Phoenix Wrong: Danganronpa – Trigger Happy Havoc

Whenever I hear someone talking about the bizarre brilliance of the Danganronpa games [official site] I’m tempted to stick my fingers in my ears and run as far away as possible. The only current English language release is on the PlayStation Vita, a device just below pocket spiraliser on the list of things I’m likely to buy at any point in the near future, but the first game in the series is coming to Steam next month. Hurrah! Part visual novel, part crime scene investigation, the game is about an elite academy in which the only way to survive is to murder a fellow student, cover your tracks and escape justice.

While I could do without the voiceovers (I rarely enjoy voiceovers and the cute-but-sadistic squeakiness is like fingernails on the chalkboard of my brain), I very much like the Phoenix Wright by way of Suda51 vibe.

“Hope’s Peak Academy is home to Japan’s best and brightest high school students—the beacons of hope for the future. But that hope suddenly dies when Makoto Naegi and his classmates find themselves imprisoned in the school, cut off from the outside world and subject to the whims of a strange, murderous little bear named Monokuma. He pits the students against each other, promising freedom to anyone who can murder a fellow classmate and get away with it.”

Hopefully the dark humour and grim possibilities of the setup will be bolstered by decent investigative work. As in Phoenix Wright, you’ll be collecting clues and cross-examining suspects and witnessing to figure out what happened. But the stakes are higher:

“Mock Trial: The nefarious Monokuma serves as judge, jury, and executioner as you engage in deadly wordplay, going back and forth with suspects, dissecting their statements and firing their words back at them to expose their lies!

“Popularity Contest: Sway classmates to your side in each investigation, squeezing information from them to figure out who did it. And when you do, turn up the heat in a variety of timing and reflex-based game systems to uncover the truth and save your skin!”

I spotted rumours late last week that Danganronpa would be coming to PC sometime this year. It’ll actually be here next month, although only the first game in the series has been confirmed. There is already one sequel and one spin-off on Vita, and a third title in the main series is due later this year. I hope for three things:

1) That I actually enjoy Trigger Happy Havoc as much as the premise suggests I might.
2) That the sequels arrive sooner rather than later.
3) That I can switch to Japanese voices.

That is all.


  1. demicanadian says:

    Unfortunately I’m yet to see a non-indie japanese game, that let’s you switch voice language.

    • Deano2099 says:

      I don’t know many, but three of them I do know were these games on the Vita, so it seems fairly likely.

      • Mokinokaro says:

        Iirc the game is only in Japanese voices.

        Vita games rarely get dubbed

        • Deano2099 says:

          Nah, they’re dubbed by default – the Japanese language packs are offered as (free) DLC.

    • golem09 says:

      Final Fantasy XIII lets you switch it. On the console Dragon’s Dogma let you switch it too.

      • Kitsunin says:

        All the Tales of…games do, Dragon Quest Heroes does, as said FFXIII and its sequels do. It’s pretty much standard practice by now, with Atlus as the only company I can think of which continues to be obstinate.

        • Nereus says:

          It’s not standard practice for VN’s.There are very few that have English voiceovers despite many having English translations.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Yeah, but a voiceover not existing is very different from not being included as an option.

    • Koozer says:

      Street Fighter IV certainly let you change voiceover languages. I think quite a few fighting games do it.

    • MidoriChaos says:

      On the Vita it let you swap between English and Japanese voiceovers. Can’t really recommend the English voiceover for this game.

  2. timur says:

    As a big fan of Phoenix Wright’s, I must say I was disappointed by Danganronpa. It featured poorly-realised characters that just felt like stereotypes and the hackneyed writing is full of angsty teenage poetry. The plot is one-dimensional and makes very little sense and the game has virtually no sense of humour.
    The rhythm action fighting sequences and comic strip panel assembly puzzles are also terrible. I’ve only played the original, but I understand the sequel is just more of the same.

    • Deano2099 says:

      I had an entirely different reaction. The characters are fairly one-dimensional, I’ll give you that, but I loved the story. It’s loopy and ridiculous but always plays within the constraints it sets up for itself. All the plot revelations made sense in context, and I really got the feel of unraveling a mystery, especially during the “court” sections.

      • Author X says:

        I agree that the characters were flat but I really enjoyed the story. Interesting, I found the second game to be the other way around. The overall story was flatter, without much being revealed between the beginning and the end, but the characters and their interactions were a lot more interesting.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      The sequel just increases the crazy train and not in a good way.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I liked the story but man, the gameplay, specifically those action minigames they use for the court scenes are awful. And the sequel made them even worse.

  3. Themadcow says:

    Shame the Vita didn’t catch on that well as its a brilliant bit of kit MASSIVELY let down by the baffling design decision to go with a touch sensitive back screen instead of adding L2/R2 triggers.

    • Mokinokaro says:

      The stupidly expensive proprietary memory cards are what mainly killed it.

