Danganronpa is a game I've been wanting to play for a long time. In fact, this is the year of playing games I've been wanting to play for a long time. And Danganronpa is at the top of the list. Namely because it's an Ace Attorney clone, and made by the same makers of the Zero Escape series, and as far as I know, practically has the same concept as the Zero Escape series. So essentially, it's a mixture of Ace Attorney and Zero Escape. ...I'm sold! ^^
And that's pretty much all I knew about it. Generally, a game like this it's best to avoid any information wherever possible, because our good old friend Mr. Internet can't resist the urge to put a side order of spoilers with our info for this game. So I went into this pretty much blind. Did that make the game better or worse? LET'S FIND OUT!
- Awesomely unique anime art style. It's really hard to make an anime style look unique while still retaining the qualities of anime. Yet, this game has such a beautiful style that I think it alone has won the hearts of anime fans all around. It's so comical and exaggerated that it definitely pushes the boundaries between cartoony and anime. For instance, when a character is insanely mad, their eyes and pupils even start to spike up. It's freaky, but at the same time, it so dynamic and cool. Also, whomever did the painting and illustrations deserves a medal. They look absolutely gorgeous.
- Great presentation. Sort of going with the art style again, this game's presentation is simply to die for, especially if you're an anime fan. The movies in particular use that style of animation where they take paintings and move their layers around to make the character look like they're moving (I forgot what it's called; too lazy to check ). And it looks GOOD. Granted the user interface is a little too close to the style of Persona for my liking, but at least it still looks nice and compliments the game's wacky tone.
- Some great characters. I'm not gonna deny when I say there's some characters in this game I can't stand, but the characters I do like I thought were great characters. And they held up my interest for the majority of the game, either right up till they died or till the end. There's a great sense of camaraderie between them, especially during gameplay segments where you can socialise with anyone of your choice. In a game with 15 FREAKIN' main characters, it may seem a little bloated, but at least there's someone for everyone.
- Great music. And what would a great visual novel game be without music?
No, but seriously, the game's music is lovely. It's very, for lack of a better word, anime-esque. Weird, and very techno-y, but still very jammin'.
- Class Trial gameplay segments are a disaster. So this is where the game rips off Ace Attorney. And before you say it... it is ripping off Ace Attorney, let;s be real here. But there's nothing wrong with that. I Ace Attorney! I would like some more Ace Attorney! So if this game wants to be Ace Attorney, let it be Ace Attorney! Because what original ideas they could add to this style of gameplay are just a hot mess of ideas that don't cling together well at all. You know the phrase "throw shit at the wall to see what sticks"? The Class Trials feel like all the gameplay ideas where the shit didn't stick were just mashed together without any thought or reason. There's just no sense of foundation within these gameplay segments. It really feels like you're just wasting your time doing pointless minigames to burn time.
And pointless is right too because most of these minigames are not only weird... they're stupid. And pointless. Like sometimes you need to play a Hangman minigame. Other times, you need to fill in comic pages. Other times you need to (and I swear I'm not making this up) play DDR. All of which has no apparent reason. Yeah sure, Ace Attorney adds new minigames here and there, but the big difference is that they all have a point. With every Psyche-Lock or Mood Matrix, we come closer to the truth to unravelling the case at end. In this game, you literally play DDR for shits and giggles. Nothing is learnt, nothing is put forward... it's just wasting time. Was the shooting words with guns not compelling enough gameplay? Especially with the trillion of variables they keep adding with each new chapter? Bottom line: the Class Trials should be the highlight of the game, but they end up being the worst part of the game.
