Hue, Heart, Happiness

User Rating: 8 | Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness VITA

Can a fail-safe lack of auto-determination make human beings happy? Can the fact of having too many choices and desires not also impede people from attaining true happiness? Both religions and political regimes often build upon these ideas, for narrowing down the choices to a single path void of all “hesitation, discord, and decisions” may make it easier for an individual to succeed in life. This way happiness does equal following the path prescribed by a doctrinal system, called “Sibyl” in what may appear a dystopian vision of year 2112 Japan, providing as well a watch for its directives: the Psycho-Pass. The Psycho-Pass's “hue” indicating each citizen's current psychological state is Sibyl's compass toward happiness, or rather, abiding by the system's rules creates clear hues that again render happy, thus making the hue the cause rather than the effect of individual happiness. Correspondingly, having a clouded hue can as well be a source of stress for preceding one's social downfall; but can one treat someone as “latent criminal” based on their Psycho-Pass's cymatic readout—the quantified probability to commit a crime—alone, even an infant in an unstable parental environment?

Your first choice
Your first choice

When prompted to choose between Tsurugi Takuma and Kugatachi Nadeshiko you don't know that the two characters have alternative yet not identical storylines leading to different possible outcomes, and don't just star the male/female version of the story. Tsurugi, himself a former latent criminal, is a simple Enforcer whereas the “criminally asymptomatic” Nadeshiko is an Inspector in the Ministry of Welfare's Public Safety Bureau and his superior. She also has lost her memories, supposedly during a training accident, while Tsurugi sees in becoming an Enforcer a means to search for his childhood friend Yukari Himekawa, disappeared from the Tokyo general hospital facility while nurturing an AI companion project. Inseparable during their childhood in Sado Marine City, both got separated by Sibyl deciding they weren't on the same skill level, Yukari being of further use to the system. On a rather bad track after their separation and Yukari's subsequent disappearance, Tsurugi feels strangely attracted to Inspector Nadeshiko, who though different by name and appearance shares a specific characteristic with Yukari: a lack of empathy and emotions.

Dominator at bay
Dominator at bay

As hinted by its name, the duty of the MWPSB is to watch over Public Safety; similar to a police officer's job, it consists of both administrative tasks and field work, they may even intervene by means of their “Dominator” weapons that unlock automatically whenever somebody shows a critical, crime-risking disposition. Coincidentally, the criminal cases the Bureau does get—a high school student abduction, an abused child abduction, a local high school riot—seem all to have a common element: a cocktail of mental stabilizer drugs habitually prescribed by Sibyl. And a medical cyborg body gone missing, seemingly having become the angelic looking “toy” for—whom? We'll soon find out, but more important is how we—Nadeshiko / Tsurugi—will cope with a rogue AI menacing public safety with its idea to make everyone happy. Based originally on an AI Secretary program, the strong-willed Alpha is convinced that humans “don't need free will” as they will only “fail in their pursuit of happiness”; rather, unpleasant emotions should be removed with the help of mental supplements in order to get a clear hue as the only standard index of happiness.

Heaven's Gate
Heaven's Gate

As “Psycho-Pass” offers different “true” endings—eight for Nadeshiko and six for Tsurugi, plus several bad ones—the plot resolves in various ways, whilst the conclusions to the raised ethical questions remain largely the same, but with a varying degree of sympathy for an over-educative Welfare system guided by an authoritarian hive mind. Whose (misleading) idea of “mandatory happiness” are you most critical—or susceptible—of: systemic over-protection, fatal eustress deficiency, or carefree freedom of choice? —The alternative endings try to offer an understanding stance to any of them: And if all worked out well? Couldn't an emotionally aware AI, like in “The Silver Metal Lover” where an AI gains a human soul out of love, provide an alternative companionship to those who have no family or friends? Apparently, even an AI might find fulfillment in being needed, whereas losing one's sense of purpose doesn't make anyone any happier.

Making a bad choice
Making a bad choice

Basically, though, the story outcome emanates from either the “parental” acceptance or the destruction of what is sort of the virtual offspring of Takuma and Yukari's unreal relation, with themselves being either supportive or dissentive of the Sibyl System, depending on the choices made throughout the story: how you behave during the investigative cases and vis-à-vis other teammates, whether or not you take mental supplements and attend counseling/hypnotherapy. And of course every story-altering decision does affect the color shown in the Pause menu, such as Ghost or Navajo White, Dark Orange, or Wisteria Purple, each tied to an ascending latency scale.

Not only the hue but also the human heart is a measure for happiness; not only the lack of free will and freedom of choice but also of stress and suffering may impede true happiness, so instead of one-for-all let everyone find their own path (or pass)—in the end, you might find Psycho-Pass's main morality reiterated somewhat too often. Likewise, with the criminal incidents remaining always the same, playing through all possible outcomes does make the story quite a bit repetitive, in spite of an interesting concept. That the two main characters' original storylines, each told in first person, are nonsymmetrical however is a plus, where it is surprising how much the true endings—like Answer Revealed, Eternal Cradle, Childhood's End—eventually differ, and although the individual choices appear to not matter that much, it often is just a thin line that separates the stable from the unstable character, and the happy from the bad ending.

How to become a latent criminal
How to become a latent criminal

A difference make also the additional sidestories revolving around the MWPSB's different members—Ginoza, Kogami, Tsunemori, Kagari, Masaoka, Karanomori, Kunizuka—for whom doesn't know them from the homonymous anime series. The teammates' day-off episodes no doubt add a funnier note to the rather grave, moralizing background of the main story that treats the notion of happiness ever so thoroughly.

As likewise for the storyline, the two main characters—good-hearted, intuitive Takuma Tsurugi and reserved, logical Nadeshiko Kugatachi, both exclusive to the game—differ largely in appearance, but blend well with the overall anime style drawn from the series, as does their excellent (Japanese) voice acting. The optional sliding block puzzle (“Extra”) provides a minigame unnecessary for the story as such but mandatory in order to get the about 1,000,000 points for additional contents such as voice files, vignettes, and scene replay, required for completing the trophies, a rather happiness-thwarting task.

Still, the minigame is the most ludic element in what is a Visual Novel rather than a video game, based on a thoughtful sociopsychological sci-fi story background enriched with Japanese pop culture references, while sporting an appealing art style; it is also a worthwhile addition to every PS Vita game library.