Review: Danganronpa – Trigger Happy Havoc (Switch) ~ Extreme Education Surviving

Wikipedia’s entryDanganronpa Wiki entry

I adore games like the Zero Escape trilogy, Corpse Party, Time Hollow, Ace Attorney… The story and setting are the strongest parts of these games, and they tend to stick with me longer. It has been over 5 years since I had beaten one of my favorite series in this style of adventure visual novel games, and I was hungry for more. I knew that Danganronpa existed, but I never really played it. And then, last summer, Nintendo suddenly dropped that for the 10th anniversary of the series… The games will be ported to the Nintendo Switch. Not too long after the games were released, I bought the first game and hoped that it lived up to my expectations. Well, I already revealed the answer to that in a previous article. The fact that I chose this game to be my game of the year 2021, does reveal a lot. So, why did I decide to select this game to be my game of the year? What did I like so much about this game? Is it actually good or did it just click with me? Well, let me tell you. But, before that, I want to invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the content of this article and/or the game.

Editorial note: this review will be spoiler-free. Also, this review is written for the Anniversary Edition on the Switch.

Extreme Education Surviving

In this game, you play as a lucky student named Makoto Naegi. The reason why he is a lucky student is that he was chosen by a big lottery to attend Hope Peak’s Academy. A school for the most gifted students in their fields. From the best swimmer to the best fortune-teller. But, when school starts; something strange happens. Suddenly, he and his class find themselves in a locked school building without any way to escape. Well, the students do get offered a way to escape by a mysterious bear figure. If one of them is able to kill another student without being found out in a class trial, he or she can escape the school and the others… well, they won’t be living long. So yeah, it’s a game of life or death.

To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to go too much more in-depth on the story. The story works the best when you go in blind. If this game looks interesting to you, do yourself a favor and don’t use a walkthrough or look up the story in any kind of way. While I personally found certain things predictable, the execution and pacing of the story are wonderful. There is barely any unneeded filler to the game.

The writing of this game is one of the strongest I have seen in a while. I was pulled into the characters and story right away. It really felt I was playing through a thrilling anime series that sometimes made me feel I was part of that group. Something that really helped with that is how the game handled free time. Something I really liked in games like Time Hollow, is that there are moments where the characters just interact with each other, where there are moments of character building. Some downtime between the big action moments or story beats.

In these moments, you can choose with whom you interact. If you give these characters a present, which you can buy from the school store, you get extra information about that character. And these moments are optional. So, if you don’t want to do them, you can decide to sleep these chances away. At no moment in this game, this mechanic is forced on you.

There is a lot of voice acting in this game. Almost everything in the class trails is voiced by very talented voice actors, and they knock it out of the park. They add so much character to the characters and really made me root for certain characters. I enjoyed the voice work to the point that I even read the non-voice acted parts in their voice.

Counter with an objection

I already talked a bit about the gameplay. In between the investigations and the class trials, you’ll be able to have some free time. In this free time, you can investigate the school to find coins to buy presents. You can also interact with the other characters. This gives some replay value since there aren’t enough moments to see everything.

Now, in terms of keeping track of how far you are with each character… Well, that has been handled in the sequels a lot better. The UI is decent, but the sequels have improved the UI so much… Not to say that the UI is bad, but it could be better. It’s the same for how you can earn coins. That’s easier in the sequels than in the original. But, those are minor nitpicks to be very honest with you.

Anyway, let’s focus on the investigation first. When an incident occurred, you have a certain amount of time to search around before you start the class trial. At this moment, the game turns into a sort of Ace Attorney investigation style of game. A feature I really love in this game and I missed in the original Ace Attorney games is that you can highlight the search spots by the press of a button. So, you don’t have to “pixel hunt”. The game also stops you from leaving a location when you haven’t found all the information, so that helps in not being stuck.

But, the meat of the game is in the class trials. In these trials, the difficulty that you choose matters. The higher the difficulty, the harsher the game is with its penalties for messing up. Also, more additional mechanics are in play. During these class trials, you go through a non-stop debate. It’s up to you to shoot the actual contradiction with the right piece of evidence. Think Ace Attorney’s Cross-Examination, but you can’t flip through the statements AND there is a time limit.

