How to Buy Video Games

You may be wondering “Why would I need to read about how to buy games? I know how to exchange money for goods and services.” Sure ya do. But do you know how to do it as advantageously as possible?

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The following is a guide of helpful tips on how to effectively purchase video games at reasonable prices. Here are a few things you need to know beforehand:

  • Most of what’s written here will only be useful if you live in the United States. I will touch on how to import some games from Japan and greater Asia, so that could be useful regardless of where you live, but the bulk of this is for Americans.
  • The majority of this applies to buying physical copies of console games. If you’re on PC or want to go digital only, some of the forum info I’ll provide may be helpful, but most of this is not going to help you.
  • Hopefully this goes without saying, but I’m not endorsed by any third parties or speaking on the behalf of any companies, yada yada yada. Everything here are just my personal opinions.

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Sign up for GCU

Best Buy’s Gamers Club Unlocked is your end-all, be-all of retail subscription services that you need to sign up for if you plan on buying at least a moderate amount of video games a year. GCU gets you 20% off all new game purchases from Best Buy, both in-store and online. It’s just $30 for two years, so if you save more than $15 a year (which you would if you bought just TWO full-priced games a year), then you will have saved money.

Of course, this also applies pre-ordering games. If you’re really looking forward to an upcoming game, you can pre-order it in-store or online, get your 20% off and be there to pick it up the moment it goes on sale.

Best of all, GCU stacks with other Best Buy promotions. Say a $60 game comes out, but you want to wait until it’s cheap. Then, three months after release, that game goes on sale for a week at Best Buy for $30. Now you decide to buy that game AND your membership stacks on that sale, making it $24.

The only downside to GCU is that last year, Best Buy did away with stacking GCU on top of Black Friday deals. Every other day of the year, GCU will apply to any MSRP price or deal price on games. The glory days of getting an additional 20% off of already insanely low BF prices is sadly over.

Consider Prime

Given that Amazon is the top internet retailer in the US, you may be aware that Amazon offers 20% off of pre-ordered and recently released games to its Prime subscribers. This was actually a service added in the last couple of years in response to GCU as Best Buy had been the originator. In fact, Amazon has gone so far as to offer respectable discounts (though not quite 20%) on select pre-ordered games to those without Prime memberships. Again, not all games, but select.

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The downside to Prime of course is that the 20% Prime member discount goes away after a game has been out longer than a month whereas GCU applies to every game, no matter how old or new. Prime is also much more expensive at $99 a year compared to GCU’s average of $15 a year.

The counterargument is that Amazon Prime offers many more benefits outside of buying video games. There’s free 2-day shipping on countless of items, access to Amazon Prime Video, $1 digital credit when you select no-rush shipping and more. Prime may be the way to go for the average consumer with many needs or the person looking to share an account with a family.

Another thing to consider is that for you fellow college students out there, you can sign up for Prime with a student discount at half the cost. Also, for any heavy Twitch users, Amazon and Twitch rolled out a partnership last year that allows Prime subscribers to get a free Twitch subscription to a channel of their choosing along with other perks.

Again, I don’t think Prime is the better option compared to GCU when it comes to games, but at least consider whether or not it’s a good fit for you.

If you’re into collecting, get PowerUp Pro

In the world of video game deal shopping, GameStop is the mortal enemy of many. When it comes to buying newly released games, avoid GameStop at all costs unless you really, really want some novel pre-order bonus that only they are offering. Unlike Best Buy and Amazon, GameStop offers no discounts on new games and if you’re unfortunate enough to be buying the last “new” copy of a game that they have in-store, that game will have been ‘gutted’ so that the box can be put on display in-store while the disc sits in a drawer behind the counter. It’s a practice that I will never understand how they get away with.

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Now all that said, if you don’t mind buying used games and may even be trading some games in, GameStop is a fine place to shop once you know how to handle yourself there. I actually do quite a bit of shopping at GameStop because I like to collect games and nowhere is there better to find good prices on Gen 7 games right now than GameStop.

