Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review: a captivating thriller guilty of magnificence

  • Posted February 11th, 2014 at 18:24 EDT by

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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is easily one of the PlayStation Vita's niche gems with rock solid presentation and a gripping story that doesn't let you go till the end.

We like

  • Riveting and intense story
  • Colorful cast of characters
  • Stylish design and court battles

We dislike

  • Trial-and-error gameplay
  • Control hiccups

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

Originally released on the PlayStation Portable in 2010, Danganronpa takes advantage of the additional input options provided by the Vita. Navigating in the first-person perspective through Hope’s Peak Academy is a bit easier with dual analog sticks than PSP’s circular nub. Advancing through dialogue can be triggered by hitting the X button or tapping anywhere on screen, which I found more convenient. Similarly, selecting objects is quicker by touching it versus aiming with the reticle. Oddly enough, the game doesn’t have full touchscreen support despite having been ported to smartphones before. Some functions still require using the directional pad or left analog stick and pressing the X button. A minor annoyance came from when I would accidentally brush the touchscreen with my finger, causing me to mistakenly hit the wrong selection.

On the note of improvements, Danganronpa features a solid presentation that has transitioned well onto the Vita. The crisp text and sharp artwork is largely owed to the system’s high resolution screen. Illustrations by Japanese artist Komatsuzaki Rui display stunning quality while fitting the story’s melancholic tone. His character designs of the students at Hope’s Peak give each one a distinct appearance so mixing them up is inconceivable. Colors are painted in high-contrast fashion, making images eye-popping - such as the striking pink used as the color of blood. Another element I immediately noticed is the eerie-looking “2.5D Motion Graphics” visual technique in which objects are flat images placed in a three-dimensional environment. There’s also the musical score by Masafumi Takada that I never grew exhausted of, even though it’s composed of less than a dozen tracks. Whenever a song played, it always nailed the emotions of the on-going scene. NIS America included both the English dubbed and the original Japanese voice tracks, the latter being my preferred choice.

How I feel about dual-audio in Japanese games and Danganronpa in general.

The mysterious Hope’s Peak Academy student Kyoko Kirigiri at one point remarks, “If you spend all your time trying to avoid danger, you’ll never move forward.” Spike Chunsoft and NIS America both took risks producing and localizing Danganronpa, respectively. In Japan, the game garnered enough fans to spawn an anime, spin-off novels, and a sequel. Hopefully it can find at least niche success in the West and usher in more games of its type. Danganronpa is one of the best PS Vita games I have ever played thanks to its wildly suspenseful, addicting story and above-average interactivity for a visual novel. Its shortcomings combined cannot overrule the enjoyment I got from this fantastic murder mystery adventure.

PSU was provided a digital copy of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc by NIS America for the purpose of this review.

Ernest Lin is a U.S. Editor for PSU and certified moé aficionado. Follow him on Twitter for ramblings on movies, anime, gaming, deals, and pop culture.
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