Sunday, January 24, 2016

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Guest review)

*Editors Note*
My buddy Nathan Green has written a followup to his Danganronpa review, and since I've been having some technical issues with The Consuming Shadow after its latest update, so I wasn't able to get the review done in time. Meanwhile, enjoy this guest review!

Please go and read my Danganronpa review first before reading this one. A lot of stuff isn’t gonna make sense if you haven’t. This review is long enough already, and I don’t want to have to explain everything that I did in the first review as well haha. To those of you who have read that review, Enjoy!

Welcome to Jabberwock Island! An island of sunny beaches, fun attractions and high school students trying to murder each other!
Yup Danganronpa is back for another round of class trials, investigations, epic music and more pepto bismol blood than you can shake a monokuma at and oh man it is a wild ride.
I picked up Danganronpa 2 the very day my Playstation Vita arrived in the post , finished it the following week and man... what an experience. I've got a lot to say about this one, so buckle up! It’s time to look at Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Let's take a little trip to Jabberwock Island!

Danganronpa 2 was originally released in Japan on the PSP in 2012 under the name Super Danganronpa 2. It didn’t see a release in the western market until two years later when it and the original were localised by those wonderful people over at NIS America. The versions we got were based on the updated Playstation Vita rereleases, and are therefore only available on the Vita outside Japan.
Now, I want to quickly touch on the localisation. When the game was localised, NIS changed a few things here and there, some of which make sense, others however are kinda weird. For one, instead of each student having a super duper high school trait they now have an Ultimate trait. Really all the localisation changes are small nitpicks which don’t really effect the game much at all. The translation itself was pretty good, I saw no grammar or spelling errors ,however I did spot a few typos in the script. Overall the localisation is certainly one of the better localisations of recent years. NIS also added a full English voice cast to the game, which I will talk more in depth about later.
Anyway, onto the story.

Like my review of the first game, I'll only be giving a basic plot summery and setup overview to avoid spoiling the game (and trust me, you don’t want it spoiled).
For starters, Danganronpa 2 does NOT take place right after the first game. In fact, you play as a completely different character by the name Hajime Hinata. He, along with fifteen other students have been chosen to attend Hopes Peak Academy (Note: I incorrectly called the school Hopes High in my previous review. Whoops)
However, upon walking into the school our hero passes out and finds himself on a tropical archipelago with fifteen other students. The only way to get off these islands? Kill a fellow classmate and get away with it.
I really can’t do the story justice without spoiling something. This game, like the previous game is masterfully written and full of plot twists, character development, insanity, and a bit of humour as well. However, Danganronpa 2 really turns it up a notch with the story when compared to the first game. You thought the original had a good story? Somehow Danganronpa 2 manages to top the first game and then some. It’s amazing. If you liked the story that the original had then you will be right at home with the second games story.
Gameplay for the most part remains largely the same, however there've been many tweaks and refinements made to the game to spice things up a bit.
The first of these changes is in the exploration. Like the first game, you explore the archipelago from a first person perspective. However, due to the scale of Danganronpa 2's islands they've added a sort of overworld where you control Hajime from a sidescrolling perspective to move about the archipelago. You're also given the ability to quick jump to different buildings that you can enter in the overworld by using the directional buttons, which is a nice addition if you just want to get from point A to point B fast.
First person freeroam sections remain from the first game and are basically just like they were in the first game. Fixed First Person exploration sections are also present and again, remain basically unchanged.
Your electro-ID’s (called E-handbooks in the official localisation) have received a few tweaks. You can still warp around the islands like you could in the previous game using the map but I found I never used this feature due to being able to quick jump in the overworld. A whole new feature/mini-game has been added to the E-handbooks which has you taking care of a sort of Tamagotchi like virtual pet which levels up and grows as you run across the archipelago. Personally I find this feature pretty pointless and it only really seems to exist for trophy hunters to fiddle with to get the bronze and silver trophies attached to it.
The visual novel sections are still here obviously and again, remain largely unchanged although they did remove the Re:act system from the previous game (Basically if a certain purple section of text popped up in a diologue box you could hit triangle and ask about the topic that was written in the purple text). I have no clue why they removed it.
Most of the gameplay changes however are present in the class trials. Almost every mini-game that was present in the previous game has had something changed about it. Like my previous review I will be going through these mini-games one by one depending on how often it appears.
Non Stop Debate:
Like the previous game, this mini-game appears the most by far. The base gameplay is pretty much identical to the previous game, but there have been some additions to make things more interesting.
Now not only can you point out and shoot down peoples contridictions but you can also do the opposite and provide relevant evidence that backs up someones point. These points are differentiated from normal weak points through the use of blue text. Yellow weak points act the same as the previous game. The ability to pick up weak points and use them to knock down another weak point returns in this game BUT you cannot pick up a weak point and use it to try and backup someones statement (i.e pick up yellow text and use it on blue text)
White noise returns (although the text is ironically purple) with a vengeance. Some pieces of white noise take multiple shots to go down, which can be a little irritating at times. However, you can tap the Vita’s rear touchpad to shoot down white noise, which is my preferred method because it auto targets.
The rest of the debates are the same as they were in the previous game, although these twists certainly add more to the mix.
“Improved” Hangmans gambit:
And here lies one of my only major gripes with this whole game. “Improved” Hangmans gambit is HORRIBLE. Sure Hangmans Gambit from the previous game was pretty bland but in this game is it just BAD. You have to pick up letters using the X button and drop them on another of the same letter (I.E pick up and O and drop that O on another O). Problem is, the letters are constantly moving all over the screen from all corners and if 2 different letters collide then you take damage. In the later class trials you will see your life meter drop like a god damned BRICK due to how many letters are on screen.
You can destroy paired letters by using the X button and send them down into the hangman thing at the bottom of the screen using the triangle button, but half the time you either have no idea what you are supposed to be spelling or there is so much crap on screen that you can’t keep up. This mini-game is just CRUEL and is by far one of the worst things about this game. It doesn’t help that unlike hangmans gambit from the first game you are given NO HINTS this time round. In the first game a few letters would be done for you but you don’t get that here. Even worse is that the words you have to spell will usually be very long! It just doesn’t work at all. By far the worst of the new mini-games and the fact that it appears often doesn’t help matters.
Oh and you can’t check any of your evidence while you are playing this game just to add insult to injury.