For $15 a year, PowerUp Pro will get you 10% off used games and 10% extra credit on trades, as well as various other things like coupons and points towards goodies or certificates. GameStop will run promotions like Buy 2, Get 1 Free weekends for used games and the 10% discount will stack with that. Times like those are when people like me can cheaply expand our libraries of older games.

However, if you care about the condition your games come in – including whether or not you own them in the original cases – I would recommend, never buying used games from GameStop’s website. Far too often will GameStop ship used games in plain boxes with just the disc. Because of this, as a collector, I will only buy a used game that I can hold in-store before buying.

Also, I do not recommend buying games from GameStop’s retro storefront on their website unless the retro game you’re buying is common and unlikely to be a forgery. GameStop got into the retro market a couple of years ago and has had a myriad of problems. If you’re curious about getting into retro collecting and want to know why you shouldn’t buy retro through GameStop, watch this video from Pat the NES Punk’s podcast.

If you’re shopping for retro, go to local stores first and eBay second

It really is that simple. Mom and pop stores or any kind of local business that specializes in retro are your go-to for those kinds of games because of how specialized the market is. The sad reality is that when it comes desirable NES, SNES, etc. games, they are very easy to forge. If you go to a retro store, the people there will know what they’re doing and you’re not going to be sold a fake.

Here in Texas (as well as a few locations in Washington, I believe), we have a great small chain of stores called Game Over Videogames.  Game Over is my go-to store in Austin for retro. Their prices may be a little higher than the average on PriceCharting.com, but that’s the small price you pay for getting the kind of service and reliability that can only come through a local store that specializes in retro.

Buying on eBay is another route, as there are plenty of reputable sellers there that sell retro. In many ways, good retro sellers online are not drastically different than a retro shop. However, you lose the advantage of face-to-face customer service and being able to personally inspect a retro game before committing to buy it.

Imports!

The past few years has been a renaissance in importing games. We live in a world where after the release of the Nintendo Switch, every major home console on the market will be region free, so you can buy games from anywhere and play them on your system.

Amazon Japan has begun to ship new games sold directly by them internationally. If you want a physical copy of a newly released game in Japan, I really recommend going through them. Signing up for Amazon JP is no different than Amazon US and their site has even been more aggressive in adding English for international shoppers.

Also keep in mind that other Amazon international sites follow suit. If by chance you’re looking for a copy of a physical game that got an EU release but not a US one, Amazon UK may be a good place to go – like for inFAMOUS First Light.

One of my favorite new markets is what’s known as ‘Asia English.’ Occasionally, Vita or PS4 games that only get digital releases in America will receive physical prints in English for Asia countries like Hong Kong and Singapore. Such was the case for JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven. In this case, you may want to try hitting up Play Asia, HeavyArm, or a reputable eBay seller. Seller mariio1228 is based in Hong Kong and has been good in my experience.

Finally, if you’re on PlayStation, know that it’s also possible to sign up for other regions’ PSN accounts. This can be an alternative to importing physically, but know that it will require you to buy prepaid PSN credit, as the PlayStation store will not allow you to use a credit card or PayPal account that is registered to a different country than the one you’re shopping for.

Read CAG and SlickDeals

The bow to tie all this knowledge together is to peruse CheapAssGamer.com and SlickDeals.net. CAG in particular is one of my favorite forums on the net and you may even find me posting there if read long enough. Want to hear about new deals as they’re discovered? Read CAG. Want to know what next week’s in-store flyers for Best Buy and Target will be advertising? Read CAG. Want a reason to spend money on a game you previously had no intention of playing? Read CAG.

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CAG is useful for literally every type of game purchasing you can think of. From buying from retail stores, to online sites only, to Steam, PSN, Xbox Live, etc. If there are video game deals of any kind to be had, you’ll find them on CAG.

Slick Deals on the other hand is a more popular site overall that specializes in a lot more than just video games. However, the gaming forum can still be supplemental information on top of using CAG. In my opinion, a lot of SD users are more in the game for finding quick ways to make profit as opposed to buying for personal use, however.

