Danganronpa 1.2 Reload: review

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Originally exclusive to Sony handhelds, the first two Danganronpa games have been thrown together for a single PS4 release to prepare people for Danganronpa 3. This is undoubtedly a Good Thing, because Danganronpa is awesome. Danganronpa 2 is also awesome, and if you click through those links we hopefully do a good job of explaining why. It’s a real shame then that they were previously exclusive to the Vita, a format that is all but dead in English-speaking territories. We’re happy to see the games get a second shot via the staggeringly successful PS4 because, as we may possibly have already mentioned, both games are awesome.

The first question on the lips of existing fans will be something along the lines of “Does this package give me incentive to play these games again?”. The answer to that question is “Er, not really, sorry”. Of course, if you like the idea of playing through again on your TV rather than a small screen, snap this right up. Otherwise, the experience appears to be identical. There’s no extra content, no early unlocks of the post-game bonuses, and no accommodation of your Vita saves. Graphical improvements are very, very minor (and amusingly, given the almost complete absence of animation, Reload offers PS4 Pro support), but that’s not exactly a criticism. The Vita versions already looked great, especially if you were playing on the original hardware’s OLED screen. Very basic on a technical level, the bold and distinctive art style is as mesmerising as ever.

As for the games themselves, it’s tempting to just say “links to original reviews are above, off you go, we’re going down the pub”. We’d never even consider taking such an unprofessional route, and there was certainly no 35 minute conversation trying to convince the editor that this was an entirely reasonable approach. It’s only polite to give you a general idea while also pointing you in the direction of individual reviews that go into greater detail. So here we go.

Yes. Yes there is.

At its gruesome heart, the two Danganronpa games are essentially murder mysteries. There’s a relentlessly surreal atmosphere though, and the stories take bizarre turns; especially in the late stages of the second game. The fundamental, familiar idea runs thus: A bunch of high school kids are tricked into participating in a deadly game. The deadly game in question comes down to a twisted choice. Are you willing to adjust to a life completely secluded from the outside world, or are you determined to escape… even if the only way out is to murder somebody without getting found out?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again because it’s damn true; the games’ antagonist, Monokuma, is one of the greatest and most memorable villains in fiction. You have a choice of playing these titles with either English or Japanese voiceovers and, while purists will prefer to play the game with the original audio, we strongly recommend going with English if you don’t speak Japanese. English acting overall here is generally quite good, but Monokuma’s lines are consistently delivered with nigh-on perfection, further strengthening his/her/its personality. Yes, Monokuma looks like a teddy bear, but he/she/it is unpredictable, unforgettable, and utterly deranged.

“Unpredictable, unforgettable, and utterly deranged” seems like a pretty good description of the games themselves. You can add “intelligent and witty” to the mix, too. Although the culprit can sometimes be obvious very early on in the first game once the murder has taken place, it’s true of both games that you can never be sure who will kill or be killed next. The sharp writing, which ensures that you grow fond of the utterly distinct characters, means that there will be times you’ll be genuinely sad to see a character turn up dead or, indeed, turn out to be the murderer who will be imaginatively and definitively “punished” by Monokuma.

Get ready to see a LOT of this bear.

Danganronpa 1 & 2 include several small miracles together. An almost complete absence of animation that doesn’t adversely affect storytelling, minigames that are not only not tedious but even enjoyable, genuinely intelligent scripts, truly unpredictable plot twists, and characters that manage to grow and reveal surprising depth.

Well, the ones that survive long enough to do so, anyway.

Crammed full of quality content, Danganronpa 1.2 Reload is an essential purchase for anybody who hasn’t experienced the series before. Better than a hundred identikit open world games, better than a thousand Call of Medals or Gears of Browns, Danganronpa is the sort of series that reminds you what a good videogame can do.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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