E3 2014: The Battle Between Hope and Despair Continues in Danganronpa 2

As I reflect on the first half of 2014, I can’t name a game that has grabbed me in the same way that Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc for the Vita did when I finally got around to playing it a few months back.

Spike Chunsoft’s murder mystery visual novel had me pretty much tethered to my Vita. I was constantly playing it whenever I got a chance. When I arrived at E3 I was eager to find a demo for Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, because I couldn’t wait to see how the Spike Chunsoft planned to make this particular brand of lightning strike twice.

The demo that was playable at Sony’s booth was a rather long one, and it wasn’t a particularly well-rounded showing of everything that that Goodbye Despair will likely offer players, but as someone who so dearly loved the first game I could already see the flashes of brilliance within the second.

The Danganronpa franchise revolves around a group of high school students who attend a school meant for only the most elite and well-performing students in their particular field called Hope’s Peak Academy. Goodbye Despair has a group of students from Hope’s Peak on a field trip to a tropical island. But sadly, the field trip goes South almost immediately when they are told by the school’s “Principal,” an animatronic bear named Monokuma, that they are stuck on this island for life unless they can successfully murder a classmate and get away with it.

After a murder occurs, the remaining students must investigate the murder scene and find out who the killer is in a class trial. If the group manages to find out who the culprit is only the murderer is punished by execution. Should the player be unable to determine who it was that took the life of another island inhabitant, the killer will be able to leave the island and the rest of the class will face death.

DRGD E3 2014: The Battle Between Hope and Despair Continues in Danganronpa 2

The concept sends chills down my spine as it adds such a dark and suspenseful drama of distrust between the cast as the more social of the group try to maintain friendship and camaraderie while on the demented island.

Danganronpa’s gameplay is essentially divided into three sections: socializing, investigation and class trials. The demo I was able to play only allowed me to play through the earliest part of the game, thus I only got to meet up with some of the cast instead of getting a chance to figure out which one of them murdered another.

But getting to know the characters is half the fun of Danganronpa, and it makes the rest of the game all the more affective as you try to figure out who is responsible for betraying one of your classmates.

While the social aspects of the game mirror that of Persona, the trials themselves are more akin to the Phoenix Wright series. Players will use evidence they have gathered while investigating murder scenes to dismantle contradictions in other class mate’s statements, eventually unraveling lies and finding the culprit of each murder. The conversations during class trials are broken up with multiple rhythm-based mini-games that you must successfully make your way through in order to undermine your respective opponent, or to bring forward key evidence. I was disappointed that this wasn’t showcased in the demo, but also somewhat relieved considering I want to be able to experience these things in my own playthrough and avoid spoilers.

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Danganronpa is one of the best experiences I’ve had on my Vita since getting it on launch day and I’m fascinated by the idea of a sequel given how “complete” the story appeared by the time its credits started rolling. Thankfully, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is only a few months away, with the game being slated for release on September 2nd.