Twitter accounts to follow

The following accounts will regularly tweet out gaming deals for you so that you don’t even need to leave Twitter to hear the latest.

@Wario64: A bot account created by Japanese game director Suda51. (not really)

@videogamedeals: CAG’s official twitter account that will tweet out some deals that don’t even get posted to the forum.

@CAGNewDeals: An actual bot that will tweet links to new CAG threads as they’re posted.

Be careful with your money

My last piece of advice is to be heady and not recklessly spend money on games just because you can get good deals on them. Honestly, this is advice that I need to do a better job of following myself. The goal is save money on games, but it can be far too easy to waste it by buying for the sake of buying.

Other than that, just have fun and enjoy the hunt. Buying a game you really want to play at a great price of securing a physical copy of a game that all your friends had to resort to downloading can be a very rewarding experience. Just don’t be like me and have to put up a new shelf every couple of months.

Thoughts on Danganronpa pt. 5: Reviving Harmony

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Pt. 1: Trigger Happy Havoc

Pt. 2: Goodbye Despair

Pt. 3: Ultra Despair Girls

Pt. 4: The End of Hope’s Peak High School

 

Danganronpa is a franchise in an awkward position right now. Despite the criticism I’ve given it as its grown or even the negative sentiments longtime fans have expressed on social media and message boards, the series is still arguably in its strongest position ever. It cannot be understated how important it is that as of next year, the entire series will be available on PlayStation 4.

The video game industry is all about sales and popularity. Danganronpa transitioning from just being on Vita outside of Japan to being on PC and now the best selling console in the world is a major development. It opens up the series to a much larger audience. The series being viable in other media – such as anime- has also undoubtedly added to its popularity.

In other words, the assertion that Danganronpa is currently in a negative state is only referring to how myself and others subjectively feel about the content itself. The critical reception of the series has never been lower than it is right now, but the series’ viability – its ability to make money for Spike Chunsoft – has never been higher.

With all that said, despite the struggles of the last couple of entries, I will likely be a day-one adopter of the Vita version of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony when it comes to the west. Truth be told, a soft reset of the series is the best thing that could happen to Danganronpa.

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Danganronpa‘s weakness since the first game has been trying to expound upon the strange world and backstory that the series is based around. However, the core mechanics of the two full-length games were solid. Kazutaka Kodaka and his Spike Chunsoft team have demonstrated that under the format that Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair were made in, they can make engaging games with fun characters, intriguing mysteries, and… passable… mini games.

So, as bad as DR3 was to some, I don’t understand abandoning V3 over it. Danganronpa has yet to fail in delivering a good full-length game and V3 seems to be completely disconnected from the mess the previous story had become. If anything, I find the decision to go in a completely new direction to be reassuring.

There’s also the matter of production value that can be expected in V3 versus the first two games. I touched on this in the Ultra Despair Girls post. The production value in that game versus the originals was night and day. The user-interface and inclusion of fully animated scenes really brought UDG to life in ways the first two games hadn’t been, despite its obvious shortcomings.

V3 coming out two years after UDG, on the heels of DR3 which had excellent production itself, and also being co-developed for PS4 leads me to expect the best production value the series has had thus far. Granted, in what limited gameplay I’ve seen in trailers, I still think the game is designed for the Vita first with the PS4 version existing because it makes the game available to a much larger audience. In other words, expect the PS4 version to just look like a highly polished handheld game, similar to Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth after it was ported.

Still, that doesn’t change the fact that it should be the most well put together game the series has had so far. Hopefully it will also follow UDG‘s lead of having some fully animated scenes as well. If Kodaka can recapture the creativity of the first two games for this new installment, then V3 should fair just fine and be a refreshing return to form for the series after UDG and DR3 had muddied its perception among many.

In conclusion, my experiment with Danganronpa this fall was a success. I hit all the high notes and despite the shakiness of the recent adaptations, I’m still committed to playing the third full installment. Hopefully the release of Danganronpa 1-2 Reload and then Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony in 2017 will revitalize the series’ perception among the masses. By the end of next year, I think the video game world will be just a little bit better if the narrative around Danganronpa is that it’s still in its prime, rather than looking back at its golden days.

