Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair Review

By Shawn Collier on September 4, 2014

If you've read our review of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc earlier this year, you already know that the sequel, titled "Goodbye Despair", had a lot to live up to. The first game's narrative kept the player on the edge of their seat right up until the very end with one hell of a cliffhanger --- so the ultimate question remains: could the sequel continue from there and go even further? The answer to that is a resounding yes.

A scene that will be eerily familiar to veterans of the first game, Goodbye Despair opens up with newcomer Hajime Hinata entering through the gates of Hope's Peak Academy for his first day of classes. Everything appears normal but then Hajime passes out and wakes up on an island beach alongside the other Ultimate students who were to be his classmates at the academy. The problem is that Hajime, unlike the other students, can only remember his name, with no recollection of his "Ultimate" ability.

Those who played the first game are probably expecting everyone's favorite murderous bear Monokuma to pop up anytime now, but the game subverts that by introducing a similar, but friendly talking rabbit named Usami who won't reveal why everyone has lost their memories, but wants everyone to get along peacefully on the island and hints at her actions somehow "protecting" everyone.

After some exploration, things appear a bit off as Hajime can't help but shake that something is amiss. That premonition turns out to be correct as the fiendish dual-colored bear pops up and starts up the killing game once again. He's trapped everyone on the island with gives him or her a way out: kill a fellow classmate and get away with it.

The catch is that after three or more people find the dead body there's an investigation period followed a class trial. If the "blackened" (i.e. the killer) gets away without being detected they leave everyone else faces punishment. But if the "blackened" is discovered only they receive punishment and the rest survive. And for those who never played the original: punishment equals death.

Before the killing begins each chapter, you'll get to talk and hang out with your fellow classmates similarly to how you did in the original game. You still get a special ability after maxing out your relationships like before that can be used during the class trials, but one new addition here is "hope fragments" which are obtained after each level you increase with a character --- which can be exchanged for other new skills. One welcome change from the original is that each classmate has the same amount max level to reach, so it's no longer easier to know who will die first based off how long it takes to max out your relationship.

Like the original, once a dead body has been found you enter the investigation phase where you look through the surrounding areas for clues leading to the killer, which are converted into "truth bullets" that are used during the class trial phase. One complaint with the original game was that it was essentially a game of hide-and-seek, even with the Triangle button showcasing what items were selectable as some were too close together. The sequel fixes this by naming the examinable spots and centers the cursor on them once you get close enough.

After gathering enough clues, the game moves into the class trial phase. You have two gauges to keep your eye on here: trust and health. The former helps you gain favor with your fellow classmates during debates and the latter takes hits for you when you mess up, occasionally filling back up when you make the right choices. Depleting either gauge causes a game over where your classmates choose you as the killer, requiring you to restart at the last checkpoint. Thankfully unlike the original game, these checkpoints aren't nearly as far off from where you might fail which was an annoyance in the first Danganronpa game.

All of the trails start off with a non-stop debate where you need to use your truth bullets to poke a hole in a classmate's statement. This mini-game is the most prevalent in the trials as it's used between the other mini-games that make up the trials. New to Goodbye Despair are a few changes to the non-stop debates. You could use someone's else's statement in the original in lieu of one of your truth bullets which returns again, but now you can also use either bullet form to agree with someone else's statement.

Hangman's Gambit, the mini-game where you picked out letters to make up a word or words returns in Goodbye Despair but with a new twist. Instead of just picking the letters as they appear, the letters fly by the screen. Combining two of the letters creates a larger letter that you can use to complete the phrase. The catch is that non-matching letters that collide with each other cause you to loose health and near the end of the matching the speed gets quite hectic. Some might find the letter movement a little too fast, but once you get the hang of it and utilize the advanced controls to move quickly across the screen, it becomes manageable enough without loosing too much health.

A new addition, Rebuttal Showdown, takes the non-stop debates into a 1-vs-1 format where you slice your opponent's statements horizontally or vertically to either move the debate in your favor enough to advance or to use one of your truth bullets to "slice" through their statement.

The second-to-last new addition is Logic Dive, where you ride on a surfboard in a Tron-like environment inside your mind in an attempt to piece together three clues involving a specific piece of how the killer carried out their killing. After avoiding obstacles you end up in an area where you need to go on one out of multiple particular paths. If you choose the wrong one you have to pick again, otherwise you continue. It's a pretty simple addition but it helps break up the hectic pace of the other mini-game elements.

The final new addition is selecting a spot from part of the crime scene, such as a piece of the scene that appears off compared to what's been discussed so far in the trial. They're pretty obvious when you come across them and thankfully are only used as necessary to progress the plot.

Near the end of the trial are two returning mini-games: Panic Talk Actions and Closing Arguments. The first, known as Bullet Time Battle in the original game, is a rhythm mini-game where you time button presses to indicators which scroll along the screen. Time your presses correctly and you'll break the shields that surround the person you're interrogating. The tempo increases as you go along, which requires the player to change things up.

The latter is the same as the original where you fill in the blanks of a right-to-left manga-style comic to piece together the killer's actions. The change in the sequel is that instead of getting all the pieces at once, some of which were red herrings, you only get four at a time and all of them fit somewhere in the overall puzzle. After choosing the killer correctly, Monokuma deals out his infamous killing "punishment" on the blackened in a deadly but completely crazy way.

From early on, it's obvious that this is a game setup specifically for those who played the original game, as the prologue and the following chapters spoils a number of key plot points from the original game's final chapters. I wasn't exactly sure how the developers were going to go from the original's ending, but without spoiling too much, I can say that if you loved the original game's overarching storyline you'll be just as engrossed in the sequel which delves into some of the original's unresolved mysteries and introduces its own new story revelations.

I also found the characters and the overall story a bit more fleshed out this time around, with the characters feeling less clichéd and more human-like. This starts off from even the initial class trial as the game takes on a much darker tone than the original's starting point. There are some moments that borderline on obsessive fan-service, yes, but the game doesn't overuse those clichés to an overt extent thankfully.

The music and graphics are basically the same as the original, which is a good thing. The 2D cutout style character rendering is still as endearing as it was before and captures the expressiveness of the characters quite well and the frame rate is still as stable as it was in the original game. Some fan-favorite tracks from the original return here alongside new additions with an island-like theme to match the game's new location.

As far as NIS America's localization goes, they've hit it out of the park once again. I never felt as if any of the English voice actors' voices didn't fit the part of the characters, with the segments in the class trails where the killer "snaps" being the highlight for some of the characters in particular. There are a few lines where the text overflows or a punctuation mark is missing, but it's nothing that stops the player from understanding what's going on and happens rarely enough that it isn't always noticeable.

There's some mini-games to be unlocked during and after the game, such as the school mode from the original where you live out your days on the island as if Monokuma never appeared, which aren't as interesting as the original but aren't required unless you are a trophy completionist.

Final Thoughts

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is what a sequel should be. It keeps what worked in the original and expands even further with that concept in a more refined manner. If you enjoyed the original at all, you'll do yourself a disservice to ignore this sequel. Say goodbye to your despair: the sequel you were waiting for is here.

What worked in the original is kept and expanded further upon.
Superb localization work by NIS America, especially in regards to the English voice-overs.
Monokuma is back.
The side mini-game segments aren't required, but aren't as endearing as the main game is.
Some rare typos and overflow issues in the English script.
If you disliked the original, nothing's changed to sway your opinions.
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