If there is an important trait that a game reviewer should have, outside of a love for a wide variety of video games, it’s the ability to self reflect. I posted my review of the first Danganronpa in September of 2014. It’s amazing to see how much has changed in the course of 14 months. I feel like I’ve managed to keep a distinct style while improving on it. I tell you this because I feel that it parallels with this iteration of the Danganronpa franchise. It managed to keep the style that made the first game so interesting and original but improved it in many different ways to keep it fresh.
For those that remember the first game, it was about a group of high school students with amazing abilities being kidnapped and forced to coexist in a school. The only way for them to escape would be to get away with killing one of their classmates. The second game changes that so now the students have been kidnapped and put in a similar situation but now they are on a tropical island resort.
I like the new setting as it is allowed to have more varied environments and some that you wouldn’t expect. Another improvement has come in the overarching plot of the game. The first game had a great plot but the second game has improved again with more twists, and more complex characters. The game does a better job than its predecessor of introducing its characters in a slower manner, whereas the first game preferred to get going faster.
The characters wake up on a deserted tropical island resort. The player takes control of the main character Hajime Hinata. I want to take a quick moment to talk about Hajime versus the original game’s protagonist Makoto. Without spoiling anything I’ll say that Hajime is a way better protagonist than Makoto. In the first game Makoto’s talent was the ultimate lucky student, meaning that he won a lottery to go to the school in the first place. The reason for this from a design and storytelling standpoint is it allows Makoto to be an ordinary kid in an extraordinary situation. It’s an easy way to make him relatable. Hajime on the other hand has amnesia and doesn’t remember his talent. Through twists and shenanigans Hajime learns about himself and becomes a much more interesting character as a result. The game does a great job playing this twist close to the vest and reveals it at a perfect moment.
The characters as a whole are excellent. If I were to put together a list of favorite characters in the series, a lot of them would have come from this game. As I said earlier, the characters are more complex here. There are some amazing character moments in this game that I wish I could talk about but I’d prefer people play for themselves and see them as they happen.
The last thing I’ll say about the story is the way in which it handles references to the original. I’m always more impressed by a plot that can act as a continuation while not cannibalizing it’s predecessor. Goodbye Despair does that wonderfully. It makes references to Trigger Happy Havoc but it never feels at any point like you’re missing valuable information. It’s usually done for jokes in passing and those who played the original get a little more out of it. Luckily the sense of humor in the game is great and even someone who hadn’t played the original wont feel lost if they pick this game up first.
I’ve talked exclusively about the story thus far, but the gameplay has also been improved for the sequel. The structure of the game is the same. There is a free time mode where you can explore the island, and talk to your classmates to learn more about them. When one of them is off’d you point and click investigate the crime scenes and then you have a trial to find out who the killer is. The setup is such that you can get engrossed into the game for hours at a time. It happened to me on more than one occasion.
The gameplay in the free time and investigations are the same with the only changes being aesthetic. For example the exploration is now done as a side scroll as opposed to the open environment of the predecessor. Since the area to explore is so much bigger than the academy in Trigger Happy Havoc this was a necessary change. Your classmates spread themselves out and you’re going to want to talk to them to get the skills in the trials.
The trials have received some major upgrades. In Trigger Happy Havoc there were a scarce number of mini games. In Goodbye Despair not only have the old ones been improved but we have some new ones as well. The new ones are the Logic Dive and Rebuttal Showdown. In logic dive a hologram Hajime Hinata must ride a mind snowboard to dodge obstacles and answer questions. Rebuttal Showdown has you fruit ninja-ing statements to cut through your opponent’s contradictions. Both new mini games are pretty good and all of the games work well to change up the pace and flow of a trial that would otherwise be all dialogue.
I loved every minute I played this game. I loved the characters and the story. I also think that this game is better than the original on more than just a technical improvement level. It resonated with me more than the original did. The main theme of both of these games is hope versus despair. This is most evident with the endings of both games. What I loved most about Goodbye Despair is that the ending had more hope for the characters than did the first. Both games have some major depressing things that happen to its characters but the second game did a better job at having a silver lining which was really nice. My last review of a Danganronpa game was me convincing people to buy a Vita to get this game. I implore again that this series is THE reason to own a Playstation Vita. I highly recommend it.