How does one review a game like this? To tell you the truth, I’m really not sure. I’m limited in what I can say because so much of the game relies on the player not knowing exactly what’s going on. It’s not exactly the type of game most people will play through multiple times unless you’re the type that watches anime seasons multiple times. You see, at it’s heart, Danganronpa is a Visual Novel with real-time exploration and investigation and courtroom battles similar to those found in the Ace Attorney games. At the request of the publisher, I will not discuss anything beyond the first chapter, but I will try to avoid any spoilers found within the first chapter as well.
Danganronpa starts out in the same way that many Anime do; with an in-depth introduction to the main character (you) and the world in which they live. Frankly, I’ve grown tired of this format as it takes far too long to become interesting. Most anime that do this don’t get interesting until the end of the second or even third episode. With Danganronpa, while it captured my interest before the first chapter was over, due to the slow pace of the game, it took a much longer time than it would have if I had been watching a show.
Thankfully, once it takes hold, it’s impressive how strong of a grip it has. I was unable to stop playing at times because I was just so interested in seeing what happened next. For the most part, the narrative and writing aren’t stellar, but a handful of moments throughout are powerful enough to hold the player’s interest for the duration. Some are so incredibly strong that they dug deep inside my head and made me think, “What if that happened to my friend. What would I do? Would I be able to keep moving forward?” The thing is, without that slow introduction early on, I doubt I would have felt the way I did about the people who died.
That’s right; people die. In fact, that’s the entire premise of the game. You are an overly average kid named Makoto Naegi who was selected to go to a school for the absolutely amazing, Hope’s Academy. Everyone there seems to be some kind of genius in some aspect. Byakuya Togami is the heir to an extremely successful corporation. I suppose he’s only at the school because he’s incredibly rich. Leon Kuwata is an amazing baseball player while Sakura Ogami is an inhumanly strong female martial artist who aspires to be the strongest in the world. I don’t want to go too deep in describing the characters as that’s part of the long, sometimes boring introduction. To make a long introduction short, a psychotic bear-thing named Monokuma has imprisoned all of the students in an old abandoned school building where Hope’s Academy used to be and tells them that the only way they can leave is by graduation. He goes on to say that in order to graduate they must kill one of their peers and get away with it. This results in a lot of paranoia, and eventually someone winds up dead which results in what Monokuma calls a class trial. If the wrong person is found guilty, he (or she) graduates while the rest are executed.
Aside from walking around the school in first person to talk to your classmates, the class trials are the only real “game” here. Fortunately, they are just as enjoyable as the court room battles found in Ace Attorney. I would say that they are a bit more hands on and, as the game progresses, you will find a lot of useless “clues” that only serve as red herrings in your investigation. I really like this because most of the AA games were just a matter of finding the right item in the right order before the trial would come to an end. My only complaint is that they use this “truth bullet” system where you have to aim at the statement that defies one of the truths you’ve come across in your investigation. Maybe they used this method to avoid copying the “Objection!” system, but having to actually aim at moving statements before they fade from the screen proves to be just a tad annoying for me.
So would I recommend this game? I liked it a lot. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone that hates to read or really didn’t care for the dialog system from Persona 4 Golden. As I stated earlier, this is mainly an interactive story. It’s not an RPG and there really isn’t any kind of battle system. It’s not an action game, nor is it going to appease those who desire a portable Call of Duty. If it still sounds interesting, sadly, there is no demo, so you’ll have to take the plunge and give it a shot.