Reviews: Super Dangan Ronpa 2
A Disappointing Example of Sequelitis
Like many others, I was enthralled by Dangan Ronpa. The game did an excellent job of having a quirky cast of characters, yet managing to balance it with serious subject matter and believable characterization. So, of course I was excited to see what the sequel had to offer. It is terrible. The sequel's plot is a shameless retread of the first, continuing the already-shaky elements introduced in the first game's ending and trying to expand them. The result is an over-the-top mess that is impossible to take seriously. However, I would be willing to forgive this — as I did in the first game — if the characters and execution were good enough that the overall experience was still good. This is not so. They, too, are shameless retreads, with even their appearances being incredibly similar. However, unlike in the first game, the quirkiness and ridiculousness is turned Up To Eleven, turning almost everyone into one-trick ponies with no depth to them whatsoever, and who vastly overstay their welcome before the game is even halfway over. In the first game, I was always on pins and needles, horrified over who would wind up dead next, and every death was emotionally affecting — even that of the culprit designed to be the least sympathetic. That was not the case here. No, by contrast, I was hoping for certain characters to die because they were just so grating. There were perhaps two or three deaths that surprised me and made me feel sad for the characters — but other than that, my only reactions were either, "Well, that was inevitable," "Whatever," or "Thank God." I simply could not bring myself to care about these cardboard cutouts who were so far into comic relief territory so as to completely alienate them from anything resembling realistic behavior. Oh, and there's the tasteless vulgar humor, too. Everywhere. Constantly. I applauded the original Dangan Ronpa for mostly avoiding Fanservice and having a tasteful attitude in general, but that's been completely thrown out the window here. Seriously, what happened here? The developers have clearly shown themselves capable of creating a substantial, emotionally moving narrative and a great cast of characters. Why did they choose to appeal to low-brow humor and Flanderize their characters to the point that it looks like self-parody? It's just...disappointing, honestly.
Rinse And Repeat The Last Game: On An Island!
For the most part, this game seems like they took Danganronpa and rehashed it onto an island. And that was it. It still feels like it's the same game, but with a new coat of paint on Location and Characters. The characters are still the exaggerated tropes that they were in the previous game, except now the appearances seem to be even wilder and yet still seem more forgettable than the characters in Danganronpa. Unfortunately, it feels like the developers had kind of run out of ideas for this game, since murder methods and even reasons behind the murders being practically identical to the previous game. And they aren't any more difficult to figure out than last time. The big revelations in the game do not do what I would expect from a sequel: they did not answer questions that I felt were left unanswered at the end of Danganronpa. In fact, they just seemed to create more questions that also seem like they will not be answered. If you played the previous game and found it fun, you will most likely enjoy this game. If you feel like the previous game was not all up to scratch for you, I highly suggest to stay away from this one.
Going to be a Divisive One
Looking at the other reviews here I see considerable split over whether the game is great, awful or just okay. And looking at the game, it can be easy to see why. There certainly are things to criticize about it. A number of parts, especially early on, rely on vulgar humor that would be completely out of place in the original, both of sexual and toilet variety. It can be very hard to develop much sympathy for several of the characters with how they act in the game. Moving the setting to an island just makes it harder to feel isolation and claustrophobia, even if it technically is just as cut off from the world. The Improved Hangman's Gambit is anything but, and is probably the source of most anger in the trials. Also, as in the first game, there are times when you know what argument to make, just not what bullet to use on what argument. Uncovering the traitor, well the game literally tells you who it is. Perhaps that's because the hint was easy to misinterpret or miss, but this is still a game where you're supposed to figure out the truth, not have it handed to you and definitely not that far into it. More was needed to explain the background threat and give us some insight into how it was created, especially since the first game was light on details. Wanting the players to read a light novel for such important details shouldn't be done in a main title in the series. However it is not without merit. While some characters you don't want to put up with, others are fun to see in action and the main character was far more interesting to watch than Naegi in the first. I found this game's rhythm game for the trials much easier for some reason and additions like Rebuttal Showdown and Nonstop Consent are welcome. Collecting Monocoins is far easier this time, a major relief with how hard it is to get the presents. Lastly the boss battle was a good deal of fun and I'd go so far as to say that while the boss wasn't quite as interesting previous game's, they still did a better job of making that trial one to remember. So I think that getting a consensus on this one is going to be much harder than the first game and that's fully understandable. There's good and bad to it. For myself however, I think this is a good game and would recommend it, though I think it's not as good as its predecessor in some important ways.
