The “Ultimate” Package?

HIGH Three of the wildest visual novel games around in a single bundle…

LOW …but it’s still not complete!

WTF Some of these jokes didn’t age too well.

The most important thing Nintendo Switch owners need to know about Danganronpa Decadence is that they can’t actually buy a game called “Danganronpa Decadence” on the eShop. That title is a physical-exclusive bundle release that unites four Danganronpa games on a single cartridge. Those games are 2010’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, 2014’s Dangaronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, 2017’s Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, and a new title: 2021’s Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp. On the Nintendo eShop, these games are all sold separately.

With the exception of Danganronpa S (a new title) all the games in the collection are essentially identical to their previous incarnations, content-wise. They’re marked as “Anniversary Editions” because they come with a new “gallery” feature that allows players to unlock and view story scenes on demand, but that’s about it.

In light of the omnibus nature of Danganronpa Decadence, this review will offer a different format. Rather than go into detail with each individual title, I’ll focus on spoiler-free, capsule write-ups for each of the games in the series. Readers looking for more in-depth reviews can find them right here on GameCritics. Seek out Andrew’s review of the Danganronpa 1.2 Reload two-pack, Brad’s review of Danganronpa 2, and Michael’s review of Danganronpa V3.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

Things start simply enough. Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc introduces players to the concept of Hope’s Peak Academy, a school for the most gifted and talented youngsters around. These “Ultimates” are gathered at the school to make the most of their prodigious talents, but protagonist Makoto Naegi is the lone “normie” of the bunch — he’s an “Ultimate Lucky Student” admitted as the winner of a lottery draw. Before long the school is locked down, with the students trapped inside and forced to play a “Killing Game” by the villainous two-tone bear Monokuma. Monokuma’s ultimatum? To go free, get away with murder. Students need to kill a classmate, then avoid being found out at the subsequent “Class Trial” to escape the school. Those found guilty are executed in gruesome and physically impossible ways. Deadly hijinks ensue.

Trigger Happy Havoc establishes the structure and pattern that the rest of the entries follow — begin a chapter, follow the narrative, interact with the characters, and continue until someone dies. Once that happens, look for clues, talk some more, and put it all together at the Class Trial, where various minigames and logic puzzles challenge players to solve the mystery. Then (if one’s logic is sound) the killer is executed and the story continues. Each case is held up by a wealth of twists and turns, as well as the outsize personalities of the characters. Some truly wild developments late in the script help cement the narrative here as a step above and beyond the typical, more grounded whodunit.

Be warned, though — some of the content is graphic, and the game contains characterizations and plot developments that were iffy even back then. I think some of this would be absolutely unacceptable today. It’s a black mark on an otherwise stellar narrative.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

When I first played Goodbye Despair, I was openly skeptical of its necessity. I felt, at the time, that Trigger Happy Havoc‘s ending was just about perfect in its ambiguity. Seeing a sequel to that story that (apparently) recreates the same premise and structure of the original with a new cast felt like a sour attempt to “franchise” a great one-and-done title.

I’m glad to say that I was wrong on all counts. Goodbye Despair meaningfully expands on the formula established in Trigger Happy Havoc, while still delivering similar big surprises that build off its revelations. It even provides the same, satisfying “it could be done forever right here, and I’d be fine with that” feeling by the time it closes out.

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony

The presence of Danganronpa V3 in this package brings me to the second most important thing new Switch players need to know about Danganronpa Decadence. V3 isn’t the third Danganronpa game. In fact, it’s not even a sequel to Danganronpa 2. The actual continuation — and conclusion — of the saga of Hope’s Peak Academy was contained not in a game, but in an anime series titled Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High. That isn’t included in Decadence, and while I am of the opinion that the two games stand well enough on their own that they can be experienced as-is without feeling incomplete, players that go into V3 expecting it to build off of Goodbye Despair are in for a rude awakening.

I emphasize “rude” because while V3 isn’t the sequel to Goodbye Despair, it is very much a ‘main game’ in the franchise. In a way, it’s a coda of sorts for Danganronpa as a whole with a metafictional prickliness worthy of The End of Evangelion. It’s a divisive entry for good reason, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Vacation

If Danganronpa V3 relied on players having some knowledge of the previous games to make the most impact, Danganronpa S has no impact at all if one hasn’t already been turned into a Danganronpa fan. It’s essentially a fusion of the two extra game modes from V3, fleshed out with content and references to the rest of the series (including characters and games that aren’t included in the Decadence package) and made to stand alone. However, the fact that one can launch and purchase it separately from the other titles doesn’t mean that it should stand alone.

