Until today, you could only play the weird, wonderful Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc on a Sony PSP or Vita. Rejoice: It's now out on PC and Mac. If you've been reading Kotaku for any length of time, you probably know that a few of us have a soft spot for this game and its sequel. If you want a full breakdown of what it's all about, check out my 2014 review of the Vita version.
Developed by 999 and Zero Escape-makers Spike Chunsoft, Danganronpa is most easily described as a visual novel, though that's a loaded description that might mean something different to you than it does to me. It has a social management side-game, a series of Phoenix Wright-like trials where you present evidence and point out contradictions, and a few arcadey minigames, but you spend the majority of your time clicking through reams of dialogue and following a generally linear story.
You play a kid who gets locked in a Japanese high school alongside a group of other teens. Most if not all play into various anime stereotypes: There's a lot of outsized personality and exceptional hair. An evil stuffed bear turns up (just go with it) and tells you that the only way any of you can leave is if one of you murders another and gets away with it.
So starts the killing: In each chapter, one among you will turn up dead, and you'll have to investigate the crime scene and present evidence at a "class trial" that will determine whodunnit. Get it wrong, and it's game over.
Here's a short version of how I summarised it in my review:
It's pretty much Clue…
…meets Battle Royale...
...meets Zero Escape…
…meets Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney.
Sound good? It should. You can find more detail on how exactly it evokes those things in my original write-up.
This week I replayed the first chapter on PC, including the prologue, the first murder and the first trial. The PC version is bare-bones even by "port of Japanese handheld game" standards: Cinematics and cutscenes look passable but aren't designed for high resolution, text blocks are huge and the menus are difficult to navigate. Textures look like they have been blown up from a handheld game, because, well, they have. Everything feels bigger than it should be, and I found the game more comfortable to play via Steam Link on my living room TV than up close on a PC monitor. It'd probably work fine on a laptop, too.
Some of the game lends itself to a mouse and keyboard, since the bulk of Danganronpa is presented as a first-person point-and-click adventure. Some of the trial mini-games can be a real pain, in particular the rhythm-based game that closes out each trial. That mini-game didn't work very well on Vita, either, but I had a hell of a time with it using a mouse. Fortunately, you can just pick up a controller and switch between control inputs without restarting the game.
It's hard to be too bummed out about those issues, because they have minimal impact on the things that make Danganronpa great. The story still immediately sucks you in. The characters are still winning and full of surprises. The soundtrack is still killer. The voice cast is still great, and you can choose up front whether to listen to the original Japanese cast or the (very good) dub. Monokuma is still a terrific antagonist. And it's still got that twisty, tawdry pull to it: I'd already played the game and I was still up at 2am finishing the first trial.
The Vita remains the best place to play Danganronpa, but given how few people have Vitas, it's great to see the game get a shot at a broader audience. (The sequel, Goodbye Despair, is also very good and is also en route to Steam.) If you haven't played Trigger Happy Havoc and like the idea of a freaky murder-mystery visual novel, play this. Puhuhu.