When a game like Danganronpa gets localised for a Western audience, there will always be scepticism. With a game that includes strange anime artwork, an incredibly bizarre plot, and unfamiliar gameplay, many people are more than likely going to be turned off. Yet those are the people who are missing out on an insanely weird yet wonderful experience. The Danganronpa franchise is a hit in its native country of Japan, and has formed a cult following of sorts in the West, and personally I find that hardly surprising as this is a game which features creative and stylish artwork, a memorable roster of unique characters, and a plot so inexplicable that anyone who plays it would know they’re in for one hell of a ride from the get-go. Although Danganronpa 1.2 Reload may not offer anything new from its original release, it offers a captivating experience nonetheless.
Danganronpa 1.2 Reload is both the original and its sequel wrapped into one game, and is simply just the games being embedded onto a new platform. No new features are introduced unfortunately, so if you happened to play the games before, the only new thing you will experience is seeing it all play out on a larger screen. Yet for those who haven’t, it acts as a great introduction to the world of Danganronpa. The Danganronpa franchise is more of a visual novel than it is a game, which is one reason I know many would turn a blind eye, as the endless amount text can just be too much for some people to comprehend, and I’ll admit at one stage I was one of them. Danganronpa is a text-heavy game, but reading through it all is more than worth it as it is one of the best story-based franchises going, and the translation from Japanese to English includes some great sassy and hilarious dialogue. Danganronpa revolves around a group of high school students who find themselves trapped inside a school with only one way out – to kill another classmate and get away with it. The summary is hectic and crazy, and will keep you in suspense and wondering who will be next to bite the dust. It may sound quite Battle Royal-esque, but the further the plot thickens, the more you’ll come to realise how much more in-depth and character driven it really is. Danganronpa 2 is more or less the same, except it revolves around a group of different characters who are on a field trip. Speaking of characters, Danganronpa features a colourful bunch of students who live up to the general anime tropes – such as the cute and ditsy idol star, the mysterious and brooding female detective, and the loud and obnoxious beefcake, but they all have something which distinct them from one another – an ultimate talent. Each character has a characteristic which is individual to them, which allows for the cast to become more memorable than you would first realise. Each character also has some of the craziest appearances I have seen, even for an anime, yet the art style isn’t over the top, but instead features some the snazziest artwork I’ve seen – again, even for an anime.
Of course, when one says visual novel, what would immediately spring to mind is a heavy load of text, yet Danganronpa surprises with its fluid and thrilling gameplay sections. A bulk of the game is reading, but when you’re not doing that, you’re rushing around the school acting as detective – finding clues and coming to your own conclusions of “whodunit”. There are many places to explore, and as you progress you are given more freedom to explore. There are also fun and surprisingly thoughtful sections of the game known as “free time”, where you have the option to get to know some of your classmates and spend some one-on-one time with them, which comprises of some great character development for each person. It also adds a higher sense of dread, as one character you may have grown attached to may be the next one on the chopping block. Ultimately, the most exciting of the gameplay are the Class Trials, which see all the students gathering together in a court-based setting with a limited amount of time to solve the case. Patience and attention is need on your behalf, as the cases can be quite convoluted and you will need to examine all clues to crack them open. But the trials aren’t just a case of trial and error – they utilise different styles of mini-games which keep the gameplay from becoming stale and repetitive, ranging from nonstop debates to hangman’s gambit. The main strength of the Danganronpa franchise is with its gameplay, and it manages to employ some fast-paced and innovative mechanics.
The soundtrack of Danganronpa is just as frantic as the game. The music elevates the class trials with a higher sense of tension and discovering a body is incredibly fearful. Wondering around corridors is even a thrill ride. The soundtrack is filled to the brim with electrifying beats, which contrasts well with the setting. The tones range from upbeat and optimistic to eerie and suspenseful – which is well realised in its connection to the overarching themes of hope and despair. Overall the soundtrack is solid, and offers some rewarding delights in a game that can become too bogged down by its heavy load of text.
Danganronpa manages to be both silly and serious, and this repackaging of the first two games are worth recommending to not only avid anime fans, but to anyone who is an avid gamer. It features one of the most interesting plots to grace any videogame or visual novel, and dons both unique and innovative gameplay mechanics. Although the heavy text load may be a put off for some, Danganronpa 1.2 Reload is both colourful and loud enough to demand anyone’s attention.