- Most mystery elements are too predictable. The key point of any mystery story is... well, mystery. You need to keep the player on their toes by sending vague hints without making it too obvious. Unfortunately, even if I wasn't savvy at mystery stories, I would see most of these mystery elements a mile away. Obviously I won't spoil any of them for you, but let;s just say your first guess is almost always right. They're that predictable. It becomes annoying too where in times where you have to present evidence or decide what words to shoot, the game almost spells out for you what evidence you need to present or shoot. And keep in mind I was playing on Normal difficulty. It's pretty pandering at times. "Woah, there's some numbers on the wall written in blood that so obviously look like the upside-down letters of that character's name. I wonder what these could mean..." And other times, when your answer in your head to a mystery is wrong, often times the real answer is something that just feels forced or stupid. Like the game threw a curveball and presented a different answer without providing a single subtle clue to its existence. In other words, it gives a cheap answer. And that sucks.
- Weak payoff. I always feel satisfied taking down a bad guy in Ace Attorney, because you chip at them little by little until they finally crack. And when they do crack, it's the best, they present an awesome breakdown that just feels so cathartic. I never got that sensation in Danganronpa. Every person I find is the killer I knew for a long time coming, and just got impatient when the game kept presenting gameplay segments to waste my time instead of just moving on to their breakdown. It's boring. But even on top of that, there's like the ultimate twist that involves how and why all the students got into Hope's Peak in the first place. Without spoiling anything... it just rips off Virtue's Last Reward. Blatantly. It's annoying, and I wish they just kept it to a humble story of a group of kids escaping a serial killer's plot. Was that not dramatic enough for Chunsoft? Jesus Christ.
- Wacky tone is fun, but kills all tension. Here's an important question: "Why does Zero Escape work well?" The answer is because it's so gritty and dark. It's got an appealing anime look to it, but the tone is so grim and harsh, that every character's death has weight to it. You feel each poor soul's demise as the game lingers on how darker and serious things are getting. Danganronpa decides to take the opposite approach. It wants to have a similar story, but be wacky and cartoony. And it... just doesn't work. I just didn't care what anyone was saying or who died or whatever. I even skipped through what most characters were saying, I just was so uninvested. For instance, when a character that I even like dies, I go "Aww man, that guy died. ...Oh well." Instead of "Oh no! Not that guy!" And that's not a good thing for a story that is trying to take itself semi-seriously. Cartoony stuff is just not investing. I can totally buy a walking talking bear, but what I can't buy is the feeling of dread that feels so empty whenever a character dies or a big mystery point is revealed. I was still interested enough to see what happens until the very end, but there was never really any moments where I prick my eyebrows up in shock or awe.
From my Worst Parts, you probably think I hate this game. No, I don't. Hate is a strong word. I think a better word would be that I'm disappointed in this game. For a mystery thriller, it's not very mysterious or thrilling. For a Zero Escape wannabe, it's totally not engrossing or effective. For an Ace Attorney wannabe, it's not coherent or satisfying. It just feels like a collaboration of ideas shoved into a blender to make a somehow not totally distasteful, but still unsatisfying smoothie. You're probably asking "What did you expect?" And that's a good question. I'd tell you what I did expect... a cohesive game. Didn't get it.
In fact, here's something that I was expecting about 1 chapter into the game. I was honestly led to believe that whomever I socialised with during the Socialise segments, would end up being the murder victim the next day. And that was all the more evident when I hung out with two certain characters in Chapter 2, who one turned out to be a murder victim, and the other the culprit of that same chapter. And if that was the case, I would have been thrilled. I would've thought "That's a brilliant idea!" Because think about it: it would give the game endless replay value and more player appeal. There would be so many ways to beat the game, and also a great opportunity for the player to doom the fate of whichever character they simply didn't like. And in this cacophony of archetypal characters, there's bound to be some you just don't like. Sure it might sound excessive, but no more excessive than how much the game puts into pointless gameplay segments. It would be a fantastic hybrid of Ace Attorney and Zero Escape.
But unfortunately that's not what we got. What we got instead is a linear story filled with predictable and questionable story choices, on top of stupid and unnecessary gameplay mechanics.
To be honest, I'm still interested enough to check out the 2nd one, but I'm not going to rush out the door to get it if you know what I mean.
Unless you are super into anime, don't really bother with this game.
RATING: 5 / 10