The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
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.
Email the author Kimberley Wallace, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.