The English version of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair hit the PS Vita a mere seven months after the launch of its predecessor, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.
Normally, you don't see sequels released so close to the original. But in the case of the Danganronpa series the decision makes sense.
Danganronpa 2's story assumes that you are already quite familiar with the series, whizzing past plot points and narrative twists that the first Danganronpa spent almost the entire game slowly building toward.
It makes this sequel a poor jumping on point for the series, but it also frees up the narrative in interesting ways.
Danganronpa 2 starts out on a surprisingly peaceful note, as a new group of students from Hope's Peak Academy are whisked away to a tropical island resort where a giant pink rabbit named Usami encourages them to work together and become great friends.
Of course, this being Danganronpa, it isn't long before that adorably sadistic bear Monokuma shows up and flips the feel-good vacation into his favorite pastime of watching high schoolers kill each other one by one.
Ultimate Spring Break
The cast of Danganronpa 2 does not dwell on their deadly situation as much as in the first game, which feels more like a concession to giving returning fans a less redundant experience, than a vital personality trait for any character.
As a result, the stakes in the overarching plot don't always feel particularly high, instead shifting focus to flesh out and develop each of the characters and their personal stories.
Like the first game, the characters in Danganronpa 2 are all Ultimates, which is to say they are the best in their particular field.
And while many of the Ultimates once again fall into the categories of common anime stereotypes – like the ultimate nurse, cook, and yakuza – the diverse island locations provide a much better backdrop for these archetypes to grow into their own characters than the first game's sole school environment offered.
Sunny beaches, deserted shanty towns, and an amusement park are just some of the island locales you'll visit, and each one brings out a little more personality from your classmates. And as you learn more about the characters, it makes each of their inevitable deaths or betrayals sting that much more as the twisting plot runs its course.
The murders themselves have also gotten more elaborate with the new scenery, making for tense investigations where even with all of the evidence I still wasn't sure which way each trial would go.
While Danganronpa 2's story has undergone refinements for the better, the class trials that end each chapter still falls victim to many of the same issues that plagued the first game.
The mini-games that comprise each class trial tend to get in the way of the story far more than they support it, whether it is a new sword duel debate that has you slashing through arguments faster than you can read them or the painfully slow task of spelling out an obvious clue letter by letter.
The trials aren't all bad though, with the addition of a new deep dive mini-game that has you skateboarding through a tunnel and sliding along the walls to navigate branching paths that pick your next logical argument.
It is a shame that the climax of each murder mystery still comes down to a jumble of disjointed mechanics. It diminishes some of the thrill when you finally pin the guilty party only to be forced into a tiresome rhythm-based argument mini-game where you can't appreciate the culprit's desperate pleas because you are too focused on getting the button timing right.
Danganronpa 2 is at its best when it lets its characters shine, and thankfully there are a lot of memorable character moments to be had.
Whether it is exchanging gifts during your free time to get to know your classmates better or investigating a murder alongside your prime suspects, Danganronpa 2 will draw you in and keep you guessing right to the last piece of evidence.
Danganronpa 2 doesn't stand on its own quite as well as its predecessor, but fans of the first game will find it to be an essential murder mystery to have on the go.