Title: Danganronpa Decadence
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: December 3, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Visual Novel, Mysery
In 2021, Danganronpa needs no introduction. It’s an iconic series that aided in popularizing the concept of killing games. Debuting on the Vita and then eventually making its way to other platforms, this franchise has made waves and a plethora of fans, with the last notable platform finally being graced; Nintendo Switch. Danganronpa Decadence is a package containing Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, and Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp. This review covers the three mainline entries.
Throughout each game, players control protagonists surviving killing games forced to occur between high school students. Of course, circumstances differ between each title, but the general gameplay loop is retained. After being introduced to the casts and engaging with Free Days, where any student can bond, murders occur from perpetrators in the groups of students, leading to investigations and Class Trials. This mystery component is the crux of all experience, and though the quality of the cases varies, each is immensely enjoyable to figure out in its own distinct ways. Further, the character struggles highlighted throughout each game are top-notch, with V3’s being my personal favorite.
Investigations are relatively self-explanatory, simply consisting of examining noteworthy areas related to the murder(s) at hand. While admittedly occasionally dull, these sequences are necessary to fully appreciate the contexts of the deaths and amplify emotional attachment to the affected characters, whether they be the victims, friends, or even the murderers. However, the Class Trials are the real meat and potatoes here. In a loosely similar manner to Ace Attorney, players gradually coerce the truth of the actual killers from the information provided by all surviving students. The mechanics in the Class Trials are also where the games differentiate the most, at least on a gameplay level.
Before getting into the differences of the Class Trial implementations, though, there is a notable commonality the 3 titles share; Non-Stop Debates. The surviving students, minus the respective protagonist, provide their own interpretations and accounts of the relevant subject matter at hand throughout these sequences. Additionally, there are suggested weak points spread across specified phrases, with the objective being to find the genuinely erroneous ones. Truth Bullets, essentially evidence, are fired at these suspect lines, and if correctly lined up, progress the trial. It’s an engaging premise that requires legitimate thought into the circumstances revolving around the Trials. V3 manages to turn this concept on its head with a newly introduced mechanic, too. Admittedly, having to assess the validity and relevancy of several bombarding statements can be overwhelming. Still, overcoming these interactions is undeniably fulfilling.
Moreover, the Class Trials have minigames that act as differing avenues leading toward the truth. Hangman’s Gambit is an iconic one stemming across all games, though it differs in specific execution to keep utilization fresh. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc contains Bullet Time Battles, a rhythm-based minigame used for identifying the killer once and for all.
Danganronpa 2 has Logic Dives, a lite surfing minigame with questions to answer along the way, and Danganronpa V3 has Debate Scrums which consist of organizing two teams’ opinions to form an objective consensus of particular events. There are other distinct minigames present throughout the titles though the general idea behind their incorporations is undoubtedly clear by now.
Regarding evolution, Danganronpa had done so with courageous finesse rarely seen in other franchises. The first game has its fair share of story twists and genre subversions, but they drastically expand in intensity and boldness as the titles progress, primarily utilizing setting at their cores. Granted, there is a possible price to pay for constant subversion, which is that it can come off as overcompensation to make the narratives feel more concerned with shock value than coherency. This potential dilemma is ever prevalent in V3. Still, there is no objectiveness to this multi-faceted trait the games house. And, after replaying, I found myself appreciating and respecting the confidence in the directions several plotlines take while still remaining sensical, so Danganronpa doesn’t come off as if it relies solely on shock value for appeal. If anything, its self-awareness of its genre and tropes make them shine even brighter.
For visual novel experiences, sound design is integral to establishing impact, and thankfully, Danganronpa stellarly embraces that trait. From soothing tranquil tracks during Free Time segments to depict the meaningfulness of temporary peace, to intense hype-inducing ones during Trials, tonal mastery is an ever-present factor of these experiences. Additionally, the voice work is excellent, at least as someone who played with the English dub. While some line deliveries are overly cheesy, and the quality increases as the games progress, making the first title somewhat hit-or-miss, I found every voice fitting and passionate for their roles. As a brief aside, V3 has a few odd grammatical exclusions from its text boxes that only appear in the text backlog, particularly dashes. This is a relatively minor fault, but can potentially take players out of the experience.
Discussing the caliber of each title individually isn’t necessary, so to be as genuinely general as possible, I find all three games fantastic and absolutely worth experiencing for any mystery and visual novel fan. While a few notable segments of a few investigative sections and Class Trials can drag on or be too hand-holdy, there’s no singular instance that stuck out as ruining. When it comes to the collection’s content, you get a hell of a lot of bang for your buck, though there is one odd absence in this collection; Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. This spinoff title takes place between Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. It is also a canon experience, so its exclusion in an otherwise complete collection is noticeable. Still, its absence doesn’t take away from the quality of the other present games.
When it comes down to it, Danganronpa Decadence is a must-play, even if you don’t consider yourself a visual novel fan. The enticing overarching mysteries and superb character writing are reason enough to give them a shot. Unfortunately, the 10th-anniversary edition contents, essentially just a gallery feature, might not be enough to warrant a full playthrough from seasoned fans, but the portability of the Switch and the ease of accessibility makes this one of the best collections available on the console to date.
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