Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc tells the interesting story of average high school student, Makoto Naegi who’s been placed in an awkward and dangerous predicament. Makoto Naegi has been invited by Hope’s Peak academy to Enron in the new term. Hope’s Peak Academy relishes in the fact that it brings in the highest and top performing students from every field imaginable in a well-established government funded school. It’s an academy for the privileged and raises hope for the nation’s future and Makoto finds himself accepting this recent invitation. Standing in front of the school gates and clutching his acceptance letter, Makoto begins to feel heavy, and suddenly falls into unconsciousness.
Has he fallen under some kind of spell? Awakening to find himself head down on a school desk, he adjusts his vision and takes in his environment. Other students surround him and he interacts and exchanges conversations, feeling hesitant in his new surroundings. Looking around he notices that the classroom he’s found himself in is being bolted up with metal plates on the windows and has a number of strange security cameras overhead. He’s trapped and imprisoned. Paranoid and frightened he attempts to wander from classroom to classroom, trying to understand why he is placed in this prisoned world.
Suddenly and without warning, an image appears on the security camera screen above him and he is greeted by a strange black and white bear called Monokuma, the school’s headmaster. He informs Makoto that he is trapped inside the high school, cut off from the outside world, and the only means of escape is by murdering the other students. With this in mind, Makoto continues to look for some reasoning, and takes it upon himself to explore the school, investigating his environment and continually looking over his shoulder. At the end of the day, each of these students will try and kill him with little restraint if it means they can escape to the outside world.
Exploring and examining each room in the high school, in this bizarre set of circumstances, we slowly see the storyline take shape. You’ll spend the majority of your time engaging in conversations, learning and building relationships with your newly acquainted student friends, and investigating how and why other students get murdered. The story feels like Phoenix Wright meets Persona from the very start of the game. You’re forever inspecting your environment or evaluating your friendships and gradually the story flows. You’ll meet several interesting characters and one favors more of your attention than the rest, Sayaka Maizono, the ultimate pop sensation, the lead singer in a famous pop group. You’ll need to locate various students within the dormitory and this doesn’t prove difficult seeing as you all more or less are reside next to each other.
Spending time and building relationships with the other students enables you to find out more about the underlying plot line and gives friendships an additional boost. Purchasing gifts for students allows you to see them in scenarios more frequently and upgrades your relationship to the next level. Gifts can be bought at the convenience shop via the MonoMono Machine in exchange for MonoMono coins. These coins appear when you’ve been looking in specific areas, while investigating your environment and remain hidden until discovered.
When you’re not forming relationships, and answering to curfews, you can wander the building in free mode. This is your time to relax, and explore without any social pressure from other students who, I might add, just seem to be standing around in every corner or hallway you walk down. It’s kind of creepy, but gives you that feeling of anticipation and dread. At the end of the day, you could be the next student to be murdered.
Engaging in long conversations can be interesting, but also a little bit long winded. All you want and need is to work out and solve this strange predicament you’ve come to find yourself in. This ultimately means exchanging strange and often comedic conversations with some weird characters, many of whom come across as the ultimate overachievers. Each character has a strong and sometimes overbearing personality, but they’re mysterious nevertheless. Certain conversations provoke various reactions, and you’ll find the dialogue changing colour. For instance, purple words begin to glow within the conversations, prompting you to press the triangle button to go into reaction mode. You can then go on to explore and interrogate the conversation further and unravel more of the mysterious storyline. It’s up to you whether you decide to participate, but I have a hunch that if some conversations are not explored further, then the storyline staggers slightly.
There are puzzles to solve and mini games to participate in, but much of your time is spent talking, exploring and witnessing murders. I’ve not been a huge fan of Persona style titles in the past, mainly because I’ve often found myself completely swallowed up in long conversations with little sight of gameplay. But Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc has definitely made me reconsider this kind of title. This game plays a little bit cheeky and mischievous, constantly drawing you into it’s strange and bizarre storyline, without giving too much of the game away. At times it’s almost like drip feeding a narrative existence, gradually and slowly seeping information to you, while dragging it away from you in vulnerable times. Occasionally you want the story to accelerate to a level where you can gauge a firm understanding of where you slot into the story and sometimes you feel completely lost.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a solid and cleverly written title, in which you feel connected with each of the characters and their quirky personalities. The game provides a good balance of strange Japanese humor mixed with melodrama where you’ll find yourself embroiled in courtroom battles and constantly investigating and exploring this mysterious murderous title in an effort to find the ultimate truth.