      • Themadcow says:

        Yeah, that didn’t help for sure – although I imported a 64gb one at an OK price, I don’t imagine the general public are keen importers generally.

    • KDR_11k says:

      The lack of secondary triggers doesn’t matter for most games, it’s mostly the direct ports of 3D console games where you feel it. Most indie games and PSV-first games don’t feel like you’d really need a second set of triggers.

      Of course then you got total lapses of quality control like Borderlands 2 which make you wonder how they ever got through Sony’s acceptance testing. I get that manufacturers don’t check for bugs but console games really shouldn’t crash to the “desktop” regularly.

  4. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Wait, Adam, you don’t already have a pocket spiraliser? What have you been doing with your life?

  5. Faerly says:

    As an owner of the Vita version of this game, I can confirm the Japanese voices are included. Unfortunately the localization is somewhat sub-par and borderline offensive at times, but the game itself is quite fantastic

    • Mokinokaro says:

      They licensed a fan translation iirc and those tend to be super literal nonsense.

      • malkav11 says:

        It’s the PC. Once we get a legit way of playing it I’m sure someone will be along that can hack in a better translation.

      • Ashabel says:

        They didn’t. They did their own localization and this being NISA, who are notorious for being way below the trashiest of trash tiers as far as localizations go, they managed to put out the worst possible script imaginable.

        The Something Awful LP translation has better flow despite being more literal (and peppered with footnotes where Japanese culture things need to be explained).

        • Kitsunin says:

          Even the Project Zetsubou translation seems to be at a pretty similar level of quality to the official translation. Though SA’s is clearly superior to anything else.

          …I’ll probably get it for the sake of English voiceovers, comparison, and to prepare for the second game.

  6. PikaBot says:

    A fun game that sadly has an incredibly flaccid ending. I can’t think of the last time a game this good had an ending that was just so absolutely nothing. I’m told the second one is better but fuck it, I was burned way too hard to care.

  7. MadTinkerer says:

    As someone who has played through the first game and is currently working through the second (both via Playstation TV*), I have to say that the series is something of an acquired taste.

    It’s sense of humor is very distinct, relying on a combination of gallows humor and Japanese Wackiness. Some of the wackiness is intentional, some of it a matter of trying to deal with puns that don’t make sense when translated. A few of the tropes involved are references or riffs on visual novels, arcade games, traditional murder mysteries, Japanese soap operas, survival horror, stage plays, and, of course, anime. If you realize from the start that you are not going to understand every reference and might miss some of the jokes, but that the drama is painted with such broad strokes that you’ll be able to follow along, you’ll probably be fine.

    The biggest problem I see for someone going into it blind is that the creators do a tricky balancing act of having a huge range of tones from gruesome to slapstick. Sometimes you are supposed to feel bad when a character dies, and sometimes it’s more like a cartoon. Sometimes what you see is supposed to be basically literally true and sometimes it’s more like a stage play or a video game. Yes, it is a video game, but sometimes they play up the video-gamey-ness of it (they do this in the anime as well, so it’s certainly deliberate), and sometimes they downplay it.

    Most of the blood is pink, something that’s almost certainly a reference to Hammer Horror. So is blood pink in this universe? But then, and this is not a story spoiler (as far as I know), there’s a very deliberate scene in the second game with realistic crimson blood and the characters don’t comment on how it’s strange or even different. The characters exist in a very real and dangerous world, but the player is not part of that world. The player perceives everything through the filter of a play acted out by anime characters in a video game inspired by murder mysteries and drama and cartoons.

    I like it, but it’s not for everyone. Especially don’t go in thinking it’s like Undertale or Phoenix Wright, because it’s not really like either. DanganRonpa is like DanganRonpa.

    *It’s a Vita that plugs into your TV, but it’s not compatible with all Vita games. We got it cheap! I’m not lying, it’s actually a thing that exists!

    • Kitsunin says:

      I found that the quirky way violence was handled often amped up the discomfort in a real way, myself. Death is death, at least in a story which doesn’t play fast and loose with permanence. When the presentation of such an event is lighthearted, your mind works extra hard to create the emotional weight by itself, and nothing makes you more uneasy than a world where a silly scene can have everlasting consequences.

  8. sfoumatou says:

    An interesting game for anyone who likes visual novels and/or murder mysteries. It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but it’s a more than decent effort if you need something to help you get to the next Phoenix Wright game.

    I’ve seen lots of people criticize the characters, but I can’t say I had anything against them. I like it when a plot subverts your expectations of character tropes, and it seems like this game spent its entire time doing that.

  9. kompani piknik says:

    i’m so excited to hear this is being released on Steam. Danganronpa is up there with D4 in terms of bizarre, unique games coming out of Japan, and putting it out for the PC will definitely help it get to a wider audience. Here’s hoping they’ll release the sequel as well.