The Super-Highschool Level Adventure Game
I don't really know how to describe Danganronpa: Kibou no Gakuen to Zetsubou no Koukosei [ダンガンロンパ希望の学園と絶望の高校生], a few sites just classify it as an adventure game but for me that is not an accurate description if I had to describe it with my own words I would define it as a flamboyant mix of action-adventure, point-and-click, psychological horror, murder mystery, black humor set in a surreal reality but put my ridiculously long description aside because Danganronpa is an excellent adventure game that will consume hours of life and hours well spent if you are a fan of the genre.
The game takes place at Kibougamine Academy [希望ヶ峰学園], a top high school that only accepts super talented students known as "Super High School Level" students [超高校級]. Each of these top students excel at different fields that stretches from the Super Highschool-Level Literary Girl to the Super Highschool-Level Gambler!! The game puts in you in the shoes of Makoto Naegi, a normal and completely average student, who manages to enter the Academy as the "Lucky Student" thanks to a lottery that gave him not only the right to attend this top level Academy but also the title of Super Hischool-Level Lucky. However, right after entering the Academy you lose consciousness just to wakes up inside an empty classroom, after a little exploration, you meet other fourteen Super High School students who just experienced the very same events as you. It is at that moment that a crazy, remote-controlled stuffed bear named Monokuma jumps out of nowhere before you and your classmates, revealing you the shocking fact that you are all imprisoned within the school's ground FOREVER. But the sadistic bear also reveals that there is one way out, graduation. In order to graduate from the academy the student must: take the life of another student and escape the Class Trial putting the blame in another classmate. Based in what I just described you are probably thinking: "What kind of crazy story is this?". The answer is simple, the best kind. The game is not afraid of being unique, everything on the narrative is deliberately over-the-top with exaggerations present in everywhere, this disengagement with the reality and love to the absurd is really what sets the game apart making the narrative interesting and instigating the player push forward craving for more. Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that the story is worth a literary award but it is very well structured and offers a lot of fun with a good dose of mystery which is the perfect combination for this kind of game.
The characters is another positive aspect of the game. At first glance the characters will look like some tired anime cliché but although sometimes they might slip in those cliché they are much more than that they, like all the game, are exaggerations, they are all that old tired stereotypes amplified to the point where they become new and fresh characters with absurd personalities that transcend the concept of parody like, one of my favorites, Touko Fukawa who is a gloomy novelist who suffers with a persecution complex and a multi-personality disorder or Kiyotaka Ishimaru who is a righteous Hall Monitor with an obsession for order. The more you interact and the more you know about this characters the more you will grow attached to them but that is a dangerous thing in Danganronpa, because in a place where murder is the only way out you never know when the character that you are so emotionally invested might die.
In Danganronpa you will basicallly have two different gameplay mechanics every chapter:
The first gameplay mechnic consists on investigation, exploration and interaction. During this parts of the game you will be able to explore the school grounds through a first-person perspective. While navigating through the academy the player is able to control a crosshair that serves to Interact with the scenario and the other characters. There are no challenges in this part it is basicallly here to make story progress but this is my favorite part of the game because it is here that you can interact and deep your relations with the other characters.
The second one is the Class Trials, where the player must use his brain to deduce who the culprit is. This section is divided in four diferente gameplay mechanics: Nonstop Debate, Epiphany Anagram, Machinegum Talk Battle and Climax Logic. Nonstop Debate is the most common activiy here. During this section players will have to have contradictions and break it using the correct argument. Epiphany Anagram is a puzzle section where the player must choose the right letters to complete words related to case. Machinegun Talk Battle is rhythm minigame where the player must win an argument by shooting down the enemy’s remarks. The last is the Climax Logic which is puzzle where the player has to organize all the events at a temporal order to explain how the crime really occurred. The difficulty and complexity of the challenges here are very irregular sometimes you will easily spot the contradiction even before the debate begins but sometimes you will have to put an extra effort to find the right argument to shoot down the contradiction.
Like every other aspect of the game the visuals in Danganronpa are very stylish. All the characters have a very distinguishable design and they are all very expressive too which contributes a lot to the narrative. The colour pallet choose for the game is composed by bright colours and strong dark colours, always using a lot of contrast that helps to create a very special visual identity to the game. The execution animations are all over-the-top, saturated with colours and light creating a chaotic aesthetic.
In the sound department the manages to do fairly well too. The voice acting is convincing and contributes a lot define the character's personality and mood. Although is valid to point that not all the dialogues have voice acting. The soundtrack is decent I didn't hate any track and never felt that it was spoiling the mood but there is nothing special about it either. I works but nothing more than that.
Although I spent almost all my time trying to escape from it I really enjoyed my time in the Kibougamine Academy and I think that fans of visual novels or adventure games really should to try this game and pay a visit to this school.