Logic Dive:
And here we have a brand new mini-game which unlike hangmans gambit is actually pretty fun.
Logic Dive has you controlling Hajime on a snowboard (yes a snowboard) down a tron looking halfpipe avoiding obstacles and stuff like that. The logic part comes into play when you have to answer 3 questions about the murder. You are given pre-written answers which each correspond to a different coloured path. Pick the path that you think is correct and you continue on. You control Hajime with the Left Stick, make him accelerate with the X button and Jump with the L button. You can also brake by pulling back on the right stick (useful if you need some time to think about an answer).
Logic Dive is by far the most entertaining of the games. It may seem odd seeing an action centric mini-game in a puzzle/mystery game but Danganronpa 2 implements it very well. It also helps that the music track that plays during this mini-game is extremely catchy. I only wish that there was an option to play a sort of infinite logic dive without the questions as an extra as that would be a fun distraction.
Rebuttal Showdown:
Another new mini-game! This one has you in a one on one battle against your opponent with you literally slicing away at their words. You can slice by using the directional buttons, the left stick or the touchscreen (although the latter is a bit unresponsive so I’d recommend the D-Pad or left stick).
A showdown is broken into multiple stages most of the time. To pass one stage you have to make it through the round while taking as little damage as possible. If done correctly the little bar in the middle will have moved in such a way so that Hajime’s space covers most of the screen.
On some occasions, usually when you end a round tied with your opponent, you will have to mash the X button to try and edge your opponent out to move onto the next stage.
Now it is important to know that the technique to playing this mini-game is to try and get as many words as possible in the path of your slice as you have limited slices. It’s all about being as efficient as possible.
When you have advanced to the final stage weak points will begin appearing in the text. Similar to the Non Stop Debates you need to counter these with the appropriate evidence. If you have the correct evidence to contradict the opponents claim you will cut through their statement.
It is also important to know that if text has weak points in it you DO NOT try slicing through it otherwise the opponent will gain considerable ground. If the weak point isn’t the one you want then you just have to leave it and wait for the next piece of text to come on screen.
Overall once you know how this mini-game works properly it becomes quite entertaining. If you have no idea about the techniques though then it can get pretty frustrating.

Panic Talk Action:
The rhythm game returns but it has now been revamped. The core concept is still the same but instead of pressing the X button in time with the music you now have to hold it. Holding it locks onto statements and releasing fires. Holding the square button reloads and the R button puts you into fever mode which gives you infinite ammo and ups the tempo.
These changes do help make things a little more interesting I will admit but sometimes timing your press and release can be a little more difficult than in the previous game. Either way this one isn’t bad.

