The last article I wrote for this column was about the game, Danganronpa, and how enjoyable it was primarily because of the interesting plot and endearing characters. I also stated that the game ended on a cliffhanger and that my girlfriend, Patti, and I had already started Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. We’ve finished it…and boy, the twists, reveals, and ending all cemented a perfect example of a sequel superior to its predecessor.
Danganronpa 2 has almost the same formula as the first game—teenagers are trapped, there are murders, trials, and pointing and clicking. However, there are both subtle and overt changes that make the game more enjoyable, but it is really the twists at the end of the game that made my jaw drop. Bear with me, because this time the spoilers might be a bit overBEARing, anime-niacs.
I honestly didn’t think I’d be ready to get to know or care about a new cast of characters so soon after finishing the first game. That may sound silly, but I actively enjoy losing myself in good stories and feeling so deeply invested in a fictional world and its characters. But at first, it didn’t seem like the developers changed very much—the game opens with the protagonist, Hajime Hinata, awakening on an island. He is joined by 15 other students and an anthropomorphic magical-girl bunny, Monomi, who explains that they are on a Hope’s Peak Academy class trip to a tropical archipelago. The goal of the trip is to build friendships with all classmates and collect “hope fragments,” but it isn’t long before the antagonistic bear, Monokuma, arrives, defeats Monomi and takes her power, then twists the trip into a version of the murderous game from the first Danganronpa. However, there are plenty of improvements (you had me at anthropomorphic magical-girl bunny).
First, there are more areas to explore. The first game takes place in a school with five floors, but the sequel’s setting is five islands, and each island has its own set of buildings or areas to explore (so much more than just the bear essentials). The islands are very different and very little appears tropical in some of those areas. Sure, there are beaches, a hotel, club, and diner, but one entire island is a Monokuma theme park, and another island is essentially a military base. All buildings in both of the latter examples completely stick to the respective island’s theme and add to the plot. But a larger area means more tedious walking, so Danganronpa 2 offers quicker travel options. When Hajime travels between locations on these islands, the game switches out of a first-person perspective to a side view as he runs down the road, expediting travel (hope he’s not running with his bear feet). Furthermore, there’s a fast-travel option to instantly appear where the player wants to go. However, this game features a Tamagotchi, and the little friend will only grow if the player takes steps, and fast-traveling means no steps. If the Tamagotchi lives long enough, the players gets rewards. Patti and I decided to walk everywhere in order to get the rewards, but even without using the ability to teleport, the fact that Hajime runs was enough of a huge improvement. Also, Danganronpa 2 features a handful of mini games and puzzles outside of investigations and trials, but I will not directly spoil what they are here, because they do concern a few larger plot points.
Like the first game, it is the characters and their personalities that really help make the mystery and suspense such an enjoyable experience. There are some more wonderful characters, hateable characters, and those sentiments change with even others. Teruteru initially seems awful, but the more time Hajime spends with him and learns about him, the more likeable he becomes. Conversely, Nagito initially seems like a decent guy, but becomes creepier and less likeable until nearly the end of the game where he is the worst person in the universe (so…the polar opposite of a decent guy). Furthermore, characters actually grow as “people” because of their experiences in Danganronpa 2. Sure, in Danganronpa, you learn more about characters as the game advances, but Byakuya is still an asshole, Celeste is still a jerk, Hiro is still dumb, and Sakura is still noble (and such a honey). In Danganronpa 2, however, Fuyuhiko, Gundham, and even Mikan change in gradual, nuanced ways that completely fit with the events in the game. What really surprised me, however, was how terribly I felt for the murderers before they were executed (there were some grizzly deaths). In Danganronpa, I didn’t feel sad at the conclusion of a trial and the executions felt justified. The sequel added a lot of tragedy and depth to the characters, and without getting into too many spoilers, there is no trial in this game that feels satisfying in the same way as the first game.
The final murder and subsequent trial was so incredibly twisted that my jaw literally dropped. But the game is far from over even after the final murderer is executed, because the player learns even more about the world in which the Danganronpa series takes place, and even more about the characters the player has come to know, love, and lose during Danganronpa 2. I would love to discuss it here, how and why it was so surprising and effective, but it was such an amazing twist that everyone should go experience it for him- or herself.
The Danganronpa series is still far from over (we’ve bear-ly begun). I don’t know if I’ll be documenting each game in this column, especially since I’ve had to take a step back on the frequency of articles I can produce. But so far, these games are each an absolute blast, the characters are fantastic, the world nicely detailed, and the mystery has been making Patti and I constantly want more. This series is an absolute must for fans of mysteries.