Early this year, I had the pleasure of playing Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. It quickly earned its spot on the list of my favorite visual novels with its quirky characters and murderous plot. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity (albeit only 7 months), the sequel Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair has been localized for release in the West. Spike Chunsoft has thrown us back into another insane killing game and this time things get even crazier.
You are put in the shoes of Hajime Hinata. Hajime, along with 15 other classmates, all attend Hope Peaks Academy. Hope Peaks Academy recruits students who are considered to be the best in a specific talent. The students are known as "Ultimates". Upon entering the school, Hajime and his classmates blackout and eventually regain consciousnesses and realized they have all fallen victim to amnesia. What starts off as a simple harmless school trip quickly evolves to a deadly killing game in which the only means to escape the island is to kill one of your classmates and get away with it.
Danganronpa 2 uses the same formula as its predecessor by breaking down the game into different sections. When you and your fellow peers aren't investigating one of the games gory murders, you can explore the island and build relationships with your classmates. Socializing with your classmates plays a more prominent role this time around. Improving relationships allows you to gather hope fragments which in turn allows you to unlock new skills to utilize during class trials. Spike Chunsoft also has implemented a brand new leveling system which encourages exploration on foot instead of fast traveling. Walking around the island and exploring will level up Hajime. As you increase in level the amount of skills you can equip Hajime with will increase as well. I found myself more inclined to socialize with other characters in this entry more than the last because of these rewards for doing so. Learning more about the backgrounds and upbringing of the characters also helped me understand some of the possible motives for committing murders.
The characters you are stuck on the island with are all unique in their own right. Each have their own set of skills and personality. These range from a Yakuza gangster who loves to curse people out, all the way to a master chef who never misses an opportunity to make perverted and inappropriate jokes. Every personality is distinguishable from another and all excel at their specific talents that qualified them to be a part of the prestigious academy. As the story progressed, I realized that the characters personality progressed as well. Each character grew more accustomed to the situation we were thrown into and started to trust each other and work together instead of bickering and fighting like they did initially. Even with its spectacular cast, none stand out more than the main antagonist of the game – Monokuma. Monokuma is a stuffed teddy bear and mastermind behind the events the Ultimates have found themselves a part of. Monokuma shows up frequently and when he does he usually carries bad news for Hajime and the others. His dark humor easily makes him my favorite character of the whole game.
Another peculiar character is Monomi. Monomi, just like Monokuma is another stuffed animal but is polar opposite of the deadly Monokuma. She is full of hope and tries to gain the trust of the students and even helps them along the way in their goal to escape the island. I found her to also be a welcomed change of scenery when Monokuma start going off on his tangent. The pacing is also great. Throughout the game there were tons of twists that kept me guessing as to what would happen next, and I was always amazed and surprised at the end of each chapter.
The biggest improvement Spike Chunsoft has made has been in the brutal murder investigations and thorough class trials. When murders take place they are executed in some of the most imaginable ways I could think of and kept me guessing on who the culprit was all the way to the conclusion of the trial. In Trigger Happy Havoc there were a few times I was able to identify who the murderer was before we even made it to trial. The complexity and creativity of each murder makes them that more interesting and even more difficult to solve.
There are a series of mini-games that you must play in order to make progress during trials. For example the "Make Your Argument" mini-game returns and has you picking apart classmates theories on the events surrounding the murder by throwing irrefutable evidence at them. A couple of new mini-games have been added, as well such as "Logical Dive" which has Hajime snowboarding through a virtual world evading obstacles while answering questions which in turn leads him an definitive conclusion.
I have spent well over 30 hours so far and there is still much more to do. Similar to Trigger Happy Havoc "School Mode", Goodbye Despair gives you another game mode to play that alters the story. In "Island Mode" Monomi prevents Monokuma from starting the killing game and allows the students to live peacefully on the island. During this mode you are free to explore the island and strengthen relationships. You can take your fellow classmates on dates and even dig deeper into their past. You'll have to play another mini-game everyday and attempt to build animal prototypes for Monomi. Island Mode, along with a couple of added features you get access to after the conclusion of the story encourages players to spend more time in an already lengthy title.
Goodbye Despair is a perfect example of how a sequel should be done. It doesn't try to change mechanics of the original but instead improves on them. By adding a engaging plot and spectacular narrative coupled with charismatic characters and an rewarding island worth exploring Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a title that any visual novel fan should experience.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @jsparis09