DanganRonpa 2: It’s The Finer Details That Count

By Jack . August 15, 2014 . 6:00pm

It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I last plunged into the depths of Monokuma’s killing game, and that’s a good thing as DanganRonpa fans will want to have the original fresh in their mind going into DanganRonpa 2.


The short waiting period works in the game’s favor, as DanganRonpa 2 consistently places characters, plot points, and dialogue in front of you to play with your expectations developed from the first game. While I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to start the series with this game, I can’t imagine a new player would have even remotely the same experience as a DanganRonpa veteran.


Despite the many call backs, however, DanganRonpa 2 develops a distinct identity through sheer insanity. Things just feel grander: instead of an abandoned school you’re trapped on an abandoned island, instead of being blocked off by gates and locked doors there are now giant mechanical Mono-Beasts sanctioning places off, and the game itself is kicked off by one of the most amusing introductions I’ve ever seen to a game.


Once things do get going, it’s a pretty familiar experience. Like before, the game is broken into three parts: daily life, investigations, and class trials. Daily life and the investigations work almost identically to their predecessors, with most of the game being in first-person as you examine objects and talk to people. The only real difference is that when you travel the hub of the island it switches to a 2D perspective as your character runs around to different locations. It’s a pretty superficial change, but it can be fun to look at.


Also returning are the pseudo-social links with classmates, although they’re done much smarter now. In the first DanganRonpa, the amount of events a character had usually corresponded with how long they survived into the story, which could lead to some early spoilers and wasted time if you were looking to max a character’s relationship out. Now every character gets five events (not including their introduction) allowing equal time for everyone to develop, no matter what their role in the story was.


In place of any sweeping changes to quieter moments of DanganRonpa 2 are the addition of multiple subsystems. Everything you do now gives you experience points, and every level-up allows you more room to equip skills that help out during the class trials. The most common way to get experience comes from walking around, which also helps develop a pet that you can have located in the pause menu. The pet is in a constant state of standing around or pooping itself, and depending on how often you clean up after it and give it gifts, it can turn into different animals.


Honestly, I don’t really like either addition. At best they’re completely superfluous and at worst they’re a little annoying. The pet can actually poop itself to death if you go too long without interacting with it, so I found myself compulsively keeping tabs on it despite not actually being interested in the concept. So I guess the mechanic worked on me in that sense, but I don’t think either the pet or the experience system make the game better. If anything, I found it broke up the flow of the game at crucial points, as it would be in your best interest to run around a little to squeeze out a level up before a trial or constantly check on your pet during an investigation.


The class trials themselves have received the most alterations. At its core it’s the same deal: gameplay styles constantly switch in order to keep you on your toes as you slowly use logical deductions to pick away at a murder mystery. Most of the gameplay styles have now been tweaked, but to varying degrees of success.


One change to the Non-Stop Debates that I absolutely love is that instead of just pointing out contradictions, you can now fire evidence to support other peoples’ statements. This adds a whole new layer to the gameplay, as well as the character dynamics as a whole. A lot of the discussions in the first DanganRonpa felt like they mainly between you and the one or two other competent characters, but now almost everyone gets a chance to shine.


The most dramatically changed gameplay element is the self-proclaimed “Improved Hangman’s Gambit.” I got really excited when I first read that, as I thought the version of the mini-game in the original was by far the weakest of the set. Originally, you had to shoot letters in order to spell a word that was relevant to the case, now things are much more involved.


Now pairs of the same letters fly across the screen, and you have to grab and smash them together to form one big letter while keeping them from mixing with different letters. It gets really hectic, especially as the mini-game still suffers from the occasional problem of the question being vague enough to allow for multiple answers. In general the mini game just takes a lot more time, as the words or phrases are often longer and it felt like a long time can pass before the game actually gives you the letters you need. Long story short, Hangman’s Gambit remains my least favorite mini-game.


Along with the more action-packed take on hangman, there are two completely new mini-games: Rebuttal Showdowns and Logic Dives. Rebuttal Showdowns work as a twist on the Non-Stop debates, where instead of having an open discussion with the entire group, you focus on an argument against a single person. Their arguments spread across the screen, and you have swipe in the right directions to cut through their words. I like these parts a lot, as they have an interesting ammo mechanic where you can only swipe so many words, meaning you have to pick and choose the best times to strike.


During Logic Dives, you control a surfboarding version of your character as he goes down a long tunnel. As you surf down the tunnel, obstacles like gaps in the floor and blockades need to be avoided. The logic part comes in during checkpoints, where the game asks you a question relevant to the mystery and you have to slide down the path labeled with the correct answer.


I appreciate that they tried to make the trials even more interesting and dynamic than they were previously, but stuff like the Improved Hangman’s Gambit and Logic Dives don’t really play to the game’s strengths. The original game’s trials worked well because the mini games came and went relatively fast while almost completely focusing on the mystery. Now the more action-y games can take minutes at a time, and I often knew the answer before I even started playing them so I was basically just waiting for the mini-game to end so I could move on. Ironically, the attempts to keep the pace and tension up almost slow things down too much.


