On the surface, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc seems like a weird mash-up of Ace Attorney and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. Even with the extremely long and odd title, Trigger Happy Havoc should absolutely not be ignored. Indeed, the Vita has received another great title from developer Chunsoft.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc poses ethical questions throughout its story. What length would you go to free yourself from captivity? Would you kill someone? Would you feel guilty about it? These are dark questions that, through some of the best writing that I’ve seen on the Vita, are kept from being too depressing with consistently funny and clever dialogue.
Trigger Happy Havoc, while posing these questions, never takes itself too seriously. With a game that is so dark at its core, it must not have been easily accomplished. After all, the main premise of Trigger Happy Havoc is that fifteen students are locked in a high school with the only way to “graduate” (which is the game’s way of saying escape) is to kill one of your fellow classmates and get away with it. Yeah, it’s a dark, demented game.
You play as an average guy, surrounded by “ultimate” students. Every other student who is locked in with you is unique. There is the ultimate fashionista, the ultimate baseball player, the ultimate martial arts expert. Each one has their own strengths and flaws. Then there you are the only average student in the group. Everyone else was picked to attend this school, whereas you were picked in a raffle and eventually get dubbed the ultimate “lucky” student.
As far as gameplay goes, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc plays more like Zero Escape than anything else. Players examine environments and talk to other students to help solve puzzles – that is until characters start showing up dead. Suspicions arise until it’s time for a trial, which is when everything breaks down and becomes more like a Phoenix Wright game.
Trials are less of trials and more of everyone just throwing accusations around the room until someone confesses or is found guilty. The problem is, even if someone confesses and a character has a reasonable explanation for why they killed someone, the headmaster still ends up killing the guilty party anyway. He’s not a very nice guy.
Graphically, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a rather impressive-looking Vita game. Character models are hand-drawn and colorful; the environments are detailed. However, even as the game bombards you with moral dilemmas, it undermines that message with cliché pictures of female characters in risqué poses and typical innuendo-filled Japanese dialogue that seems to be a staple of the genre.
At the end of the day, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is another great Vita game that people should play. Don’t let the name put you off. It is a deep and serious game that doesn’t mind letting itself have fun. Danganronpa already has a sequel out in Japan that was recently announced as being localized for a US release, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
This review was originally published in February 2014. Drew Meadows now writes for Electric Bento. The review has been updated and proofread with the help of Proofreading Monkey. If you are an author, blogger, or professional writer and need error-free copy, check out Proofreading Monkey for their affordable proofreading services.