Why we need more games like Danganronpa

DANGAN-RONPA Screenshot - Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

It's not often that we see a game like Danganronpa in the west. The game is unabashedly weird, with a swole schoolgirl and a homicidal teddy bear among its eccentric cast of characters. It's also extremely Japanese, and it satirizes aspects of the country's culture with great care. But what really makes Danganronpa's release special is that it's a visual novel.

Visual novels have had a tremendous amount of success in Japan, but they have never had much of an impact in the west. There have been a few outliers, like the Ace Attorney series, but for the most part, visual novels are as niche as video games get.

Variety is the spice of gaming, and sometimes, there's just not enough of it. For the medium to thrive, we need games that truly stand out from the crowd. Danganronpa is exactly the kind of title we need to see more of, and here's why.

It shows that visual novels are more than books with pictures

Danganronpa gameplay

Some visual novels aren't much more than interactive books with little to no gameplay. That's not the case with Danganronpa. The game has you investigating crime scenes, literally shooting through your opponent's arguments, and playing all kinds of puzzle minigames.

As more games like Danganronpa get released, gamers will see that there's more to visual novels than meets the eye. Danganronpa has lots of text, but it always feels like a game. It challenges the common perception of visual novels, and it is the sort of game that could convince people to give the genre a try.

Visual novels can tell stories no other games can

Danganronpa Kyoko

Gameplay places limitations on the kinds of stories a game can tell. Most RPGs are about quests to save the world. First-person shooters tend to be about soldiers at war. Certain types of games suit different types of stories, and that's generally what you're going to see.

That's not the case with visual novels. Because they don't need gameplay, any gameplay they do include can be perfectly tailored to the game's plot. They can tell stories about accidentally stumbling on the secret of time travel, a madness-inducing parasite, and high school prodigies caught in a battle royale with equal ease. The more visual novels we see, the more varied stories we'll get.

It's perfect for handhelds

Monokuma

While some handheld titles are perfect for marathon gaming sessions, that sort of play isn't ideal when taking games on the go. You need something that you can play for a bit and then stop without losing all your progress.

Although some of Danganronpa's trials are quite long, it's easy to play in short bursts. You can save at nearly any time, which makes it easy to play around with dialogue options and put down your game when you need to. The game is also split up into short sections, giving you plenty of natural stopping points.

It has a unique sense of humor

Monokuma gavel

From its hot pink blood to its over-the-top executions, Danganronpa is both dark and hilarious. There's never been a villain quite like Monokuma, and there's never been a murder like the game's wackiest cases. It feels completely different from any other game on the market, even when it's playing with popular tropes.

One of Danganronpa's greatest charms is that it sticks to cliches and subverts them with equal ease. Sometimes there's far more to a stock anime character than meets the eye, and sometimes they're exactly what you think they are. When you play through the story, you'll find yourself gasping as often as you are laughing, and it's a great feeling.

Danganronpa is one of the best games on the Vita, and its upcoming sequel may be even better. Hopefully, the success of Danganronpa will convince more publishers to bring unconventional titles outside Japan. The gaming world needs more visual novels, and it needs more games like Danganronpa.

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Mandi Odoerfer RPG lover. Boss fighter. Definitely not Daredevil.
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