Danganronpa is intense, hilarious, and could be PS Vita's next niche hit

  • Posted February 8th, 2014 at 22:36 EDT by Kyle Prahl

Every time a murder happens, you're given time to investigate the crime scene, talk to classmates, and gather clues around Hope's Peak Academy to prepare for action-packed class trials in which a consensus is reached on who the killer is. Investigation time is, unfortunately, pretty linear, as the game won't let you proceed to the class trial without finding everything of importance you'll need to make the right argument. But a good deal of fun is had simply trying to piece together clues to identify the killer before the trial begins. This can be difficult, as the trials might reveal key information that's nearly impossible to guess, but investigations are engaging nonetheless.

The trials themselves feel a bit game-y to me. Refuting arguments and pointing out contradictions in classmate logic is done by shooting "Truth Bullets" (collected evidence) at phrases that quickly move across the screen. You can take aim with a reticle or simply tap the screen, but actually having to aim at phrases and fire early enough for your Truth Bullet to hit before another phrase appears feels unnecessary and often requires repeating the sequence despite already knowing the solution. Other parts of trials are just plain weird. One classmate inevitably devolves into a spluttering mess of denial, and you enter a rhythm mini-game where pressing X and Triangle in-sync breaks through their denial. Diversions like these test gaming abilities that have nothing to do with the intellectual nature of murder investigation, which is fine when they work. But when you fail a trial because the artwork needed to finish a comic book of the murder is tiny and somewhat vague, you feel smashed against a superfluous obstacle to progress that has nothing to do with solving the case.

Still, discovering and correctly identifying the murderer always feels satisfying, even if the result is something all players will inevitably reach through trial-and-error. All things considered, Danganronpa is an exciting mix of quirky Japanese humor and characters, haunting atmosphere, and gameplay structure that works in short bursts on the road and marathon sessions at home. Several hours in, it's hard to say whether Danganronpa will surpass the spiritual predecessors that claim my top two spots on PS Vita, but it's vying for your undivided attention when it drops on Tuesday, February 11.

This is just PSU's preview of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, so stay tuned for Ernest Lin's full review and final score on release day. Join the conversation in the comments and tell us your favorite PS Vita game and if anything about Danganronpa grabs your interest!

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Kyle Prahl is a PSU senior editor and a Communications student at the University of Minnesota. If you care about PlayStation or the life of a pale Midwesterner, you should follow him on Twitter.
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