My Twitch channel allows me to play games that I’ve been wanting to play for a long time in front of a live audience. I always wanted to capture reactions to games, especially ones that are completely new to me and I know little to nothing about. Four years ago, when I first came to KU, my friend introduced me to the game Danganronpa, which was similar to other detective/mystery games I’ve played in the past (specifically Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton). I never got around to playing it because of undergrad course work, and wanted to play it for an audience. This summer, I finally got that opportunity.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is the first game in the series, released in 2010. The story revolves around 15 high school students, each one specializing in one area, known as an “Ultimate”. For example, one character was the ‘Ultimate Swimmer’, another was the ‘Ultimate Clairvoyant’ and another was the ‘Ultimate Baseball Star’. Throughout the game, students wind up dead and you, along with whoever is remaining, must figure out who the culprit is while unraveling the mysteries of the school.
At this point, I will be giving my review of the game with spoilers. If what I’ve said so far has you intrigued, go play the 10-15 hour game for yourself. I recommend that you experience it blind for the best playing results.
The overall concept is really neat. It’s not your typical ‘whodunnit’ game where there’s normal rules and trials. The mastermind creates rules whenever they want, some of those rules even aiding in the trials. I love how each character has their own ‘Ultimate’ ability, which sometimes also aids the trial - or can be a dead giveaway about who committed the crime. The developers did a fantastic job of building the tension and mysteries surrounding the school until the last of the six trials where you finally unearth everything. But that’s where the game falls flat.
Up until that point, I was being tugged in 4 different directions about who the mastermind behind this killing game/school could be. It could’ve been the cold hearted but wealthy Byakuya who wanted to keep making the game more ‘interesting’. It could’ve been some unknown character we never saw until the end who wasn’t even a student. It could’ve been Hiro, a character who was really dumb but probably faked it. And I had my bets on Mukuro, a character we learned about in the latter portion of the game, being the unknown sixteenth student. But of course, with my luck, it was none of those options.
It turned out to be Junko, a character who supposedly died at the start of the game but apparently it wasn’t her. She was the mastermind the whole time, merely because ‘she was born with despair in her heart’ and being bored. I…really hate this ending. As a writer, it seems like such a ridiculous cop out for a character’s motive, and all of the trials had a motive behind them, so it’s not like the writers didn’t know how to write for it. It didn’t make sense for it to be Junko, and her monologue towards the back half of the last trial was too long. I checked out while listening to it. I just wanted the game to be done at that point.
The game had some very jaw dropping moments, like when we found out Chihiro was actually male. I was so shocked by that twist, I really didn’t see it coming. But this ending didn’t give me that WOW factor. It was lackluster and I was very bitter at the end of the game.
I'm definitely going to play the other games in the series, because it’s overall a sound concept. My friend told me that the games get better, especially with mechanics, so I’m willing to keep going through them. But I hope the future games don’t have this mediocre ending again or I will be very disappointed. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.