Danganronpa 1-2 Reload Review
Trapped in a high school, fifteen students learn that a twisted mind has imprisoned them, and will gladly let one go on one condition. They will "graduate" if they can kill one of their classmates without being caught. After a grisly murder, the remaining students get together to try to figure out whodunnit. Guess right, and the killer is punished with a death penalty. Guess wrong, and they go free. Everyone else, however, will meet their end. This is the basis of the first Danganronpa game, packed with it's sequel. The storyline has spawned manga, a full anime season, and an upcoming third game already out in Japan that is coming to American shores in September.
The game is played in a visual novel style, similar to a twisted Phoenix Wright game, except here you would be wondering if Gumshoe really killed Maya instead of the team working together for a common goal. The mastermind behind the prison, who speaks through the monochromatic psychotic bear Monokuma, knows how to twist the knife by throwing out information, secrets, history, and threats to make the players jealous, angry, or simply ready to escape. Suddenly, one of your fellow classmates lies dead on the floor, and you know that someone else you trusted as a friend is guilty of murder. You're given a bit of time to gather your wits and your evidence before being thrust into a Class Trial, where everyone states their claims and you utilize your "Truth Bullets" to contradict them, eventually weeding out the real killer. The game throws many a plot twist at you, keeping you on your toes as you continue to search through Hope's Peak Academy to escape the despair created by the villainous Monokuma.
Originally released in America on the PlayStation Vita in 2014, and starting back on the PSP in it's original country in 2010, Danganronpa and it's sequel filled a niche for many a visual novel gamer. It was released on Steam in February/April of last year. In the original editions of the game, replay value may be considered limited: after all, there's only so many times you can hear the same story. This two-pack is a budget title at only $39 and is filled with extras to bring you back to the school. Exclusive to the "Reload" edition are special post-story playthrough content pieces that turn the game from a deadly game of despair into something just short of a dating simulation, letting you get to know each and every student in the class rather than worry about who's going to die next. In this mode you strive to get on everyone's good side via presents and conversation, all the while working toward the goals requested by your captor. It's a bit strange to see this side of the villains after working through the deadly storyline, but it's a great way to get more out of the franchise to the point that even previous fans of the series may want to pick it up, though they will have to go through the entire original game to unlock said different gameplay.
When the game came out on Vita, it offered touchscreen controls, which are obviously lacking here. The game has not yet been released as a Vita port in English, so even if you pick up the import you have to have a hearty knowledge of the original language. The class trials rely on knowledge of text and accurately picking the proper phrase as it flies across the screen. With the touchscreen, I'm sure that things were a bit easier/more naturally challenging. During investigations, you have to drag your cursor all around the screen and click items, and during the trial you have to aim and shoot at individual phrases while distracting phrases fly around and over the words you want to hit. I could see this game being made to implement PlayStation Move, but it would probably skip right over that and go to VR, as the free downloadable class trial demo that is currently available shows. I don't have a VR setup yet, but I could see this being done very stylistically, catching the phrases as they course through the sky. This all being said, the controls are manageable and not really a problem, just learning after playing it that there have been other styles in the past make me wish I could try them. But with this game being $39 and the original Vita downloads of the game still selling for the same price each with no extra bonus modes, it really doesn't hurt to play it with the new control scheme.
Danganronpa 1.2 Reload is a perfect budget title that gives you two games' worth of action, intrigue, and despair, and prepares you for the upcoming third part of the trilogy in September. Monokuma is a terrible host for a deadly game that's bound to tie you up in knots as you make decisions on who the real culprit is. Fans of the game have had plenty of time to play through this title, but they may find replay value in the extra modes that have been added, along with the joy of playing it on the big screen. Visual novels tend to have little replay value, but they hold on to your memories with their impactful storylines, and Danganronpa 1.2 Reload does a great job of adding extra fun on top of their memorable tale.
Thanks to the developers for providing a code for review.
Final Score: 4.75/5