Yes, there is a time limit for each section of the trial. The better you perform, the more coins you’ll earn at the end of it. So, do be careful. Now, you can also make the class trials easier or more difficult depending on if you unlock and/or use skills. These skills can be unlocked by spending free time with other characters and giving them the correct present. You can’t use them all at once, since some of them cost SP and you have only so much to use per trial.

There are several mechanics in play during these trials besides the non-stop debates. One of them is the white noise. These are basically comments from the other students that block statements you could shoot a truth bullet at. (A truth bullet is an evidence bullet basically.) If you shoot the wrong statements instead of the white noise, you’ll lose time. Shooting white noise, you’ll gain time. Oh, and truth bullets can’t go through white noise!

You can also memorize a statement. Sometimes, you’ll notice that during the non-stop debates, people contradict each other. So, shoot others’ statements at their statements. But remember, you can only shoot these statements once. If you miss or hit the wrong one, you’ll have to re-remember the statement.

On top of this, you have the Hangman’s Gambit. This is basically Hangman, but instead of you guessing the letters, you’ll have to shoot them down. A wrong answer you’ll cost you some life points. And just like the UI, the sequels made this mini-game way more fun to play. Making this version of the Hangman’s Gambit boring to play if you have played the sequels.

Then, you have Bullet Time Battle. I hated these sections with a passion. I understood what I was supposed to do but either I understood the timing wrong or my lack of rhythm did me in here. But, visually, the sequels improved this section a lot as well.

To finish the mechanics during the trials, you also have the closing argument. In this argument, you have to complete the sequence. The sequence is basically a retelling of the events with all the facts.

This game is quite forgiving. When you lose all your health points, you can choose to restart from that section right away. You’ll also get full health right away. The only consequence is that you’ll earn fewer coins in the end for that section. This means, fewer chances to buy presents for the other students and that means fewer chances to unlock new skills. But, after I unlocked the skills I’m happy with, I didn’t mind that too much.

In which dimension are we?

Visually, this game has a unique art style. While you can run around in this school in 3D, most of this game is in 2D. And, what’s in 2D stays in 2D. You’ll notice that every character is in 2D and during the class trials when the camera spins around, the backside of the characters is totally black. Just look at this screenshot here. You’ll notice that the characters don’t have any depth. If you don’t really notice what I mean, take a look at the chair and desk on the left side of the screenshot. See what I mean now?

This unique art style is also present in most of the cutscenes of this game. I really love the bold visual presentation of this game. It gives the game a unique character that really sets the tone of the visuals in the next games.

While this game tackles very grim and dark subjects, this game never loses its visual identity and the charm really worked on me. I really felt that I was in some sort of manga where I was having a huge adventure.

Add to this, an amazing soundtrack and great sound design… And you have a complete package. I already added the soundtrack of this game to my playlists, so I can enjoy it while I’m on the train to work or just during work.

Now, the controls of this game work pretty well. It didn’t take long at all before I was able to get used to them. There was only one moment when I wasn’t able to figure out how something worked. That was the first time I had to shoot a bullet. It took me some time to figure that out, but that might be just me. As soon as that clicked, everything fell right into place. Thankfully, you can see the controls at the press of a button. There are tutorials and those explain the game and the mechanics amazingly well. I just misunderstood the section of “how to shoot a bullet”.

There is one thing you should know. And it’s something that can trip you up if you aren’t careful. This game doesn’t really autosave. You’ll have to save manually. And you can’t save during the mini-game sections of the class trial. You can’t name your saves either, but the name of the save explains it quite well.

Speaking of saves, there are no separate save slots for the main game content and the bonus material. So, when you have beaten the game, there is additional content for you to enjoy. From character art to a music player. But, this is something the game doesn’t handle too well.

First, unlocking the additional content costs in game coins. This would be fine if there was an easier in-game way to “farm” these coins. Since in this game they are quite rare to find outside the whole heap you get at the end of a class trial.

Second, they are save-dependent. Basically, when you revert to an earlier safe, the additional content gets locked. And if you don’t unlock it again or spend your coins elsewhere… Well, though luck.

