• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

My experience with Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc (2010)

BySean Clark

Oct 10, 2022

In 2021, I had the pleasure of playing through the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney trilogy, loving its incredible writing, fantastic character development and amazing twists and turns. About a year after I finished the trilogy, my good friend John Wintroub recommended a new visual novel adventure game series called Danganronpa, it’s first game being Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.

Trigger Happy Havoc (THH), was released in 2010 by Spike in Japan and brought to the United States via iOS and Android in 2012 along with a remastered version of the game and its sequel, Goodbye Despair, in 2017 for a worldwide release. I bought the Danganronpa 1 + 2 Reload bundle on the PlayStation 4.

What followed was one of the most electric and intense video game experiences I have ever had in my entire life. Instead of doing a traditional review, I want to walk through my experience of playing this wonderful game, giving my thoughts and analysis as I go through its events. Spoilers for Trigger Happy Havoc ahead.

Going into the game, I only knew that you were locked in a school and murders took place. That’s all the knowledge I had. I am thankful this was the case as the mysterious setting of the game immediately hooked me into the story.

You control high school student Makoto Naegi, who was the random student selected to attend Hope’s Peak Academy, a school that enrolls the best up-and-coming talent of their profession. They collectively represent the hope for the future. Immediately, things get weird as you fall asleep upon entering the school, proceeding to meet up with the other students, who are “ultimates” of their talent.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Screenshots for Windows - MobyGames
Monokuma announcing that to escape to school, you have to kill someone.

Out of nowhere, a teddy bear named Monokuma announces himself as the headmaster, revealing that they are forever imprisoned in the school and will be severely punished if they break any rules. This leads to panic, especially after Monokuma declares that to escape, a student must kill another and get away with it in a student-run class trial, henceforth graduating. If the correct culprit is caught, they get executed. However, if the class reaches the wrong conclusion, everyone but the culprit is executed.

The game provided Free Time events where you can hang out individually with other students while interacting with the group as a whole. I had already grown to like some characters and after this announcement, meaning that I could not get too attached to any characters because they could die or be a murderer any second.

This already set me up for failure as Makoto meets Sayaka Maizono, the “Ultimate Pop Star.” She offers to be his assistant and the two start spending time together. I thought the game was setting this up to be a potential romance going forward.

Boy, was I wrong.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Screenshots for Windows - MobyGames
Sayaka asking Makoto to join her in the dining hall.

After Monokuma gave each character disturbing videos of tragic scenes happening in their personal lives, he promised that whoever could “graduate” would find out if the videos were true. Sayaka, who wanted to see if her bandmates were safe and alive, felt sad. She then desires to switch rooms with Makoto for protection.

The next morning, I felt a sense of dread when the group asked where Sayaka was, as she was absent from breakfast. I had a bad feeling and later, she was found dead in Makoto’s room. To say I felt devastated was an understatement considering my aforementioned thoughts on her character.

Investigating was interesting. It was similar to Ace Attorney where you would find clues and talk to witnesses in different locations. The class trial, while having wonky gameplay with a tedious “Bullet Time Battle” (which was not explained well by the game), was thrilling with the ultimates working together to solve the murder.

Screenshots for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc - #74846 | Adventure Gamers
Mondo and Sakura guarding the crime scene after Sayaka was murdered.

Eventually, I was heartbroken to discover that Sayaka was actually the one that tried to commit the murder and frame it on Makoto so she could graduate. Leon Kuwata, the “Ultimate Baseball Star” who hated his talent, was the killer as he retaliated in self defense. I was also sad about this as I got to know him during the first Free Time events.

Seeing him get executed with a baseball machine was brutal for me. It pounded into me the high stakes of this game Monokuma was overseeing and how much the characters needed to work together to survive.

While the game provided the warning of not getting attached to the characters, I chose to focus on three particular characters going forward. These were the  “Ultimate Biker Gang Leader” Mondo Owada, who I found to be a fascinating character with many layers, Kiyotaka “Taka” Ishimaru, who was the “Ultimate Moral Compass” and “Kyoko Kirigiri,” who helped you investigate the first case with an unknown talent. I found her to be the most interesting character with so many mysteries while having suppressed emotions.

Mondo Oowada screenshots, images and pictures - Giant Bomb
Mondo’s introductory graphic when Makoto meets him.

THH gave us a tremendous and wholesome moment with Taka and Mondo battling for survival in a sauna, forming a bond as best friends. This moment helped me further invest into the world I was thrown into, remaining as one of the top moments of both games.

Steam Community :: Screenshot :: Sauna Contest
Mondo and Taka battling in the sauna.

Sadly, I was later thrown into despair during the second case when it was revealed that Mondo committed the second murder, killing the “Ultimate Programmer,” Chihiro Fujisaki, after a misunderstanding where he confesses to Mondo that he is a guy despite appearing as a girl. Mondo mistakes this for Chihiro mocking him for his unwillingness to admit responsibility for his brother’s death.

Mondo is executed and Taka is distraught, igniting a personality change in him as he goes from being an eccentric leader to emotionlessness.

Taka’s depression leads to his death in a carefully crafted double murder by the “Ultimate Gambler” Celeste Ludenberg. Looking back at the events of the game, I wish Yasuhiro Hagakure (“Ultimate Clairvoyant”) was the random victim as Taka could have been a more compelling character during the second half of the game.

After this, I was as hooked into the game as I have ever been in a video game. The setting, crafted by designers Takayuki Sugawara and Dai Nakajima and artist Rui Komatsuzaki, is one of the best in any video game I have ever played. You are trapped in a dark school with no windows and no way of escaping. It is a setting of despair and you and your friends must work together to unravel the mystery of Monokuma and escape the school….. or should you?

