Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Anniversary Edition


From our point of view, over ten years later, Danganronpa has since grown into a successful franchise with several main games, a spin-off, an animated series, and various other mediums. But it can be easy to forget that it started with standalone play. While the first Danganronpa was a standout title, it ended well enough, and it wasn’t necessarily clear that the new classic would get sequels. Soon after, however, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye despair has been released and has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that this franchise has more to offer. While Danganronpa 2 hits many familiar rhythms in the setup and gameplay, the sequel is so successful that it overcomes a lack of novelty by once again drawing the player into an exciting and suspenseful world full of original characters and intense mysteries, small and big. This anniversary Decadence Danganronpa The release, alongside the other games in the collection, will hopefully introduce this pillar of the visual novel to a new generation of fans.

Danganronpa 2The story begins with Hajime Hinata, the player character and a freshman entering Hope’s Peak Academy. The school, which previously featured in the first Danganronpa, is an institution for those with “ultimate” talent or ability. These specialties can range from the most typical, like the Ultimate Mechanic or the Ultimate Gymnast, to some stranger ones, like the Ultimate Lucky Student or the Ultimate Princess. However, even after a few minutes, it is revealed that Hajime and his classmates have been transported to the tropical island of Jabberwock. They are introduced to a bunny mascot who seems to facilitate what should be a fun trip. While this is shocking to the group, things get worse when Monokuma (the sadistic two-color bear who ran Danganronpa‘s kill game) takes over the island and redefines the route of Hajime and his classmates. As in the first game, in Danganronpa 2, the students are trapped and to escape, they must kill one of the other students and get away with a “class trial”.

What follows is a series of increasingly complicated murder plots involving the students. Each case is a standalone ‘whodunnit’ style story, although throughout each various clues are left out as to the game of death and Jabberwock Island’s greater mystery. Or Danganronpa 2 shines is how each piece of the story – individual character development, each murder case, the overall mystery, and surreal humor are blended together. In the midst of the characters discussing serious matter, there are still jokes and slurs between them, and watching their reaction to Monokuma antics is always fun. Even in my second act, some lines from the cast made me laugh as I tried to piece together each case. And on the other end of the spectrum, just like the first game, the last chapter of Danganronpa 2 hits you with so many reveals and quick twists and turns that it becomes difficult to shut down the game until the final conclusion. Most of the characters also evolve beyond the limits of their original gadgets, and some are just plain hilarious. I especially liked Gundham Tanaka, a chuunibyou distressed animal lover with four adorable hamsters accompanying him as “4 Dark Devas of Destruction”.

Gundham, I won’t listen to you until you take out the hamsters.

Gameplay in Dangaronpa 2 is divided into three categories: everyday life, mortal life, and the class trials themselves. Each chapter tends to start with a section on everyday life, which mainly features new developments on the island, often with humorous elements mixed with a sense of foreboding. Daily life also gives you, as a Hajime, 2-3 opportunities per chapter to choose another character to socialize with. It’s no Character, but it allows you to bond with these characters, which can unlock skills to use in Class Trials. However, there are a limited number of these interactions you can undertake, so you should carefully choose who you want to learn more about. Normally, each chapter then moves on to Deadly Life, which happens after a murder takes place. In this part, you investigate the crime scene and talk to your classmates, collecting clues called “Truth Bullets” to use in the classroom trial. This part is mostly on rails, with the player unable to continue until all the clues have been gathered, but provide setups for the arguments in the upcoming trial.

Once all the clues have been gathered, the heart of the gameplay unfolds during the Class Trials. The main element of Danganronpa 2 trial is Nonstop Debates, a registered trademark of the series. During these debates, various characters take turns speaking with their lines appearing on the screen. The highlighted sections of their statements may contain contradictions, and if you shoot the right truth bullet (read: a clue from your investigation) on that section, you may find their lie or mistake and move the trial forward. But as cases get more complex, you’ll often wonder where the contradiction is, frequently rechecking your truth bullets and listening to the dialogue multiple times. Interspersed with the nonstop debates are other mini-games, such as Hangman’s Gambit (where you shoot letters to form an important word for the case), Logic Dive (a kind of skate track where you have to answer correctly to the questions to continue), and Panic Talk Action (a kind of rhythm game where you have to press a button according to a tempo). While these other mini-games add variety and space between non-stop debates, I have found them among the few somewhat drab parts of the game. They are straightforward, sometimes go on forever, and some, in especially Panic Talk Action, seemed to require little skill. As a result, I had significantly less fun during these minigames compared to the debates or standard visual novel sections of Danganronpa 2.

For players who have played Danganronpa 2 already in one or more of its previous versions, the anniversary offer does not offer many new features. There’s a Gallery Mode added to the main menu where in-game scenes can be viewed and voice lines heard, but that’s basically it. Still, super fans who want to own all the games and have them easily accessible on their Switch may appreciate it. The game is well suited to Switch controls, although there are some parts where you walk around in a first-person view that can be odd to control, and I found myself bumping into walls (although this also existed in the original version). I also noticed a slight lag entering and exiting the pause menu at times. And although generally the replay value is low for Danganronpa 2 (compared to other VNs, there are no branching paths to explore beyond trying to get to know different characters and a little bit of light after the game), I was pleasantly surprised at how many ‘Endgame clues come in early on, which I only noticed on my second game.

A character finds a contradiction.
It’s always satisfying to see this and know you’ve found the contradiction.

Graphically, Danganronpa 2 mainly shines through his varied character designs. Much like the first game, each student has a unique aesthetic and color palette that often brings elements of their ultimate talents. Plus, the range of expression the characters have is impressive, and throughout the story and essays you’ll see them range from fun expressions and poses to some that make them look completely deranged. The island’s settings are also uniquely designed with various quirks and kitsch in the background, contributing to a grim and surreal atmosphere but also at times calm or fun. It’s also a nice touch that the game has a “pop-up book” feel as you enter each area, and you can watch the scene and the characters assemble in front of you.

Danganronpa 2 the sound design matches or even exceeds its graphic merits. The soundtrack features a variety of electronic melodies that range from relaxing – evoking the island lifestyle – to menacing and menacing. Additionally, musical signals can change abruptly, depending on how quickly the tone of a given scene can change. Your mind comes to recognize that hearing songs like “Distrust” or “Tropical Despair” start playing means that something, usually bad, is going to happen to our characters. Themes like “Ms. Monomi’s Practice Lesson” are extremely catchy. Additionally, as befits a game based on verbal debate, the VA of the game is also amazing. I used the English voice option and loved how the actors augmented the overall character designs. You can tell they had fun with these roles, distinguishing between over-the-top anime and crime drama. While not all lines are dubbed, the test sequences have full voiceovers and feel like a group of people arguing, supplemented by random, irrelevant lines.

A character walks through Jabberwock Park.
Running can be a chore at times, but luckily there is the possibility of fast travel half the time.

As previously reported, although the anniversary release of Danganronpa 2 doesn’t add much to longtime fans, the base game remains a solid sequel to the original, and if you enjoyed the first you should take a look at the second. It carries on a tradition of strong and creative character designs, music, voice acting, and deductive play, as well as a twisted, suspenseful story filled with quirky humor and high stakes. There are a few small cracks in the gameplay where a bit of boredom can sneak in, but those moments are more than made up for by the overall quality of the game. Just like the first game, you’ll probably remember some of the characters and twists from the plot long after playing it and you will find yourself humming the music as well.

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