For those of you out of the know, and new to the show the series that is "Danganronpa" is in a class of it's own. Pun intended. Despite leaning heavily on visual novel style storytelling, and basic point and click investigations the game provides a character based judicial process unlike any other. A judicial process that has you figuring out who's who in the grand scheme of things, and administering a punishment deserving of the crime afterwards. In the first game, "Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc" you follow average student, but ultimate lucky attendee Makoto Naegi as he embarks on a life changing journey at the presumably prestigious "Hope's Peak Academy". A school for the ultimate of ultimate classmates. Each of which are the ultimate at whatever it is they do best. Supposedly the school is to open up a world of opportunities for the students who attend, but the 15 students that end up arriving on opening day find out otherwise. Through the maniacal managing of Monokuma, and the murderous intent of those among them the classmates must keep their calm, and assess the situation intelligently or die trying. As Makoto you must observe others in your presence, find clues about certain situations, and build upon relationships to try and figure out what exactly is going on as well as how to escape the nightmare thereof.
Through map, menu, and character interactions you'll progress the story at hand delving deeper into the pit of despair that you find yourself in. The academy grounds itself being the inescapable stage on which your dire circumstances are set to unfold in the midst of some not so honest companions. There are a handful of key elements to gameplay to utilize including character interactions that are accented by vague voice-overs and tons of textual dialogue. There's that as well as area investigations that use point & click mechanics to unearth clues. Most importantly of all are the accompanying guidelines that Monokuma himself demands be followed, and the time management itself which must be strictly adhered to. By interacting with characters when you can you'll be clued into their thoughts, and their roles in the Hope's Peak predicament. You can even use the conversational mechanics to find clues within dialogue as well as discrepancies used later on in the trials that will come as a result of murder.
The gameplay is sectional, and broken up by day and night cycles with titled chapters separating each significant moment within the deep seeded story. While that in itself is seemingly demanding of attention, and strictly so you will have "Free Time" on occasion to engage in character relationship building as well as the activities that can result from gifting students gifts from the Monokuma vending machine. For the most part though you will follow a linear storytelling path in which you take hints given through character interactions, and go to the academy rooms in question to investigate, and make further progress. The game itself starts out with a slow burning character introduction scenario via a prologue, and picks up pace rather quickly once the the first murder occurs. Of course doubt, and despair ensues as one by one the students are eliminated via trial and execution. Yes, I said "Execution". This game does have it's shockingly mature moments so do be aware of that. Sometimes those moments include the grisly animated deaths of your favorite characters. In the end though you will come closer to learning the truth of things through the detective work of Makoto Naegi, and those trapped with him.
For those of you unaware the first, and second game in the Danganronpa series were originally a PS Vita exclusive. They were designed to utilize the Vita's touchscreen as well as the usual Playstation style controls. The translation from the Vita to console (PS4) was mostly a smooth one, but not entirely so though. Things seem to be only enlarged with all original content still very much intact. The only noticeable differences being some of the navigation controls which were tweaked for the console port. Navigation in the game that is done via 3D first-person travel in Hope's Peak Academy is as it was on the Vita. You can also teleport from place to place using the menu map for quicker access. I will say that this latter option is a huge help in that the hallway navigation does not work so smoothly on console's controller. The turning is crudely applied, and makes traveling from area to area annoying. Another addition is the script which can be viewed by pressing the controller's center touchpad. This helps when you need a hint as to where you should go, or whom you should converse with.
For those of you curious about the second game, "Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair" it picks up where the first game left off (kind of), but with a new cast of characters. The basic plot remains the same though the location, and predicament changes. You'll find this time around a student named, "Hajime Hinata" wakes up at Hope's Peak Academy initially not knowing how he got there. Through his company of classmates he must figure out what's going on, and make sense of the madness. The biggest difference in this new misadventure is the location in which Monokuma, and his sister Monomi take the students. It's an island location (Jabberwock Island) which not only incorporates the same 3D navigation, and point & click investigation mechanics, but also adds in a side-scrolling travel option to keep things interesting. As before murder will happen, and as Hajime you'll have to work with others to try, judge, and execute the guilty. The catch being things aren't exactly as they were in the first game. Needless to say the sleuthing is ramped up, and more deeply involved this time around ...
The Verdict ...
As expected I loved my second playthrough of these first two Danganronpa games. Seeing it on the big screen was definitely a different experience though. It didn't seem to harbor the same atmosphere, but I pass that off to the darker lighting of the PS Vita. Lighting can certainly change the mood, and the PS4 ports seem to be brighter, and less foreboding for some reason. Even so the stories are still very much intact, and the interactive story progression stays the same. If you don't mind the visual novel, and point & click approach you might just like these two newly bundled games. For a "2 for 1" deal it's not a bad buy at all. Just know it's a game better suited for those of you who missed out the first time, or for those of you looking to refresh your memory while waiting on the follow-up "Danganronpa V3".
*For review reference be sure to click on the highlighted game titles!!!*