Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is set somewhere within the first eight episodes of the first season of cyberpunk dystopian anime Psycho-Pass. And it's made me do things so messed up that it's hard to keep playing.
[This post contains spoilers for the first two cases of Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness.]
In the world of Psycho-Pass, Tokyo is under the rule of the Sibyl System, which is a computer system that can scan a person and determine his or her mental stability. It can even determine whether a person has the capacity to commit a violent crime. A person's mental stability score is called a "psycho-pass."
Because of the system, violent crimes are at an all-time low. And instead of being normal police, it is the job of the Public Safety Bureau to deal with anyone whose psycho-pass exceeds 100%.
To help keep Inspectors of the Public Safety Bureau mentally healthy, there are two safeguards. The first is the Dominator, a gun that doubles as a psycho-pass scanner. Under 100%, it won't shoot. Under 200%, it will stun its target so he or she can be brought in for therapy and medication. Over 200%, it lethally explodes the target in a shower of gore.
The second safeguard are the "Enforcers." These are "latent criminals," people who have committed no crimes but who have a psycho-pass that never drops below 100%. It's their job to do the dangerous and dirty work so that the Inspectors can keep their hands -- and mental state -- clean.
In Mandatory Happiness, you play as one of two characters recently assigned to Division One of the Public Safety Bureau to work alongside the main characters of the anime.
For my first playthrough, I've chosen to be Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi, an emotionless woman with amnesia. And when I say emotionless, I mean it literally. She's pretty much what would happen if you put a Vulcan into Psycho-Pass. She trusts logic and established rules to guide her actions and is baffled when confronted by emotional outbursts.
The overall plot of the game deals with Alpha, a villain who finds people on the edge of sanity -- i.e., those with a psycho-pass scan just below the 200% lethal limit -- and in an attempt to make them happy, helps them accomplish whatever they believe it would take to achieve happiness. Of course, catering to the whims of people on the edge of a psychotic break rarely turns out well.
Things quickly go to the realm of soul shattering when you throw super-logical Nadeshiko into the works.
The game's first case deals with a middle school boy and girl. For years they had been each other's only friend. However, the girl's parents decided that the friendship was getting in the way of studying and so sent their daughter to school far away in Tokyo, but not before using their daughter's phone to pose as her and sending the boy a devastating break-up message. Without her, his sole object of social support, the boy has become more and more unstable.
Alpha then approaches the boy and agrees to help him get what he needs: a loving reunion with his friend. However, at this point the boy is so on the edge that he basically ambushes her in Tokyo, alternating between blackmailing her and begging her to spend one day with him. She agrees after seeing the distress he's in, but her parents call the police after she misses her nightly check in. Enter our heroes.
In my playthrough, things went well enough at first as the pair visited their home town to revel in some calming nostalgia; but once Nadeshiko and the Public Safety Bureau began the chase, things went from bad to worse. In the end, the boy completely lost it, terrifying his friend. This ended with the boy being shot by one of Nadeshiko's Enforcers, and subsequently splattering gore all over the poor girl.
It was then that Nadeshiko, thanks to the choices I made over the course of the case, decided to scan the girl. Kidnapped, abused, witness to her best friend's breakdown, and now covered in his bloody remains… yeah, you can bet the poor girl's psycho-pass was above 200%. So logically, Nadesiko followed the rulebook and shot the girl on the spot, adding another bloody mess to the room.
To put it another way, I (via Nadeshiko, my avatar) just killed an innocent kid and victim of several horrible crimes.
I've been a gamer for a good 25 years now. I don't remember a single time where my character has killed or even directly harmed a child. This was a fictional child, sure, but the emotional impact was surprisingly strong. We're genetically hardwired to want to protect our young, after all.
I almost restarted the game, determined to find a path where this didn't happen. (Though I don't even know yet if such a path exists.) Then I remembered that this game comes from the mind of Gen Urobuchi (Fate/Zero, Madoka Magica, Aldnoah.Zero) and decided this was probably only the first stop of the train of unlimited despair.
I was right.
The second case deals with a mother who, suffering severe postpartum depression, disappears with her newborn, thanks to Alpha's assistance. Mid-psychotic break, the woman is clearly a danger to her child. As long as the child is asleep all seems well, but the moment it starts crying, her own insecurities about being a mother collapse upon her. Only Alpha's reassuring presence keeps her from adding a tiny body to the pile.
This time, however, I seemed to have steered Nadeshiko a bit better and we arrived in time to save the child, though Nadeshiko still exploded the woman without a second thought, leaving her enforcer partner to catch the child before it, gore covered, hit the ground. Once again, I killed a victim, this time one of mental illness. And it did not in any way feel good.
But of course, it didn't end there. In the aftermath, I met the newly widowed father of the infant. When it became obvious that the man was more distraught about missing a day of work than the death of his wife, Nadeshiko's enforcer began to beat the man up.
I was left with a choice, stop him or let the beating continue. Without hesitation, I let it go on. Then Nadeshiko's boss came in and ordered her to stop it. So she did, only to then verbally destroy the man by logically proving he was completely responsible for the mental breakdown and subsequent death of his wife. Then, as the man violently protested, she drew her dominator, and shot him (with a stun bolt).
To put it another way, I allowed a man (an arsehole, sure, but likely one in shock after the death of his wife) to be physically beaten, assaulted him emotionally, and then drew a gun (known for exploding people) on him, just so I could increase his psycho-pass over 100% and have the pleasure of shooting him.
I'm a bad person.
So with a body count of two children and a woman suffering from postpartum depression as well as the blatant assault of an innocent man for base pleasure, I didn't really feel like continuing. I decided to let the game sit for a few days to focus on something happy, like breeding digital monsters.
And after that break I feel quite cleansed. I'm sure things will only get better for Nadeshiko and I on our next case where we… deal with a group of high school students who have taken their teachers and fellow students hostage with an assortment of melee weapons and Molotov cocktails.
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness was released in Japan on Xbox One on May 28, 2015, and on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on March 24, 2016. It will be released on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita on September 13, 2016, in the US and on September 16, 2016, in Europe.