Thursday, September 11, 2014

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Vita) Review

The first Danganronpa was a pleasant surprise.  It had a unique premise and I got sucked into the story.  Since I loved the first game, I was excited to see the sequel was also coming to the US, and sooner than I thought it would.  I was very eager to check it out and see if it could top the first game.

Although in a different setting, Danganronpa 2 has a flow and look very similar to the first.  You start in Daily Life until a murder is discovered.  Then the game enters Deadly Life, where you must investigate the scene(s) of the crime and collect evidence and testimony.  Afterwards, all survivors make their way to the Class Trial where you have to figure out who committed the crime and how.  Once the culprit has been found out and voted on, they will be brutally punished.  The concept of the game is still great.  As you go along and get to know the characters more, it can be painful to watch them drop one after another until the conclusion of the game.  Another nice touch is the UI colors (for dialogue boxes and such) will change color depending on the section of game you are in (Daily Life, investigation or trial).

First, I'll start with the positive changes.  The map is better and easier to navigate and understand.  While you can use it to fast travel, you actually get rewarded for walking to your destinations.  Taking steps, investigating things and talking to people will help you level up.  Your level will determine the maximum number of skills you can equip, so there's no reason not to get some.

Some of the other changes are just average, although that might sound scarier when you realize there was only one real positive change.  Anyway, you now have a Tamagatchi-like pet in your student handbook that you can give presents to and clean up after it.  After a certain number of steps, it will grow up into a different animal.  Once you take even more steps (and prevent it from dying) it will leave and give you some Monokuma coins and presents.  It's not really a bad thing, but it doesn't feel necessary, so it ends up being average.

They have also added hidden Monokumas around each chapter that you have to find.  Some are really well hidden, and each gives 10 Monokuma coins when you find them.  There's no real reason for them, except to give you something else to do/ miss as you make your way through the game, and a trophy or two.  One of the new games in the Trial section is okay as well.  Called "Logic Dive", you will race down a cylindrical field while gathering your thoughts.  At three separate parts, there will be a question that you choose an answer for by going to that side.  If you choose correctly, you will continue on.  If not, you fall off and are set back before the question so you can do it right.  It's not terrible, but it doesn't feel like it needs to be there.  It certainly makes Danganronpa 2 feel more "video game-y" than it did previously, if that's what you wanted from the series.

Now on to the changes or additions that I didn't like, and I'll start near the top of the list.  One of the new mini-games during the trial is called "Rebuttal Showdown".  It's a one on one argument, where you will cut down your opponent's statements.  Truth Bullets become Truth Blades and are still used for the same purpose.  A nice idea, since you will literally cut down their argument, but not good in execution.  Since you spend your time swiping or using the stick to cut their statements, you aren't paying attention to what they are saying.  Most comments take multiple swipes, so you might accidentally hit a key statement while trying to make headway.  Hitting a key statement basically sets you back the whole section, and is really annoying.  You need to use the correct Truth Blade on a key statement to end it.  If you remember the previous statement that it's hard to listen to what they are saying and you see the folly of this addition.  You'll have to figure out before they start which evidence you will likely need because you won't have time while it's going.  Ugh.

Hangman's Gambit returns with a new twist and is ironically named "Improved Hangman's Gambit".  instead of just picking the correct letters to spell out a word or phrase, you have to play a matching game.  Different letters will float across the screen and you have to match two of the same to make it bigger.  The bigger letters can be exploded (if you don't need them) or taken (if they are).  Big letters don't stick around very long, and will hurt you if they explode on their own.  If a letter touches a letter that isn't the same will also result in damage.  The word or phrase must also be spelled sequentially.  The whole order is random, so you can easily get screwed out of health if it wants to put a mismatch close together, or maybe not give you the first letter you need for a minute or so.  Not only does it make the no damage trophy way to difficult to get, it's also really annoying in general.  It's another change that I feel was to make the game feel more like a video game, and wasn't necessary since the first game was so good.  So despite the name, Hangman's Gambit was not improved at all.

The story for Danganronpa 2 takes longer than the first.  Thankfully, it didn't drag on, and the pacing was pretty good.  The game is also harder.  The trials seem more strict and it was more difficult for me to figure out what evidence they wanted presented where.  Some of the added difficulty comes from the new and updated mini-games mentioned above.  Overall, the story was pretty good, although not as good as the first, and it was harder to figure out "whodunnit" until close to the end.  Personally, I liked figuring it out sooner, as then I had an actual sense of accomplishment instead of just waiting for a twist.  While I can't go into specifics on the story, it did have some annoying parts and characters, but I cared about more of the characters than I did in the first game.

Like School mode in the previous game, there is an Island mode here.  It mostly allows you to clean up the trophies and skills while interacting with the characters and squeezing more playtime out of the game.  It's still fun, but the core game annoyed me enough that I didn't want to spend much extra time with it, which is the opposite of the first Danganronpa.  There's also a game where you play as Monomi and fight the Monobeasts, which is hinted at in the story.  The game is okay, but make sure you read the controls first.  There's no tutorial, and the game was pretty weird so it took me awhile to figure out what to do.  Like half of the stuff in the game, it's not bad, but doesn't feel like it needed to be added.

So, would I recommend the game?  If you really liked the first, and want more of the story, it is worth playing.  You might want to put the "action" difficulty down to make the newer mini-games less horrible.  The story isn't quite as good as the first, but I think the characters are better.  The additions feel like they wanted to make the game more video game-like than its predecessor, which I think was very unnecessary.  I really wanted to like it, but Danganronpa 2 was disappointing.  People looking to get into the series should stick with the first and enjoy that.

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