Review: Danganronpa 1•2 Reload (PS4)

Developed by: Spike Chunsoft
Published by: NIS America

What would you be willing to do in order to have the best luxuries this world has to offer? To live a life of peace, with guaranteed success in all aspect of life. What would you be willing to do? Most people would be willing to work hard and devote themselves to their best abilities to achieve this goal. Students who graduate from Hope’s Peak Academy, a prestigious school for the most talented students, are guaranteed a successful life. It’s the ultimate goal for any individual who wishes for great success. However, the latest selection of Hope’s Peak students are in for a surprise. Hope’s Peak Academy has been turned into a fortress, trapping students in the building for the rest of their lives. But there is a catch: if a student can get away with murder, they are allowed to graduate and leave the Academy. Would you be willing to kill for freedom, or would you accept your fate? That’s a question that will cross a player’s minds many times throughout their time with the Danganronpa series, but definitely far from the only question players will face. With the recent release of Danganronpa 1•2 Reload for PlayStation 4, veterans and newcomers will both be able to question themselves and their neighbors in glorious HD. Doesn’t that sound pleasant?

Getting its start in 2010, Danganronpa has proved to be an incredibly successful franchise. With three mainline titles, a spin-off title, mobile games, manga, and two full TV anime series, it’s obvious that Spike Chunsoft as a lasting hit on their hands. For good reason, too. Danganronpa 1•2 Reload is a collection of the first two titles, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, both remastered in HD for PlayStation 4.

As I briefly mentioned in my opening remarks, Danganronpa is a survival game based around a prestigious high school. Monokuma, Hope’s Peak Academy’s headmaster, is a stuffed bear who wants to spread despair across the world. He traps his students within a strict confinement, where he can keep a close eye on them. If a student wants to escape, they must kill one of their peers. If the murderer, or “blackened,” gets caught, they are faced with death. It’s an interesting set-up that leads to a lot of fascinating cases as the game progress. I would get into more detail on the plot of the game, but I believe that would be a disservice to a player who hasn’t been exposed to the Danganronpa franchise before. The writing is so strong and each story is so interesting that I don’t want to accidentally spoil anything. Danganronpa 1•2 Reload was my first exposure to the series, and I’m happy that I didn’t know much else outside of the basic premise. Every case is incredibly well-written, and the game’s characters help make each story worth remembering.

Monokuma can be silly and cute at times, but he definitely isn’t all friendly.

In both games, players are introduced to a variety of different characters, each one with their own “Ultimate “ traits and personalities. For example, there is the “Ultimate Pop Sensation,” the “Ultimate Swimmer,” and the “Ultimate Baseball Star,” just to name a few. Between the two games in this collection, there are over 30 characters with a unique skill and style. Every character in both games are presented with such colorful personalities. Their personalities are so striking and well developed that I couldn’t help but have feelings for the characters. They have emotions, needs, and wants. You will love some characters and you will hate some. It’s another aspect of the game that clearly demonstrates the game’s strong writing. The unique designs of the characters also help them stand out, and definitely not in a bad way. I’ve never seen a style choice quite like it. It gives Danganronpa an identity and one you certainly won’t forget after playing.

Monokuma is a villain that you can’t help but love. He is charming, funny, insane, and evil, all at the same time. Monokuma is a despicable entity, one with very little mercy, but I can’t help but like him. I kept wondering what his next scheme was going to be, and how he would execute it. His methods for “punishment” are also exciting and equally cringe worthy. The first execution sets the tone for how Monokuma likes to handle business. It sent chills down my spine. Monokuma’s plots also add to the whole mystery aspect of the games.

Danganronpa can be classified as an adventure/visual novel game. At its core, Danganronpa is a point-and-click adventure series. Players will explore the areas of Hope’s Peak Academy and discover new information by clicking on various objects. In the academy’s halls, you can freely explore the school in a first-person perspective. While exploring, you can talk to the other students at the school and develop friendships with them. Eventually, murders will happen, and it’s up to you to investigate the crime scene to expose the truth. You will click on objects at the crime scene and other areas of suspicion, saving every detail you find to use as evidence. After finding your evidence, its time for a class trial, the most intense part. Class trials are your chance to present evidence and bring all of your points together. Trials have an assortment of mini-games, including matching, fill-in-the-blanks, and my personal favorite, a rhythm-based activity. These segments give players a breath of fresh air during moments of long conversations. With all these different gameplay opportunities, Danganronpa rarely gets boring.

Having conversations with your peers will allow you to become closer. Anyone would need friends in a situation like this.

Since the game is focused mostly on story and character development, the controls are quite simple and easy to control. Discovering new objects and evidence is easy and feels good. While in first-person mode, exploring the halls of the school, the controls do feel clunky at times, but I found myself getting used to it. It’s a minor complaint, but one that needs to be brought up. Performance-wise, both games run incredibly well on PlayStation 4. Areas load fast and without framerate drops. It’s a smooth experience throughout and also looks great on a large HD display.

Lastly, I can’t talk about Danganronpa without bringing up its fantastic soundtrack. At all times, players will be accompanied by a smooth, jazzy soundtrack. The music always fits what’s happening on screen. If an intense moment is happening, the music will be intense. If things are peaceful, then the music will be calming. But no matter the setting, the soundtrack stays consistently good. After finishing the first game, I still can’t get many of these tracks out of my head. The soundtrack is stylish, classy, and addicting.

Danganronpa is a stylish, unique, and thrilling series. Uncovering the mysteries behind Monokuma’s schemes will keep players on the edge of their seats. Pair the mystery aspect with likable, well-written characters, solid detective-like gameplay, and a truly addicting soundtrack and you have a hit on your hands. If you enjoy a good thrill, Danganronpa is right up your alley. If you enjoy well-written characters and mystery stories, Danganronpa is right up your alley. Danganronpa 1•2 Reload is the perfect entry point for newcomers and a great way for veterans to re-experience the games. After playing these titles for the first time, I can safely say Danganronpa has turned into one of my favorite franchises in recent memory. I can’t wait to see what crazy shenanigans Monokuma comes up with next.

Final verdict: Buy it. Danganronpa 1•2 Reload is a thrilling game with well-written characters and mysteries to discover, that will constantly keep players engaged. Danganronpa 1•2 Reload was played on PlayStation 4 for this review.

[Note: This product was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review]

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