WARNING: The following will contain spoilers of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. I highly suggest either watching a game playthrough or play the game yourself before reading this article. The following also contains dark and disturbing themes and visuals.
Imagine yourself transferring over to a new school where it only accepts the best of the best. From the Ultimate Martial Artist all the way to something like the Ultimate Lucky Student, the school handpicks other students to enroll due to their Ultimate abilities. Regardless on why they handpicked you, you approach the school’s doors only to find yourself dizzy and disoriented before passing out. After what seems like an eternity, you wake up to find yourself in a class room where the windows are all blocked off by steel plates and giant nails along with a security camera staring straight at your face. On one of the desks lies a pamphlet informing you that the ‘opening ceremony’ is going to be held at the gym, where you find 14 other students just as confused as you are. Not long after, the ‘principal’ of the academy appears before you – a black and white plush bear robot. Other than being stunned that such a thing can talk and move (much less being your principal), he informs you that everyone is trapped inside the academy with no way out. If one wishes to escape…
…They must kill one of their classmates and not be found out by their peers.
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is an M-rated Visual Novel/Mystery game created by Spike Chunsoft originally for the PlayStation Portable and later released to iOS, Android, and PlayStation Vita. Playing as the Ultimate Lucky Student Makoto Naegi, you transverse the days of being trapped in Hope’s Peak Academy and ‘forced’ to participate in a killing game with your classmates. It takes your simple ‘whodunnit’ mysteries and turns them over its head with in-depth character development and, as the creators call it, ‘psychopop’ style. Unlike most other bloody M-rated games, it looks much more colorful than its darker counterparts to the point they even changed the blood to pink. Heck…the first body you find is the only other character who the protagonist knows from junior high in your bathroom!
However, believe it or not, the game itself was much more horrific during its beta stages. According to Director Kazutaka Kodaka, their beta game Danganronpa: Distrust seemed like it would have been too horrific for the Japanese audience. Some of the differences that Distrust has with Trigger Happy Havoc, the beta actually contained realistic color blood as well as a darker visual over the entire game and a more morbid picture of a character whose beheaded head is bleeding out on the ground. Distrust also revolved around the concept of Trust/Distrust where other characters would trust or distrust your main character and depending on the outcome, will either be your ally or enemy in the next investigation. Due to this, different scenarios can happen and there would be multiple endings, much like Spike’s other known game Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.
As for Trigger Happy Havoc, they’ve tone down the darker theme. Kodaka decided to add in what he and the other creators call ‘pop elements’, the most notable of them being the change for brighter colors on the overall scenery and the blood from red to pink. To be honest, I feel like this makes it even creepier when you have bright discolored blood rather than the original red blood. There is only one video of the beta game Distrust where the first killer is executed. Comparing it to the actual execution, there are very subtle differences such as the color of blood and how they much exposure they show of the body. Provided at the bottom of the article are the videos for Leon’s execution in Distrust and Trigger Happy Havoc.
As for the Trust/Distrust system, it was scrapped in place of Hope/Despair as well as The key idea of Danganronpa is that you’re trapped in a school with no way out and despite all the deaths and despair of the truth of those deaths, there’s still a glimmer of hope that they will one day be able to escape. Even for the player, who is more or less a viewer during the trials, when they discovered characters they liked or dislike take a sudden turn for the worst whether by their personality changing during the trial, being the victim, or being the killer (no matter how much you wish to disbelieve). None of this comes at random, either…Monokuma, their ‘principal’ helps drive these characters to a weakened state by providing ‘motives’ for everyone. For instance, the first trial showed all of the characters’ love ones suddenly disappear and leaving them wondering if they were alive or dead. Second trial had a 24 hour time limit where Monokuma would reveal an embarrassing secret to everyone. He keeps throwing out these motives and despite you thinking “No way anyone’s THAT desperate to escape with these”…the game surprises you.
They’ve also changed the characters’ looks in the beta to the actual game, but they seemed to have stayed consistent with their Ultimate Talents (although their talents are not actually mentioned.) Comparing them side to side, you can see the similarities and differences between themselves and their beta counterparts. Otherwise, there’s not much else known about Distrust save for a bunch of pictures.
The key part I want readers to take away from this is not only the differences between these two games, but the reasons why they had to make such a drastic change. According to the director, it was mainly due to the reason the original game seemed much too gruesome and horrific to the point that the game itself would have a limited audience, hence why they changed the colors for the game as well as how much is revealed. The reason behind the switch between Trust/Distrust is still a bit unknown, but either the implementation would have taken too long/been too complicated. Personally, I believe remnants of that system still exist in the game through the characters. In the beginning, no one really trusts anyone fully since they’ve all met for the first time. As the game progresses, they have a teetering effect of trusting or distrusting certain people. However, this is all cannon and static…no options will really change their trust.
Regardless of how much they changed between the games, it’s still horrible yet oddly interesting in my eyes…Also, they’ve toned down the horror and despair factor by adding in a lot of different references in the actual game as well as moments between characters. Not all is bad in this game, I swear!
…Now I’m going to have nightmares of their executions all over again. Excuse me while my heart is ripped out and stomped to the ground…