Doctored screenshots? A demo that directly contradicts the actual game? In-game writing specifically designed to mislead the player? Producer Yoshinori Terasawa talks about crafting one of gaming's biggest cons for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. [Note: The following article contains spoilers for the first murder case of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.]
Before the release of Danganronpa in Japan, Terasawa and his team were busy weaving an elaborate hoax. The core of this hoax? The character of Sakaya Maizono.
Leading up to the game's release, it was obvious that Maizono would play a major role in the game. She was featured in many of the game's official screenshots and was clearly set up to be the player character's romantic interest.
The PSP demo only served to solidify this, featuring her prominently in the demo's version of the game's first case.
Even when playing the first chapter of the full game, all the flags for her being the player's assistant character/love interest are there: She knew him before the events of the game, always generally liked him, and quickly comes to rely on him once the death game begins.
There is only one problem with all this: Maizono is actually the first character to die.
The whole setup was nothing but an elaborate hoax.
Like with Metal Gear Solid 2, where pre-release screenshots that should have included Raiden showed Snake instead, the screenshots for Danganronpa were edited to show Maizono in scenes taking place long after her death in the full game. The demo's version of the first case not only changed who had been murdered, but came complete with many additional lines voiced by Maizono's voice actress that were never used in the full game. And the foreshadowing character clichés in the game proper were all made to further the illusion that she was an important main character.
Why go to such lengths for this con? Simple. Danganronpa is a game specifically designed to shatter player expectations.
"The impact I really wanted to give was [one of surprise]. We set it up for Maizono to be the main character and make it so that she and the main male character might have some kind of relationship — and really whet the player's appetite for this whole relationship... I thought right from the beginning, 'What would be a bigger shock than killing her off?'... If it worked and you were really surprised by it, it is exactly what I was going for," Terasawa told Kotaku.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc was released on November 25, 2010 for the PlayStation Portable in Japan. While the PSP version won't be localised, the upcoming Vita remake is scheduled for a Western release in 2014.