I started this game on 05/02/2021 and beat this game on 05/11/2021 over the course of roughly 19 hours. And honestly, this might be one of my favorite visual novels that I ever played. At first, I was skeptical of the hype that this game and the series as a whole was getting. After all there are many instants where things get lots of praise yet end up being horrible. Thankfully, that is NOT what happened here. The game is every bit as awesome as was promised. In fact, I would say that game is even better than people say it is.
The greatest thing about this game is the story. It does a great job of rising mysteries while giving them satisfying answers to those questions. It provides just the right amount of information and emotional substance for the story to feel impactful yet leaves just enough out of the player’s reach (Why are these characters trapped in this school? What really is happening outside of the schooI? What is Kyoko’s role in all of this?)to keep the audience guessing and in suspense. It masters the thriller elements. I love how it can balance tones very well. It manages to indulge in both the ridiculous and the horrifying at the same time successfully. Monokuma was a great love to hate antagonist that was able to balance being funny and terrifying at the same time.
I also loved the cast. Sayaka was such a great love interest and her death and failed betrayal was both shocking and heart breaking. Lion’s death was really cool and how he went about murdering Sayaka was highly interesting. The game had the guts to kill off a character that I loved so well, that man is something special. Chihiro courage of wanting to be stronger was heart warming. And learning that it was this desire to become braver that got him killed was tragic. I loved the plot twist of Mondo being the one that killed him due to his own inability to overcome his own grief of getting his brother killed, it really made him a compelling character. Celestia turning people against each other was pretty cool as it highlighted just how cunning and deadly she really is. Her death hurt alot because I really liked her. The Sakura suicide was pretty sad, because she did it stop her friends from killing each other even though it was this action that almost caused them to do exactly that. The plot twist that Junko was the mastermind – while somewhat unbelievable – was pretty cool and seeing the truth of plan was interesting. Kyoko was the gandelf of this game, and watching her learn to trust people was entertaining for sure.
I also loved the soundtrack. My favorite tracks include “Underground Trial”, “BTB”, “Class Trial”, “Beautiful Death”, and “Beautiful Days”. They contribute greatly to the overall atmosphere of Hope Academy (the setting of the game). Within these tracks there is a lot of spirit and vitality that contributes to the quirky nature of the story. I love how the first theme that I just mentioned gets you primed every time a trial is about to start. It really gets you in the mood for just how crazy things are about to go. The soundtrack known as “beautiful days” does a great job of highlighting the heartfelt moments between the player and Sayaka. The soundtrack in particular becomes even more emotional when it keeps being played after Sayaka’s death because it highlights that the good times that you spend with these characters are ever fleeting and that any given character that you might go attached to might not make it in the end.
The visuals were also extremely satisfying. I loved how it harkens back to the Paper Mario franchise (particularly Thousand Year Door) in terms of its aesthetic. Specifically, it goes for the pop style picture book presentation. To put it bluntly, it fits the game really well. This might be my nostalgia talking since I really like this design choice since I love the early Paper Mario games.
The only thing about the game that I wished that Mukuro’s role in all of this could have been explored more. I want to more backstory with her and learn more about her relationship with Junko. Perhaps having a few scenes where she was alive and interacting with the rest of the cast as Mukuro herself would have been nice. I understand that Mukuro/Junko had to control Monokuma so having both of them present would have been impossible…but I feel that she should had more screen time given how important she was to the overall plot.
I also wished that Byakura could have been an antagonist for the player (as in being a killer) because I feel that he was super cunning and I wish we got to see his more dangerous side. I think having him reduced to being just another survivor sort of wastes his potential. I would have loved to have him do some sort of clever murder scheme and having our protagonist be the one that defeats him.
I also thought the ambiguous ending was unnecessary. It doesn’t really lower my assessment of the game that much, but I wish that the end of these characters could’ve been more definitive. I am confused as to whether they died or not. I am told that this particular plat thread is addressed in some detail in future games, but I’m not 100% sure since I have not played them yet. I understand why this decision was made sense the crew of this game exploring the outside world is beyond the scope of this game… But I find it a little bit frustrating because I spent so much time bonding and going to care for these characters yet I do not know what becomes of them. Though the ambiguous nature of the game’s ending could significantly improve its staying power within the minds of its players as a kid it allows them to speculate what happens to the main characters of this game.
This last bit is just a nit pick, but I hate the fact that not all of entire game is voice acted. It does this weird thing where huge portions of the game or not voice acted, put on the portions where it is. It does get jarring sometimes because one moment you are just reading dialogue normally and then suddenly you start hearing the game’s voice acting.
But even with these minor flaws in mind…I love this game. The story was very story, soundtrack was powerful, cast was interesting and compelling, and visuals were charming. Though the Junko plot twist could have been better and two the cast members should been explored more. 4.75/5.00 – A Great Game. I will definitely be checking out future games.