Played on Windows
Also Available on Linux, macOS, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita, (PlayStation Portable in Japan only)
After reviewing Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc in September 2018, it stuck in my head. The story was good and the game was unique, so ultimately I’m going to give it a special award. It was the first game where I felt I needed to play its sequel. I did abstain from it for a little while waiting for a good price, but I also needed to play more of it. And thus we return to Hope’s Peak Academy, for Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Three months later and we’re going back to school.
Much of Danganronpa 2 is similar to the first game. I’ve fully reviewed the first game and linked it above, so I would recommend reading that. I won’t re-review most systems but I will talk about the changes and go over the important features.
Part of the reason is that the player should play the first game before playing this one. Danganronpa is a heavy story based series, and the second Danganronpa has massive spoilers for the first game but also builds on it. While someone might be able to follow the second game without playing the first, it’d be like watching Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back without watching Star Wars: A New Hope. You would be left wondering about all these characters and these relationships that they have built up, or why does Luke have this invisible friend called Ben?
In addition, while I rather enjoyed writing the spoiler review for the first game, I won’t be doing that a second time. There’s one important reason for that, while it got a good response (About 1/5 of views), I don’t feel it’s necessary here. You’ll see below, but the story is vastly improved and I don’t feel the need to dive heavily into the spoilers to share my opinions.
Let’s start with the graphics in Danganronpa 2. There’s not much to say to be honest. We have the same engine and system and it looks great. You walk around some areas, then there is a fixed point of view, and there’s a new mechanic where you walk around the map. It’s actually a bit similar to the map system in Friday the Thirteen on the NES though nowhere near as confusing. That’s quite a throwback in my comparisons though.
One slight change in the graphics is a new system where Monokuma hides versions of himself in each area, and you can hunt them out for 10 Monokuma coins each. It’s an interesting addition and means the player now has a reason to look closely at each location. It also means the player no longer has to click each camera and television to get coins from the same dialogue, and for that, I’m grateful to the developer.
Here is a hidden Monokuma riding around a luggage carousel.
I did find that I was less annoyed by the 2D/cardboard cutout effect of the characters. It was less pronounced and the characters were almost always facing the camera. It was something that was a little annoying in the first game and not as big a problem in this one.
Overall though, the drawing and art style is similar. There are more unique locations and less classroom after classroom that isn’t used for anything, but overall, it’s very similar, and that’s perfectly acceptable in my book.
Then there’s the story. While I fully believe gameplay is the core of almost every video game, I would say the Danganronpa’s series lives and dies on its story. This is a visual novel, and so you are playing the game to see the full story.
If there is a big mistake in the story, I would say the beginning of the game makes it. The game starts with an interesting fake out. The player awakes in a classroom, a reminder of the first game. However after the initial hellos are made, Magical Girl Usami appears, claiming to be a teacher. It’s a brilliant moment where she shows the entire class that they are actually on this pristine island and gives them one task, build Hope Fragments by being friendly.
The different tone, location, and mission is actually interesting, and while it’s a Danganronpa game which means it will go wrong, there could be an amazing moment of hope for the players and characters.
What’s wrong with this though? Well, the game already has shown a trailer showing the true game as well as Monokuma’s return and Usami’s other name (Monomi, a Monokuma version of Usami) and the title screen clearly shows Monokuma.
The crazy thing though is the game easily had the assets to pull off this fake out effectively, a new game starts with an alternate trailer the game uses, and a different opening screen shouldn’t have taken that long to generate, but sadly, the fake out doesn’t work if you’ve already shown us the game will be dark like the first. It’s clear the intention of the opening of the game, it’s just that the execution doesn’t work.
There is a full trailer for the alternate version of the game, even a great tagline.
Though, if that’s the big mistake I found in the game, that’s a good sign because the rest of the game mostly works flawlessly for the story. Usami as a character and the Monokuma version, Monomi, is great and a huge addition to the game.
Now, before I go further into the story. I do want to talk about the first game and how it connects to the second. As said before, the first game is almost mandatory for the series because it sets up the universe as well as a few very heavy references here. It also completely sets the theme.
The first game has a few issues with its storytelling as well and while sometimes some issues are similar here, the first game set the tone so I find it hard to criticize the story the second time around when it is so similar.
In fact, I would go farther, while the first game set the tone, the second game’s story is perfectly executed. There are so many great moments here and interesting characters. While the first game made 15 interesting characters, I find myself a little more invested in the second game’s collection of 16 new characters. Some stereotypes do return, and in fact, one character strangely appears again (Byakuya Togami) with a different look, but the 16 characters here are all rather interesting. It also answers a couple of questions the first game left open.
If I was to guess before I started Danganronpa 2, I would have said that the second game had no chance of improving on the original game as the major surprises in the first game seemed amazing. After playing Danganronpa 2, I can admit I was wrong. It’s bizarre, strange, and compelling in ways that I wouldn’t have imagined and, as I said, the narrative is executed extremely well.
