So this is a very long game so I have a lot to talk about with it! I
will also section off this review. The first part will be spoiler free
and general things about the game, and the second half will be thoughts I
had on each individual chapter. So if you wish to know my opinion
without having the story spoiled, stop reading when I say so!
I quite like the art of this game. The Danganronpa games in general have a lot of "style" in my opinion, and with the larger screen size they have really been able to take advantage of it.
I did hear someone at work saying they didn't like the character designs as much in this game because they were much more samey in their proportions and nobody really stood out. While I do agree with this critique, I didn't mind it because historically, all of the characters with especially wacky proportions always died. And no, the one character with extremely strange proportions does not make it until the end (not that that is really a spoiler if you've played the other two games). So at the very least, having everyone samey gave me an opportunity to think about who I think would die based on personality and usefulness to the trials and such.
The sprites look very good, more consistent than they've been in the previous titles. The 3D environments are okay I guess. There's sometimes where I like it, when they combined 2D with the 3D is when I think it looks best. Other times there just really doesn't seem to be much to the environments. I think the second game had the most interesting environments overall by virtue of its extremely weird setting. But, this game they're obviously made better,
And lastly, while I do like the painted cutscenes overall, there are often mistakes in them. Details of characters missing and such quite often. I do wish the same care was put into them as with the other bits of art.
I just wanted to quickly comment on the UI because I really like how it looks. I think the way the camera switches between characters in conversations is really cool, and the way it looks in trials it's awesome looking. It has this neat stained glass effect.
I did make this section also because I had some minor complaints, however. In some situations this UI is just too tiny (like during the comic minigame), and other times the weird design made me confused on how it worked (such as the map screen). But overall I think it's very nice looking.
Gameplay in a visual novel game? Well, a little bit. Obviously I don't have too much to comment on because the gameplay is primarily pushing A. This section was actually entirely created because I had one minor complaint. If playing with a controller, and walking around the 3d environment, your camera keeps force centering itself when you move. This doesn't occur with the mouse, but I play with controllers. Well, at least you're finally an appropriate height. In the previous games you were always as tall as people's waists lol.
One small thing I just thought of is they no longer let you leave a room until you've collected all evidence from it, which is really nice. You no longer have to wander aimlessly because you missed a small bit of investigation.
I also have mixed feelings about the new minigames. I do think they add to the tone of the game and separate from being edgy Phoenix Wright, but I do think they slow down the trials. At the very least they're all extremely easy. I still have flash backs of the previous game where you could easily go from 100 to 0 on "Hangman's Gambit 2.0," not because you didn't know the answer, but because all the blocks would hit each other on the side.
They also added these fun fanservice modes that I quite liked. In previous games it was just a "dating sim" mode that would allow you to complete every characters side stories, but this one has a board game mode that opens up many many conversations you can't access in the main game.
Again, only minor things to say here. The voice acting is very good, I loved the little sound bits from all of the actors. My only minor complaint is the audio balancing. Sometimes the music is at an appropriate level, other times it's too loud. In the class trial it can also be problematic. Some characters that are loud are easy to hear, but sometimes the quieter characters can get drowned out by the music. Thankfully they do provide a way to balance the voices and music, but doesn't super help with the discrepancy of volumes between voices.
But I do want to reiterate I really loved the voice acting! And music is great, too.
This story was fine, mostly. I hated the ending. But I'll touch on that in the spoiler section of this journal. I think I liked the overall story of Dangan Ronpa 2 better.
I think this might be my favorite cast of characters, though!
From now on the rest of this will be full of spoilers! If you don't want to be spoiled, don't read any further!
While I think this case had a cool twist, in retrospect I think it might be my least favorite trial. I really didn't follow the logic of this case at all. When I watched a let's play, I realized that they actually prevent the player for investigating certain parts of the crime scene, but I did know they omitted a good deal of information until the trial. I'm okay with witnesses not saying anything until the trial, but purposely preventing the player from investigating something feels a bit cheap to me.
I can also suspend my disbelief and believe that this elaborate shot put ball contraption would actually work, but the characters never explain how Kaede would have known about the loud music playing near the end of the deadline. While she didn't necessarily need it to at least put her plan into practice, it is the last argument brought up as to why Kaede wasn't the killer. Seems like an oversight to me. Some of the other weird things such as the blood splatter feeling "off" are explained later, however.
The death scene I liked a lot because it was so brutal. A lot of the times the execution scenes don't seem super bad to me, since it's usually just the blackened sees a bunch of flashy stuff and then is squished or stabbed, making an execution seem mostly painless, and perhaps even preferable to being a victim. It's one that stuck in my head, most definitely.
