Thanks to NIS AMERICA for the review code
Title: Danganronpa 1/2 RELOAD
System: Playstation 4
Release Date: 03/14/2017
A compilation containing the two main installments in the Danganronpa series, (Which means it doesn’t include Another Episode, although that got a PS4 port this June to compensate) both games revolve around a mysterious High School known as Hope’s Peak, which is surrounded in mystery as a strange grinny bear known as Monokuma has taken over the building, and forces the two classes of students to play a dangerous murder game where a traitor among the group must be outed, or else everyone else suffers a dangerous penalty. Can’t really say much more than that, as these games are very story heavy and the enjoyment relies on how little you know of the story ahead of time.
While I did briefly mention how the art style in Another Episode was rather awkward to look at and not as nice as other games with 2D art, after playing through the entirety of 1 and several hours of 2, I’m happy to say that the 2D art looks much nicer in these two games than they ever did in Another Episode. (Which combined 2D art for dialogue with odd 3D models for everything else) While there is still some usage of 3D textures (mainly for the first person exploration scenes in both games) they’re used in a smart way that doesn’t clash with the art style and fits the narratives like a glove.
Both games also sound fantastic, with the soundtrack of the first game containing many catchy and eerie tunes to fit the mood, along with high quality english voice actors that work well with their characters. (with the option for Japanese actors for both titles if the player desires) My only gripe with the voice acting is that it really doesn’t kick in until the Class Trials or major plot points, since in all minor cases the character just makes noise based on their expression, which is a bit of a bummer considering how this game could have been even better with full Voice Acting instead of having to hear Monokuma go “Um” during nearly every scene where he’s not trying to be intimidating. The second game doesn’t improve much in this regard, but the voice actors for the characters in that game are still very good at their lines when they do get a chance to shine in the Class Trials. There’s also some recycling of music tracks from the first game in DR2, but the songs they chose were some of the best from the first game, so I can kinda see why they didn’t bother to make new tracks for everything.
While every other visual novel I’ve reviewed for the website lacks in the gameplay department, (usually just consisting of the entire story with multiple paths, or having the gameplay come in the form of an optional minigame) Danganronpa is a lot more interactive than the other visual novels that I’ve played. In the first and second game, you’re often required to move around in a first person perspective to check out what’s going on. This perspective is usually how you talk to people outside of class trials, and it’s always required to properly investigate the many crimes that take place throughout both titles, giving you a cursor to examine any possible oddities in a room. While you can hit the Triangle button to see everything you can interact with, the camera freezes while this takes place in Danganronpa 1. Thankfully in the sequel, this minor pacebreaker is fixed, which makes investigations go by a lot more smoothly. The second game also has you traveling to different parts of an island, which take place in a side-view perspective and is really just a quick and glorified selection screen, even though the map can help you fast travel in both games.
Both games also contain minor optional tasks for you to take on when the main story is on a break. During free time periods, you’re encouraged to talk to the remaining students and build a relationship with them, which not only will fill in their spots on the report card, but they can also unlock special skills (in the first game) or give you hope fragments to spend on special skills. (in the second game) These are entirely optional, however and in the first game I skipped every one of these after the first chapter due to the story being so engaging I didn’t want to waste any more time than I had to. There’s also a silly sidequest where you have to find Monokuma plush dolls in the second game, which aren’t identified with the Triangle button, meaning that you’ll really have to search high and low to find them all. There’s even a virtual pet aspect in the second game as well, though I didn’t find it to be too engaging.
Last, but not least, the main attractions of these two titles, known as the Class Trials. Once you collect all your evidence for a crime that has taken place in the school/island, you’re forced to engage in a sequence where you must use the evidence you have gathered to counter the claims of other students, done so by literally shooting the statements with your own. Breaking a statement will successfully advance the story, and as you progress in the first game purple lines of dialogue known as White Noise will come in, blocking certain statements from being shot at, which will require you to shoot them down in order to aim properly. Other ways of showing your evidence will also come up during the course of the first game, one of which involves a filling in the blank method where you shoot down letters to fill in a word, while the other mixes the shooting down of the statements aspect with a rhythm game. Last but not least, finishing the case requires you to fill in a comic that showcases how it all played out.
Danganronpa 2 has all of these aspects intact, but some are expanded and changed, most notably the Hangman Gambit and rhythm segments, which are made significantly more difficult by requiring you to fill in complete phrases from start to finish (in the case of Hangman’s Gambit) and by having you hold down a button instead of pressing them to the beat. (in the case of the rhythm aspect) Some other new additions include being able to agree with the other classmates on their statements, and having to confront the counterarguements of your own classmates. This makes the class trials a bit harder to solve in the sequel, but with practice and frequent saving losing the class trials really doesn’t do much outside of lower your final grade at the end, which isn’t that significant unless you want to go for all A-Ranks.
After finding Another Episode to be a run of the mill action game with mentally insane Bears that sounded a lot like Takato from Digimon, (which the credits of Danganronpa 1 confirmed to me to be a shocking reality) I honestly didn’t expect either of these games to have an engrossing story, but after spending a ton of time with both games included in the collection, I’m really happy I made the choice to hold this review off until I had a week where I’d be able to marathon both games without much interruptions, as Danganronpa 1 by itself is an amazing experience filled with lots of suspenseful plot twists and turns that made me want to play the game non-stop until I finally completed it, which is more than I could say for the plot of the other game I reviewed those many years ago. It gets right to the point and never really lets go of the grip it holds over your curiousity, which would make the $40 price tag worth it for the first game alone.
But including the second game as well, which plays like the first but with a cleaner and superior interface and deeper story? This is probably one of the best gaming compilations out on the market right now, as it pretty much has everything you need before jumping into the Danganronpa 3 Anime (since no, the upcoming V3 isn’t based off the anime, sadly) and by themselves both games are very enjoyable adventures that’ll keep you engaged for a while. While it is a bit unfortunate that the trophy sets for the two games are merged instead of separated, both games do offer a lot of replay value after you beat the main game, with the first game encouraging you to take on the School Mode to boost relationships and unlock lots of bonus items while the second game has the Island Mode to fill a similar purpose, so none of the replay value from the original games have been lost in the transition.
If you haven’t played any of these games yet, I strongly recommend that you pick this collection up, and do yourselves a favor and shut down the internet for the period you play these games so you aren’t tempted to spoil the many twists and turns these stories have to offer. I can assure you that going in blind like I did increase your enjoyment much more in the long run! I give Danganronpa: 1/2 RELOAD a 9 out of 10, and strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story or visual novel, especially those of the murder mystery variety.