Thoughts on Danganronpa pt. 4: The End of Hope’s Peak High School

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The following is the fourth part of a blog series going over the entirety of Danganronpa and how I came to experience it this fall.

Pt. 1: Trigger Happy Havoc

Pt. 2: Goodbye Despair

Pt. 3: Ultra Despair Girls

Just as with the first three parts, this post is really meant to be a reaction for those who’ve already watched Danganronpa 3. There will be a fair amount of spoilers.

As I wrote in part one, I haven’t read any manga or novelizations, so any crossover DR3 has with Danganronpa/Zero is unbeknownst to me.

Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School

The decision to conclude the stories of the original two Danganronpa titles with an anime rather than a game was an interesting one with its own strength and weaknesses. On the positive, it has allowed Kazutaka Kodaka and Spike Chunsoft to go in an entirely new direction with Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony while still making a sequel for fans of the first two games. There’s also something to be said of Spike Chunsoft delivering new Danganronpa content to fans in back-to-back years, which must have been welcome to Japanese fans who had been waiting since 2012 for a continuation of the story.

On the other hand, having to devote to two (arguably three) different projects at once may have caused the anime to not be as good as it could have been. It remains to be seen how V3 will fair, but DR3 has been met with staunch criticism and with good reason.

Side: Despair

After watching Danganronpa 3, my most prevailing feeling was that the entirety of the project would have been better devoted to making the Despair arc a full-length anime. Danganronpa desperately needed some sort of official, accessible prequel story in game or anime form, and Despair arc was just good enough to pass for it.

However, the weakness here comes at the hands of how DR3 is meant to be viewed. Because the two arcs lean on one another and aired alongside each other every week, the viewer is meant to alternate between episodes of the two arcs. Simply put, Despair arc gets bogged down having to set up things and backstories for characters in Future.

Still, that doesn’t prevent Despair from focusing on the cast from DR2. After playing that game and not liking the characters as much as the DR1 cast, Despair arc did improve my overall feelings towards Class 77-B. Seeing them become one big happy, trope-filled family (before falling to despair) made them more enjoyable than the aggravating mess half of them are in Goodbye Despair.

The Despair arc also did an excellent job highlighting DR2‘s most important characters: the protagonist Hajime Hinata and Chiaki Nanami. Hajime in particular desperately needed a fleshed out backstory after the revelation that he had become Izuru Kamakura and played a role in The Tragedy.

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I found that DR3 did a satisfactory job of showing the struggle Hajime went through and why he agreed to become Hope’s Peak’s guinea pig. Using the Twilight Syndrome murder case alluded to in DR2 as a way to illustrate Hope’s Peak’s willingness to put skeletons in its closet and drive home Hajime’s inferiority complex was an excellent writing decision.

Despair arc did a great job of explaining the toxic culture Hope’s Peak had in its final years. Since the first game, it’s always been baffling how one high school could be at the epicenter of the most tragic even in human history. While its still fanatical and absurd, DR3 at least did a good job of showing how all the dominoes were set up and what caused them to fall.

Seeing Chiaki – the real Chiaki – shown as such an integral part of the story really legitimized her importance in DR2 for me. Portraying her as the heart of Class 77-B made sense of why she’s in the Neo World Program and why she’s written to be so likable and influential in the trials.

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Of course, there’s also the fact that Chiaki’s death had to be written into the story as well because, quite honestly, having Chiaki still alive in the present day would have trivialized having an AI designed off of her. DR3 gets deserved flack for being heavy-handed when it comes to death scenes, but I don’t think that applies to Chiaki.

Of all the deaths that happen over the two arcs, Chiaki’s is the only one that mattered and was justified. I believe I asked in part 2 how it was Junko Enoshima turned Class 77-B towards despair. Now we know that Chiaki’s death was the driving force coupled with some clever presentation.

