Wavers Back and Forth, But Ultimately Recommended
This is definitely a game that got a bit too much hype. Perhaps being a good game, one of the few good ones for the PSP and Vita and for so long only accessible by looking at translated Let's Plays, this was inevitable. But one should not expect pure genius from it. The first focus is on the characters. Some I found to be very interesting and added a lot of color to their world, others I thought had potential that just didn't get realized and unfortunately there were one or two that I felt just didn't have much to them. Sadly, the main character falls into the latter as a pretty generic "hope and friendship" protagonist. Fortunately the boss does definitely go into the former, adding a lot of fun to the last part. The art style is nice, with the pop-up art somehow helping the weird feel of the story. And the story does realize just how crazy this is, and with the idea of Ultimate students, the ironic and improbable punishments and the final reveal of the state of things it might not go as far as it could, but it makes a good effort for a bizarre story. After that we have the meat of the game, the mysteries and trials. I would say that it felt like they were split between ones you really didn't see coming, or fairly obvious ones. Some parts of the mechanics like word bullets I felt were fun, others like Hangman's Gambit and the rhythm game were annoying. All in all I found the trials manageable, but they did need more explanation of mechanics and some kind of free time mini-game to let you get used to them without worrying about ruining your score. And you are going to run into places where you know what argument to make, just not what word bullet to use on what argument. For the miscellaneous parts of the game, I have to say that it can feel slow in the time before the next trial, even with quick travel. In another sense, I don't know why they bothered with having Monocoins hidden in objects, because it takes so long to find them among all the objects you can click on that you'll quickly give up and rely on trials for Monocoins. To its credit, the game has a nice feature that allows you to revisit any previous chapter to replay it (but only from that save) and a School Mode where you can interact with the group more and learn more about the people who would have died. All in all, recommended, though only if you already have a Vita.
Little Bit of Everything.
What the Sonic the Hedgehog series was to the SEGA Genesis, this game (and franchise) should be to the Vita: a Must-Own. If you own a Vita, get this game. This game has a little bit of everything. It's best to avoid spoilers and experience the plot blind the first time through. The characters are heavily interesting (though we lose someone of them a bit too soon to really to get to know them.) The gameplay and story is seamlessly integrated. (More so than in the second game.) The soundtrack is a must-own. My one issue is the lack of expansion of the free-time events. At certain points in the game, you will have the opportunity to spend time with your classmates. Not only are there far too few in-between trials, but aside from occasionally asking some questions, they really aren't that interactive beyond reading. I bring this up because there is something a 'RE:ACT' system. (That was unfortunately removed from the 2nd Game) The 'RE:ACT' system allows you as the player character to respond to select phrases of dialogue by other characters. Often times, there are many several phrases and you can choose which order you 'RE:ACT'. The main strength of the 'RE:ACT' system is that it allows the dialogue to flow more naturally, and it keeps the player involved in the game, and it means that they aren't just going to skip the text to just get to the next trial. I would have loved to see this system integrated into the free-time events. And I would have loved to see 'RE:ACT's within 'RE:ACT's. With confirmation that another game is in the works, I sincerely hope that they bring back the 'RE:ACT' system and expand it greatly. This is a character-driven franchise. Let the player character interact with the other characters as naturally as possible. Also note, I love the first person perspective. You really feel like you're in the shoes of Makoto as he wanders around the school, and it certainly beats the side-scrolling nature of the 2nd game. I'll give this a 9.1/10.
A Murder Mystery Game That Lacks Mystery
Unfortunately, I cannot say a whole lot of good things about this game. Mostly because the mysteries of Who Dunnit in the game lack all its mystery and it's just too easy to figure out who killed who. None of the characters are all that interesting, they feel more like exaggerated caricatures of the biggest stereotypes of characters that you can think of like the Big Eater, the Tough Guy and the Mysterious One With A Mysterious Past. Perhaps this game was trying to cater to younger audiences, younger than older teenagers, and hence made the cases and murders and plot twists easy to figure out, but I was thoroughly disappointed in how little effort I had to put into this game to point out the killer or how non-plussed I was at any of the plot twists, seeing as how I had predicted them hours before they were revealed.