I guess the one thing that disappointed me is I think it would have been cool to have a female protagonist for once, buttt whatever. I also think it would have made for an interesting dynamic to actually have someone take advantage of the first blood perk. But moving on.
This one was alright. While witnesses kept quiet long enough to prevent me from correctly guessing who the killer was, I was able to figure out the murder method on my own. I don't really have too much say about this except I think it worked. It was completely ridiculous, but par for the course for dangan ronpa games. And of course, dangan ronpa must always kill the characters with wacky proportions.
Mostly what I really liked about this one was the death scene. Again, it was extremely brutal; the voice acting was really good. Definitely stuck with me for a while.
This chapter I have mixed feelings on. I liked it better than the first chapter, but I do feel like there was some missed potential here. The characters bring up early on that their could be two murderers, and Monokuma determines that only the one who killed Angie will graduate. This sounded interesting to me, that a killer could be caught, but forced to stay with everyone. I thought it would have made for an interesting dynamic.
That being said, the motive for the crime being fucked as it is did save this trial for me a little bit. I really liked Kiyo prior to this trial haha. But this was the first execution scene I didn't like as much. The killing scenes have all had some bit of comedy to this, but this was comedic the whole time basically and it's not really my taste. But, he was boiled to death which is much worse than being hit over the head by a shot put ball, so it has that going for it.
This one is definitely my favorite trial. The simplicity of the murder scene made it pretty easy to figure out what exactly happened, so I was bored for the first half of the trial, but I really just couldn't figure out who had done it. My guess was Tsumugi, but I did think it was interesting how the game took advantage of my thinking, since I had immediately ruled out Gonta due to his disposition. Kaito did scare me a bit in this trial and I'm not sure if it was intentional. I'm partial to characters like Kaito as someone who has depression and anxiety and the like, having people that go out of their way to help you does make me feel like people care. But this trial he does a complete 180 on his thinking. Previously he had been convincing you to seek the truth no matter what, and now he's threatening you for doing so.
This happens again in the next trial, but with Maki I feel she had much more of a motive than Kaito for doing so and had a plausible reason to believe she may have been the blackened. Kaito was just yelling at you without any proof to contradict your claims. This case did make me much more interested in Kokichi though; I hated him at first but as the trails went on I became much much more interested in his character.
This death scene was also alright, and I do like how chibi Gonta had to die, too lol.
This case was interesting. It really could have gone other way, and unlike the first trial, the reason for having information omitted made sense since characters had specific things they wanted to get out of this trial. I also liked it referencing back to past actions I hadn't thought much of, and realizing what they actually meant.
I don't really have too much to say about this one since I was pretty satisfied with it, except for around the ending of the trial, where Shuichi decides that he wants to go along with Kokichi's plan. It's obviously way too late. I know they needed to get Kaito out of the Exisal but it seemed a bit clumsy, especially considering Shuichi's character growth up until this point. Maybe something would have been different if I had used the lying mechanic. I may go back and try.
The death scene was fitting, at least, even if I really started to dislike Kaito's character at this point.
Okay fair warning about this section; I hated this chapter, and I have a lot of reasons for doing so. So this section is going to be ranty and complainy more than giving my thoughts of where I wanted to go. So if you do not want to read that this is your warning!
So, Keebo is going crazy and we must find out what the secret of the school was before dawn or he will completely destroy everything, including us. To illustrate this in gameplay, they add a time mechanic. But it's not actually timed. Time passes whenever you speak to someone or investigate something. So, the game emphasizes you must investigate only what you think is important. So, what problem did I have with this? Well...
- A significant portion of the investigation you are required to do. Now, this makes sense for the previous trials, because they don't want you to miss anything you need to progress the trial. As such, it would make sense here as well. Except that every but of investigation will "pass time," and it's not readily apparent which objects are important and which are not. It has never been a problem before in the game because you've never been punished for investigating everything in a room and speaking to everyone. And you are required to find everything that produces evidence in a room before you can leave. Naturally this lead to some game overs, and was slightly annoying because it goes against how we've been playing the game for 30 hours up until this point. However...
- The game over for investigating too much really doesn't matter. You are only required to redo the last room. And because it's an investigation, you aren't penalized from the prize you get for trials. So really you just waste a couple of minutes. Also...
- You don't really have any choice in where you chose to investigate. The characters will tell you where to go and if you try to go somewhere else, Shuichi will say that he should go where so-and-so said. This lack of choice didn't bother me earlier in the game because this game is a visual novel and I expect that. But because it's emphasized you must do things efficiently, and you're punished for investigating more than you're "supposed," to, I'm just really confused as to what the purpose of the "timing" mechanic is at all. Just let me investigate lol. Additionally....
