Those who know the Danganronpa series and have followed it since its inception on PSP and PlayStation Vita, most likely have already run to download the chapters released a few weeks ago on Switch, a first for the Nintendo ecosystem since so far the saga had remained confined to PlayStation console and iOS / Android devices.
These are visual novels with a yellow (not to say black) background set almost exclusively in a school environment, indeed academic to be precise. The first game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, arrives for the first time in Europe and takes us to the prestigious Hope’s Peak Academy, which collects the cream of the cream of Japanese students.
All those who excel at something are bound to be a part of it … in spite of themselves. Yes, because in the face of a very high level of education and an impeccable scholastic service, the institute hides dark secrets that obviously you will be the one to experience firsthand.
The protagonist is called Makoto Naegi, a completely ordinary student when compared to his new colleagues, but destined to live with them a shocking experience introduced in a completely unexpected way by … a teddy bear called Monokuma, black and white and with a perennial sadistic look painted on the muzzle.
The plot that is the common thread to the game could not have come at a better time given the rampant “Squid Game mania”. Indeed Monokuma will explain to you that to get out of the academy alive you will have to follow very specific rules and one of these involves killing one of your companions without being discovered. Obviously, the others will also have to do the same so we are in full Battle Royale climate.
As per tradition, a palette of characters will be painted around Makoto with classic Japanese manga stereotypes. We have the silent but determined type, the bully who leads a gang of bikers, the Idol, the shy but very intelligent girl, the beautiful manipulator and so on. Makoto obviously becomes the central pivot of the story: from “student by chance” his role will gradually change and, between a dodged murder and the other, it will be up to him to reveal what is really hidden behind the respectable facade of Hope’s Peak Academy
While not an action game but an interactive novel, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has the ability to capture the player’s attention from the very first moment and never let it go until the epilogue, almost leaving the part in the background. playful, composed largely of investigative sections “a la Phoenix Wright” but also of simple mini-games that include the inevitable (and dull) rhythm game.
You will live this experience more like a book to leaf through than a real video game, but we can assure you that not even a minute of the time spent in his company will be regretted. The topics covered are very important and often the game does not spare strong scenes, but skilfully alternating them with lighter moments useful to give the reader a little breathing space … sorry, the player.
What stands out are therefore the script, the acting and above all the characterization of the cast which, although stereotyped, in the long run does not tire and indeed reserves more than a surprise. As for the playful part, as mentioned before, interactive divertissements know a little something already seen and in some cases they act more as a filler than a stimulus, but overall they still give life to a pleasant experience.
We have dwelt on the first chapter included in this collection as the other two are nothing more than sequels a little less inspired (but still worthy of being played), which add little or nothing to what was seen in the progenitor. The plots obviously go down in terms of involvement and twists, despite the attempts of the developers to give a boost to the typical school setting with external excursions and / or alternative points of view. However, the stylistic imprint of the cast and the excellent dialogues remain good, even if the level of the proposed challenges remains on decidedly lower standards.
Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp represents the only novelty of this compilation, a different chapter in every sense that abandons the visual novel style in favor of a gameplay more similar to that of board games. The setting is the same as in the second chapter, a sort of tropical island, and you will have to turn it far and wide by moving on a Monopoly-style filing cabinet.
In this case you will not have to kill any schoolmate: more simply, you will have to overcome simple tests and deal with robots that patrol the area under the command of the inevitable Monokuma. The gameplay of this spin-off is decidedly unsettling and even the ambitions of the project are rather low, but if taken in small sips as a cool-down from the atmospheres of the main chapters it can also be pleasant. On the other hand, the price at which it is sold is not very pleasant, higher than the first two chapters. If it should intrigue you, put it on your Wish List to retrieve it during the super-sales period.
Technically, the first two Danganronpas, being the oldest, are the hardest games to “digest”. Even at the time, the aesthetic elements were definitely not the state of the art and always keep in mind that we are talking about PSP titles. It goes a little better with the third, which was launched simultaneously on PS Vita, PS4 and PC at the time.
Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp is a story unto itself and, despite being a very recent title, it has been deliberately developed with a graphic style that mixes ultra-detailed (albeit poorly animated) character portraits, pixel-art and polygonal “board” scenarios. game “deliberately low-poly.
In Europe, the games that make up the collection Danganronpa Decadance they are available as single downloads from Nintendo eShop at prices ranging from 15 to 30 Euros. We recommend starting with Trigger Happy Havoc, which in addition to being the most inspired chapter is also the one that will allow you to understand if this type of games is what you are looking for.
The connotation of the gameplay is in fact particular, perhaps too much for the palates accustomed to throwing up lead and fighting hordes of enemies, but it is also one of those that will hardly leave you indifferent.
For historical fans and collectors there is also a tasty Collector’s Edition that includes all the games in a single cartridge, an elegant steelbook, the soundtrack and other colorful “physical” bonuses. We are talking about over 100 hours of total gameplay.
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