Third, because you can save over your completed game save, it’s also possible to lock yourself out the additional bonus game and content unless you “refinish” the game.

Fourth, but this is actually a good thing. You can’t unlock certain things unless you have progressed in the game far enough. Otherwise, the additional content could have been spoiler territory.

All in all, the bonus section isn’t as polished as the rest of the game. The bonus content and mini-game is amazing, don’t get me wrong but the usability could have been so much better and it would be so nice if you were able to avoid screwing yourself over.

One thing I want to mention is that I did mention some minor performance hits during the trial preparation. I felt that the visuals were a bit lagging in some menu sections. Thankfully, nothing else lagged so it wasn’t such a big deal. And it was only during that moment… So, yeah.

The final thing I want to say is that this game is quite lengthy. Playing through the game casually will take you give or take 30 hours. You can add at least 15 hours on top of that, if you want to fully complete it.

And that’s basically everything I wanted to say about this game. Before I ramble on too much, I think it’s high time for the conclusion no? So, let’s spin the wheel for the results.

Conclusion time!

The good:

+ Amazing story.

+ Excellent soundtrack.

+ Unique and fun visual design.

+ Quite lengthy game.

+ …

The bad:

-The additional content unlocking could have been handled better.

-The rhythm mini-game didn’t work for me at all.

-The game is a bit too forgiving for a game over.

Final thoughts:

Quite recently, I have beaten the final game in this trilogy and while I was reviewing this game… I always had something in the back of my mind saying… But the sequels improved such and such. While I highly advise you to play these games in order, I do want to say that it gets even better in the sequels. Especially the UI and things like that get a lot better.

Now, don’t see this as me saying that “this game is bad” or anything of that nature. This game deserves all the praise it gets. This game started an amazing series that I’m so glad that I gave a chance. Currently, I’m saving up to buy the anime on DVD.

If you enjoy games like Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, Corpse Party, Time Hollow, Professor Layton… You really owe yourself to give this game a shot. It’s an amazing ride from start to finish with a few minor blemishes that can be solved with just paying a bit of attention. So, it’s totally worth your time.

I’m so glad that I gave this game a chance. Since, it’s becoming part of my favorite series ever list and I’m silently hoping that we get new content in the future and if we don’t, I’m looking forward to more work of the creators of the series…

And with that said, I want to wrap up this article. Thank you so much for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.

Score: 99/100

Review #005: Virtue’s Last Reward (3DS) ~ But you promised…

Virtues_Last_Reward

Link to the official English site.

You are locked up. You don’t know where you are or what your goal is. It’s time to play a game. No, not with a Saw but with a bunny. Yes, Zero Junior. You thought you could escape in the previous game, 9 hours 9 people 9 doors (For the DS, I’ll review this game one day)? Then think again. This time, you will have some major trouble. The game will go totally different now, and you will have a lot more explained.  Are you ready for an adventure? One that you rather didn’t have, one you regret living for? Okay, enough of that. This game got me extremely excited to play, I even didn’t know this game came to Europe. But when I saw it in my local game store, I bought the game with the little money I had and that night I didn’t sleep. But why? Is this such a good game and if it is, did it deliver? Or  was my sleepless night because of the terrible game I had to play? Well, let’s dive into this game and let’s check if it’s actually worthy to be played.

Zero III.

VLR_Screen_1

This game isn’t your regular game. Oh no, it proves that the 3DS has games that aren’t for kids. This game is for 16 and up and for a good reason, it’s a scary game. Not supernatural but the scenery and the story is pretty creepy.

The game’s story is amazing and is extremely well done. It can be a bit cheesy here and there but I can forgive that. Some reviewers will tell that those points in a story are boring and all that, but those things actually aren’t all that bad, they don’t take you out of the experience.

A big improvement is that you can now jump inside the story. The game has several endings and to unlock the final true ending, you need to have seen most, if not all, other endings. If you are playing with breaks, the story can get confusing when you jump though, so pay attention.

If I talk about the story, I might spoil it for you. But it’s a great story. For the people who follow me on Twitter before I started this blog, you might have noticed that I tweeded this game to some Youtubers who looked for new games on their 3DS.