That’s not to say the trials are worse overall, as I actually feel the opposite. The murder mysteries this time around are much more complex and satisfying to solve. Mysteries in the original were relatively grounded in execution, but the over-the-top nature of the sequel allows for much more extravagant tactics and requires more imagination to solve. I like both approaches, but the original’s mysteries just feel too simple looking back, while the sequel’s are just right.


While a lot of the new additions don’t necessarily make the game better, there are so many smart smaller additions that make the game work. The quality of the character writing and murder mysteries in particular are huge leap above its predecessor. DanganRonpa 2 is an excellent follow-up that uses the experiences people had with the original to create something that surpasses it.


Food for Thought:


1. After completing the first chapter, a mini game unlocks featuring the game’s new secondary mascot, Usami. It revolves around defeating Monokuma’s robot beasts by drawing magic circles around them and it’s actually pretty fun. More levels open up after every chapter you complete, and with multiple difficulties and a randomized loot system there’s a surprising amount of replay value to this little addition.


2. One thing I noted about the original game was how pointless I thought the Re: Action system was, and I guess someone must have felt the same way because the mechanic is completely absent from the sequel.


3. Bullet Time Battles, which essentially served as boss fights during the trials in the first game, are still here but as far as I can tell remain almost completely unchanged. Oddly enough, the only difference seemed to be that they’re now called Panic Talk Actions for whatever reason.

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  • AlteisenX

    Skipped the article because I don’t want to spoil anything for myself, but felt the need to comment saying “So excited!”

    Hoping this game does well here because I loved the first (though I can’t stand the English dub, particularly Monokuma)

    • There are no spoilers in the article.

    • OlimacFTW

      Yeah. the first game was great. And with NIS publishing the second game, we can play it with the option of japanese voices.

    • mckun

      there’s no spoilers in the article but there might be spoilers in the comments :D

      • God

        Thanks for the warning, i was just leisurely scrolling down the coments, but you made me remember what has happened with so many other games.

  • EvE

    i never heard of this series until few weeks ago…
    is it like 999?

    • SpeeeeedowaGOOONnnn

      999+Phoenix wright+ some elements of Persona= Danganronpa
      Basically sums it up :P

    • DawnWolf

      Never played 999, but both this and it’s predecessor Danganronpa are some of the most interesting, intriguing mystery games you’ll play. Having played both games in Japanese, I can say that the plot twists will BLOW YOUR MIND, the characters are all interesting, and the comedy is pretty damn good.

    • Senpai

      It’s like a mix of 999 and Ace Attorney.

    • Serge

      It’s like the weird brother of 999.
      If 999 is dark and sometimes funny, this is funny and sometimes dark.

    • Linkmstr

      Fun fact: It’s the same company, Spike Chunsoft, that did 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward (which both are connected, story-wise).

      • Fronkhead

        999 came from Chunsoft whereas Danganronpa was Spike, if I remember correctly. Both before the Spike Chunsoft merger of 2012.

        • Linkmstr

          Shhhhhhhhhhhh, don’t sweat the small stuff. ;)

    • Jack

      Other than the fact that they’re both text-heavy and full of mysteries, I don’t think they are really. The Zero Escape games are more focused on the room escape stuff, so lots of puzzles revolve around rulesets, symbols, math, item usage, taking notes etc, while DanganRonpa games are pretty much straight logic and finding contradictions with an action-game spice. Atmosphere-wise maybe the first DanganRonpa game is similar to 999, but that’s the only real connection I can think of. They’re both excellent series though, I’d give DanganRonpa a look at least!

      • EvE

        well i am certainly going to take both games a look (whenever i get money)

  • Isuke-sama

    I haven’t been keeping up with the PSP and Vita releases lately, but I’m hype to play the game. It features some of the most bizarre ever in a video game.

  • SpeeeeedowaGOOONnnn

    All aboard the hype train, bitches.
    Tickets for anyone how bought the Limited Edition

    • Isuke-sama

      Even Speedwagon is hyped!

      • SpeeeeedowaGOOONnnn

        Naturally, I am the hype-man in Jojo, after all

    • Mr_SP

      No limited edition for me. Can’t get the American version, so I can only get the Europe version… which is twice the cost of the game. For a sticker, a coin, and sunglasses… no.

      Seriously, people! These limited editions are gouging me! I don’t have that much money!

      • SpeeeeedowaGOOONnnn

        Well, Im only buying the LE to support NIS to bring more danganronpa and other games to the western market.

  • OlimacFTW

    Three weeks… only three weeks… need to control the hype…

  • TheManWithPants

    Man, I really need to try this series. Looks really interesting and crazy awesome.

    • Jey

      if you have a Vita, STOP every game you’re playing and go do yourself a favor and play Danganronpa.

      No ifs or buts. Forget the other so called “AAA” games on the Vita. Danganronpa is where it’s at. Also VLR is up there with one of the best intense stories in games

      • TheManWithPants

        I don’t have a Vita yet, but I plan on getting a PSTV if the games in the series are compatible with it. Danganronpa is among the games on the top of my “must buy” list.

