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Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Under what circumstances could you get someone to contemplate murder? Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc hinged on this terrifying question, locking students in a school and progressively giving them more reasons to kill. The sequel, Goodbye Despair, continues exploring this worst-nightmare scenario, but it makes the journey exciting and unexpected thanks to a new locale and cast.

As a visual novel, most of the gameplay involves reading dialogue between characters. You investigate crime scenes and find clues to present during trials. These elements are still intact from the original, but Goodbye Despair ditches Hope's Peak Academy and takes a group of talented students to a tropical island for a fun field trip. The island holds the promise of relaxation so the students can get to know each other better, but the bloodthirsty bear Monokuma shows up and brings back his torturous game. The group is now imprisoned on the island with only one way out: murder a fellow student and get away with it.

The change in scenery offers rich areas for exploration. You visit five different islands, including one that is a theme park, and another that is an abandoned city. The locales are more memorable than the first game, but the characters aren't. The students are more archetypical, like the meek nurse who doesn't want to upset anyone. The plot does support some standouts though, like some characters who are more than meets the eye. The writing also still does a great job at exploring people's mental states and casting doubt on their claims, and that's where the real lure still is. Are you potentially befriending a murderer or the next victim?

The plot is far from perfect, though, and pacing is the biggest issue. The story doesn't pick up until the end of the third case - halfway through the adventure. The first few cases aren't awful, but they're just not particularly surprising or emotional. Once the plot takes off, however, it trumps the first game. I was glued to my Vita, losing sleep to see the next reveal. Endings aren't easy to pull off, but Goodbye Despair nails its finale, making it just as fascinating as it is satisfying. Still, I wouldn't play Goodbye Despair without playing Trigger Happy Havoc first, as the ending won't be nearly as rewarding or comprehensible. 

The gameplay has some tweaks to the original formula. New mechanics add some new life to the courtroom; instead of merely pointing out contradictions as classmates spew their theories, you can now reinforce points when you agree. The solutions to some of the puzzles are more obtuse this time around, forcing me to rely on trial-and-error - something I rarely did in Trigger Happy Havoc.

One new addition is absolutely horrible: Logic Dive - a snowboarding video game where you dodge obstacles while answering questions. Nothing is more frustrating than knowing the answer to a question, but having to complete a jump sequence to advance. This is compounded by the fact that Logic Dive has awful checkpoints. Who wants to put up with annoying platforming when you're about to unmask a killer?

If you enjoyed the first entry, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play Goodbye Despair. If you weren't enamored with it, you won't find anything here to change your mind. Nonetheless, you still won't find a series out there that messes with your head like Danganronpa. It sticks with you long after you've watched the credits roll.

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