Closing Argument:
Like the previous game this mini-game has you reconstructing the events of the murder in order in a manga style. Unlike the previous game however you now receive panels in “stocks” of 5 (up to 3 of the panels are correct panels and the remaining ones are dummies) and are judged on if you placed a panel correctly or not immediately. This change isn’t bad but I personally preferred having access to all the panels at once like in the first game.
What is also worth noting is like in the first game if you happen to lose all your life you can restart on the spot with a full lifebar and try the mini-game again.
PHEW that was a lot of mini-games to cover. As you can see most of the mini-games have either received a change, tweak or complete overhaul from the previous game, most of which are pretty good (except blooming hangmans gambit)
One other thing to mention about the class trials is how they are MUCH longer than the class trials in the previous game, so long in fact that halfway through the trial they have an intermission. Personally I am really happy with this change as I found the class trials in the first game were a little short.
On the other hand, the sections leading up to the class trials are also longer and particularly at the beginning of the game can drag for a little longer than you really want them to. Also due to how the archipelago is so much bigger than hopes peak academy from the first game you will probably feel that some of the islands are just… well a bit empty. Granted that is kinda true as Hajime and the rest of the slowly dwindling cast are really the only people on the archipelago, but this means that you will be doing a lot of running around to get to relevant places.
Also, while each island is chock a block full of buildings, some of these buildings never get used for ANYTHING. Like you will go into them to check out what is inside them when you first explore the new island but after that they are never bought up again. This is a shame really because in the first game each room was at least relevant to something while here some buildings and places just seem to exist for no reason whatsoever. To me it feels like a missed opportunity.
However the fourth case in the game certainly harkens back to the first game mainly because the setting is completely different. Basically all the rooms are used for something in this case and it is refreshing to see especially when some buildings just sat around being as useful as a chocolate frying pan the entire game.
While I appreciate what the developers were going for here I feel that they ended up just making the game a little too expansive, leading to some redundant landmarks and buildings as well as giving the player tons of opportunities to use the quick warp feature on the overworld. Bigger does not always mean better. Here’s hoping that Danganronpa V3 has realised this and has attempted to hit a sweet spot between the first and second game in terms of size.
Overall I appreciate most of the tweaks made to the game and the wider variety of mini-games is really nice but some things such as “Improved” hangmans gambit and a lot of unused buildings and areas does prevent me from giving the gameplay a perfect score.
Graphics and Sound:
The graphics for Danganronpa 2 look pretty good. The setting of Jabberwock Island allows for richer colour palletes and more varied and unique environments that weren’t possible in the first game. However you'll be seeing A LOT of yellow and blue due to the Island setting.
Danganronpa 2 was originally a PSP game, so basically all of the assets are from the PSP version albeit they have been rendered in higher resolution. 3D models are used every now and then as well, usually on the overworld and these look quite nice and maintain the games unique art style despite being in 3D.
Speaking of which the art style is just as gorgeous as the first game. Danganronpa's art style is very distinct and even transitions well to 3D.
I was playing the game on my Vita 1000 and it looked lovely on the OLED screen, it is certainly a lot more colourful and varied in its style than the first game was which works in its favour.
Unfortunately, the game is not without its flaws. I was kinda disappointed in the performance. While Danganronpa 1 on the PSP ran perfectly with no frame drops at all, here I spotted a few performance issues throughout the game. Mainly when I was opening my E-handbook, which took a few seconds to do and ESPECIALLY when I was scrolling through text in the transcript log. The game also runs at 30 FPS and while it usually keeps up with that frame rate there were a few times when I saw the frame rate dip a little below that, namely when there was a lot of stuff on screen.
What is really odd though is that the game is in fact able to run at 60fps. Through the use of a glitch it is possible to get the game running at 60fps until you open up a menu and it runs really well, which just makes everything even more odd especially because the Vita is way more powerful than the PSP, so it should be able to handle this kind of game without a hitch.
However, as this game came out on the PSP first it's most likely they either didn’t put in enough work properly porting up the engine to the Vita ,or they just didn’t know how to do it as well and cut some corners which is disappointing. It's not a deal breaker, don’t get me wrong, but it certainly does make stuff like scrolling through some menus a total nightmare due to the lag. Here’s hoping that Danganronpa V3 performs better as that game will be Vita exclusive handheld wise (it is also coming out on the PS4).
Sound wise the game sounds amazing. Masafumi Takada returns at the helm of the music and as usual he delivers. Tunes such as Kill Command, Tropical Despair, Trapped by the Ocean Scent, Dive Drive and others really make for an awesome soundtrack. Other tunes such as Sing the Empty Happiness really provide an errie feel to fit the mood in some areas. On top of that tunes from the first game return in full force. It’s great hearing tunes such as New World Order, Break, Turn up the Heat and Closing Argument return from the first game, as well as other standout tracks. This really helps power Danganronpa 2’s soundtrack into the relm of outstanding. And just like the first game you can listen to the entire OST in the game itself which is something I really appreciate.
Since this is the official English localisation of Danganronpa 2 I am talking about the game received a full English voice cast. While I played the game predominantly with the Japanese voice track (which is an exceptional voice track and really captures each of the characters personalities perfectly) I did give the English voice track a shot and to my surprise, it’s actually pretty good! It isn’t as good as the Japanese voice track in my opinion, but as far as English dubs go this is by far one of the better ones. Then again this game was localised by NIS so that is kind of expected from them. Although Brian Beacock as Monokuma is positively ear grating. Hearing freaking Johnny Yong Bosch as Hajime is flipping amazing though. He does one excellent performance along with Derek Stephen Prince as Fuyuhiko, Kyle Hebert as Kazuichi, Carrie Keranen as Mahiru and Julie Ann Taylor as Ibuki. This is one all star voice cast in this game and it works quite well. A few performances are a bit naff but most of them are very good and make the English voice track a valid option if you prefer your games in English.
Overall while the framerate on the graphical side has a few issues the soundtrack is still amazing and a solid Japanese and English voice cast certainly help outweigh that minor issue.
Before I move onto enjoyment I’d like to quickly cover the little extra goodies that Danganronpa 2 has up its sleeve.
First is Magical Miracle Girl Monomi. A side game which has you controlling the character of Monomi (basically female Monokuma but a rabbit instead of a bear) in a quest to take down a bunch of monsters and stuff. I haven’t played much of this one but it is quite entertaining from what I have played.
Secondly there is Danganronpa IF, a light novel story that is unlocked upon finishing the game. This basically details an alternate timeline that focuses on what would have happened had the cast of the first game found out how to escape Hopes Peak Academy earlier in the game. It’s a good read.
Finally there is Island mode. This basically is the free time sections where you interact with your fellow classmates to learn more about them expanded into a full extra game. For trophy hunters it’s pretty good as it has quite a few trophies attached to it and also helps you learn more about characters and their backstory.
It also solves the problem which plagued the first game on the PSP where you had to replay chapters of the game in order to fill the report cards of each character. It’s an optional mode but it is there if you want it.
Finally hiding under the extras menu are galleries where you can view events, movies and listen to music from the game. Danganronpa 2 is certainly not short on the extras and these extras are exclusive to the Vita version as well.

