Hiyo, everyone! When I was thinking about my blog post for the week, I considered talking about my 5 favorite video games I first played in 2017 – then realized my list would have been largely dominated by just one series I quickly became addicted to: Danganronpa.
Before I get any further, I should make one thing clear: This series is not for the faint of heart. Danganronpa thoroughly earns its ratings of ‘M’ for Mature. If you play one of the (currently four) games in the series, you’ll be exposed to sexually explicit content, extreme violence, and various dark themes.
With that out of the way, I’ll discuss the first game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. It shares a visual-novel format with two of the other games in the series, and it molded Danganronpa into the franchise it has become.
The story focuses around Hope’s Peak Academy, an extremely prestigious school in Japan that recruits only the best – each of the students has an ‘Ultimate Talent’, something they do exceptionally well. Some examples are ‘Ultimate Pop Sensation’, ‘Ultimate Clairvoyant’, and ‘Ultimate Martial Artist.’ The protagonist, a relatively ordinary boy named Makoto Naegi, possesses the title of ‘Ultimate Lucky Student’ – he got into the school by winning a drawing among all incoming high school students in Japan.
Makoto enters the school, passes out, and finds himself sleeping on a desk. After meeting his classmates – a varied cast of well developed characters who are a pleasure to learn more about – he learns that the truth is crazier than he could have guessed. The only people present are the incoming students. All exits are securely sealed. And, in the gym, Makoto and his classmates meet Monokuma, a mechanical “teddy bear” who claims to be their headmaster – and tells them they’ll never be allowed to leave the school again.
With one exception. Any student who murders another and gets away with it will be freed.
The ensuing game is rife with intrigue, humor, violence, and devilish plot twists. The students must cope with their new lives and do everything they can to cling to hope in the face of Monokuma’s beloved despair – and, in doing so, learn more about each other and themselves.
I won’t go into many details; this series is best experienced on your own. (And don’t look to the anime adaptation as a replacement for the first game; the anime doesn’t do it justice.) The main draws for me are squarely story, characters, and the mysteries surrounding each event. Honestly, those things were so compelling to me that the gameplay felt like a distraction; I just set the games to their easiest difficulties to make the relatively few hurdles less obtrusive. If you enjoy dark themes, anime-style story-based gameplay, and interesting characters, I highly recommend checking out the series starting from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.
Have any of you played a Danganronpa game before? What were your favorite games you first played in 2017? Please let me know in the comments below! I don’t feel like many games can offer stories capable of competing with Danganronpa’s, but I would certainly like to hear about any that might!