|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Spike Chunsoft|
|Pub: NIS America|
|Release: February 11, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 544p||Blood, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Suggestive Themes|
The main challenge to the class trials isn't solving the mystery, but overcoming the reflex-based mini-games that are meant to make this visual novel into more of a game-y experience. This is where the Carnival Games part of Danganronpa comes in, and I wasn't terribly impressed with it. They're fairly simple games made cumbersome by questionable control setups. For example, in the most commonly used mini-game that involves shooting “truth bullets” at other students' inaccurate or false statements, the triangle button must be tapped to shoot a truth bullet or held down to memorize a statement for later use. As the player is also tapping and holding down other buttons at the same time, it's very easy to accidentally hold down the triangle button for a millisecond too long, forcing the player to scroll through the entire argument section again because they memorized a statement instead of shooting it.
Most of the mini-games allow the player to either use buttons or the touch screen for controls, though button presses are preferable since putting one's hands over the touch screen tends to obscure important information. The game allows players who aren't into this kind of reflex gaming to set the difficulty to “gentle” or “kind,” but those difficulty levels also cause the logical parts of the trial (choosing correct truth bullets and presenting the proper evidence) to be far too easy. It would have been preferable to separate the mental and action difficulty levels from each other, giving players the choice of a mental challenge, reflex challenge, or both.
In the end, everything is set up so that there's no final “game over” scenario. The player can fail a Class Trial challenge as many times as necessary, simply receiving a lower grade at the end if there were too many failures. This has no real influence on how the game plays out either way, causing me to wonder if I was supposed to be feeling some kind of existential despair over the futility of striving to overcome the mini-game controls and receive the grade I felt I deserved for being a smarty-pants.
Danganronpa has the look, sound, characters and story for a very interesting mystery-horror game. If you enjoy horror, particularly the off-kilter brand of horror at which Japanese creators tend to excel, you should definitely give the game a spin. Just be prepared to be disappointed that it's more interested in challenging your reflexes than your brain, particularly since having a proper opportunity to solve its mysteries would have been a far more interesting challenge than mastering the simple arcade games that stand in their place.
Date: February 12, 2014