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Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

"This is an adventure into despair worth taking."

Sadists rejoice! Monokuma, the demented bear who trapped students in Hope's Peak Academy, has returned. But with Makoto's story finished, where will the two-toned torturer ply his trade of forcing students kill each other for sport? Jabberwock Island, of course, a small archipelago which was once a resort. Here, a new group of students find themselves under the thrall of Monokuma, committing murder for the chance to escape.

Fans of Danganronpa will find themselves in familiar territory - the basic structure, gameplay, and storytelling are virtually unchanged. It's a good structure, but newcomers will find themselves floundering a bit, especially near the end of the game. That's not the only thing that might frustrate players, as some of the new minigames are simply pedantic, and many of the new characters come across soulless. Still, despite these hiccups, Goodbye Despair is still one of the better visual novels available in English and comes highly recommended.

When a group of students from Hope's Peak Academy first reaches Jabberwock Island, they expect a wonderful class trip to a tropical paradise. Unfortunately, after a short period of time, the villanous bear Monokuma emerges, quickly overpowering the students' guardian, a rabbit named Usami. She's assimilated into the same style as Monokuma and finds herself named Monomi. Despite her looks, she spends most of her time as an unwitting victim, not an ally of our favorite bear. Monokuma sets the same rules as he did in the first game - escape can only happen if a student murders another student and gets away with it.

The first half of the game is familiar, but it's also particularly slow. Many of the characters simply adhere to anime tropes and aren't particularly interesting - even near the end of the game, it doesn't seem like they've evolved at all. Most of the time spent exploring the game's quasi-social links also feels wasted - too many of the characters simply don't have much to add, and those that do tend to get more development in the main portion of the game.

That's not to say that Goodbye Despair isn't engaging - despite its stock characters, the second half of the game is quite the roller coaster, answering a lot of questions raised in both games and speeding up significantly. There are more than a few surprises, though there's more than a little suspension of disbelief required for the revelations. It's a worthwhile ending, much moreso than the cliffhanger of the original title.

Despite the positive improvements in overall plot, Spike Chunsoft tried to add too much to the class trial system. The basics all remain the same - before a trial, you explore, find clues, and talk to all of those involved in any given murder. Not much here has changed and it's all effective. Most of the investigations are particularly straightforward - click all of the items in any given island and you'll find yourself on your way to the trial.

Much like Phoenix Wright, you spend trials attempting to find contradictions in testimony provided by your follow students. There are quite a few new additions to "spice things up," though it's fair to say that most of them fall flat on their faces. The largest, most positive change is the addition of the ability to not only contradict an incorrect statement, but to reinforce a correct statement. It's a great change, though some of the new statements are too much of a stretch from the fairly straightforward logic of the first game.

Unfortunately, the other additions, like the Logic Dive snowboarding minigame, are terrible. What point is there in jumping on a half-pipe to answer questions that you know the answer to? It doesn't control well and ultimately ends up frustrating. The other minigames, like "slashing" your debate partners words are equally pointless. I understand why Spike Chunsoft added them, so that these sequences weren't quite as sterile as the trials from the original game, but it's a failed attempt.

Although these are negative bolt-ons, the core of the trials is so solid that it isn't dragged down. Discovering the secrets behind each murder and possibly answers to the bigger questions of "what's happening?" is satisfying, and there's even more content once the mysteries are solved. Just like the first Danganronpa, there's a simulation game mode that shows what the island might have been if Usagi hadn't been defeated by Monokuma. Not only is it addicting, it also allows completion of any and all relationships that went unfinished during the campaign.

Ultimately, if you're a fan of visual novels, Danganronpa 2 is a can't-miss title. There are significant issues introduced, but they're balanced enough by the solid gameplay. I would recommend playing the excellent first game in the series before tacking Danganronpa 2, but if you haven't already plunked down the cash, this is an adventure into despair worth taking.


© 2014 NIS America, Spike Chunsoft. All rights reserved.



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