Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a port of a PSP game that was never released in the West. Players take on the role of Makoto Naegi, an incredibly average student who won a lottery to get into the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy. Things quickly go bad as Makoto and his fourteen classmates discover the school is a trap. They become imprisoned and can only escape if someone kills another discretely, as directed by a sadistic robotic bear named Monokuma. It’s a bizarre, dark tale with twists around every turn. It’s a bit slow to begin, but once it gets going, it’s addictive and hard to put down.
The gameplay is a fairly simplistic point and click adventure/light novel game. It’s divided into three sections. Most of the game is told linearly through story points by interacting with characters and the world. When not investigating there is Free Time, which allows players to spend time individually with characters to build relationships that also unlock abilities. These abilities can be used in the third segment: Trials. As the name would suggest, Trials happen after someone is murdered. Players first investigate crime scenes then proceed to Phoenix Wright style court battles. The game predicates itself in many instances for players to disregard logic and go with the McGuffin, which seems out of place at times.
The anime inspired art is oozing with color and style that, at times, is reminiscent of the 80’s neon brilliance. A strong voice cast supports the brutal and gripping narrative that shines particularly well during Trials. As one would expect from this type of game Danganronpa is fairly linear with little exploration. There are the Free Time segments, but they don’t change the narrative and only serve as a means to flesh out charcters’ backgrounds. The music is okay and there are a few other nit picky things about the game, but for the most part it’s a well-designed thriller.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, like its name, is a crazy, twisted tale with an equally unique gameplay premise. Mashing up some of the best parts of Persona, Phoenix Wright, and Battler Royal make this an awesome story that’s hard to put down despite some minor annoyances. It’s a contender for sleeper hit of the year so don’t pass this one up.
Score: 4/5 Stars
Special Notes: This article was originally published on February 11, 2014 via my Examiner account before the website shut down.