Even talking when this game takes place in the series in a spoiler. But the new UI in this game is a vast improvement over the last interface. Like I told earlier, this game’s jump manic in the story helps out a lot, so you don’t have to redo parts of the story like in the original. Also, it’s more clear which path you need to take to unlock a new ending, so the danger of running into a same ending twice is gone.

What pissed me off in game, but is an extremely nice touch is that some endings have a story lock. Yes, you need information from another ending. Confused? Well, I was too. But it gets extremely well explained in the game and I advise you to play it for the story alone.

I want to get out!

VLR_Screen_5

The game is a mixture of visual novel and puzzle game. Your goal is to escape a certain room and find more clues. What’s unique in this game is that when you do it without getting hints, you unlock developer content. This makes for a lot of replay value in a visual novel game. Yes, they succeeded into getting replay value in a game that’s extremely story driven. Most visual novel games collect dust after they are finished.

The animation is extremely well done. Each character has their unique expressions and makes the story come more alive then the previous game. Even in 3D, the game is extremely awesome to look at. The location of the game itself is well done. You truly get the feeling of being trapped and wanting to escape.

The puzzles you need to solve aren’t that easy. Most puzzles require you to use that thing up in your head, your brain. The game will challenge you with sliding puzzles, logic puzzles and much more. A great tip is that you need to carefully look around in a room to not miss anything.

No area is repetitive. Each one has unique puzzles related to that place. I even didn’t find any similar puzzles from the previous game. The story and gameplay is also way different, except the escaping parts. In this game, the door to escape is right in front of your face, yet, the “key” isn’t.

The music is, are you ready for this, epic. I can’t find any bad song in the game or any tune I didn’t like. Often, I start a playlist on Youtube and listen to the music while I play games like Minecraft. The music gives the right vibes on the right moment. Surprisingly there are a lot of different tracks and all are of a decent length. Most of the tracks even have one word long names. Which is a nice touch of the developers.

Some parts in the game have even voice acting. This makes the game feel alive. You feel that you grow a bond with the characters and this makes you want to play more.

virtue-s-last-reward-nintendo-3ds-1358438633-030_m

Perfect?


This game is extremely close to being perfect to me. The music, animation, story, gameplay… It’s all there. Yet, I found some flaws in this game that really made me wonder. Are they going to address these issues in the sequel?

The first issue is the disappointing save file corruption glitch on the 3DS. Yes, I truly advise you all not to save in the puzzle rooms or your data can get corrupt. I learned it the hard way. The developers have yet to come out with a patch sadly enough.

In my opinion, the sound effects are lacking. Not that they aren’t good, they are pretty well done. But the same is silent without the music and really could use a bit more on the sound department in my opinion.

Also, some puzzles, the one with the liquor especially, are a bit tedious. Changing liquor and changing and more changing, it gets boring extremely quick.

Another small flaw is that the story becomes a bit predictable in the yet to unlock endings if you finished others. Either you already know some information or a similar path is walked on. But it helps with the continuity of the story though.

As a final remark, this game has a flaw it can’t fix. This game’s story will leave you with an empty feeling when it’s done. You don’t want to see “The End” anytime soon. This game is extremely good and the length, well it’s a long game. But when it’s over, you want more. More  escaping…

Conclusion

The good:

+ Epic story.

+ Great soundtrack.

+ Amazing gameplay.

+ Various and many improvements over the original.

+ The new elements in the game really helps the game.

+ Voice acting.

+ Additional content.

The bad: 

– Sounds, could be done a bit more.

– Save file corruption.

Conclusion:

This game is really close of getting a 100 of me. Did I enjoy this game? Of course I did. I was sad when the game was over and I actually plan to replay the game this summer. I might already know what is going to happen and how it will end, but the puzzles and the whole game are so fun to play through.

This game isn’t for everyone though. But once you get into the gameplay, you won’t let this game go easily. It’s such a well done game, I wish I still could play it a bit more. I normally don’t care about additional content like texts of the developers but in this game I did. Can you unlock them all?

Score: 99/100