After being recommended the game by many others, I have finally finished Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, and I’m excited to review and share my thoughts because I really enjoyed this game! You’ve probably heard of it by this point since it originally came out in 2010 (on the Playstation Portable) and is now on almost every modern platform, including mobile, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox and Playstation. I played it on PC. I had a lot of fun and once I really got into the game (after about a few hours), I couldn’t put it down.
Steam probably words it better, but here’s the general premise: You play as Makoto, a student attending a prestigious academy, which actually turns out to be a battle royale type scenario where all the students are stuck in the school until one of them kills another and gets away with it after a class trial. There’s also this really annoying bear named Monokuma that’s forcing them to do this. It’s a mix of visual novels, mystery/adventure games, and dating sims/RPGs at some parts. Danganronpa really stands in a category of its own, but there are some similar aspects to the Persona, Zero Escape, and Ace Attorney game series.
The gameplay is primarily like a visual novel – you mostly walk around, talk to people, and investigate areas. During the class trials, you put together the evidence you found, and then present this to the other students, primarily through minigame segments.
I really enjoyed the visual novel/investigation segments – I personally like VNs/mystery games, so I was expecting this. Dialogue was tedious sometimes, but you can easily skip through it if it’s annoying or repetitive (for example: There were a lot of times you got every character’s reactions to something that adds little to the story). There is some voice acting during important cutscenes or story moments and the class trials, but it is not fully voiced. The voice acting that was there was done really well though and wasn’t annoying – I listened to the English dub but there is an option for the Japanese dub with English subtitles as well.
Overall, I found the gameplay enjoyable and worked well for the game’s structure. The class trials and minigames I did find kind of annoying at times — like it felt unnecessarily hard and a little frustrating at some moments. A lot of times I knew what the final answer was or what point the game wanted to get at, but I was two steps ahead of where the game thought I should be thinking, so I got unnecessarily confused. However, this didn’t really impact my overall enjoyment of the game.
The story was easily the best part of the game for me. I had actually been spoiled unintentionally about a few things, and I still found myself surprised along the way and engaged in the mystery and not knowing where things would go. So if you’ve been spoiled for a few plot points, don’t let that deter you from playing the game, because it wont take away from the experience and there’s a lot of plot twists and depth to the story that a few spoilers won’t ruin. This was the main reason I kept playing – I really wanted to know what would happen next, and even if some things did feel a little predictable, there was enough intrigue to keep me playing.
As a note, the story is linear, which I honestly found kind of disappointing. I don’t know why but I expected a nonlinear story (i.e. with branching choices, where your decisions matter), but that’s not the case – which is okay, but don’t go in thinking what I did.
While Danganronpa does not present a deep, soul searching, thought provoking story, its a fun and engaging one, like a good blockbuster film.
The characters are honestly one of the best/worst things about the game. There’s a big cast of unique characters who you get to interact with – however, given the length of the game, at times it felt too big. You only really care about a few of the characters throughout the game, and most are shallow and one-sided with little to no depth or brief backstories. Except for a few, they do not feel like real people. Most of the character designs and concepts are cool and unique, which explains why so many people cosplay them, but beyond this, I was disappointed by the lack of depth for most characters.
As you can guess by the premise, characters die. But for the vast majority of these deaths, there is no emotional impact and I simply did not care. I can only think of one character I felt sad when they died, and it was mostly after their death that I felt this way because we got more backstory that led me to care about them.
My favorite characters were easily Chihiro and Kyoko! Monokuma really annoyed me, but I think that’s kinda the point.
Danganronpa originally came out in 2010 and the PC version has been upscaled from the original, so it looks nice, but it’s still obviously not perfect given the age. I love the unique art style and the environments are really cool and stylized. The mix 2D and 3D elements helped the game still look good despite the age (but I’m not picky with graphics). I loved how each room came to life like a pop-up book almost, and the character sprites look really clean.
Overall, Danganronpa is a fun game. Despite the dark theme/story set up, it doesn’t get too serious or gory, and it’s mostly dark comedic and melodramatic. It’s not trying to be serious or philosophical and sometimes that’s okay – some games and media deserve to just be fun and a little goofy.
If you played Danganronpa or like the sound of the game, but want something more serious with (in my opinion) better characters/story, please play Your Turn to Die! I may be biased because I played YTTD first but it’s really great and it’s free (played in browser) or you can buy it on Steam. Definitely look up trigger warnings for the game first though, since this is a little darker than Danganronpa.
If you like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Persona, mysteries or visual novels, definitely play Dangonronpa! I had a lot of fun and barely put it down in the time I played it. If you want to see what the gameplay or structure is like, I have two Lets Plays of the first couple hours. Here are links to the first and second Let’s Play videos.
Some final notes: I spent about 30 hours total on the game and there’s still some extra (and optional) content I have not fully explored. I also played with a mix of keyboard and mouse and controller on PC, and it’s natively compatible with an Xbox One controller. I also played the game on my non-gaming laptop thats about 5-years old now.
If you have any questions about the game or want to let me know your thoughts on the game, please comment below! I hope you enjoyed this review and I’ll be writing again soon!