For the uninitiated, Danganronpa 1 2 Reload is the PS4 port of the two mainline Vita Danganronpa games. In terms of how they play, you’re kind of looking at a visual novel, with some friendship building a la Persona, then some Phoenix Wright style investigation and trying to prove who the culprit is. If it seems like I’m rushing through the explanation it’s because we’ve got a bit to get through, and I’d wager if you’re searching the internet for reviews of Danganronpa 1 2 Reload, you’ve probably encountered the series before.
Danganronpa is dripping with character. Even just in terms of looks, it’s colourful, vibrant, the characters all have something about them, some caricature element to them. I was going to use the word ‘stylised’ but I thought that might sound like a negative, it’s not, all the characters stand out, they’re all unique, across both games, and they all look great. The setup too, you’re one of a number of extremely talented school kids, so talented that they attend a school that only the ‘ultimates’, the very, very best, can attend. Unfortunately the school has been taken over by a malevolent robot bear, and he’s declared that the only way anyone is getting out of there is for them to kill one of their classmates and get away with it
It’s the narrative, or narratives, that make the Danganronpa games, the whole premise is buried in mystery, with hints and teases dangled long before the reveal. Each case is unique, and genuinely quite gripping once they get going. The prelude can be a little arduous, it takes hours before the game feels like it’s begun, Danganronpa 2 in particular. I found myself wincing when a case would end, not at regret for what had gone on before, more that I knew the preamble before the next case begins in earnest was going to drag.
Y’see, while Danganronpa’s characters and narrative are probably its strongest points, they might also be its weakest. I think it might be a case of things being lost in translation, but often the jokes not only fall flat, they just don’t really make sense. I get why the games have so much down time, you have to spend time with the other characters to form attachments to them, not in gameplay terms, just that if you’re supposed to feel sad or betrayed by what happens throughout the story, that’s not going to happen if you haven’t lived in the world. And truth is I liked most of the characters in both games, ‘most’ being the key word as there’s a few I started to loathe. Not because they’re bad people, more that the bombastic, over-the-top nature of the characters often translates in to their personality quirks being laboured to the point of tedium. That character who’s really clumsy, they’re going to fall over every scene, that guy who’s obsessed with hope and despair, you better believe he’s going to mention it every time he’s on screen. It’s a shame, but for Danganronpa, sometimes, less would be more.
The mini-games that make up the trials are a bit of a mixed bag too. I’m not sure I’d say I liked any of them as such, certainly not loved, but some of them do serve a purpose. Countering arguments by shooting words or phrases with a bullet made from a contradicting statement, it’s not without its problems but it works to bring some pace and panic to Danganronpa. It’s presented in a way that makes you feel bamboozled and shellshocked, not unlike your character. The problem with it, and I think this is more of an issue with the PS4 version than it was on the Vita (from memory), is that, thanks to the size of the screen you’re playing on, it can be a little hard to take in what’s on the screen. Aside from that though the games work perfectly fine on the larger screen, even with the loss of the touch controls
The games upscale well enough to the higher resolution. It’s rare you see anything that looks especially rough or blurry, but there are instances, particularly when the camera zooms in on objects. There were also instances where I managed to walk through environment, nothing broke, but it’s the sort of thing you mention in a review. Likewise I saw a few instances of untranslated text, both times it was during explanations of the trial mini games, although I suspect it was duplicate text, certainly it wasn’t anything I needed to know. I did find some of the mini-games confusing at first, and, in the arguments at least, it sometimes feels like you don’t know where to begin, but they all
work despite the loss of the touch screen.
If you’ve never played a Danganronpa game before then let me assure you, they’re kind of great. They’re exhilarating, gripping, especially the trials, there’s always something you didn’t see coming and it’s rare it feels like a cheap shot. They never really settle in to a rut, when when you know the pattern of throwaway story, free time, murder investigation, trial, they’ll still mix things up by throwing in something about the overarching plot. There’s an awful lot of game here too, while I suspect playing both games back to back (neither are short games), you’re certainly getting your money’s worth. I suspect most will be picking them up because they never got around to finishing both games on the Vita, certainly that was the case for myself and the rest of Bitparade’s writers, so let me assure you that both games still hold up despite their relative age. Danganronpa 1 2 Reload may get lost in this unusually busy Q1, but if you do pick it up you won’t be disappointed with it.