I love the Vita. It’s probably my favourite handheld of all time, gets constant use thanks to the monthly Playstation Plus freebies and it’s a gorgeous (and powerful) piece of kit. Sadly, I’m one of the lonely few. Ignored by the masses, Sony’s handheld has seemingly been on life support ever since it launched. With this new blog series I’m hoping to showcase why you should buy a Vita, and what games you really need in your life. First up is the delightfully insane Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

The best way to describe Danganronpa is a mix of Battle Royale, a visual novel and Phoenix Wright. An eclectic mix that manages to gel together into something quite wonderful.

Controlling Makoto Naegi, you find yourself entering Hopes Peak Academy, a school dedicated to the best of the best. There’s the world’s best swimmer, baseball player and even biker gang leader all in attendance. As for Makoto? He’s just lucky. One person is entered into a lottery to get that last place at the Academy, and Makoto was that winner. As the Academy’s name suggests, everyone is full of hope, until things start to spiral drastically out of control.

Danganronpa Trial

Cut through statements during each trial

Finding themselves in a killing game hosted by the weird black and white teddy bear Monokuma, if one of the characters kills another then it’s up to the rest to discover who that killer is with a class trial (where the Phoenix Wright similarities come in). It’s difficult to go into many more story specifics without heading into spoiler territory, and this is one story you’ll want to go into blind, trust me.

But what about the gameplay? Well, it’s a mixture of many. There are moments where you’re driven forward courtesy of dialogue and then there are others where you’re free to roam the halls of Hopes Peak. When free roaming you’re viewing the world in first person and can interact with other characters and examine the environment. Although the latter is mostly done with a fixed camera position and occurs when entering the huge variety of rooms throughout the Academy. And you will need to examine every nook and cranny when the killings begin if you’re going to catch the killer.

danganronpa characters

The colourful cast of Danganronpa

The second part of the gameplay would be the class trials. To use a car analogy, if Phoenix Wright was a Ford Focus, then Dangonronpa would be a Bugatti Veyron. The pace that it all moves is staggering. In order to progress the story you will need to cut through arguments using all the evidence you’ve obtained, but unlike Phoenix Wright where you have all the time in the world to go through people’s testimony, here it’s all on a timer. And to top it off the words will only stay on screen for a few seconds before disappearing. This is just the tip of the iceberg as more gameplay elements for the trials become available as you progress through each chapter.

Of course, the deaths of characters wouldn’t mean all that much if you didn’t have any affection for them. This is actually an issue I had with the sequel, which sadly won’t make its way into this feature. But thanks to some brilliant writing you end up liking them all, even the ones who the game almost pushes you into hating, have their own little idiosyncrasies which you end up enjoying. So the localisation team definitely deserve some extra kudos.

While it’s not my favourite game on the Vita (stay tuned for a future post on that one) it’s one that perfectly captures why I love the handheld. It’s weird, wonderful and unique, with an exceptionally written tale and fascinating characters to top it all off. There really is nothing like it out there, so play it and enjoy.