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Friday, 27 January 2017

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.

Once again, we find ourselves reviewing a game I recently finished Let's Playing, and if you want to watch that Let's Play, it's over here in its entirety. It was a Let's Play that I enjoyed doing a lot, and it seemed to be my most popular Let's Play yet, so needless to say I'll be leaping on Danganronpa Another and Danganronpa V3 when they come out. Similarly, you can find my review of the first game over here.

My feelings about the first game in the series were basically that while it had a good, fun story -- if one where the actual mystery was lacking some -- with a cast of characters who grew on me pretty quickly, but that the gameplay was pointless and bizarre, an attempt to inject Exciting Gun Action Gameplay Action into the Ace Attorney formula.

Well, here's a brief summary of Danganronpa 2: The story is better, the mysteries are much improved, the characters grew on me even more quickly, and the gameplay is basically the same but worse in several key areas.

Danganronpa 2 follows Hajima Hinata, a Hope's Peak Academy student who cannot remember his own unique talent, who wakes up alongside fifteen other students on Jabberwock Island, where a magic-wielding rabbit informs them that they will be having a school trip. The school trip is quickly derailed however when Monokuma, now seemingly wielding godlike powers, takes over the trip and starts another murder game, forcing the students to kill each other and then participate in trials to determine who the killer is. However, this time around the trials are confounded by the machinations of Nagito Komaeda, an unhinged student who believes in helping whosoever's hope shines brightest for him. Meanwhile, a timer at the center of Jabberwock Island slowly ticks down.

The gang.

The biggest improvement this game has to offer is that the mysteries are much more well thought out and as a result much more difficult to figure out. While I usually knew who the killer was mere minutes into the Investigation sections of the first game (and was never wrong), in the second one I almost always found myself genuinely bewildered as to who the killer could be until late in the Trial sections. Since a key part of mystery storylines is, you know, the mystery, this was a definite bonus as far as I was concerned.

The murder cases take a lot of their cues from Agatha Christie this time, as well, whereas the previous game took its cues from Arthur Conan Doyle, and as a result we have a lot more misdirection, as well as some old Christie standbys like 'the lights go out and someone is killed before they're switched back on.' The fifth case is even directly modeled after a Poirot novel, taking the case from the novel and reworking it into something similar but unique.

The characters were also a lot more appealing this time, by and large, but it's difficult to put my finger on why. Possibly it's because they seemed slightly less cartoonish, possibly it's just because the first game had prepped me for the over-the-top, caricature-ish personalities, so I adjusted to them a lot quicker this time, or maybe it's just because the characters of the second game are much more layered than the characters of the first.

(It also definitely helps that Hajime is not a wide-eyed innocent like Makoto is, but actually quite cynical and acerbic at times.)

It's just common sense.

As with the first game, there's a greater mystery woven throughout the narrative that's pretty intriguing, and which gives the game as a whole a pleasing sense of momentum.

As far as the gameplay goes, it's largely the same, with a few minor differences -- Logic Dive, a snowboarding themed gameplay mode, has been added; and the Hangman's Gambit, bane of my life in the first game, has been redesigned to be much, much worse. It's no less frustrating this time around.

The game also occasionally entertains odd genre shift moments, usually to other Spike Chunsoft games, such as when you are suddenly punted into a Twilight Syndrome gameplay section, or when you play as Nagito and are swiftly punted into a Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors gameplay section. Neither of these sections are terrible, but nor are they especially enjoyable to play, and they seem to mostly be there out of a combination of vanity on Spike Chunsoft's part, and a desire to break up the gameplay and inject some variety.

You're going to get a bug flying into your mouth like that.

There's an alternate gameplay mode, too, where you can play as Monomi in a slightly awkward top-down fighting game thing where she battles Monobeasts. It's not great, but it's also entirely optional.

While I was on the fence on whether to call the first game a good game as opposed to just an enjoyable one, I do think Danganronpa 2 is genuinely a good game, and a significant improvement over the first game. If they can keep that momentum up, Danganronpa V3 (due to be released in Europe and the US some time this year) should be pretty brilliant, so I'm very much looking forward to that.

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