I should also mention at this point that the soundtrack for this game is phenomenal. Masafumi Takada composed a dark and mysterious score that consistently left me feeling dread and high tension during the game’s dramatic moments.

Danganronpa Trigger Happy Havoc: Chapter 3 Trial Walkthrough
A note of Celeste trying to lure Taka out of his room.

“Beautiful Dead” is a theme that plays when you are wandering the school with unease among the classmates, usually right before someone is murdered. It leaves me with chills every time I listen to the song and I will never forget how scared I felt every time I woke up in the morning as Makoto, heading to breakfast while not knowing if everyone was alive or not.

“Climax Reasoning” is the perfect theme for the section of the class trial where Makoto pieces together the events of each murder. The bombastic instrumentals show how surreal the events of the game are while reminding the players of the stakes and how far some people are willing to go to escape this prison.

Over the final three cases of the game, I loved exploring the mystery surrounding the events of the imprisonment, who Monokuma is and what the deal is with the outside world. I was especially curious about why it appears that no attempts have been made to save the students.

Mystery is one of my favorite forms of entertainment. How each answer was delivered throughout the game’s events was pure storytelling brilliance from writer Kazutaka Kodaka.

Before I discuss why the plot writing is so strong, I must first discuss the two main supporting characters of the game that carry the cast and steal the show: Kyoko Kirigiri (revealed to be the “Ultimate Detective”) and Byakuya Togami (“Ultimate Affluent Prodigy”).

Kyoko is a woman of mystery when the game begins with no recollection of her talent. However, she is crucial in helping you solve murder mysteries and exploring unlocked areas of the school. Eventually, Kyoko does some digging around on her own. After searching for clues when Monokuma unlocked all the areas for the students to investigate to solve the mystery, we discover that she is the “Ultimate Detective.” Furthermore, that she is in a family of them, with her father being Hope’s Peak’s Headmaster.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc English screenshots, character profiles of our murderous cast - Neoseeker
Kyoko trying to figure out the mystery of Monokuma and the school.

She came to the school originally to gain closure with her father. However, after “The Tragedy,” the headmaster and the students sealed themselves in the school to survive. They attempted to wait out the crisis as they were humanity’s best hope for a brighter future. Alas, she has no recollection of this because Monokuma stole all of the student’s memories from the last two years of their school life together.

With the last murder, Mukuro Ikusaba (“Ultimate Despair”) was revealed to be Junko Enoshima (“Ultimate Fashionista”) in disguise and was killed before the first investigation, meaning that Monokuma is actually Junko herself. It is also revealed that Junko is the real Ultimate Despair, with Mukuro actually being the Ultimate Soldier. Junko used Mukuro’s corpse to create a false murder to get Makoto or Kyoko killed.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc Screenshots - Neoseeker
Makoto talking to Mukuro disguised as Junko.

I spent the majority of my Free Time events with Kyoko, getting to know her more by peeling back one layer of her character at a time. Thus, when Kyoko was forced to implicate Makoto for the murder to prevent herself and everyone else from dying, I was heartbroken. It was obvious she felt the same.

Luckily, Makoto was saved by Alter Ego (an A.I. created by Chihiro), leading to Kiyoko helping Makoto escape the trash pit. She proceeds to open up to Makoto about who she is and what she discovered while feeling remorse for her actions. With all my interactions with her, this scene cemented one of my favorite friendships of any video game I have played, allowing me to be emotionally invested in the Danganronpa’s ending.

Byakuya, similarly, is a character that acts as an outsider from the group. With his high stature as the heir to a successful family, his high intelligence and athletic ability, he views this whole situation as a fun game.

Byakuya learns about various confidential secrets using Chihiro’s murder. He figures out Kyoko’s talent, how much of a threat Makoto is and deduces that Toko Fukawa (“Ultimate Writing Prodigy”) is actually serial killer “Genocide Jack.”

Review – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc – J-ga.me/s/
Byakuya tries to deal with Genocide Jack’s obsession with him.

Jason Wishnov portrays a cocky and intelligent student that lives up to his talent, allowing Byakuya to steal every scene that he appears in. Seeing him trying to rise above Monokuma and overthrow the mastermind creates an ultimate collision that helps build the excitement of the impending climax.

Alas, Byakuya is brought to a breaking point during the final case where Junko reveals the mystery of the outside world, particularly how his family was extinguished during the massacre. When the survivors ultimately decide to overcome Junko and choose to leave the school, Byakuya joins Makoto, having found trust in him while vowing to rebuild his family’s legacy. This character progression represents that even the strongest of the ultimates is powerless against Monokuma unless everyone works together.

With all these pieces fit into the puzzle, Danganronpa becomes a masterfully constructed story full of despair, betrayal and hope. The theme of people representing hope for the future having to triumph over despair stood out to me.

Truth can act as a guiding light and the more that Byakuya, Kyoko and the others discover the truth, the more it is used to expose Junko. It eventually allows everyone to face an uncertain future together. In contrast, Junko tries to use the truth to keep the students there and crush all their hope. The unique battle between what the truth means forms a story with many different interpretations. Danganronpa goes beyond the good vs. bad trope.

Overall, the experience of this journey with these characters trying to survive this awful situation was incredibly satisfying. The writing, music, characters and symbolism make Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc a phenomenal game that everyone should play. It is available on iOS, Android, PlayStation, the Nintendo Switch and more!

Rating: 9.5/10