Quick Note: This sequel takes the story from the first and improves it in many ways, but also inflates play time with some pretty useless systems. If you're a fan of the first and enjoy mystery games, dive right in. If you didn't like the first one or never played it, move onto another game.
Earlier this year the delightfully devious Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc came to the states. The twisted premise of solving your fellow classmates murders while trying to figure out why you're trapped in Hope's Peak Academy was enthralling, though there were a few confusing design choices. The sequel, Goodbye Despair, does a great job of answering some questions while stacking on many more queries, but with even more unnecessary grinding in the middle.
|The Ultimate Affluent Progeny has put on a bit of weight...|
From there the game plays very similarly to the first game. Hajime will spend time with various classmates, exploring the island and building bonds. Movement around the game world has been altered from the previous game, as half of the world is built in the first-person, 3D environment style, while the other half is composed of a side-scrolling, 2D art style. The swapping between the two keeps things interesting, but ultimately doesn't add or subtract anything.
|2D Traveling Action with a funny looking walk cycle|
Then there's the virtual pet. This pet is always with Hajime, and can grow into one of six variations depending on how much Hope and Despair it has. Once the pet has reached it's final level, after roughly 3200 steps, it lays an egg and leaves, giving Hajime some experience, some Monokuma coins and a present or two. In a way, the pet system is a god send, because players no longer have to grind trials or School mode for coins like in the first. The hardest pet to obtain gives the player 350 Monokuma coins, so reaching 999 is much easier, which also leads to obtaining presents to share with your friends and help boost your relationship with them.
|No one really cares...|
Okay. Now that the griping about the new systems is out of the way we can jump into the meat of game play. Of course, this is Danganronpa, so after a few days pass a body is bound to turn up. Once an investigation starts, players are tasked with finding all the clues to prepare for the class trial. The investigation aspect feels more fluid in Goodbye Despair, but that comes mostly from the fact that Hajime is more often forced into areas and can't leave until all the clues are found. Once he's turned over every leaf, he is forced to the next. There's less freedom of traveling between crime scenes and important areas while investigating. On the one hand, some players will find this annoying because they don't have as much control over where Hajime goes next, but on the other hand I found it a great way to avoid walking into areas that have no meaning to the current case. There's plenty of time to explore the island and its landmarks outside of investigating the murders, so the limitation really is only to help the player.
|Good ole' truth bullet action|
The first to note is the inclusion of arguments in the form of a Rebuttal Showdown. When a classmate disagrees with Hajime, a Rebuttal Showdown starts. In this showdown, Hajime uses truth knives to cut through the opponent's argument. Using the touch screen or the left joystick, the player slices through comments to move forward in the argument until the large yellow lie sticks out. With the correct truth knife, Hajime can cut through and move the case forward. However, cutting a lie with the touch screen/joystick and not the correct truth knife will make Hajime look suspicious, forcing him back to the beginning of the argument. It's an interesting mechanic that iterates on what players already know how to do, but the touch screen slicing can be inaccurate at times, cutting apart lies you weren't intending to cut.
|Class Trials: now with truth knife goodness!|
A new minigame has been added to Danganronpa in the sequel. This game, called Logic Dive, puts Hajime on a board as he travels down a course to obtain the correct answers to questions. The course consists of holes to jump over, ramps to travel across gaps, and obstacles to knock Hajime down. After a few segments of the course, a question pops up with the answers leading to various paths. Only the correct answer will allow Hajime to continue. Logic Dive does what Hangman's Gambit did in the first game: it gives you a little bit of variety and change up from the trial while continuing the trial along, and I appreciate it for that.
There is one final, small change, but it's worth noting none the less. The Closing Argument has been changed just slightly. Rather than being given all of the pieces to fill in the blanks, players only receive five or less (depending on your difficulty). This forces you to think more about the correct order and less relying on using context clues with all of the pieces there, making it just a little bit more challenging and rewarding.
Once the trial is over and the blackened punished it's back to school life. The continuous loop feels very familiar to the first, which isn't a bad thing, but Spike Chunsoft has done a great job of playing with the players expectations in the sequel. Though it starts off slow, the story has several, well placed twists that help elevate it above it's predecessor. Several characters have deeper hidden darknesses behind them and the overall connection to the first game is pretty incredible. Interestingly enough, several burning questions from the first game are answered, but much like a hydra with it's head chopped off, several more queries have sprouted up to replace them. The series has some great depth that isn't fully realized until after you beat the game, and I am personally excited to see what Spike Chunsoft has to offer next.
That being said, if you have not played the first game in the series this is a terrible jumping off point. The crux of almost all of the twists rely on players being familiar with the story of the first game as well as the characters involved. Hell, one of the 'new' characters is from the original game, and the enjoyment of his dialogue and his importance to the plot can only be fully realized if you understand what happened in the first game and why he is so important to that story.
After the game is over there is a variation of School Mode, dubbed Island Mode. Just like in the previous game, Hajime spends time with his fellow classmates, getting to know them while also collecting supplies and creating items for Monomi (rather than Monokuma). I enjoy this mode, but similar to my complaints for the first game, the mode feels awkwardly placed. On the one hand, placing it within the story would throw off the pacing and feeling of being constantly hounded by your classmates deaths, but would also make it less of an add on. However, keeping it as an added mode after the story maintains the feeling of despair the story builds while also allowing those not interested to skip it all together. I almost wish there were just a way to cut down the content of Island Mode and slide it into the story so you don't have to play it over and over again just to learn about every character, but it seems like there just isn't a way to do it cleanly.
|The show must go on!|
8.0 out of 10