It's very likely NISA has adopted the modern approach to such things and figured out that allowing fan translations to hit the net means people will Lets Play the material. Lets Plays = Exposure = Free Marketing. It helps that Nintendo finally backpedaled on their initial iron fist stance regarding that; so a smaller company like NISA wouldn't be foolish in following suit.
On that note; does anyone know how accurate the Fantranslation is to the original material?
I'm curious because I decided to take a peek up to Chapter 1 in order to see whether or not I'd want this game. Early signs...are bad. Really bad.
-The characters are literally walking cliche balls cranked up to 11. Several are just flat out unlikable out the gate who only get worse as the game progresses. And not in the 'This character is designed this way' but in the 'annoying due to poor writing' way. To such a degree that makes you wonder how the writer survived any sort of creative writing class without the professor sending in a request to formally ban this individual from writing anything ever again. Their designs don't really help matters either. Their appearances match their actions; there's only a handful that are halfway decent. One of them is likely borderline racist when you consider Japan's dips into that particular pool. (The character intentionally written as the most annoying/childish/separated from reality is darker skinned with a literal chimp face. I want to say it's either a dig at the Ainu or the Ryukyuan but it's been way too long since I read the proper article.) As a result it's very difficult to become 'attached' to anyone; which means the game fails to deliver even a slasher-flick level of empathy.
-On the subject of writing. Danganronpa, assuming the Fantranslation has any degree of accuracy, takes the 'Epic Movie' approach to the Horror VN genre. It spams in as many game references, pop cultural references, and slang-talk as possible in order to mimic humor. I wish this stopped there, but this piece meal referencing applies to the writing and design as a whole. Literally I can see the makers having sat down and said "What made money?"
Phoenix Wright? Lets take some of that.
999/VLR? Let's take some of that.
Umineko? Toss some of that in there.
Corpse Party? Why the heck not!
Building on the blocks of those who came before you isn't inherently a bad thing...provided you create your own unique spin on the final product. However I've walked away from Danganrompa's first chapter feeling like the game has zero identity all of its own. It's pretty much a game of 'spot which VN series we're mimicing now'. A game like this should be giving me an impression of its own core identity rather than constantly reminding me of other games with more solid construction and individuality.
-And yet even more major problems in the writing department. Character motivations aren't just paper thin. They're paper reduced to a micron in thinness which has been saturated in water and beaten upon constantly by a box fan. If you're going to somehow build your game around a murder mystery then your "Why" better be a bit more solid than this. If someone were murdered in this game because they thought their soup were too cold it would be a more reasonable set up than what Danganronpa goes with. This isn't helped by the degrees of stupidity and slowness the writer places on these character's thought processes in order to make these scenarios happen. So much so that the one character who appears to 'know all the answers at a glance' is even hurt by this. Simply for the virute of "If it were so obvious why didn't you do something to prevent/stop this!? You would have seen this coming!".
-Probably the greatest flaw...the villain...oh lord... Someone looked at Zero III and decided to get everything about a 'creepy/endearing' villain template wrong. His design is goofy (in a bad way), his dialog is annoying, he falls into the trap of Pervert = Endearing, he has no charisma, he literally just exists to piss the characters off (and the reader/player by having to put up with him). There's nothing frightening about him. There's nothing charming about him. He just exists. Which in a horror story like this is a cardinal sin.
-Aside from the writing, this game shoots itself so hard in the foot with an atrocious choice in art direction. Character design aside, let me quote you something from the wiki:
The game uses pop art, a bright and colorful style, as a way to contrast the dark subject matter of murder. Scenario writer Kazutaka Kodaka stated he desired to "...shake user's heart by showing a devastating accident in not devastating ways. But, by some measure, it might be more shocking than showing a devastating scene."
Yeah...you know what this 'bright and colorful style' is? The characters bleed cupcake icing. I swear to you the character bleed ****ing cupcake icing! It's neon pink! It looks like someone killed a "My Little Pony". Among other similar choices this really, really ruins any sense of engagement with the material. You're literally taken out of the moment in order to shake your head in shame/bewilderment at what you just witnessed.
As a side effect this also results in destroying any sort of stability the setting has. Is this a 'realism' horror like 999/VLR? Is this a 'fantasy' horror like Corpse Party or Umineko? I can't tell. The dialog tries to convince you of one thing, but the visuals present and entirely different story. Without spoiling anything imagine if you will I was going to tell you a realistic horror story about a children being slaughtered. Then during the story I told you the first load of children were offed by REAL purple dinosaurs swinging nerf bats at super sonic speeds and singing "I Love You~!" the whole time.
Mood? Dissonance. Theme? Dissonance. Reader? Confused to all hell.
-However...I am not without some praise for this game. There is one, and I repeat one saving grace for this title. The Classroom Trials. In terms of plot/mystery solving the first chapter wasn't really impressive in terms of plot twists. But it did make me theorize once or twice about the whos and hows. However the presentation and the gameplay mechanics here are quite solid. So much so that if this title had even as little as a 20% improvement in character writing then Danganronpa could be a huge rival to the other VNs in its genre. There's not one part of the Class Trials I didn't like mechanically.
Shooting down the logical errors with evidence actually felt like it could be more dynamic and thought provoking than the Phoenix Wright model. Especially with the restrictions via time limit, life bar, and multiple 'dead ends' you have to think through. Heck even more so than Phoenix Wright, Danganronpa actually felt like a trial in how you argue views, work through logic, ect (sans the aforementioned problem of several characters being denser than lead). About the only weak link would be the Machinegun Talk Battles; where, mechanics aside, it's pretty much a screaming game of "Uh huh!" Uh uh!" until you can actually deliver a closing statement.
It's just really, really a shame how much "Bleh" you have to get to for the most engrossing part of the game to come to life.
Conclusively...I'm a bit torn. :-\ Personally I think I'll buy it simply so I can see how it all ends. I'm afraid I'm a bit of a mystery devourer so now that I've opened the cat box I need to see who's alive or dead. Critically...I have to give it a thumbs down. So much lazy writing. So much bad taste in the art direction. So much wasted potential.