Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review
Initial NA Release Date: February 11, 2014
Review Date: February 9, 2017
Reviewed on: PC
Platforms: PC, MAC, Linux, iOS, Android, PSP, PS Vita, PS4
A visual novel styled adventure which makes an attempt at disguising its serious theme and dark undertones, with its cutesy art style and fun easygoing nature. The tight rope of hope and despair is walked by all students of Hope’s Peak Academy, much to the grin of Monokuma—the evil headmaster teddy bear.
Mysteries are often laid out with the usual questions of what, how, where, why, and in the case of murder—who? With the goal of escaping their newly found captivity, the students of Hope’s Peak Academy are subjected to solve heinous crimes done by no other than their own neighboring classmates.
Presentation – Vibrant and playful, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (D: THH) meshes together colorful and lighthearted scenes with the incorporation of the varying personalities of Hope’s Peaks Academy’s students. While contradictory to the overarching dark narrative, the merging of lightheartedness on one end and mature tones on the other, creates a fusion that works surprisingly well.
Artistically, D: THH has a simplistic feel, but still interesting to look at. The 2D anime character art style fits well, even during the actual exploration, the comedic effect which takes the definition of 2D to a whole other level, showing the characters as somewhat akin to paper cutouts when moving around them in a 3D space. However, considering the visual novel direction of the game, character models aren’t as important of a factor, but the game still does present the cast well in its transition of different cut scenes, be it 3D motion or still images.
The environment in the game is the game’s weak point from a presentation standpoint, the explorable areas in Hope’s Peak Academy lack intrigue and aside from a few interesting classrooms, all carry the same feel. Vocal performances are fitting the characters’ personalities and executed well during class trials and investigation scenes, the overall sound in D: THH is good, but due to the gameplay being inside the school building, variety is an issue as tracks tend to repeat themselves over and over throughout the playthrough.
Gameplay – Action is usually not the noun attached to visual novels, and although it isn’t a direct gameplay trait, it is featured. There are many scenes in D: THH that catch you off-guard, making you tense for what may happen next, it may seem like a rinse and repeat process, but the crime solving aspect of the game has its fair share of innovative ideas and unique gameplay mechanics.
Aside from Free Time exploration, truth seeking investigation makes up the primary aspect of gameplay. Scouring for clues while inspecting crime scenes, getting different sides of the story at hand from fellow classmates, proving your stance with evidence or by exposing contradictions, all those factors make up the meat of the gameplay. Class Trials are the main stage where the game’s innovative mechanics shine, the use of Truth Bullets, which are gathered during the investigation period, are used in two of the four main Class Trial sections. The first being the Nonstop Debates; a time where the classmates talk about the case in an open discussion. The Truth Bullets are also used in Bullet Time Battles; which are set as of akin to rhythm based style gameplay in an attempt to refute or contradict a classmate.
The Class Trial is also made up of Hangman’s Gambit, which acts as a puzzle shooting game for discovering keywords or phrases that are crucial to the trial, and the Closing Argument—a comic strip style game which is solved by putting down specific scenes and pieces in the correct order of how the crime was played out. Throwing in the Concentration meter element, and the distraction phrases, all set up the Class Trials to be a fast-paced scene which adds to the stress of getting the correct verdict.
In a storytelling sense, the game’s plot is certainly interesting, its unpredictability lends itself well to keeping you interested in finding out what is the true narrative behind Hope’s Peak Academy and its sadistic headmaster, all while dealing with the constant threat of another murder looming. The plot does run into a few bumps down the road as there are missing explanations on why and how certain things came to be, but Monokuma’s comedic rambling in an attempt to distract from the story’s inconsistencies become part of the game’s charm.
Where gameplay falters the most, is during its transitions of scenes, the inability to skip Monokuma’s nighttime announcement or other cut scenes which are repeated continuously throughout the game hurts the pace of what is already a moderately slower visual novel scene progression. The other shortcoming to D: THH is that Free Time does not yield more significance on the overall plot, befriending different classmates, gifting them presents won with Monokuma Medals, is ultimately not paid off with anything aside from potentially gaining the ability of a special attribute that can be used as a small boost during the Class Trials.
Final Impression – Going in not knowing much about the game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has certainly left a good impression on me after finishing it. Throughout the playthrough the game kept surprising me with a twist here and a turn there, which is all the more impressive considering those elements are to be expected given the nature of the plot.
Pacing issues aside, the only downfall of the game, is that it’s cast of interesting characters don’t have the time to grow and develop due to the killing nature of the narrative. Only getting a small glimpse of the personalities and backgrounds of the Ultimate Students is quite disappointing when some of them don’t make it through the night.
Ultimately, the mesh of first-person exploration, visual novel scenes, innovative gameplay mechanics, solid visuals and excellent voice casting is enough to propel D: THH into a worthwhile experience, throwing in its mysterious narrative coupled with some great characters and you get an entertaining journey which evokes laughter, shock, and a plethora of other emotions.
+ Voice performances
+ Innovative gameplay mechanics
+ Interesting narrative
– Pacing inconsistencies
– Limited character growth
Final Score – 8.1/10 Great
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc playtime ran just over 25 hours. The playthrough in its entirety was played with Japanese VA.