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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review

I was very excited when NIS America announced they were bringing Danganronpa to the US. I had seen screenshot and videos online about the game for years. It was released originally on the PSP in 2010 in Japan. To me the game is Phoenix Wright mixed with Virtue's Last Reward with the look of the Persona games. Danganronpa is a visual novel/puzzle game in the vein of Phoenix Wright where you spend most of your time talking to other characters and watching the story through cut scenes with puzzles in between.

You play as Makoto Naegi, average high schooler invited to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, by winning a lottery. The academy is most prestigious school in the country, normally open to those students who are the “Ultimate” in their craft. Ultimate Baseball Star, Ultimate Pop Sensation and Ultimate Swimming Pro, just to name a few.  Because Makoto won a lottery to get there he is named the Ultimate Lucky Student. After arriving Makoto faints and awakens in a barricaded school with 15 other newly enrolled students who arrived there in the same fashion. They are confronted by the headmaster, a sadistic bear named Monokuma. Monokuma informs the group the only way to "graduate" from the school is to kill one of their classmates without being found guilty. 

Each chapter of the game is divided into two sections, "Daily Life" where you can freely explore the school in first person and talk to other students to learn more about them and build relationships. This unlocks perks that can be used during trials. As soon as a murder is found the chapter will go into "Deadly Life". This is where you and the other students look around for clues around the schools. The "Class Trial" is where, after all the evidence is found, the classmates will debate about the murder, with inconsistencies written in orange text. You then have to use evidence you uncovered as "Truth Bullets" to shoot down false statements. If you figure out something important that will further the case the "Hangman's Gambit" begins where a word that is in question will appear incomplete and you have to tap the missing letters from other letters floating on the screen. The trial will end with the "Closing Argument" where you place missing panels of a comic that tells the events of the murder.  

The game makes good use of the Vita's touch screen where you can select objects by touching them rather than move the cursor and pressing X. You can even advance the dialogue by touching anywhere on the screen. The graphics are what you would expect, high quality anime style by artist Komatsuzaki Rui, that look bright and colorful on the Vita screen. The game does have some voice over in both English and Japanese and the music by Masafumi Takada is really great, an added bonus to the game.

NIS America really took a chance localizing Danganronpa and I am glad they did. They have even announced that the sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, will be out this fall. If you have a Vita and love a great puzzle/mystery game pick up Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, you will be glad you did. It is one of the best games the system has to offer.

4 out 5

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is available on PSN and retail for $39.99. Thanks to NIS America for supplying a digital copy for review.   

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