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Chris Kavan's Video Game Reviews (495)

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Persona 5 Royal 4.5/5
A Hat in Time 3.5/5
Sunset Overdrive 4/5
The Vagrant 4/5
Honkai: Star Rail 3.5/5
MechWarrior 5: Mercenar... 4/5
Rage 2 3.5/5
Alan Wake 4/5
Riverbond 3.5/5
Dead Island 2 3.5/5
Saints Row IV 3.5/5
The Last of Us Part II 4.5/5
Torchlight III 3/5
Wolfenstein II: The New... 4/5
Ghost of Tsushima 4.5/5
Battletoads (2020) 2/5
Danganronpa: Trigger Ha... 4/5
Override: Mech City Bra... 3/5
Maneater 3/5
Door Kickers: Action Sq... 4/5
Spider-Man (2018) 4.5/5
Red Dead Redemption 2 4.5/5
Boot Hill Heroes 3.5/5
Control 4/5
Victor Vran 3/5

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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc   PC (Steam) 

Best Battle Royale Ace Attorney Dating Sim EVER    4/5 stars

The year is 2010 and Japanese writer Kazutaka Kodaka feels the adventure genre has gone stale. Working at Spike, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc was conceived as a hybrid of exploration, dating sim, murder mystery and Ace-Attorney-like trails. It had a dark story punctuated by equally dark humor and there was some concern about its ability to reach a big enough audience. A PSP exclusive, the niche title managed to find that audience and its popularity has resulted in numerous sequels and spin-offs as well as anime series, books and plenty more. Kodaka's plan to introduce a new twist on a stale genre was successful and there is nothing out there quite like Danganronpa even today.

Looks and Stuff: As is was originally developed for a portable system, Danganronpa might not be as polished as other titles even when ported to newer systems. Still, the aesthetic has an anime style with some over-the-top characters, punctuated by the black/white antagonist, the teddy bear-like Monokuma - who has become the de-facto mascot of the series. While not quite fully voiced, the game does feature plenty of voice-over work and it certainly works with the unique characters. This includes a bookish girl with a split personality, a gang leader, an idol and a well-toned warrior - it certainly makes things interesting. The environments - a school closed off from the outside world - also features plenty of interesting locations, many of which are unlocked as the game goes on. The music is fine but nothing outstanding and I encountered no bugs during the playthrough.

Story: The story follows completely regular student Makoto Naegi, who, through sheer luck, finds himself accepted into the prestigious Hope's Peak Academy, which usually only accepts the "Ultimate" students who stand out in their respective fields. Thus, he searches and finds that from the Ultimate Baseball Star to the Ultimate Gambler to the Ultimate Clairvoyant - there will be 15 other students, and he's the most normal of the bunch. Shortly after arriving, however, he blacks out and wakes up in a school cut off from the outside world - windows bolted shut and doors protected by heavy guns. While he and the others try to figure out what is going on, a black and white teddy-bear like robot, named Monokuma, pops up to tell them the deal: they are all trapped and have a choice - they can live like they are forever or they can participate in a deadly game in which they must murder each other. The murderer, dubbed "The Blackened" will be released - but only if they survive a class trial. If the blackened is discovered, they will be immediately executed but if they manage to get away with literal murder, everyone else will die and they will be set free. At first repulsed by the idea, Monokuma soon introduces new elements to prod people and it doesn't take long for the game to start - but there is another over-arching mystery about what is really happening in the school - and the world beyond.

Gameplay: Danganronpa is truly a unique mix of several different elements. One part of the game has you simply exploring - as well as being able to talk to fellow students. There are many things to can observe and certain ones will result in getting a Monokuma Coin. These coins can be spent on a capsule machine that in turn reward items. The items can be used on students to increase your bond with them - opening up new information about them and, more importantly, unlocking new skills that can be used during class trails. That is only one part - the second part of exploration happens after a murder occurs - this allows you to collect evidence to be used in the upcoming trial. As far as I know you cannot progress without collecting ALL evidence for each murder, so you are never going to miss anything.

The second part of the game is the class trials themselves, which shares some similarities with the Ace Attorney series, but has its own way of moving things along. The main trial consists of people talking about the murder and as they talk, their lines scroll across the screen with certain words highlighted to stand out. This allows you to shoot "truth bullets" to refute opinions and arguments as you plead your own case and try to ID the guilty party. As the game goes on it introduces other elements: Hangman's Gambit has you shooting letters to complete a word, the Bullet Time Battle is a one-on-one rhythm-based system where you must break down another character's will and the Closing Argument presents the entire case in a comic book form where you must place elements in the correct order to finalize your case and bring the guilty party to their final judgement. The biggest knock against the series is that the class trials are rather easy - though harder difficulties certainly put more pressure on getting things right. Still, even if you fail, the game lets you go back and try again indefinitely, so there is really never any true game over. I think the game kept things interesting enough and threw in plenty of twists to keep you guessing.

Replay: The main game doesn't change, so replay-wise there's not much to re-experience unless you want easier or harder difficulty. The post-game, however, offers much more freedom to learn about students and gain more skills and while I didn't personally explore it that much, I can see it being a much more open experience.

Final Verdict: If you like your stories dark yet playful, this one's for you.

Presentation: 4/5
Story: 4/5
Gameplay: 4/5
Replay: 3/5
Overall (not an average): 4/5



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