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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: NIS America
Developed By: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: JRPG
Players: 1
Rated: M for Mature (Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes)
Release Date: February 11, 2014
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Matthew Prunty

April 28, 2014 – Your high schools years are the ones you look back upon as the defining moment where you transition from being a simple nobody within the confines of your school to a recognizable individual by your peers. When I was in high school, I lucked out in being able to travel, graduate in the top percentage of my class and play sports; does volleyball count? While this dream isn’t realized by everyone, the students of Hope’s Peak Academy stood out among the rest… that is to say that they stood out due to the fact they were the only students within the school. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc brings about a unique experience no seen in JRPGs of a similar subject matter. It’s this unique experience that helps the game stand out among of sea of JRPGs and truly makes it memorable.

Hope’s Peak Academy; where 99% of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc takes place, is the best of the best when it comes to High Schools. Think of this place as the Harvard of high schools. Because of its reputation, only the “Ultimate” students are allowed to attend. Everyone who graduated from the academy went on to do something amazing within the world. With the latest batch of students being admitted to the academy, we see some of the best and brightest within their respective fields come together. Some examples include Aoi, Chihiro and Byakuya who are considered the “Ultimate Swimming Pro”, “Ultimate Programmer” and “Ultimate Affluent Progeny” respectively. While everyone’s background is different, they all share one thing in common and that’s they are the best at what they do. Among this new group of students is Makoto, and average boy with no remarkable qualities or talents. He gained his invitation to attend through winning a raffle; As such he is given the title of “Ultimate Lucky Student.”

Still rocked by his acceptance to Hope’s Peak Academy, Makoto digs up as much information as he can on the school and his fellow classmates before proceeding down to the campus. Upon his arrival to the school Makoto proceeds to explore the campus but before he can get anywhere, he’s knocked unconscious. Upon waking up, Makoto finds himself setting at a desk in what would see like a normal classroom. That is until you notice that the windows are covered with large metal plates and the cameras stationed I every corner of the room. Wanting to figure out what’s going on, Makoto starts exploring the halls and comes across his fellow classmates who seem to all share the same experience upon arrive at the school.

With little time to talk to one another, announcement over the school’s intercom asked for everyone to report to the gym for an assembly. Upon their arrival, an odd looking bear appears and reveals himself as the headmaster of the school. Known as Monokuma, the bear proceeds to lay out some ground rules that everyone will be held accountable for.
  1. Everyone is trapped in the school with no way out.
  2. Food and everything needed to survive is provided for them.
  3. There is only one way out of the school and that’s to murder a fellow student.
  4. There will be a class trial after a murder takes place so the survivors can vote on who the murderer is. If the murderer is found out, he will be punished. If the vote is wrong for whom the murderer is, everyone but the murderer dies.

It is here that Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc officially begins and where you won’t be able to put down your Vita. Part of the appeal to the story is not knowing how situations will play out and who will be the first to snap. Mystery, plot twists and death are all over the place, leaving you on the edge of you seat. Fans of games like Ace Attorney and Zero Escape will know exactly what I’m talking about. Danganronpa is one engrossing experience not easily forgotten.

Like majority of the quirky JRPGs out there, the cusp of the game is spent getting closer to classmates, comrades, brothers in arms in order form bonds and connect on a much deeper level. The relations you form or try to form, help determine those who will be on your side when situations start getting serious. There are even moments when situations are born out of the bonds you form. This game is intense and not for the faint of hearts. In order to form bonds with fellow students, you must hang out with them during your free time. During this time, you learn more about them and you are given an opportunity to give them a gift. Give them the right item and your bond as friends grow. Give them the wrong item, and they will flip out on you or ignore you all together.

When you are not spending your free time roaming the halls, chatting up other classmates or sleeping, you will be trying to figure who and why someone was killed. When a murder is announced over the intercom, the remaining students are given time to examine the scene of the crime and any other areas they feel are relevant to the crime. These scenes are not tone down in any way; hence the M rating by the ESRB. While of course blood is pink and not red, it doesn’t take away from the violent scenes displayed in front of your eyes. There are points where you are simply speechless because of what happen, how it happens, who it happened to… as if you were one of the very students in the game.

After the allotted time is over, it’s time for the “Class Trial”, which is the moment when are surviving class members come together and try to solve the crime. This is also where the guilty party will try to interject information of suggestions in order to throw everyone off his or her sent. There is a lot of back and forth going on in the trial, often enough you having to point our contradictions within the given statement with supporting evidence acquired during your investigation. The combat system used to help you navigate the courtroom battlefield is a unique breed, hard to describe. It’s something you will better understand seeing it in action. Depending on how much you were paying attention during the game, the class trial can easily last from 30 minutes to a full hour. However, when you are in the moment, the time seems to fly by. Mini games help pad the trial experience in order to flesh out the scenario.

Once everything is said in the courtroom and you figured out who the guilty party is. You have to piece it together and present it to the court as an animated comic book panel. The further you get into the game, the more clues you have to put in the correct order to help explain how the incident happened and who was responsible. Often enough you will find yourself stump in the correct order as some clues apply to the same instance in the crime, so placing them in the wrong spot can cost you valuable time.

Originally released as a PSP title, developer Spike Chunsoft teamed up with NIS America to bring this epic tale to Western audience with a whole new coat of paint. The Vita version is a direct port from the original PSP title; however the developer improved the visuals through higher resolution textures and sprite artwork; which take advantage of the beautiful of OLED screen of the Vita. For those with the Vita PCH-2000 model, I can tell you the enhanced visuals look solid on your LCD screen. On-screen text is clearly legible regardless of the brightness settings you have on your handheld.

The voice acting work is great, at times outstanding. Hearing the cast of characters go back and forth; arguing over whether they should follow the rules, who’s responsible for a particular murder, or trying to get under Monokuma skin… or would it be fur? You can tell that the voice actors and actresses they got for this project were enjoying the experience as emotions seemed genuine. Often enough, you will find yourself with the exact same emotional state as your favorite characters in the game. There are times when it seems like the dialog drags on, but those moments are afar and few and don’ take away from the immersive experience. The in-game soundtrack is phenomenal as the techno beats help set the mood and at the same time keep you intertwine with what’s developing on screen.

Depending on your expertise in these types of games, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc can easily clock in around 20 hours plus. Even with that amount of time under your belt, you still haven’t seen and/or collected everything possible in the game. For those who desire to collect everything, you can hop back into the game via the New Game+ mode. All in all, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is an engrossing experience that is perfect for the Vita’s pick up and go nature. For those who crave a good mystery, keep a closetful eye on Monokuma… he certainly doesn’t disappoint.


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