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There are flaws which, again, come from the existence of Future arc. The fact that Junko’s entire plan hinged on getting away with the first killing game tragedy at Hope’s Peak by knowing Juzo Sakakura’s dark secret was too ridiculous. Stop and think that sixteen kids died in vain and then the most tragic even in human history followed all because one guy was hellbent on staying in the closet and not admitting that he had the hots for his best bro. Really?

I’ve also seen fans debate whether Ryota Mitarai was a necessary character, as he’s pivotal in each arc. Personally, I was fine with Mitarai’s inclusion into the canon. In fact, given that nearly every character in the series is given some sort of ‘ultimate’ talent, it was logical that a newly written talent had played an importance not known about before DR3. It’s just efficient writing for the established rules and patterns for the story world.

Again, if there’s a significant weakness, it’s that Despair had to share the spotlight with Future and make compromises to accommodate it. If I had my way, rather than make Danganronpa 3, I’d have funded a 25-episode prequel anime that not only focused on the cast from Danganronpa 2 and Hope’s Peak’s dark past, but also would have given insight into the school lives of the Trigger Happy Havoc class before their memories were wiped. I would have also liked to have seen attention given to what Class 77-B did after graduating and the roughly year long time window between the The Tragedy first starting and when Junko and Mukuro put the ‘School Life of Mutual Killing’ plan into action.

Side: Future

The Future arc is what really kicked off the series and it certainly hits the ground running.

Set after the events of DR2, Future arc introduces a new killing game involving members of Future Foundation, including characters from DR1. What’s supposed to be the final battle between hope and despair quickly spirals into a writing train wreck and a pile of dead bodies of characters the audience had little reason to care about. But hey, at least Makoto and Kyoko were in it.

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With the exceptions of Makoto, Kyoko, and Aoi Asahina, every other character in the killing game is new and most get some sort of brief backstory in Despair arc. Yet between the two arcs, the only character who gets enough screen time to really make an impact and be fleshed out like you would expect a Danganronpa character to be is Kyosuke Munakata.

Despite all the heat I’m giving Future arc, I will say that Munakata is an appropriately written character. In DR2, there are hints at the end of the game that Future Foundation can be a merciless organization and that by trying to rehabilitate the Remnants of Despair, Makoto was actually taking a big risk. Munakata is the embodiment of that mercilessness and the representation of what ‘hope’ has to become in order to win a war against despair.

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To quote actor Tom Hiddleston,“Every villain is a hero in his own mind.” What makes Munakata work as an antagonist are his convictions and belief that his way of doing things is superior to Makoto’s. It’s a simple character arc, but effective.

Every other character new to DR3, with the exception of the oddly central Mitarai, is basically DOA. The viewer has no reason to be invested in the new characters to DR3, especially when they’re cast alongside stalwart characters from DR1 and DR2. Because the anime medium doesn’t allow for it, the viewer doesn’t get the same character development and intimacy with the new characters that they’re accustomed to from the games. So by comparison, all the new characters feel more shallow.

But bad character writing is just the beginning of Future arc’s problems. One episode goes so far as to completely de-legitimize Ultra Despair Girls in every possible way. I said every other character in the killing game was new, but I suppose a half-exception can be made for Monaca Towa who disguises herself as Miaya Gekkogahara.

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The lone episode that highlights UDG reveals that every member of the Warriors of Hope survived the events of the game. That alone is insulting to any viewer who played that game, as we are led to believe three of them died – especially Nagisa Shingetsu who was practically crushed to death in front of the player’s eyes. The episode literally ends with Monaca going to space and essentially being erased from the Danganronpa story universe, a la Poochie from The Simpsons.

Amazingly, it gets even worse. Future arc’s greatest sin is writing for the sake of shock value. One phrase I’ve seen used to describe the deaths in Future arc is ‘torture porn.’ Certainly, the ways and reasons these empty husk characters bite the big one feel more graphic yet somehow, less meaningful than the deaths we experienced in each of the games.

