"If you like your visual novels with a healthy dose of drama and a futuristic setting, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is sure to please."
When you picture the video game adaptation of the action-packed, cerebral and intense anime Psycho-Pass, do you picture a visual novel? Although it may not be your first choice, the mind-bending world of the anime translates very well to visual novel form with Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness.
If you are uninitiated like myself, Psycho-Pass has been described to me as "futuristic anime Blade Runner meets Minority Report." As with most adaptations, the anime is not a prerequisite for enjoyment of the game; you can go in blind and appreciate the stand-alone story, but fans of the show will be treated to familiar characters, locations and vocabulary. Thankfully, there is an in-game glossary that helps keep track of all the strange terminology that gets thrown at you.
Developed by the folks at MAGES and 5pb., who were responsible for the critically acclaimed Steins;Gate
, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness promises a top-tier visual novel experience rife with the anime's signature melodrama. Nadeshiko Kugatachi and Takumi Tsurugi are the newest detectives assigned to MWPSB Criminal Investigation Department Division, where they are tasked with identifying and apprehending latent criminals. Set within the first eight episodes of the show, Mandatory Happiness revolves around several cases involving a mysterious criminal hacker who goes by the alias of Alpha. Alpha believes it is his duty to make people "happy" and he will do whatever it takes to put those people over the edge. Picture a teenager who's ticked off with his parents — he may wish they disappeared — Alpha may "take care" of that for him to make him happy. You better be careful what you wish for.
At the start of the game, you can pick between Nadeshiko and Takumi. You will then play through all of the cases as your chosen character, who each have completely different experiences and options. Like many visual novels, interactivity is reserved to making small decisions, like where to go to investigate. This is a very traditional visual novel and lacks the puzzle elements of the Zero Escape series, however it's the kind of game you'll want to play more than once to see the many outcomes of the cases. It is
possible to screw up; you could make the wrong choice and the hostage you are trying to save could die, but the game will continue and you'll live with that failure. The quality of the writing was enough to keep my eyes glued to the Vita screen during my demo.
If you like your visual novels with a healthy dose of drama and a futuristic setting, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is sure to please. Again, you don't need to watch the anime to understand what is going on in the game, but those familiar with the world will have less of a learning curve. Just be fully aware that this is a true visual novel: You won't be tracking down criminals and firing your Dominator; you will be reading and thinking critically to resolve your cases as you see fit. Be prepared to fight crime like it's 2112 when Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness releases this September.