Bigger and better, an ultimate sequel
Basically, Super Dangan Ronpa 2 takes everything that made the first Dangan Ronpa great and ups the stakes. The new cast is even more colorful and absurd, leading to more humorous and silly Free Time events and trials. Most of the new characters actually do not seem like people you might meet in real life, which makes them entertaining and fascinating, but sacrifices drama and realism which I think the original had a stronger sense of. The trials have reached their maximum potential, being significantly more lengthy and complicated, and involving all characters more than ever in arguments. The player must now agree with some of their statements, and some of them will even square off with you in Rebuttal Showdowns. It's no longer just the protagonist carrying the bulk of the trial. It feels like a team effort, which strengthens the player's relationship with the other characters. In general, characters have stronger dynamics with each other. There are more rivalries and friendships amongst the group, which adds weight to when a student is killed, as something is now missing. The characters also seem to be based off the originals in some ways, but are made to take your expectations and change them up ever so slightly, offering a character with similar traits/complexes but from a new perspective. One thing to note is that if you want to understand and enjoy this game to its maximum potential, it's almost necessary to have played the original. The final twists come out of left field so you'll need to understand the big picture to process them. However, the conclusion is very satisfying, making this game feel appropriately like the "final battle" and I feel like the survivors have changed wonderfully from their experiences. Sequels often struggle to live up to the original's success, but Super Dangan Ronpa 2 matches and even exceeds how much fun I had with the original. It lacks certain aspects the original had, but what it adds more than makes up for it. A must-have for any visual novel junkie.
Too big for its britches
As a game, Danganronpa 2 is a competent sequel. And sadly, that's its greatest achievement. It falls into the trappings described by Extra Credits as "Spectacle Creep." The feeling of bombast, vibrancy and theatrics in the character-types and island-setting, along with the enormity of the plot helps to make some elaborate, creative trials, and yet runs into the issue of where to run with the plot and gameplay between trials. When discussing visual novels, the question should become whether the gameplay serves the story instead of the other way around. Whereas DR1 had both in near-perfect alignment, DR2 seems to leave them at odds because of this design-choice towards "Super." By working so hard towards "Super," it completely kills the sense of subtlety that DR1 built all its suspense from. Gone is the claustrophobia, paranoia and distrust, because here Monokuma doesn't care if you see him or each other as the enemy: he's happy to just start the killing. By becoming more overtly threatening to the students, our least-favorite mascot manages to become less threatening to the player. Essentially, Kirigiri was right when she said that killing the students one-by-one would be a mere slaughter while destroying them from the inside would create despair. Because DR1 is a story of despair, and DR2 is a slaughter. In the absence of the grim, somber mood, we rarely get to see these students truly challenged; they forever remain archetypes, simply battling adversity (like so many before). Psychologically speaking, they come off as more stable than the first group, which seems set to punctuate the shocking twist about their true nature. And there lies the overall problem. It desperately wants to knock down DR1 without proving itself worthy (no themes or ideas to call its own). It tries to be cleverer than DR1, and yet seems content to substitute a tightly-written story with shock value. It works hard to unsettle and disturb with its deconstructions, and yet rarely examines the ramifications of these deconstructions, so that when the shock wears off, nothing's been answered. It wants most of all to surpass; to be darker, grander, deeper, more impactful than DR1, and yet ties itself down by being intrinsically linked to its ideas, incapable of existing without them. Spike Chunsoft, I expect better than competent.
A Descent into Glorious Insanity
The best way I can summarize my opinions on Danganronpa 2 would be by saying that this game is to the original Danganronpa what Majora's Mask is to Ocarina of Time: a maddening, dark spiral that plays on the original tenets of the first game and delights in deconstructing and patching together elements that players had come to take for granted. Playing the first game is a must for appreciating this one, but it is the rare sequel that is by far the better of the two. Danganronpa itself played around with taking somewhat-tropetastic characters and exposing their very real vulnerabilities and flaws. It pitted fifteen students against one another and ultimately culminated with six of those same students banding together to overthrow their captor. It was fun, unique, and daring. This game preys on anyone who expects the same narrative as the first. Rather than a ragtag group of classmates working together through an ominous environment to combat their enemies, Danganronpa 2 presents a dizzying, cloying atmosphere that drags its characters through the mud. This isn't even touching on the fantastic updated Class Trials. The murder mysteries are longer, more intense, more fully realized, and just downright more interesting. The new minigames are engaging, unique, and provide a variety of different ways to reach conclusions during the debate. The climax of the game bashes the characters' psyches cruelly but eventually leads to a stunningly-realized conclusion that both defies and encourages the first game's message of continually having hope to face life's treacheries. It's a breathtaking game that succeeds in every imaginable way. An absolute must-play. But seriously, Hiyoko Saionji is awful and nobody should have to deal with her.
Filled With SHSL Hope
When I first heard Dangan Ronpa had a sequel, I was reluctant to read it. The character designs seemed to get more bizarre, I had been often disappointed by sequels before, and most importantly I couldn't think of any possible way they could reuse the same premise from the first game and have it not be utter crap. Then I started reading it, and all my fears were blown away. As with the first one, there are a wide variety of characters, given even more depth than in the first game. Furthermore, the relationship between the cast is developed further – while in DR, with select few exceptions, the characters are willing to turn and suspect one another at the drop of a hat, in SDR 2 a greater emphasis is placed on the camaraderie of a group as a whole. This ends up making most of the murderers even more sympathetic than the cast of the original, as the bystanders feel even more betrayed by their actions. Furthermore, the plot and the murders are even more devious than the original story, with several twists and turns that completely threw me for a loop. Again, going in expecting the story to make absolutely no sense, I was shocked at how well everything was tied together in an unexpected, but not at all unwelcome twist. All in all, I felt that this game had a great cast, interesting puzzles for the murders, and a thrilling plot that made it a SUPER HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL FUN experience.