It’s Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, and this time it’s on a tropical island. Now, being a sort of anime-ish game, you’d think that means the variously endowed female cast taking their turns to show up in swimsuits in a somewhat desperate parade of fanservice, and you’d be right! Danganronpa 2 in no way subverts this expectation, and that’s pretty much symptomatic of its approach to following up the classic original.
Don’t take that as an abrupt write-off, though. We know what we’re getting into with this series, and that’s no small amount of sleaze. Indeed, Goodbye Despair is even grosser and slimier than the first game, which is an achievement of sorts. The murders are more brutal, the solutions more convoluted and the cast of characters even more vulgar and over-the-top. It's all that a fan could ever want, really — so why do we not like it quite as much as the first game?
Well, it's a question of familiarity, to some extent. As good as Danganronpa 2 is, it can't really help but hit similar beats to its illustrious forebear. There's also less of a curve here — not so much in the difficulty, but in the way it eases you into its story. Goodbye Despair essentially takes a look at how Trigger Happy Havoc went up to 11, starts from that intensity and never really falters. It's carnage from start to finish. And it's very good carnage, but sometimes it all feels like it's just a little bit much.
The students would likely agree. What was supposed to be a Hope's Peak school trip for new protagonist Hajime Hinata has turned into a nightmare as Monokuma resurfaces and begins a second Killing Game. Thankfully — and unfortunately, given (SPOILERS!) you're going to watch most of them die — the new cast of students are as charismatic, interesting, hilarious and downright entertaining as the first game's, and all brand new besides just one returning character in a different, portlier guise. Once again you'll be fraternising with peers and drying your tears as they drop like flies thanks to the Killing Game.
Exploring your prison, Jabberwock Island, is a little more tedious than Hope's Peak Academy, too. Rather than rely on the full 3D maps, here you mostly run around on a 2D plane from left to right across each of the various peninsulas you'll visit. Fast travel returns, yes, but travelling by foot is incentivised by the new virtual pet style minigame that sees your little chibimi gain XP with each step you take. The rewards for raising these pets aren't, in our view, useful enough to make them worth the repetition of checking in on them, but it's a shame to have a new feature in this sequel that we simply suggest you ignore. It's a bit like how you always switch off Tails whenever you play Sonic the Hedgehog 2. You... do switch off Tails, right?
The Class Trials return, of course, and unfortunately so does the Hangman's Gambit, even more obtuse, tedious and frustrating than before in its new incarnation. Thankfully, though, things have been amped up with the new Rebuttal Showdown mechanic which sees you using the analogue stick to quite literally slice your opponent's argument to pieces before going for the cold deathblow of pure logic.
There's another new minigame that feels like a clone of old Flash game Seconds of Madness; you're careening down what can only be described as a snowboard slope of the mind and must steer your board and body into the answers to logical questions as they fly up on the screen. 1080° Snowboarding was never like this.
Within the debates themselves, the new feature is the ability to corroborate another student's statement with your Truth Bullets, adding a layer of further complexity (and therefore critical thinking) to the proceedings. And it's a good thing, because Danganronpa 2 is longer and harder than the original, running to roughly 30 hours on a typical playthrough. There's more to do post-game as well, with more interesting, better unlockables than those on offer in Trigger Happy Havoc.
Of course the game once again looks superb, bringing back the stylised visuals and another stunning soundtrack to boot. If anything can be criticised, the Jabberwock Island location simply isn't as atmospheric and creepy as Hope's Peak high school, but there are plenty of spooky vibes nonetheless and the story's dramatic twists and turns will once again draw you in.
Even sicker and more delightfully disturbing than the marvellous original, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair doesn't match its predecessor in some ways but makes up for its shortcomings in others. Once again we'd argue that the journey is better than the destination — we thought the first game's ending was nearly incomprehensible rubbish and this one is even worse. But it's absolutely a journey well worth taking, as the brilliant cast and smart murder mystery gameplay once again sucked us in and didn't let go. An aesthetic and narrative treat, Danganronpa 2 is an easy recommendation and we're delighted it's finally made the leap to Switch.