More, more, more! The niche Vita gaming community desired more Dangan Ronpa, and lo and behold, Principal Monokuma granted our humble wish. More eccentric high school prodigies, more bizarre murders, more wild class trials, and more unstoppable robots!
After playing Dangan Ronpa, I was really excited to learn the sequel would be coming out later that very same year. But would the second game live up to the same standard the first one had set, I wondered? It seemed like a daunting task, coming up with another story similar to–but not too similar to–the first title… and have it be just as exciting and crazy, and have just as many huge and effective plot twists.
As it turned out, I had nothing to fear. Dangan Ronpa 2 is every bit as good as the first game. In fact, it might actually be the better game! The bar is simply raised higher at this point for the next main entry (which was just announced at the Tokyo Game Show).
Let’s start with the story again. One day our new protagonist (Hajime Hinata) shows up at the academy along with fifteen other students… and they end up going on a field trip to a tropical island paradise! Their teacher running this random event is none other than Usami, a cutesy rabbit robot that wants everyone to become good friends and be happy and positive! Unfortunately all (weird) good things come to an end all too soon once Monokuma rears his monochrome head and forces the students to engage in a brutal killing game…
To get off the island, you have to kill one of your classmates and get away with it! Hajime is a good kid though, right? It’s time to solve all the murders and successfully work through all the class trials, just like in the first game. Not to mention, solve the overarching mystery of what the hell is up with this island, and how all of this ties to the events of the first Dangan Ronpa.
Gameplay plays out the same as in the first game–but the trials this time are overall more challenging, last longer, and have a greater variety of mini-games. For the most part I find all the tweaks in this installment to be great improvements. When debating, some of your truth bullets can be used for consent rather than just counter–which is nice not only for letting other characters point out intelligent things more often, but gives you more things to consider as the trial plays out. Do you find a point to argue against, or do you think someone else has made a strong case for a point worth supporting? Use your evidence wisely! Another element of the trial takes the form of rebuttals from various classmates, in which you argue back and forth in a sort of word-based fighting game. I didn’t care for that as much, but it’s all right.
The hangman mini-game is more challenging in the way you select letters this time, and I didn’t care for that change so much either. However, the rhythm mini-game is still good, and the trial-ending comic game is much easier to work with this time around. My favorite addition though has to be the brand new mini-game, in which Hajime must work out an issue in his mind via a Tron-like tube-surfing game… You answer questions along the way by choosing the correct path to slide down… It’s so stupid! I love it.
But just as was the case for the first game, the story is the biggest reason for playing through Dangan Ronpa 2. And what a story it is! As you can imagine, I can’t really say much without spoiling something, so I’ll just say they did a good job of coming up with new kinds of mysteries to solve, and worked with a great cast of characters that managed to push things even further than the first game when it comes to drama and tragedy…
…And, interestingly enough, humor! The first game certainly had its funny moments, but Dangan Ronpa 2 managed to get a lot more laughs from me. The characters Hiyoko and Gundham were especially hilarious in my opinion, but the ways everyone in this ridiculous cast interacted with one another in general created a lot of strange and amusing situations. Even Monokuma himself manages to outdo his previous performance, taking advantage of every opportunity he can to rag on visual novels and the graphic adventure game subgenre.
My favorite character of all though would have to be Nagito, and it’s probably best I don’t go into specifics with him! The game does an excellent job of trolling with the player, and this character especially managed to keep surprising me. Fantastic personality. There is some great conflict and atmosphere-building to be had in Dangan Ronpa 2 that manages to up the ante in a manner that really sets it apart from the first entry.
All in all I think it’s safe to say if you liked Dangan Ronpa, you will like Dangan Ronpa 2! It is everything you can hope for in a sequel, effectively building upon all that is good about the first game and creating an experience that feels both familiar and refreshing at the same time.
(Header art source)