It was recently announced that, in February, a six-year-old PlayStation Portable game called Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is coming to Steam (opens in new tab). Some people, myself included, are very excited about this. But why? What even is Danganronpa? And why should you care about an old PSP game coming to PC?
Danganronpa is a visual novel—a type of dialogue-heavy, largely text-based adventure game popular in Japan. It’s about a group of students who think they’ve been invited to study at an elite school called Hope’s Peak Academy, but have in fact become unwitting pawns in a sinister, deadly game. Trapped in the school by a mysterious villain called Monokuma—who appears in the form of a terrifying mechanical bear—the only way to escape is to kill another student and get away with it.
The students have been carefully hand-picked as the very best in various fields including programming, martial arts, singing, and, er, writing fan fiction. You, on the other hand, are a nobody. A completely average student with no special skills who randomly won a place at Hope’s Peak in a lottery. This earns you the title of the ‘ultimate lucky student’, but the irony of that label soon becomes clear.
The cast of vivid, colourful characters includes Kiyotaka, a student famed for his unwavering moral compass, a pop star called Sayaka, a spoiled rich kid called Byakuya, and Mondo, the ‘ultimate biker gang leader’. Their brilliance in their respective fields is only matched by their eccentricity. They’re a deeply weird bunch, and the relationships you form with them are an important part of the game.
Inevitably, someone decides to play along with Monokuma’s sick game, and someone is killed. But who was the culprit? It’s up to you to find out. This is when Danganronpa turns into a murder mystery. You hunt for clues, interview people, and eventually take your case to ‘court’, with Monokuma acting as the judge. If you can prove who did it, they’ll be sentenced to death; if you can’t, everyone dies. No pressure.
This is where the game’s title, which loosely translates as ‘winning an argument with a bullet’, begins to make sense. The clues you gather before a trial are called ‘truth bullets’, and as a character gives a statement, you have to look for the parts that don’t make sense and literally shoot them down. You cycle through your evidence, represented by the cylinder of a revolver, take aim, and fire your bullet of truth. It’s very silly, but the court cases are superbly tense and fast-paced.
The crimes are brilliantly constructed too. It’s one of the better detective-style games I’ve played, with the case slowly revealing itself until you hit that “Aha!” moment when the truth becomes clear. You spend so much time talking to the characters and getting to know them that, when one of them turns out to be a killer or victim, it genuinely hits you hard—even if you didn’t like them all that much.
I can’t say much else without getting into spoiler territory, but hopefully I’ve given you some idea of why Danganronpa is such a cool game. It has a great sense of humour, fun writing, and lively characters, but is also incredibly dark. Monokuma is a deliciously evil villain, and the story is full of shock twists and turns.
Danganronpa was designed for handheld consoles, so it remains to be seen whether it’s as enjoyable to play while sat in front of a PC monitor. There’s a lot of reading, and you spend most of your time clicking through text. And there’s every chance they’ll screw up the port somehow. But these potential issues aside, I’m delighted a game as weird and wonderful as this is making an appearance on PC.