Monday, June 20, 2016

Review #329: Danganronpa 2 - Goodbye Despair

 Don't despair, Danganronpa is back!
 Danganronpa 1 was fantastic, while I wasn't much of a fan of the Trials, the story caught me by the hook and didn't let go. So of course, I had to get my hands on the sequel, and, now, having played it, I've a bit of mixed feelings about it.

 So, what's Danganronpa about? It's a visual-novel styled adventure game. Taking place from Hajime Hinata's point of view, he, alongside 15 other teenagers find themselves stranded on an Island, where a Bunny named Usami kinda forces them to make friends and gather hope fragments. And then Monokuma, a half-black half-white cartoonesque bear takes over and forces the 16 students to kill each other. When not reading dozens upon dozens of lines of text that advance the story in a mostly linear fashion, you'll sometimes be allowed to explore the Island and chatter with the other students. At least until disaster strikes and one of the students decides to murder one of his peers, then you'll have to investigate and gather clues, in order to solve the mystery surrounding the murder and finding out the culprit... or perish. The story can be very bleak sometimes, but it's also pretty humorous in tone, it's a weird mixture that works relatively well, and the game's art direction works wonders with the game's themes.
 I kinda liked the story, but... I've to compare it with Danganronpa 1's, because there's things I preferred, and others I felt it took a step back. For instance, on the outset, the new characters are kinda lame. Danganronpa had funny, quirky characters that played around tropes. Sure, there were a few predictable and generic stereotypes. but they were the minority. Now the game has gone full Japan, most of the girls fall under one or more waifu stereotypes, there's the girl that's always apologizing, the girl that always talks about what 'boys have to do', the little girl that hides a perverse side, the girl that know nothing of the world, etc. It tries to pander to the Otaku culture, and it loses a lot of originality due to it. The male cast doesn't fare much better either. There's the mandatory pervert(who actually has a speck of originality, being bisexual, for a change), then there's the pervert with a crush, and there's also a guy that constantly mentions how he 'has to take a shit', because that's supposed to be funny somehow? The game doesn't stop there when trying to pander to the Otaku culture, there's a whole lot more of fanservice in the game, they actually go out of their way to put as many erotic CG as they can. I was rolling my eyes most of the time...

 ...until I finished chapter 3. Then the fanservice stops. And by that time, you've probably made more advances, during your free time, on the individual character's stories. Turns out the second half of the game is phenomenal, the twist at the end is excellent, and I'd say that everything that happens on this second half is even better than Danganronpa 1's story. That said, you will probably find a lot of parallels between this characters and the ones from the previous game, some praised it, since they did it to 'play with the players expectations'. I call it a waste. This kind of twist would be neat on a third or fourth entry, not in the second game. I mean, even the murders share similarities with the ones from the previous game, and it's done on purpose, and while I think the new murders panned out much better than the previous one's, I still think I would've preferred more originality on a sequel. Word of warning: This game reaveals the plot twists from the previous game as if they were nothing, so you'd probably want to play the first game first.
 And then we have the trials. It's no exaggeration to say that I didn't really like these gameplay segments before, and now I like them even less. For instance, previously you only had to 'shoot' your evidence at contradictory statements, now you'll also come across blue statements, on which evidence is used to agree with. It adds more nuance to an already convoluted game. Hangman's gambits have been 'improved'. or so the game claims, now you have to go through a minigame, in which you must form a word out of moving letters that appear on the screen. Problem is, words are rather long, letter must be picked up in order, and you'll spend a lot of time waiting for the letters you need to appear. Plus, you need two of the same letter in order to 'get' it, but if two different letters collide, you lose health... and I found myself losing health due to offscreen crashes a lot. It can be both unfair and tedious. Panic Talk Actions, the rhythm minigame, has been tweaked a bit, it's a bit simpler now, since you don't need to press the buttons in time every time, but just hold on a beat, and then let go on another.

 But there's even more new elements. There's the Logic Dives, which are a skateboarding-sort-of minigame, where you must jump and pick the correct roads for answers... it's rather fun to be honest, at least when the collision detection on the road works correctly, some of the jumps later on can be a bit of a pain. Then there's 'rebuttal duels', where you must slash across the screen in order to be able to use an evidence 'blade' to cut a contradiction. It's a bit annoying as well, since sometimes it will devolve into a mashing game, because gamers love those. In conclusion, I think the trials have gotten even worse. I didn't like them before, and I like them even less now. That said, as I've mentioned previously, the murders themselves are much more interesting, so I don't really mind slugging through these sections.
 Playing through the game unlocks six different levels on 'Magical Girl Unami' minigame, an arcade like arena game where you, as Unami, must defeat enemies by running in circles(To cast spells) or jumping over them. It's a surprisingly fun diversion. Beating the game however unlocks two things: Danganronpa IF, a short story, with no gameplay, dealing with an alternate take on Danganronpa 1, and 'Island Mode', a micromanagement minigame that is surprisingly fun.

 I've read everywhere that Danganronpa 2 is supposed to be an 'even better sequel' but.... as much as I liked the second half of the game, I think the gameplay took a dive for the worse. And as good as the game gets, it starts off on a rather low note. And by no means am I saying the game is bad, because by the end of the game I was having as much fun as I was with the first one, but it takes a long while to get there. It's a fact that the new environment provides a lot more variety on backgrounds and what not, but I really enjoyed the highschool theme from the previous game. Regardless, it's another great Danganronpa game, but the should've spent less time trying to appeal to the Otaku culture and trying to provide 'twists' to Danganronpa 1's characters and murders, and more time being more original.

8.5 out of 9.0.

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