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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.
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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.
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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.
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