Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review
Dead teenagers, a talking teddy bear, endless mysteries – it’s no wonder Danganronpa became a massive thing when it was first released ten years ago. Now the Trigger Happy Havoc anniversary edition brings that classic visual novel to a new audience. And it remains just as fun.
You wake up in an abandoned school with a group of strangers. The only way to escape is to not only kill someone, but to get away with it. The group promises not to do anything, but before long, the murders begin. As the story progresses, you’ll learn about all the secrets that your school/prison has hidden away, and about what it takes to drive people to murder.
Danganronpa is silly in all the right ways, but knows how to go dark when it needs to. As someone who isn’t particularly into anime for just this reason, I was surprised by how much I connected with the characters. I found the mysteries exciting, and the plot well-structured.
It’s an on-rails adventure, with all the issues that come with that. But with that accepted, it’s hard not to enjoy.
Story above Everything
Danganronpa is a visual novel with distractions. Most of your time will be spent reading dialogue, with occasional interruptions for exploration. You’ll also need to work your way through some minigames at the end of each chapter as you figure out who the killer is. It’s just as annoying as it sounds.
We reviewed the original game eight years ago, and much of that still stands with this re-release. This is Lord of the Flies meets Battle Royale. It works about as well as that sounds like it should. Teenagers forced to look after themselves are told murder is their only means of escape, and one by one they give into the pressure.
The plot works well thanks to snappy writing, likeable (and unlikeable) characters and a surprising depth. This is a fun novel to work your way through. You becoming increasingly upset about your situation. As the mysteries pile up, the odd answer just confuses you even more. You’re desperate to start saving the classmates you still like…
…But you’re unable to save anybody. That’s a literal statement as well as a comment on the game. The story is what it is, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
This is both freeing and disappointing. Knowing that there’s nothing you could have done takes away that horrible desire to save scum. But it also limits replayability. You know who dies. There’s nothing to bring you back.
Getting the Game
Because it’s a visual novel, the gameplay itself is incredible limited. You read, you read some more, you click some things, you read, you solve a puzzle. If that sounds awful, it isn’t going to be any better once you get started.
Ultimately, I felt the puzzles ended up a distraction from the story. They usually take the form of interrupting conversations when you spot a contradiction, but these are massively manufactured. Sometimes the contradiction isn’t obvious, and sometimes it’s so obvious that it barely needs saying. They feel a little bit of a waste of time, especially as these class trials – the only point of the game with these mini-games – begin to get longer.
Outside of the main story, you are given the chance to get to know your fellow students. This is a small pleasure, although there are times when it feels a little bit too dating simmy. The beauty of these quieter moments is that it makes it all the more painful when the character you like is killed off. You were close to really getting to know them… and then they’re gone.
You can buy gifts to give other students during these quieter moments. Each has ideal gifts that’ll make them like you even more. Those who really get into it will find this rewarding. Others may forget it exists at all.
As with any visual novel, the quality of the experience relies on the story, and the story here remains strong pretty much throughout. I found the ending to be disappointing. Having gotten used to fairly high-quality writing, everything in the last hour fell short. But it wasn’t bad, and I’d recommend the journey, despite the destination.
Visuals and Sound
The graphics in Danganronpa are nice, and suitable for the story. It’s hard to judge this game’s graphics, because they’re 2D drawings, and in that regard there’s nothing wrong with them. The designs stand out enough that you don’t ever confuse one character with another. Locations are interesting and varied.
Music is often memorable and fun. I was impressed by how much of the music actually stuck in my head – a rare occurrence these days. But maybe that’s just because it was repeated so often. It’s appropriate repetition, so you won’t get bored of it, but repetition nontheless.
The voice work is by and large good, but you can’t get away from the anime of it all. It is over the top. Your patience for this will vary, but I found it bearable. Here the repetition is far more annoying, but again, it’s not too hard to put up with.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review – Conclusion
Danganronpa is a simple but enjoyable experience that I’d recommend to anybody who can stomach a visual novel. It’s easy to enjoy, with no stress and very little barrier for progression. For that reason alone, it stands out from other titles. Occasional moments are cringey, but that’s down to the anime feel throughout.
But despite it being an extremely guided ride, it is exciting nonetheless. More rollercoaster than action-adventure, there will be moments that have you on the edge of your seat.
The nature of the beast means it’s unlikely to appeal to those who have played it before. But for newcomers, this is an excellent way of experiencing this unusual but enjoyable story.