The game modes it grew out of were largely ways to explore interactions with the Danganronpa cast after their relevance to the core narrative had passed. Now, Danganronpa S posits a whole other scenario — Pretty much anyone that’s ever been in a Danganronpa title has been somehow gathered into a virtual simulation of Goodbye Despair‘s Jabberwock island. There, under the care of V3‘s Monokuma Kids, the characters must participate in a “training camp” for their Ultimate Talents.

The twist? No killing!

Danganronpa S is a death-free safe space, concocted expressly for players still enamored of the wacky and memorable characters and seeking a way to get more. To that end, Spike Chunsoft has created loads of new content and event scenes featuring characters interacting with each other across time, space, canonicity, and even common sense. Without spoiling too much, one might even see multiple versions of the same character conversing like they were different people, instead of the same person at different stages of their life.

This is all well and good, but one issue is that S prominently features characters that do not appear in the Decadence bundle. In particular, Komaru, the protagonist of the shooter-style spinoff Ultra Despair Girls (which forms a narrative bridge between Goodbye Despair and the Danganronpa 3 anime) gets prominent billing, but a Switch-only player might not even know who she is.

Danganronpa S plays out like a hybrid of a party-style board game and parody JRPG. Players will take a character across the spaces while playing minigames, reading event scenes, and battling the minions of Monokuma in turn-based combat. Players can acquire new characters (there are dozens, if not hundreds) by feeding in-game currency to the in-game gacha machines. This is where things get unpleasant, as Danganronpa S is supported by microtransactions — players can pay a bit of real-world money to directly unlock characters. The actual costs aren’t high, especially in comparison with the predatory rates of more dedicated gacha games, but it’s a clear attempt to cash in on the affection people have for Danganronpa‘s cast, and this taints the experience.

Even players that can make peace with this monetization will have some caveats to consider when buying the games of Danganronpa Decadence, though.

Performance on the pre-release builds I received was rough. Noticeable frame-rate loss occurred during class trial segments across all three of the older titles, and strange errors in text rendering caused punctuation (or even individual words) to appear as invisible. None of these issues made the games unplayable, but they were concerning in light of the fact that they all work just fine on PC, PS4, and even their native, less powerful PS Vita.

With the exception of the thoroughly unnecessary Danganronpa S, the games of the Danganronpa Decadence package are still a great and unforgettable experience. Though they run better on other platforms, they’re just fine on the Switch, and players who can’t or won’t try them elsewhere won’t feel like they’re getting a worse deal. A more concerning wrinkle is that players who want as complete a Danganronpa experience as possible are better served on those other platforms, thanks to the absence of Ultra Despair Girls. As such, using the word “decadence” in the collective title comes across as a bit presumptuous on Spike Chunsoft’s part — a more accurate title might be “Danganronpa Sufficience“.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Disclosures: This game collection is developed and published by Spike Chunsoft. It is currently available for Nintendo Switch (Alternative editions of the component games are available on PC, PS4, PS Vita, iOS, and Android). This copy of the game is based on a retail build provided by the publisher and reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Approximately 83 hours were devoted to the single-player modes across four titles. There are no multiplayer modes. The games were completed.

Parents: All four games in the compilation are rated M by the ESRB, for Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Simulated Gambling. The official ESRB description for Danganronpa 1 and 2 reads as follows, and this can be generally assumed for the rest: This is a compilation of puzzle-adventure games in which players follow high-school students attempting to escape from a murderous robot bear. As players navigate their environments, they sometimes come across corpses of murdered classmates. Players investigate the various crime scenes, looking for clues and interviewing rival classmates. Finding the killer can trigger “punishment” cutscenes, in which acts of violence are depicted: students killed by a pitching machine, run over by a truck, crushed to death. There are also depictions of characters getting impaled by spikes and knives. Blood is frequently depicted on and around dead bodies. Cutscenes also depict female characters dressed in low-cut outfits and bikinis that expose large amounts of cleavage; these still images occasionally depict characters in provocative poses, with the camera focusing on pelvic areas. Some scenes contain sexual/suggestive dialogue (e.g., “That creep rubbed his ham-hands all over me and called it a body check! More like sexual harassment!” “My loins are still full of poison, and I’d appreciate it if you could suck it out…” and “some even tried to have children with Junko’s dead body”). The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” appear in the dialogue.

Colorblind Modes: The game has no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All voiced dialogue is accompanied by subtitles. There are no text size or presentation options. (See examples above.) Some audio “barks” used by characters in place of voice acting are not subtitled, but these are not essential for gameplay. This title is partially accessible.

Remappable Controls: No games in this collection offer remappable buttons. There is no control diagram. The controls are straightforward with the left stick selecting objects and the face buttons selecting/canceling.

Josh Tolentino
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