By Jack . February 10, 2014 . 11:01pm
Life isn’t going well for Makoto Naegi. Recently he’s found himself trapped in a school run by a sadistic bear named Monokuma, worried that his classmates might start killing each other to escape. Tensions are high, and anyone could snap into a murder spree at a moment’s notice. What better time to make friends, right?
A large bulk of DanganRonpa takes place in a mood referred to as everyday life, where things are a little less insidious and more relaxed. When things are calm, Makoto is free to explore the school and spend time with his fellow classmates.
Making friends works a lot like Social Links in the modern Persona games. Makoto can talk to anyone he chooses, and spending time with them levels up their relationship. Getting to know each of the students not only helps to flesh out the characters, but also give special abilities that help him later in the game.
Makoto seems to be crushing on Sayaka Maizono, the Ultimate Pop Sensation, so I figured I should start by helping him out. Before I could play matchmaker, I had to find her first. Thankfully it’s a pretty simple task to find someone, as not only will every student’s location appear on the map, but there’s also an option for fast travel. I think the map and I will become very good friends.
Sayaka’s right next door to Makoto’s dorm, so tracking her down was easy. Things seemed to be going well; the omniscient narrator assured me that they had a good time. That’s when I realized I had made a fatal mistake: near the end of every hang-out session, you have the opportunity to give a gift. Seeing as I went straight to Sayaka’s room, I was empty-handed. Giving presents gives friendships an extra boost, making it more likely to see the next event in a relationship. I got the event anyways that time, but tomorrow I wanted to come prepared with my redemption in hand.
Gifts are obtained from the MonoMono Machine, located in the strangely convenient gift shop. The MonoMono machine exchanges prizes for Monocoins, the local currency and yet another wrench in plans. There aren’t any job openings at Hope’s Peak Academy, so getting paid might be tricky. It seemed like my best option was to hope that somebody dropped their change.
In addition to making friends, Free Time mode also lets you explore Hope’s Peak at your leisure. You won’t find a ton of new information by searching at random, but you will receive Monocoins for your efforts. It’s a nice incentive, but at the end of the day it’s a fairly boring way to earn money (thankfully, better ways appear later on). With my wallet stuffed with some coins, I headed into the gift shop to test my luck.
The gift exchange process is a lot more addicting than it has any right to be. Coins are put into the MonoMono machine, and it spits out a gift at random. At the bottom corner of the screen are the odds of getting a repeat gift, and betting more than one coin increases your chance of getting something new. I’ve never been one to go all in a bet (and when you first start out, there’s really no reason to), so I found myself cautiously putting in one coin at a time, hoping for another bizarre prize.
Almost anything can come out of the machine, physical capacity be damned. Potato chips, thongs, tumbleweeds, and swords were just a few of the treasures I came away with. Despite accumulating so much random junk, I wasn’t sure if any of it would appeal to a pop idol. I didn’t want to give her the wrong impression with the thong, and handing out potential murder weapons seemed like a bad idea. Eventually, I settled on a nice, subtle engagement ring.
Things went well, and I got to learn a lot more about the musician. My first impressions of a lot of the characters came off overly strong, to the point where I was a little worried that they were more obnoxious stereotypes than people. One of the most overt themes of the game is that all of these kids are the Ultimate in their field, and as a result have an overbearing amount of pressure on them. Makoto’s optional relationships with them make them feel just a little more human.
Everyday life is an oddly sedated change of pace compared to the foreboding opening of the game, but I think if any game could use a nice reprieve from all the madness, it’s DanganRonpa.
Food for Thought:
1. The HUD is pretty interesting; there are some neat touches like it changing color depending on the time of day. Yellow for daytime, blue for night time, and green for when the time unknown. There’s also an audio visualizer at the top right corner of the screen. I’m not really sure why, but it’s there.
2. Speaking of things I don’t understand, there’s also a “Re: Action” system available in certain conversations. Basically, if a purple word or phrase appears, you can press a button to react to it, which opens up more dialogue. There’s a bit of a choice element to it, where if you don’t react to the correct line the conversation comes to a halt. Sometimes all of the phrases are necessary to react to though, so you have to go through the same dialogue multiple times, reacting to each new thing. It just seems kind of tedious, as the reactions could easily be rolled into one conversation instead of killing the pace. Yes, DanganRonpa, I’m still awake and paying attention.
3. It’s amazing what a change in music and context can do for a situation. Previously, I was exploring the school with some trepidation, but with some cheery music and presence of other human beings, it’s almost like a different building! Well, mostly. The hallway lighting is still a little creepy.