Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Review
Initial NA Release Date: September 2, 2014
Review Date: May 18, 2017
Reviewed on: PC
Platforms: PS4, PS Vita, PSP, PC, MAC, Linux
If there is a blueprint on how to make a worthy sequel to an already beloved game, you would have to think that Spike Chunsoft are the owners of said blueprint after playing through Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (D2:GD)
In what was quite the roller coaster ride in the endearing visual novel adventure—Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the sequel of the cult classic made sure to take everything that made the original ride fun, and not only replicate the experience, but improve on it so much, raising well above all expectations.
Presentation – Similar to its prequel, D2:GD implements a colorful palette, stylish texture popping, and fitting 2D art. During first-person exploration, character models are still showcased in somewhat of a rotating cardboard cutout, but their varying dialog expressions and emotional depiction make up for their less animated states.
A big improved change in the aesthetic department is the contrasting explorable areas in the game. The movement from island to island actually stands out visually due to the different attractions each island provides. The side scrolling movement of Hajime Hinata between main islands is also a nice wrinkle, as it showcases a larger scope of the world than just indoor classrooms and hallways. A small UI improvement was also met kindly, as navigation and discerning text has been made easier.
The introduction of an all new cast, with the exclusion of Monokuma, voice-over was not guaranteed to be as good as the game’s prequel, however just like its predecessor, the voices of the cast all deliver in both character fit and performance. The original soundtrack is mostly all back, and with the game’s expansion in regards to the frequent and new explorable areas, new soundtracks were added, however similar to D:THH, the dependence on the same usual tracks is still an issue.
Gameplay – The old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, comes into mind when contemplating over the core gameplay in D2:GD. The foundational mechanics that made the original game work so well are all back—be it with a few tweaks. The main aspects of the game are divided into three categories; plot progression, investigation, and trial stage. In between the main sequences of the game, an improved version of Free Time also makes a return.
From the beginning, D2:GD makes no assumptions about whether or not you’ve played its predecessor, therefore, opening the door for a new experience all while hinting that there might be something to come. This method leaves players of D:THH in the dark with regards to the continuation of the storyline, but makes sure to make it all worthwhile when all is said and done.
The first aspect of gameplay with regards to the game’s plot progression, is handled in similar fashion as its predecessor, storylines are built through text and visual novel styled sequences, mixed with some free roaming be it either in first-person or side scrolling perspective. Progress makes no effort to disguise its linearity, however that aids the pace of the game, considering there are enough stalling efforts by Monokuma and Monomi and their “comedic dialogs.”
Murder investigations and crime scene clue finding are practically the same as in D:THH, even the color of blood is still shown as bright pink. The only real change is that instead of playing as Makoto Naegi, you take the role of Hajime Hinata. The role of co-investigator which was often filled by either Kyoko Kirigiri and Byakuya Togami, is now a slot mainly occupied by Chiaki Nanami. Clue finding and the interrogation of others remains straightforward in the forms of search and question, and often the sequences will go as long as either Chiaki or the game tells you to.
Finally, the main aspect of gameplay, and one that underwent the most changes is the Class Trial. The revolving open discussion known as Nonstop Debate is back and Truth Bullets—the clues, facts, and statements gathered during the investigation stage, also return, only with the new ability of using them for Consent—supporting a statement using a Truth Bullet as evidence or fact to back up the claim.
Countering statements and memorizing Truth Bullets are also back as part of the Class Trial, and other sequences within the trial like a revamped Hangman’s Gambit—a faster paced hangman game, and the newly added Logic Dive—a virtual snowboard jump platforming obstacle course game, as well as Rebuttal Showdown—which acts as an individual statement battle between Hajime and another classmate, eventually leading to cutting down a statement using a Truth Knife—a concept akin to a Truth Bullet.
The major changes to the Class Trial took effect in the replacement of Bullet Time Battle with Panic Talk Action which holds the same characteristics of pushing the proposed culprit into a corner only with a different look at the rhythm based timing game. Finally, the change made to the comic strip puzzle game known as the Closing Argument has been improved by providing less pieces, making it easier to focus on and eliminate certain sequences within the strip.
Aside from the changes made to the Class Trial phase of the game, there are two areas that have dramatically improved from the game’s predecessor, those are—Free Time and the overall narrative. Free Time, which serves as downtime from the main storyline, is a time, mostly spent in getting to know the fellow students on Jabberwock Island and collecting Hope Fragments—which can be used for obtaining helpful skills used in Class Trial. The amped up frequency of Free Time is the largest improvement from D:THH, as there are more opportunities to max out relationships and learn more about the cast. The use of earned Monocoins from the Class trials and other activities can also be used during Free Time at the vending machine or MonoMono Machine in exchange for gifts that are helpful during interactions with the rest of the cast.
However, it is without question where D2: GD makes its biggest splash, and that’s with its narrative. Throughout the course of the game, the narrative never presents itself fully—always leaving something to be desired. Like its predecessor, it has its fair share of comedic, dramatic, suspenseful, heartwarming, and shocking moments. It’s everything that made the original game enjoyable, and then some. Not differing to the knowledge learnt in the previous game, yet showing enough glimpses and similarities to wonder if there is an overarching theme, it’s in this clever way that no one is left behind, it caters to both of whom did and did not play the game’s prequel.
Lastly, the way the narrative is structured, to go along with the new characters, the different environment, coupled with the events that transpired in D:THH, there were certainly a lot of loose ends to tie, however when the conclusion finally arrived, the narrative definitely delivered and made sure not to leave too many stones unturned, however, just like the game’s consistent theme, it did leave the door open for things to perhaps arise in the future.
Final Impression – It’s rare for an impactful game to have a sequel that hits just as hard, if not harder. However, even with the bar raised as high as its predecessor set it, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, not only surpassed it, raised it to a whole new height. The game improved aesthetics, mechanics, and perhaps most importantly, delivered an exceptional and compelling narrative.
While the latter half of the game experiences an unexpected difficulty spike, it did not hinder the pace of the game. The cast as a whole may not be as interesting of a group in comparison to the cast of D:THH, however the increased role of Free Time yields the time spent with them to be worthwhile.
Ultimately, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair checked off everything that made the original game in the series special, and even hit on additional markers that pushed the game even further. The overall quality of pacing, performances, and storytelling outweigh the few hitches the game underwent.
+ Narrative and pacing
+ Multiple explorable areas
+ Vocal performances
– Limited Soundtrack
Final Score – 9.4/10 Excellent
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair complete playthrough ran just a little over 37 hours with thorough exploration. The game was played in its entirety with the Japanese VA. The extra game modes Magical Miracle Girl Monomi, Island Mode, and the Novel storytelling mode were not included in the overall critique of the game, however they are very strong standalone additions which complement the game’s depth post its main story.