        • Jesse Torres

          I wouldnt recommend PSTV.

          • TheManWithPants

            Can’t really afford a Vita at the moment, and the PSTV just seems like a cheaper alternative. I don’t do much portable gaming these days anyway.

          • Jesse Torres

            Buy a used one, cause most games can’t be played on that thing and just doesnt make any sense .

          • Detrimont

            most of the games that can’t be played on it require the touch screen to be played, that’s the reason why

          • Jesse Torres

            Still doesnt seem like a good deal.

          • Jey

            aw that’s unfortunate then.
            I did hear that Danganronpa may not be compatible with the Vita TV.. but I dont think there’s sure evidence/statement yet.

            lol funny, i was talking to a friend just earlier today who was *exactly* in the same situation as you, and wanted to play the game when he buys a vita TV.

            Well let’s be optimistic and hope Danganronpa will work fine. Afterall the touchscreen in the game is completely supplementary/optional

          • DyLaN

            You mean the US ver? Because I quite clearly saw ppl playing DR 1-2 Reloaded on that in an PS ad.

          • Fronkhead

            Yeah, the JP version of the game was whitelisted for Vita TV, though the NISA published English language versions won’t have been yet. Here’s hoping.

          • Fronkhead

            Problem with Vita TV is that it is only apparently compatible with software that has been whitelisted for the system, so unless the game in question gets whitelisted you won’t be able to play it.

            And given it’s marketed as a streaming device in the west I wonder whether many western publishers will get their games whitelisted or not. If the Japanese version of a game works on Vita TV the English language version won’t necessarily work as well due to version differences and publisher differences.

          • I hope it works out. I was thinking on getting a Vita TV to play my Vita games while I’m at home and play my Vita games on the go when I’m not.

  • ThatGuy3190_7

    “Bullet Time Battles, which essentially served as boss fights during the trials in the first game, are still here but as far as I can tell remain almost completely unchanged. Oddly enough, the only difference seemed to be that they’re now called Panic Talk Actions for whatever reason.”

    It was called Panic Talk Action is the original name in Danganronpa 2, and while it is called Bullet Time Battle in Danganronpa 1 localization, the original name is Machinegun Talk Battle, or M.T.B. The reason for the name change is due to the core theme of the game play of that minigame. B.T.B felt as if it was using actual guns to shoot down the perpetrator’s back-to-back denials while P.T.A feels as if you are shooting down the perpetrator’s panic outbursts in the same manner.

    • Jack

      Interesting to know! I didn’t know that it was a name change for the first game. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like the way the perpetrators reacted were that different between the two games, but if that’s the reasoning I’ll take your word for it. Only reason I even bring it up was that the tutorial explicitly calls out the name change but doesn’t explain it, so I was wondering what the deal was with that.

      • ThatGuy3190_7

        The perpetrators of the first game were in denial, but it was an angry denial. While I am almost going into Danganronpa 2 completely blind, I have seen the first trial. While the perpetrator was angry, he was also showing extreme signs of panic, and possibly fear.

  • Shippoyasha

    HOLD IT. Game feels more gamey? That is something more games need to do!
    OBJECTION. The flow of the game matters too!
    NOT SO FAST. How about a bit of both?
    OBJECTION. Who wins arguments with a ‘both’ answer?
    OBJECTION OVERRULED. Play these logical games in the game itself!

    • Jey

      looks like someone’s been playing too much Phoenix wright

    • Liamv2

      WAIT THAT’S WRONG!! This is DanganRonpa not Phoenix Wright!!

  • Learii

    do I need to tap X in duel if I put the game on easy?

    • Jack

      Good question, I’m not sure! I wouldn’t worry about it too much though, the mashing seemed pretty forgiving on normal mode. Although in general I think the button mashing may be optional.

      The way the game works is you cut statements with a limited amount of slashes, which pushes a big line on the screen at the opponent, while statements that aren’t cut push the line back towards you. It seemed like the button mashing mini game would only activate when the line was around the middle of the screen, so if you do well enough you might not have to button mash at all. Maybe someone who knows can correct that, I don’t know for sure if that’s how it works, just my observation.

  • Moontei

    Just got through the first game the other day and am currently playing through the school mode to platinum it. Can’t wait for my pre-order to ship in a mere 3ish weeks.

    • I’m in the same deal and oh god it takes forever to grind everyone’s school trips.

  • SupaPhly

    suck it, SA screenshot LP viewers
    we can play the actual game now

  • Fronkhead

    Sad to see that some of the stuff they added to the sequel actually takes away from the experience rather than adding to it.

  • Alexander

    I hope there will be some new Vita psp-mode kernel exploit soon. Really don’t want to have to upgrade the firmware to buy this otherwise.

  • i have a vita and i have been wondering if i should get the first game, looks interesting.

    • IMO, you should due to the story and returning characters :)

    • Plus the fact its an amazing game, probably the best game on the Vita

  • The month September is near. Can’t wait to get my hands on this game

  • My most anticipated game since the original Danganronpa

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