Game review – Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!

The Jaws that bite, the claws that catch!

Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun

The frumious Bandersnatch!” – Lewis Carroll

Following on from the release of the original Danganronpa on the PS Vita earlier this year, the sequel has come out, and has kept up the quality of its debut outing.

In Danganronpa 2 you play a student at the elite Hope’s Peak Academy, Hajime Hinata. But before entering the school, everything goes black and Hajime wakes up on a beach alongside another student named Nagito Komeda. Like all the other students at Hope’s Peak, Nagito is the ultimate in his field. In his case, he is the “Ultimate Lucky Student” (sound familiar?), but Hajime cannot remember what he was the ultimate in.

Soon Hajime meets the other students, guided by Nagito. The others are Kazuichi Soda (ultimate mechanic), Gundham Tanaka (ultimate breeder), Mikan Tsumiki (ultimate nurse), Ibuki Mioda (ultimate musician), Nekomaru Nidai (ultimate team manager), Mahiru Koizumi (ultimate photographer), Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu (ultimate yakuza), Peko Pekoyama (ultimate swordswoman), Chiaki Nanami (ultimate gamer), Teruteru Hanamura (ultimate cook), Sonia Nevermind (ultimate princess), Hiyoko Saionji (ultimate traditional dancer), Akame Owari (ultimate gymnast), and the only student from the original game, a now obese Byakuya Togami (ultimate affluent progeny).

Hajime then encounters the individual who claims to be a teacher at the school, a pink magical girl-like rabbit plush called Usagi, who tells them that they are all on a vacation on the tropical holiday resort Jabberwock Island, and their purpose is to become friendly with each other. But then things all change when the headmaster of Hope’s Peak Academy appears, the return of the ultimate bringer of despair: Monokuma. He strips Usagi of her powers, adopts her as his younger sister, names her Monomi, and declares the start of the “Killing School Trip” – the only way to escape from Jabberwock Island is to murder someone and get away with it.

As before, the game is split into two main sections: the “School Life” which is split between the “Daily Life” and the “Deadly Life” depending on the murder situation; and the “Class Trial” where you try to figure out each case. There is not much new stuff in the School Life. The only real change is the addition of a Tamagotchi-style pet which you raise while playing the game. There are also extra side games, including one in which you play Monomi and battle against monsters.

The main changes are in the “Class Trial” where there are various new elements. All four of the original gameplay features have had changes. In the “Nonstop Debate” not only are there yellow statements to shoot at with your “Truth Bullets” to prove that they are wrong, but there are also blue statements to fire upon if you think they are right. In the “(Improved) Hangman’s Gambit”, you have to merge letters together in order to spell out a vital clue. The “Bullet Battle Time” is now called “Panic Talk Action”, but aside from the title the only change is at the end where you have to spell out a short phrase to end your argument. Lastly, in the “Closing Argument”, you only have access to a selection of limited stock of clues at any one time while putting your case together.

There are also three new games. Firstly, there is the “Rebuttal Showdown”. Here your “Truth Bullets” become “Truth Blades”, and using the PS Vita touch screen you have to slice your way through your opponent’s arguments in order to get to the truth. Then there is the “Selection Spot”, a simple feature in which you are given an image and simply have to pick which part of the picture gives you the vital evidence to support your case. Lastly there is the “Logic Dive”, which seems to take the form of a skateboarding/snowboarding game, in which you have to travel down a course in your mind in order to reach the goal, while answering questions relating to the case.

Like with the original game, the plot starts of slowly, but new elements soon appear to keep you interested. Mysterious organisations, rumours of a traitor, the battle between Monokuma and Momoni, and of course the crimes themselves all fit together nicely, albeit rather confusingly at some points as well, especially in the final case.

Danganronpa 2 also makes itself stand out of the gaming crowd with the use of its “2.5D” style graphics and art. The mixture of two-dimensional designs for the characters combined with the three-dimensional work used for almost everything else, works together with the plot to create an appropriate otherworldly setting. 

Another key difference is that there is no anime version of this game, unlike the first, so there is no chance of using an anime as a sort of guide. So far, nothing has been confirmed about whether this game will be subject to an anime adaptation, but at the end of the first anime series Monomi makes an brief appearance, so it looks like there is some hope – which is appropriate.

Score: 9 / 10

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and was also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. His debut book, CLAMPdown, about the manga collective CLAMP, is available now. Outside of anime, he is data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, has written questions for both The Wall and Richard Osman's House of Games, and has been a contestant on Mastermind.

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