Also available on PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, OSX, Linux, and Windows
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the sequel to the brilliantly captivating Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, is everything that a sequel should be. It takes the mechanics that made the first game great and makes them better. It builds upon the story of the tragedy at Hope's Peak Academy, but it's not until about halfway through that it stops feeling like a gaiden game and starts to feel like a true sequel, and that delayed recognition of its connection to the original is part of what makes it such a good sequel. Like the first hill on a roller coaster, you know it's building up to something, but you don't quite know what, and by the time you realize what's over that hill, it's already flying at you full speed ahead.
The basic premise of the game is roughly the same as in the first game - you're a group of 16 students from Hope's Peak Academy trapped my Monokuma in a killing game. The main difference is that instead of being trapped in a creepy fortified high school, you're trapped on a beautiful tropical island. The mechanics of the game work largely as they did in the first game; you run around the island and explore stuff, talk to people, get to know your classmates, investigate murders, and complete the class trial. The biggest difference in that regard is that when you're running around the island, it's in a third person side scrolling perspective instead of a first person 3D perspective. Otherwise it plays almost exactly the same.
The main difference in gameplay that I noticed was that the class trial segments have been expanded and revamped. New "minigames" have been added to the class trials, and the ones that were already there have been redone and MUCH improved. The rhythm one is actually fun now, Hangman's Gambit actually makes sense, nonstop debate now has weaknesses with which you can agree instead of just countering, and a couple of segments are entirely new. All in all, that's the big improvement in this game - the class trials are SIGNIFICANTLY more enjoyable than in the first game.
The characters this time around, in general, I found myself less interested in, although I did grow QUITE attached to Fuyuhiko, Chikari, and Nekomaru. Mostly, though, the general setting and story this time interested me less than in Trigger Happy Havoc. That's not to say that I didn't find the game enjoyable - I certainly did - but the mystery, the exploration, and the character development in the previous game meant a lot more to me and piqued my interest a lot more than the equivalent offerings this time around.
That said, the characters were still pretty memorable. Just because they don't quite meet the high bar set by the first game's cast doesn't mean that they're unlikable. Some of the dialogue is downright hilarious. Because I knew generally what to expect from Danganronpa after the first game, the betrayal and heartbreak didn't hit me quite as hard in this one. I did, after all, know that most of the characters were going to be dead by the end of the game. Because of that, it didn't hurt quite as much for most of the murders....most, but not all. While the game in general didn't fill me with as much despair as the first one, there were certain parts that cut far deeper than the first game.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a somewhat unique kind of sequel. It continues the story of the first game, but you won't realize that it's doing so until the latter half of the game. Rather than expanding the first game's narrative, it tells the half of the story that you didn't know you were missing. This is a bit of an a tangent, but the way it's all tied together, however, is not through this game but through the anime that followed. Consider the Taoist symbol of the Yin and the Yang. You have the duality of the Yin, darkness, and the Yang, light. On their own, they are distinct and often seen as unrelated. Bringing them together, however - fusing these diametrically opposed concepts - gives you the true nature of existence. In terms of the larger narrative, just the story of the Hope's Peak killing school life from Trigger Happy Havoc tells you nothing. Just the story of the Jabberwock Island killing school trip tells you nothing. It's only when those two are put together in the end of this saga - the Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School anime - that you see in what way and to what extent each of the two half are central to the story. I wish that final chapter had been told in a game rather than anime, but the manner in which everything is brought together is artistically brilliant.
If you're playing Danganronpa 2 to continue the story from the end of the first game, then you're going to want to pick up with the anime after you finish this game. Looking at the game as its own entity, however, it's a brilliant mystery visual novel that expands on the mechanics of the first game in every way, even if the narrative falls a little short of its predecessor in my personal opinion. I would definitely suggest people not play this until after finishing the first game, but if you have finished the first game, then I absolutely recommend playing this on whatever platform you prefer if you at all enjoyed Trigger Happy Havoc.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.