That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, there are a few things that I’m not fully on board with. While the first game had some topics and comments made by Monokuma that was less than appropriate, the entire second game feels more adult. There is a lot more sexual content coming from the students in Danganronpa 2, and it keeps popping up. It does lessen after a point, but it’s a bit too sexual at times even late in the game. Now I fully accept that this is supposed to be a dating sim at the beginning, but I don’t know if I’d be talking to a buddy about one of our friend’s breast sizes if multiple people had already died horrifically.
If only this was the only line… It’s not all bad, but Teruteru really does act like this a LOT.
In addition, if you understand how the game is set up from playing the first Danganronpa, you often will have a good idea at the full story before heading into most of the trials. A number of twists are rather obvious but you will have to play through the entire reveal. The answers are better than the first game but the game has been lengthened quite a bit. I found I needed about 6 hours per each of the six episodes, and each trial took at least 2 hours requiring a mandatory recess break and a save in the middle.
That’s a lot of time for this game, and it feels a little elongated at times. There’s nothing I can put my finger on as a problem for the pacing of the story, but two-hour trials do feel a bit excessive, even if I can’t find points to really cut them down on.
Both of these issues are minor annoyances. The wealth of dialogue and text never get to be painful, it’s just the amount of time spent in the game feels quite a bit longer than the first game, because it is. Like I said though, without spoilers, the story is great and if you want more of the first game, the story does deliver a better level of writing and narrative than the first game in my humble opinion.
So we come to the gameplay. While I had issues with the story in the first game, my biggest complaints were leveled at the gameplay of the first game. While the review is above, I will mostly go over them, as almost everything in the first game I had an issue with has improved. However, at the same time, there are two inventive additions to the game, and those become new hindrances for my enjoyment.
In the original game, you explored a school, mostly by walking around in first person mode and choosing rooms to enter. There are some areas that still retain that. The biggest one is the hotel area the students are staying at. This works the same as the previous game. In addition, the majority of Danganronpa’s exploration is based on walking around a 2d side-scrolling map. That’s the map that reminds me of the NES’ Friday the 13th game.
The game also adds in a new little twist, with the player being able to raise “Tamagotchis” who are raised by “steps” made in the game. It’s a fun little system and a great way to find Monokuma coins (to purchase presents for friends). I actually enjoyed it so much I found myself walking around often just to get to the next tier, or keep an eye on my little friends rather than quickly warping to my next location.
The 2d sidescrolling exploration is a great place to get those steps, and a fun exploration mechanic.
In addition, where the first game made you feel that you had to search everything to get Monokuma coins, the sequel now awards ten coins for finding a “hidden Monokuma” around the level. It’s not a major change, but it’s a better way to encourage interesting exploration rather than repetitive pixel hunting.
In the first game, you earned skills by befriending people to certain levels. This mostly worked but it also meant you would have to look at a guide if you needed a specific skill. To change this, the hope fragments you earn are now a new currency and you can use them to buy new skills from Usami. It’s a great change that allows the player to customize their character a bit more and target which upgrades he or she will want.
The trials have also changed quite a bit, and as mentioned everything that has returned has improved. In the original game, the player was only tasked with finding the error of statements made by other people, but in the Danganronpa 2, there is a new ability to agree with some responses as well, and it is a minor but interesting change as it allows the player to answer questions positively as well as tearing down bad assumptions. At the same time, the character’s reading of “No that’s wrong” that I found weak, is better, though that’s also due to an entirely new main character in the game.
Though the game still requires you to find a way from point A to evidence B. If you can’t make that logical leap, you’ll eventually have to look it up, because much of this game is either you know it or don’t.
At the same time, the White noise system has gotten a little more frustrating, as it requires multiple shots at time, and oftentimes I found that I would lose time from hitting the wrong thing, though ultimately I feel the player can ignore the white noise more in this game, and it’s more entertaining just to read it then try to combat it, if possible, which it usually is.
Hangman was easily my least favorite part of the original game, and it’s not massively improved. Still, there are some improvements. Every letter shown will be in the final word somewhere, there are no false letters. In addition, the question can be seen while trying to solve it and the words are often much better. However, I did get a few wrong answers because I had a different word that still fit the same letter count. Though guessing which letters might actually still exist is easier.
Danganronpa 2 also now allows you to save letters, as you need, to combine letters together to “Execute” them and put them in the word. Still, Danganronpa 2 has made Hangman a little more action based, and we’ll talk about other action based parts of the game, but the final couple of hangmen just seem to throw a massive sum of letters, creating a very frustrating experience more than an interesting improvement.
No trial spoilers here but check out Magical Girl Usami!