- Not all of the evidence is actually used during the trial. So I must find all of this evidence, can't proceed unless I find it, and then it's not even required. Maybe it's for the lying mechanic which I didn't attempt to use, but the previous trials did not have sooo much unused evidence.
So I get through the investigation and I'm already a bit irritated because of the rooms I had to redo, but whatever. Time for the trial.
So the trial is okay. So far, until the "twist" anyway. Then I slowly got more bored and frustrated as the trial went on, and this is the longest chapter by far. What exactly was my problem? Well...
- It is revealed by Tsumugi that we're all in a killing game simulation for the entertainment of an incredibly peaceful world. The fact that the game is a simulation doesn't bother me; we've seen this twist before in the previous game and there was plenty to suggest we were in the "real" world: the flash back lights, the exisals, the way the new areas were revealed, weird meteors, etc. But instead, Tsumugi "proves" it to us by showing the intro cutscene nobody really cared about and showed the game was run by "Team Danganronpa," as evidenced on the title screen. Now I've played a lot of "meta games," and this is just really... sloppy. The only references we see to this chapter are in little cutscenes prior to when chapters start, which means me to believe this chapter was written separate from the rest of the game and then the cutscenes were added to give the rest of the game some tie to the last chapter. There are also no other "meta" elements to the game prior to the last chapter, which is like 35 hours into the game. Just sloppy shift in tone. But anyway, like I said, I don't have an issue with the game being a simulation, just with this "evidence" they chose to use. So what is really my problem? Well...
- Tsumugi shows us videos of the characters to prove that all of the characters volunteered to be on the killing game show, and as soon as they were put into the game, they were given new personalities, backstories, and character motivations. The show even has writing credits for each of the characters's plot lines. Now, I must ask, what is the point of the volunteers then?
The volunteers are willing to kill. I can see why this would be a bad idea, since it would just be a blood bath day one. So I find the volunteer idea already a little stupid, unless they were agreeing to do it for a large sum of money or something. So, I suppose "team Danganronpa" needed to erase any motivations the volunteers had in order to have unwilling participants. But they don't just do that.
They erase everything about the volunteer prior to them entering the killing game. Their memories and personality are gone. They're even given a new set of skills and reasons for moving forward. So I ask, what's the point of the volunteers at all? These characters ARE AIs. It's even shown in game these personalities can be recreated on the fly. There's no point to the volunteers. You may as well say a random person on earth dies every time someone dies on the killing game.
Now, if the characters were just AIs, I'd be okay. If the characters backstories are what they remember, but the Hope's Peak and meteor and whatever story Tsumugi made up for them was fake, and they were kidnapped or something, I'd be okay (and that's probably just what I'm going to roll with for my own enjoyment). I wouldn't really care if some assholes volunteered to be on this killing game for no benefit, but it wouldn't be contradictory. But trying to tie these two together just doesn't make sense. There's no reason to have both at the same time. It makes one of them obsolete. And also that being said...
- I can believe in a world of billions of people, you could find 15 idiots willing to participate in this killing game. However, if I'm too believe that, you cannot convince me that nobody in the audience would vote after Shuichi's speech.
- One "explanation" I keep seeing is that it's possible that Tsumugi is just lying, but in the end that doesn't make me like this ending or chapter any more than I already do. It really just means that all these hours really didn't further our understanding of the story. I do think if lies are introduced to a game, there does need to be some way to figure out what the "truth," is, or I'm just not really that satisfied.
I could go on, but these are some of my huge problems with the logic of this ending. But I don't want this ranty portion to be half of the ramble. So I'll include some more overall thoughts.
I do like the message, that fiction can change the world, and how much it means to us is how we perceive. I just felt so much dissonance with this ending because they heavily emphasize the lies the characters were put through, but fiction isn't "lies." Fiction becomes real to us in a way. If we encountered a lie this extensive in real life, it's simply malicious and manipulative. It's really not was fiction. I don't know if this was some kind of error in translation.
The epilogue made me feel a little more helpful but eh, really a lot of this ending was lost on me just for the leaps and logic, and the fact that kind of audience this ending was referring to really isn't "me."
So, I'm surprised is anyone made it this far! This was really long, but to be fair the game was incrediblyyy long, so I had a lot to talk about. Overall I did like this game, but I liked the second game better. But I'll spend more time with the 3rd title because of the fanservice little game and also the mechanics that provide some branching paths (maybe? I haven't tried). I like the characters a lot, and up until the ending I enjoyed myself a lot. I'm sort of surprised that more games are apparently coming? It did feel "final" anyway.
But if you have thoughts, feel free to share them! My next game I've decided to play is Into the Breach. I had another game planned first but I'm too excited for Into the Breach haha.