The lights are on
This game tells one of the best stories I've seen in video games. The plot twists are super difficult to see coming. The characters are very well written and all have unique personalities. It's very hard to put down as the story has perfect pacing.
The gameplay is divided into three parts - school life, investigation, and trials.
School life is your main visual novel section where characters interact and the story moves forward. Like 999 and Virtue's Last Reward, the characters are faced with the situation at hand (trapped at Hope's Peak High School), but the game gives you little bits of information about the frame story that bring up more and more questions. Just when you think you're understanding things, you'll discover a photograph or document that totally confuses you. It's a great way to keep players wanting to reach the ending and have all the answers. There are also moments called "free time" during these sections, where you get to pick someone to spend the day with. It's quite similar to the social link system of the Persona games.
Investigation occurs after a student is murdered. These play out a lot like Phoenix Wright investigations. You talk to other students to get alibis and testimonies as well as examining the crime scene for evidence. These sections are generally pretty short; the game shows you on the map which rooms you need to explore so that you aren't wandering around aimlessly, clicking on every object.
Trials are where most of the gameplay is found. These parts are fully voiced, which is a very nice touch. In trials, the students debate who is the killer. When someone presents an idea, the game goes into what is called "non-stop debate." This plays out similar to the Phoenix Wright cross-examinations, but it is in real-time. The player must select a word or phrase said by one of the students and shoot it with an "evidence bullet" that contradicts his/her statement. This brings the students into more discussion. Other minigames include a word-assembling game and a one-on-one rhythm game. Near the end of a trial, the player must recap the trial in a comic style. The player is shown a comic with several blank panels and must fill them in with the pictures in the order that they occurred. This can be a bit frustrating, as it is sometimes hard to tell what the options are depicting to place into the comic, but it is far from impossible.
This game is a must-play for fans of Zero Escape and Phoenix Wright. Even if you haven't played those series, I recommend this game to any Vita owner. It's very different from any game I've played, and the story is engaging all the way through.
One quick note--I mentioned that the trial's are fully voiced, but that is incorrect. There is voice acting, but not every single line of dialogue is voiced. Sorry for the mistake.