And welcome, to the madness that is Danganronpa. This wildly popular series is mostly known and loved in the west for their anime adaptations. Which is a bit of a let down to me; since the games offer so much more depth to the world and it’s characters. That’s why I’m motivated to set the record straight!
Let’s do this.
//Just a little heads up//
I’ll try to keep this as spoiler free as I can, but if I cross over to the dark side for a minute *I’ll let you know* ;p
The game takes place in modern time Japan, and focuses on Hope’s Peak Academy. An elite highschool for the most gifted students. What their talents are doesn’t really matter, they just have to be the very best at it. Normal highschoolers who also want to attend can apply for the school’s annual lottery to be welcomed as an Ultimate Lucky Student.
Enter the main character, Makoto Naegi. His first day becomes a horrific disaster after he passes out in the entrance hall. Turns out the school has been taken over by the evil mastermind Monokuma. A mechanical teddy bear with all but good will, dead set on his quest to spread despair. 16 students have been locked inside and are forced to participate in a killing game by the following rules:
1) In order to leave, you have to murder someone /: Guess that part speaks for itself
2) When a dead body has been discovered, students get the opportunity to investigate and find evidence that could reveal the killer.
3) Afterwards a Class Trial will be held, where everyone gets to decide as a group who they think the culprit is
4) If the culprit’s caught, they get killed as well through one of Monokuma’s personalized Punishments
5) If they get away with it on the other hand, the culprit is allowed to leave the school and everyone else will be sentenced to their deaths.
80% percent of this is reading. If you’re not into visual novels this is probably not the game for you. However, the Class Trials are a more active part of it all. But that is it. During these trials you’ll have to make your way through about an hour and a half of intensive mini games (The difficulty can be lowered if you just want to move on with the story) while still applying basic logic to solve the mystery surrounding a person’s death. They become more challenging as the story progresses. The first final (logic) class trial I ever conquered almost killed me as well 😮
Danganronpa features a bunch of Main/Supporting characters, but not much more since the games takes place in mostly closed off areas. I’ll briefly introduce you to the main cast.
Is the extremely ordinary protagonist of the first entry in this game-changing franchise. Being selected as The Ultimate Lucky Student ends up being the least fortunate thing that ever happened to his boringly normal self. Ironically. As the game will point out a few bazillion times. Anywho.
His ultra average persona is what made me feel like he was just prefect to be the center of this story. Being “plain or basic” has become almost off-putting in today’s society. Even though some dialogues simulate those type of opinions, after a while it’s clear the game suggests being normal is something almost everyone has to live with, and that you don’t need to be outstanding to be considered an individual or to have a meaningful purpose in life. Because! In the end, it’s still this fella that saves the day.
If that won’t cure your depression I don’t know what will : D
Talks about next to nothing but his fixation on Hope and Despair. This huggable fiend took over Hopes Peak Academy and forced all the residing students into a sadistic killing game.
Your ice-queen side kick throughout the adventure. Despite her cold and stand-off-ish attitude she really means well and is quite sympathetic towards the other characters. At the start she can’t seem to remember what her ultimate talent is that got her into this hellhole school *spoiler* towards the end it’s revealed she’s The Ultimate
I’ll make sure his picture is displayed twice as large to match the gigantic ego that comes with The Ultimate Affluent Progeny. His extreme confidence and over all personality was concocted by being the heir of the established Togami clan fortune and leadership positions.
Also known as The Ultimate Pop Sensation. Very early on it’s revealed she and Makoto had been classmates in the past. It’s not exactly a happy reunion due to the circumstances, their familiarity drives them to stay close together.
The Ultimate Swimming Pro. Now, I should probably save this for my conclusion and personal thoughts part of the review, but this girl is an absolute delight. Her positive go-getter attitude and oblivious mind make for top tier comedy, while her emotional side and insecurities keep it real and prevent her from becoming a parody of herself. And if you can’t tell from the picture; She freakin’ loves donuts.
The kick ass super woman Ultimate Martial Artist. I feel like everyone knows this person that’s overly determined to achieve whatever extreme goal it is they have in mind. Well, that’s Sakura for ya.
The Ultimate Writing Prodigy could make for a pretty interesting novel herself. From her peculiar personality and habits to her affinity towards Byakuya. I swear, all time best seller. There’s so much to be explored here that leaving it at this is probably the better idea.
This guy is something else as well. The 21 year old managed to stay in his first year of high school where, I’m just gonna assume he’s comfortable. He is The Ultimate Clairvoyant.
The Ultimate Baseball Player, which he became by accident. He just has a natural knack for aiming. Sick and tired of everyone forcing him to use his talent, he’s aspiring to be a rock star.
Is The Ultimate Gambler and saved no expense when it came to dressing for the part. Her Lolita inspired style is probably the most obvious thing about her, anything is else is shrouded in mystery.
The Ultimate Biker Gang Leader. His hair looks like corn, probably meant to fuel his bike with instead of using gas. And this innovative, progressive way of thinking is what got him to be the top dog. Probably. My brain can’t justify the hairdo any other way.
Is the super intense Ultimate Moral Compass. His title is pretty vague in my opinion but it just comes down to him being very strict about – and sensitive to rules (?)
As The Ultimate Fashionista. She may be a model but that doesn’t mean she’s flawless! This one is spunky and just calls ’em like she sees ’em.
If looks could kill…
The Ultimate Programmer. I don’t think anyone would disagree when I say this is one of the sweetest characters of all time! Maybe too much so for their own good. But that’s what makes for someone relatable, the fact that sometimes not everything’s perfectly balanced.
The Ultimate Fanfic Creator. I don’t believe in stereo types but the box of paper towels to his right are … well. His ultimate talent set aside and the way he chooses to use it, Hifumi is very polite and overall a nice person.
Spike Chunsoft really outdid themselves with the art. They show a unique style, displayed in the most terrific quality PSP could handle back when it originally released, and there’s also quantity. It’s filled to the brim with animations and CG’s. This masterpiece features a gallery where you can revisit all your favourite illustrated or animated moments. Take this tastefully handled opportunity for fanservice as an example :p
Sound and Voices
Surprisingly, and I don’t care what anyone says, the English dub is amazing. The voice actors seem really invested in their roles, some even best those of the Japanese version in my opinion. For instance Monokuma, who sounds like Chucky with a really bad cold in Japanese. While in the English version the voice actor has the appropriate amount of murder-bear intonation. I’m not saying they did a bad job, just that this time the West went for it and wouldn’t admit defeat 🙂
The BGM is so on point too, that it’ll pull you into the zone, anytime/anywhere, regardless of anything. If you’re curious there’s a bunch you can find on YouTube alone, I strongly suggest you give it a quick listen in your spare time even if you don’t plan on playing the game.
If you just take your time to really absorb everything that’s going on here, there’s so much you can apply to your daily life. By which I mean, if you’ve ever experienced whatever sort of struggles, chances are you’ll find something to relate to in this game. And relating to something, just knowing there’s at least the one person out there who wrote this or that, can be healing. It’s the most amazing and intensive written journey I’ve ever come across that’s also offered me some kind of micro therapy.
Available on the following platforms:
The game’s from a while back so the prices are super reasonable as is (Around 20 euro/25 USD for the digital ver.), if you’re looking for a real bargain wait for the steam sales around the winter holidays or summer.
If there’s anything I missed or that you’d like to know more about, feel free to tell me! 😀
Lots of love,