The goal of writing for shock is blatant and quite frankly, offensive. The DR3 team (and how much of it is written by Kodaka is argued) seemed to want to toy and manipulate the audience in a way characters have commonly been manipulated by Monokuma in the series. At the end of an early Future episode, we’re led to believe Asahina has been killed only for the next episode to begin revealing that it had been a prank using a fake knife and ketchup.

Then of course, there is the complete reversal of Kyoko’s death. Obviously, I may have a bias as I am on record of stating Kyoko is my favorite character, but because I watched these episodes months after they had already aired, I had already been spoiled (thanks, Twitter) on Kyoko’s death not being final.

Killing off popular characters for affect is an overused trope in modern media. However, if you’re going to do it, you need to commit to it. With multiple episodes still left, DR3 killed Kyoko only to bring her back to life in literally the final minute of the series in the laziest way possible. Putting aside my feelings for Kyoko as a character or even the faith in the series that the first two games built in me, this direction was still horribly offensive. It offended me as someone with an educational and professional background in media. Future arc could be used in textbooks on how not to properly write a story.

Episode: Hope

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My criticism of Danganronpa 3‘s finale is how nonsensical the plot turned out to be because it contradicts what we’re led to believe about the story world. At the end of DR2, a picture is painted of the world being in repair and the fallout of The Tragedy coming to an end. Coming into DR3, Junko Enoshima is dead, her AI has been deleted, and the Remnants of Despair captured and in remission.

The audience is led to believe that hope has nearly won – that is until the new killing game starts. The idea of someone aligned with despair making a last gasp and setting up the plot of Future arc is fine, until that person is revealed to be Kazuo Tengan. Granted, it’s suggested that somewhere along the line that Tengan had been exposed to the same despair inducing video that Chisa Yukizome had seen, but if that’s the case, his motivations make even less sense.

If he had been turned to despair as Yukizome had, he’d have been operating for the sake of despair. Rather, it seems upon learning of Mitarai’s talents, he decided to set up a scenario where the same technique could be used for hope. So the final killing game was put in place with the express purposes of Makoto dying, Mitarai surviving, and Mitarai being manipulated to act upon his talent to air a hope inducing video.

Which, again, makes no sense when you consider the state of the story world at the end of DR2. There should have been no need for Tengan to devise such a plan, as despair was practically defeated. The entire scheme reeks of desperation, which is the opposite of the state that Future Foundation and the side of hope should have been in.

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Conclusion

Fan fiction: It’s a phrase I’ve seen used multiple times to describe the writing of Danganronpa 3. That is a damning assessment to be given to a canonical piece of media by its own fans. However, it’s an assessment that DR3 has painfully earned.

Again, after watching this anime, my strongest takeaway was that Future never should have happened and a full fledged prequel akin to Despair should have been made instead. Future arc added literally nothing of value to Danganronpa. Stop and consider just how much has changed or what has been gained between the end of DR2 and the end of DR3. I will tell you.

With the inclusion of DR3, poorly established characters that the audience had little connection to are dead. The former Remnants of Despair are now confirmed to be alive and well. I’ve seen criticism that this direction had de-legitimized DR2‘s killing game, however, at the end of DR2 when it was revealed the survivors were staying on Jabberwock to help their fellow classmates who had died in the simulation, I had always assumed that they would find a way to pull through.

Finally, Makoto is revealed to be the principal of the newly rebuilt Hope’s Peak. This is a nice little conclusion to his story, but it isn’t far off from where things were left at the end of DR2 with Makoto, Kyoko, and Byakuya facing the future under a sunny, blue sky. Besides that, no major characters died and any significant world building that did occur was done in the Despair arc as backstory information; such as with Chiaki.

In my opinion, it’s justified to refer to DR3 as fan fiction. What does well-written fan fiction do? It adds some sort of basic entertainment to someone else’s intellectual property without overstepping its bounds by greatly altering the canon story. That’s essentially what DR3 did in Future arc and Hope arc.

The prospect of continuing the stories of DR1 and DR2 was exciting, but poorly executed. I don’t think those stories necessarily needed to end before the next full game, either. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony could have been made with new characters and plot, but with the workings of the established story world still taking place in the background.