Hangman in Danganronpa has always been about spelling, and if you can’t spell some of the words in order, you will struggle with this mini-game. It brings up an important question that will come up again. Why not just let me type in the word, or choose it from a list? Why does the game need to heavily gamify answering these questions?
There’s a new Panic Time Action system, PTA for short, that is similar to Bullet Time Battle from the first game. It’s really the same mode, though slightly changed controls. Though the game doesn’t make it clear that you need to hold and release the buttons on the beat, and instead makes it sound like the game is the same. It’s a minor change which doesn’t add much but the PTA adds a new piece at the end for the player to choose a final statement.
The best change, in my opinion, is the Closing Arguments, which while it worked in the original game, did become frustrating. Instead of a massive array of choices, the game now limits you to 5 choices, two or three of which are needed for the picture, and the rest are red herrings, usually lifted images that already exist in the manga you are filling in.
The Closing Arguments are much clearer as well, there’s a question for each panel that’s empty and the game clearly tells you what each choice is trying to say. Yet, I will say that the Closing Arguments biggest flaw is still alive and well. There’s still not much of a point to the Closing Arguments or the summations as the player already knows the whole story at that point and it’s just a rehash for almost no reason.
Those are the pieces of the trial that were improved from the first game. There are two more games that Danganronpa adds to the system, and I’m not a huge fan of either of them.
The first big change is the Rebuttal Battle. It seems similar to the usual trial where you have to find the mistake and shoot it. In the Rebuttal Battle, you only have one opponent, but as a change, you have to slash the words the opponent is saying until you get your chance to “attack” their mistake. It’s a complication to the original trial style, but it doesn’t add much and feels very random. It’s almost like someone wanted a more action based trial component and this was the best they could develop. It’s not something I really like though. There’s a bit of a puzzle element as well to some of the attacks, but it is also a bit weak for my taste as you should be focused on the discussion, not trying to slash the words.
Sorry no trial spoilers still, but check out this pictures of the best ship.. FRIENDSHIP!
Though Rebuttal Battle has nothing on the second addition, the Logic Dive.
The Logic Dive asks the player three questions and gives them three answers they can choose from. That’s the good part of the new mode. The entire mode revolves around snowboarding down a giant tube that reminds me a lot of Sonic 2. There are jumps, obstacles, and the answers are three different paths that must be selected by moving in front of them. Miss a jump or choose the wrong answer and you’re sent back a good distance
The thing is that nothing about Logic Dive fits with the game and it’s a really out of place mini-game, but similar to Rebuttal Battle, and Hangman, I ask the same question. Why does Danganronpa 2 feel the need to heavily gamify this subsystem? Why couldn’t the game just ask these questions through the normal trial system they already had implemented.
I understand this is a sequel and there must have been a feeling that the gameplay team needed to innovate but all three of these improvements feel like a step away from what fans liked about Danganronpa.
I’ll admit that I did think the game needed some more action elements in it, and I still do at some level, but the action elements shouldn’t be part of the trial in hindsight. The brain should have been the tool used in those sections of the game, and these new minigames clearly do the opposite trying to get a more quick twitch gameplay working rather than challenging the player to come up with the right answer.
Finally, I’ll mention that there is some good bonus content here, without spoiling it, fans will earn a couple of different modes worth playing after that long visual novel, including another novel (straight text) with an all-new “What if?” version of the first game. Oh Danganronpa, never change.
And that’s really Danganronpa 2. Now I do have some rather large qualms with the gameplay, and I think Danganronpa took a bit of a step back in that area, but as I mentioned, this is a visual novel, and the player’s focus here is on the story, not the gameplay. The trial should be better, and I don’t know if really is, but I will say that the story holds up and excels. That’s what leads me to my final score.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair gets a
Dangaronpa 2 is not going to seduce new fans, and it is still at its core a visual novel. It admittedly has some flaws and I couldn’t give it a higher score mostly based on the gameplay side, but I still see 4/5 as an excellent score for a genre game, and while there are flaws, nothing here will hurt fans of the series.
Still, players need to play the first game, but the summation of the quality of the game is this. If you enjoyed the story of the first game, the second game is a MUST BUY. If, on the other hand, you didn’t enjoy the first game or don’t want more, this isn’t for you. It’s a better story but it’s built on the same universe.
Danganronpa 2 most likely will only enhance your opinion of the first game both positively and negatively. That’s not a bad thing in my opinion though as a sequel should always build on the original game, and since it’s such a story driven game, Danganronpa 2 does exactly what it always should have done, deliver more Danganronpa level story.
I end the review with one last thought. There are two more games to play in the series, and I find myself considering when I might get to them as I’m interested to see how the entire game ends.
Final Thoughts: Danganronpa 2 is the perfect followup for Danganronpa. If you enjoyed the original game, you’ll enjoy Danganronpa 2. But it’s a sequel. You really must play the first game to appreciate it
Stats: 46.6 hours played, 20/47 achievements unlocked.