feels like you're along for the ride, taking part, rather than just watching the story unfold.
There's also the theme of hope that surrounds Danganronpa. Or, more accurately, the themes of hope and despair that endlessly circle the game. In the end, the game's really about not losing hope even though everything seems lost. Admittedly, that's hard for me to do sometimes, but I try, and it's a theme I can agree with. It's kind of a simple philosophy people should adopt, I think.
And that message comes through in the game quite easily, thanks again to the terrific writing and sense of humor the game has. It makes it easy to sympathize with the characters, and it makes you relate to the game more. It's a kind of approach I hope to at least come close to in the game I'm working on right now.
Anyway, go play Danganronpa!
Thanks for reading! As always, leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, and find me on Twitter! Also, catch up with my other article series here, and consider subscribing to my Patreon if you like my stuff!
On a side note: Aside from yammering about old games, I really never use GOTW as a personal forum. But it just occurred to me that I've been writing this silly series for a year and a half now; check outmy profoundly badly-written first article. I started the article series primarily as a way to get used to the actual act of writing; by setting self imposed, weekly deadlines, I felt I could increase my writing output and quality. I've definitely increased my output, and the jury's still out on quality. (By the way, the simple series title, "Game of the Week" is because it was meant to be a simple series designed just to write something.)
What I never expected, though, was the positive response a lot of these articles get. I love discussing games with all of you. I mean, GOTW is generally a nostalgic, positive look at games, some recent, some from way back. And sometimes I see the same readers post comments week after week, and sometimes I see new ones. But you're all generally positive, or, at the very least, civil (which I think is a positive quality). So I'm basically saying thanks for the support and positivity. It means a lot to me. And I never thought this series would be read by anyone, let alone an average of 2000 a week! Seriously, thank you :)
I don't know how much longer I can write about a different game every week, because they're not all good. But I'm gonna keep doing it as long as I possibly can, and as long as you awesome people are around.
Thanks for listening to me ramble.
Oh, next week, we throw Devil May Cry, God of War, and Legend of Zelda in a blender, add some 90's comic book art for taste, and turn it on full blast.