Danganronpa 2: Students and Killings and [Murderous] Bears, Oh My!

The early 2014 release of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc caught western gamers off-guard. While the game has an impressive history, having earned high marks in Japan when it first debuted in 2010 on the PSP, it wasn’t talked about all that much stateside until recently. Sure, hardcore insiders and import enthusiasts knew that the game was a fun, inventive visual novel, but it was barely a blip on most gamers’ radar. Four years later NIS America released the thing and it caught fire; we talked very highly of it in our review, as did many others. Given how popular the first became, NIS clearly knew that they had something special on their hands. This is why we’re getting its sequel, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, this September.

Danganronpa 2 doesn’t tamper with the core formula of the first game all that much, but it does build upon it. Like its predecessor, the game is a visual novel with interactive segments sprinkled liberally throughout. Not only will there be an entirely new story here, but there will be fresh gameplay mechanics added into the mix, which the developers hope will make for a more complete experience. We won’t go much into Goodbye Despair’s story because it is a direct sequel; even its premise can spoil some of the original, so we’ll keep our synopsis extremely short. Where the last game found players locked in a high school with a murderous robot-bear, they are now displaced onto a remote island. On this island — just like in the school of the first installment — Monokuma, a ravenous, maniacal, talking bear, has pitted friend against friend in an epic showdown of plot-twisting marvels. The castaway who can kill one of their peers, and get away with it, will make it off the secluded island scot-free, leaving everyone else to die. In other words, fans of the bat-shit crazy story in Trigger Happy Havoc will find plenty to love this time around.

One of the most obvious additions to Danganronpa 2 is the inclusion of an over-world. Now players can navigate the various locations of the game on a larger map, click their destination, and transport to that area instantly. Once there, they can then engage in the first-person exploration that was the meat of the first game. When exploring the format remains the same as before: players have “free time”, someone dies, they investigate and then take things to trial. During the trial portions there is a new feature called “dive logic,” a holographic tunnel into which players dive with their main character… who just so happens to be on a skateboard? Yep, that’s right. The tunnel branches as you skate through it, with each path offering up different pieces of evidence. These bits of information are then used to strengthen one’s case against the killer. Also new to the trial sections is the ability of NPCs to counter your evidence. In Trigger Happy Havoc, once a player would put all the proverbial puzzles pieces together, they’d make their argument and all the students would be shocked and immediately agree. This time, though, the others aren’t so ready to buy into the player’s claims — instead, they offer counterpoints, making the accusation process just a bit more challenging.

Outside of that, though, Danganronpa 2 is more of the same but streamlined. When we talked with NIS America at E3, they repeatedly emphasized that this is a more refined, streamlined game than the last. Moreover, there will be a new game+ and unlockable mini-games that actually explain the insane story further. Additionally, NIS mentioned that the game is at the very least equal in length to the first, or perhaps even longer. By our count, that’s a solid 25-30 hours, maybe more, making this ideal for those who love lengthy visual novel experiences.

As of right now, Goodbye Despair is shaping up to be as exciting, colorful, entrancingly bizarre a visual novel as Trigger Happy Havoc. If it turns out half as good as its predecessor, then the Vita owners have a heck of a good time ahead of them. Be on the lookout for Danganronpa 2 when it drops on September 2, 2014.