If there’s a silver lining to DR3‘s failings, it’s that it was done as an anime and not a game. The story is still canon and still a bitter end to saga built over two full-length games, but at least the fans didn’t have to pay $40 to $60 and waste twenty-five hours to experience it. More importantly, there is still V3 to look forward to.

I have referred to Danganronpa as having a crumbling foundation. I called it a house of cards on the verge of falling over. By the end of DR3, those cards were scattered across the floor. The question now is, with V3 seemingly acting as a soft reset of the series, can Kodaka restart the process and begin building the house again?

Thoughts on Danganronpa pt. 3: Ultra Despair Girls

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The following is the third part of a blog series going over the entirety of Danganronpa and how I came to experience it this fall.

Pt. 1: Trigger Happy Havoc

Pt. 2: Goodbye Despair

Just as with the first two parts, this post is really meant to be a reaction for those who’ve already played Ultra Despair Girls. There will be a fair amount of spoilers.

Note: I only played through the base game and didn’t have the patience to explore anything unlocked after finishing the main story.

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

Unlike its predecessors, UDG is not a visual novel. It’s a combination third-person shooter and character action game starring Komaru Naegi – Makoto Naegi’s younger sister – and Toko Fukawa of Trigger Happy Havoc.

Set between the first two games, UDG takes place in Towa City, one of few places in the world that was unaffected by The Tragedy. The player follows the story of Komaru, who shortly after The Tragedy occurred was kidnapped and imprisoned in an apartment in Towa as leverage in DR1‘s ‘Killing School Life’ game.

In UDG, Towa City falls to an army of Monokumas as a group of children dubbed the Warriors of Hope takes over and kills off every adult in the city. Armed with Future Foundation tech, Komaru teams with Toko in the goals of stopping the children, saving the captured Byakuya Togami, and escaping the city.

Characters

If UDG has a great strength, it’s the character development and relationship between Komaru and Toko. I found the perfectly average Komaru extremely likable and easy to root for and Toko transitioned from being an entertaining character in DR1 to an endearing one in UDG.

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Sadly, other characters were sorely lacking. The children characters were a mixed bag of intriguing and grating. Jataro Kemuri in particular was insufferably boring without any redeeming qualities to his chapter. His bio says he likes being hated so I suppose he got what he wanted.

Other characters weren’t given enough screen time to truly make an impact, including a couple who were killed off almost instantly. The only exception being Haiji Towa whose air of arrogance and stubbornness made him off-putting long before he went off the deep end.

Themes

Rather than offer up a new mystery or case to solve with each chapter, UDG gives a specific theme to each Warrior of Hope. Each theme is derived from the abuse they suffered in the past which spurned them towards despair and killing the adults.

Jataro and Masaru Daimon’s chapters were underwhelming, but the game’s writing begins to open up at chapter 3. For better or worse, this begins with focusing on the themes of Kotoko Utsugi’s past.

It takes a lot to make me uncomfortable with what I’m playing. UDG achieves that by highlighting the sexual abuse Kotoko went through and how it’s projected on Komaru when Kotoko captures her.

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It’s difficult to gauge whether or not UDG‘s themes are tactless or daring. On one hand, I think not shying away from the fact that sexual abuse is one of many ways children can be mistreated by adults was a wise decision. But using that theme as an opportunity to pack more tasteless fan service into the game was not welcome.

In many ways, I think Ultra Despair Girls can be argued as both the darkest and most ridiculous title in the series. Underneath its many layers of crude humor and fan service is also the most graphic violence the series has had as well as dark tones such as child abuse. To a certain extent, the game perfectly lives up to the series’ reputation of being horrifically absurd.

Gameplay

Gameplay is UDG‘s Achilles’ heel. The fact that Spike Chunsoft is not known for these types of games and that Danganropa is truly a visual novel series is made evident.

