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Karifean's Blog of Visual Novels

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Review

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Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a visual novel developed by Spike. It was originally exclusive to portable systems but has recently found its way onto the Steam Store.


The story of Danganronpa is set in Hope's Peak Academy, a special educational institution for students that stand out above the rest; each of them is the "Ultimate" of their respective field: there's the "Ultimate Baseball Star", the "Ultimate Gambler", the "Ultimate Pop Sensation" and many more. As for our protagonist, Makoto Naegi, he's average in just about everything but gets the opportunity to attend the school as the "Ultimate Lucky Student" since he was randomly picked from all possible candidates. And so the story begins as Makoto stands in front of the gates of Hope's Peak Academy for the first time.

However things go wrong very quickly. Makoto faints as he steps inside the school and wakes up in one of the classrooms. He joins up with the other students who have all had the same experience, and they find that all windows and exits have been sealed shut, trapping them inside the school facilities. Soon the headmaster - a black and white bear named Monokuma - makes his appearance and reveals that the students will have to stay here forever; unless they manage to murder another student and get away with it, in which case they will go free and everyone else is executed.

And so the students find themselves in a rather precarious situation. Monokuma's words have planted seeds of doubt and distrust in all of them. Even if they want to trust one another, who knows when someone might end up snapping under the pressure? And indeed, it doesn't take long for the first murder to take place...


Although the initial setting and atmosphere is dark, Danganronpa does not have a very serious plot, and in fact is pretty wacky most of the time. The juxtaposition of over the top ridiculousness and pure horror actually works pretty damn well, prime example being the executions which are both hilarious and absolutely horrifying at the same time. I've never seen anything quite like it before.

The story of Danganronpa is linear and separated into multiple chapters. Every now and then a murder occurs at which point you're given the opportunity to investigate, talk to the other students and find clues. Afterwards, a trial takes place in which the course of events is reconstructed and the culprit exposed... hopefully. If you fail you get a Game Over.

During the trials you'll be participating in discussions where you point out flaws in people's arguments, as well as play a few minigames to move the story along. The pacing here is quite good; none of the trials feel dragged out or cut short and the progression and overall deduction process feel quite natural.

You're given just about all necessary information before the trial starts, so if you feel up to it you can give the mysteries a shot yourself. Even if you don't manage to solve everything you can at least get a good theory going. The downside to this is that the game doesn't really let you put your own deductions to use as the plot unfolds at its own leisure and you're railroaded through it with no chance to deviate or jump ahead. Which can be annoying sometimes, but since the pacing is good it's not much of an issue if you have no problem just leaning back and watching the characters put all the pieces into place.

While the individual mysteries keep happening and getting resolved, the overall mystery of the entire situation is pushed along as well so the game does a good job keeping your attention all the way through. The latter half of the game has several twists and tricks up its sleeve and like with many visual novels I find the finale to be its strongest point. It's not the deepest story, but it fulfills its purpose and stays engaging all the way.

The one thing I didn't particularly care for was the way the game puts you in the protagonist's shoes yet doesn't let you influence anything major. At times I had the feeling that I, the player, was being scolded for things Makoto, the character, did. There were a few times when player agency was also handled poorly. But these issues were few and far between so it's not a big problem.


The cast of Danganronpa is... interesting to say the least. They generally play to an archetype and stick with it, but nonetheless still manage to create a pretty good impression. There are some I liked better, some I liked less, though their interactions as a whole were pretty enjoyable to watch.

A very interesting thing in regards to how you engage with the characters comes in the form of "Free Time". Occasionally you are given the freedom to roam the school and decide to spend time with any of the characters to get to know them a little better. The more you do this, the more you learn about them. The catch is that, naturally, you cannot spend Free Time with a character who's already dead. This adds a chilling sensation to the whole thing, since - at least if you keep to a single playthrough - if they die, you will have lost the chance to get to know them forever.

Oooh, mysterious~

That being said, many of the characters get decently explored over the course of the game. I can't say I formed any deep connections to any of them, but at least some of them were just delightful to watch. And honestly, for this particular game, that's all that was really necessary.


The OST is pretty good. It's nothing outstanding but it does exactly what a soundtrack should; there are tracks for every situation and they're used to great effect. There are enough remixes and twists on existing tracks to prevent them from becoming stale. And you still have those single tracks you'll always associate with a particular point in the game and take you right back there if you listen to them out of context.

The game's Opening Theme as well as its Main Theme represent its nature quite well. Tracks like Discussion -BREAK- and Beautiful Dead very nicely set the atmosphere for the parts they play at. Though my personal favorite tracks are Mr. Monokuma's Tutoring and DISTRUST, for capturing that juxtaposition of despair and silliness so damn well.


Danganronpa is a game that's simply fun. It's atmosphere and plot is dark as hell, yet it tells its story in a comedically unserious way. It may not be 'deep and meaningful' but damn is it ever entertaining, a good way to spend 20 hours. I had a few minor frustrations with it, but then again the game has some legitimately great and memorable moments too, and chances are some twists will catch you off-guard.

Although Danganronpa works well as a self-contained story, there is a sequel which is currently available for PS Vita with a port to PC (Steam) in the making. At the time of writing this review I have not played it, but I certainly plan on doing so as soon as I get the opportunity.

In regards to the first game, I give it a solid

8 / 10

If you're interested in this kind of game, give it a shot sometime. It won't betray your expectations.


  1. Rez09's Avatar
    The trial bit you mentioned, and that picture, made me think of Phoenix Wright.

    I hadn't heard of this game before, but from what you've said it does look pretty interesting. I'll have to give it a look if I get the opportunity.
  2. Fynn's Avatar
    It is pretty similar to AA in certain areas, but while I don't care much for Phoenix Wright, I think Danganronpa is pretty amazing and is definitely my favorite of the visual novels that I've played (along with the sequel, as I loved both games pretty equally)> I like to say it's Phoenix Wright done... uh, right, but I know I'm weird in that regard and not everyone will agree with me

    Still, good review, and I agree on a lot of points. I don't think I've seen a game pull off that type of clashing tone so well and it is glorious.

    And the main antagonist is just incredible.