OK so did I enjoy Danganronpa 2? Silly question. Of course I did. Despite some minor gripes with the game being a little “too” large as well as the pain that is “Improved” Hangmans Gambit I still enjoyed the game a ton. The story manages to somehow one-up the first games story, and on top of that the game is LONGER than the first one. They actually increased the length of the game in ways that weren’t artificial which I am super happy with as I always found the first game a bit short.
The extras that the game has will be keeping me occupied for a little while longer I’d say and the addition of trophies to the Vita version are good if you like that kinda thing.
I finished Danganronpa 2 in around fivedays. On the final two days I was playing for around four to five hours straight if not more due to how gripping the story was. Again, like the first game the story is what really makes Danganronpa the awesome time sucking game that it is. Sure once you have finished it there isn’t much need to go back but on your first playthrough you will most likely find it difficult to set the Vita down unless someone forcefully crowbars it out of your hands. You don’t want to put Danganronpa down until you have seen those credits roll. It’s that good.
The puzzles are more complex and clever, the class trials longer and more engaging, the music even better, the story is one of the best I have seen in a video game, I can’t call it the best story I've seen because 999 on the DS edges Danganronpa 2 out by a decent amount but it is still damn good.
Final Verdict:
If you liked Danganronpa 1 then… ok well you will have most likely played this game already, BUT if you haven’t you need to go and buy this game NOW. Go, now. It’s not too expensive on PSN and at the time of this review there are discounts on the game on in Europe so what the heck are you waiting for?
Like the first game I give Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair a highly recommended.

PHEW. That was one long review. Guess I got nothing else to do now but wait until Danganronpa V3 rolls out so I can review that eh? Oh wait…
Yup we are still not done with Danganronpa yet. We have one more game to look at before I move onto reviewing other Vita games and it is certainly the oddball of the series for many reasons. Namely because it’s a Danganronpa themed third person shooter. Wait what?
So join me next time when I review Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls! As soon as I finish it that is…
This is Nathan Green, signing off.

Age ratings:
OFLC: M (Unrestricted)
PEGI: 16

Image from