As far as third-person shooters go, UDG is bad and the character action portion experienced by playing as Toko’s alter ego, Genocide Jack (Syo in Japan), are average at best. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that the game is built for the Vita and I wasn’t expecting stellar action gameplay out of a handheld game anyway. However, with the recent news that the game is being ported to PS4 and PC next year, I fear the new version will be hammered by negative user reviews because the gameplay simply doesn’t live up to the standards of what people expect on proper home consoles.

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There are also small puzzle sections that really don’t do much to challenge anyone with the slightest experience with games. There are even arrows in the levels that point the player where to go despite the levels themselves being fairly linear. Much of UDG‘s design seems to be compromised on the premise that there may be Danganronpa fans playing it without much experience in games outside of visual novels.

Nowhere is this truer than the design of the boss fights. To be frank, they are laughably easy at times and only the final boss presented any semblance of a challenge. Again, I understand the game is designed with a visual novel audience in mind, but I was hoping the boss fights to more of a fight.

Story

UDG‘s story is not great, to say the least. From beginning to end, things feel just as linear just as the levels themselves. The events and outcome are extremely predictable, thanks in large part due to the game being set before the events of Danganronpa 2.

Again, the one thing the story events excel at are progressing the character arcs of Komaru and Toko. Beyond that, the core game’s story lacks a lot of imagination. A threat arises, enemies are defeated, and ultimately, the heroines win. In every respect, someone could go through the series without paying Ultra Despair Girls any mind – or at least that was the case until the small tie-in with the Danganronpa 3 anime.

For fans of the series, the ending does provide a small nod to what leads into DR2‘s backstory, but honestly, I didn’t find it to be enough. All along I’ve had questions of just how the Remnants of Despair are captured and put into the Neo World Program and that’s never really been addressed in the games themselves. UDG could have touched on that with a couple of characters, but chose not to.

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Conclusion

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is what it is: a spin-off game. Its story is non-essential to the Danganronpa universe. To sell the game and its potentially unfamiliar play style to fans, UDG resorts to some cheap humor, fan service, and simplified game design.

If there are positives here, they are the character development of the heroines as well as the game’s overall production level. Moving up from the original two games, which were designed for PSP, to UDG for the Vita was a noticeable jump. The amount of animated scenes and overall design of the user-interface made me excited to see what Spike Chunsoft has in store for Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.

Still, UDG added to the stress fractures in Danganronpa‘s foundation that I wrote about in the last piece. By the time this game was released, there should have been unquestionable signs of weakness to the series. Signs that would hopefully be addressed and fixed with the next major project: Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School.

Thoughts on Danganronpa pt. 2: Goodbye Despair

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The following is the second part of a blog series going over the entirety of Danganronpa and how I came to experience it this fall. You can read my thoughts on Trigger Happy Havoc right over here.

Just as with the first part, this post is really meant to be a reaction for those who’ve already played Danganronpa 2. There will be a fair amount of spoilers.

Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair

The differences between DR1 and DR2 are minimal when you consider how much things can and often do change when a new IP gets a sequel in the gaming world. Just like its predecessor, DR2 has sixteen students whose memories have been wiped, a mixture of free time and investigative time, and five regular trials leading up to the sixth and ultimate trial where everything is revealed.

What sets DR2 apart first and foremost is the setting. The original game had a claustrophobic atmosphere with it all being confined to the locked down Hope’s Peak High School. DR2 has the wide open, tropical setting of Jabberwock Island.

DR2 also has some improved functions, such as the MonoMono machine being less tedious and it being easier to track your progress in completing the other students’ report cards in your free time. There’s also the added little time killers such as the digital pet and Monomi versus Monobeasts game if that interests you.

I also rather like the side scrolling feature of getting from one place to another. It doesn’t make a huge difference, as both games have fast travel through the menu systems when it comes to returning to places you’ve already been, but for exploring a new area, I really prefer the 2D style versus walking down Hope’s Peak’s 3D corridors.

Characters

Whereas I thought characters were DR1‘s greatest strength, I find them to be DR2‘s one true weakness. This is because, unlike the original game, I found myself actively disliking multiple cast members in Goodbye Despair and hoping for their deaths so that I wouldn’t have to listen to them anymore.

Sadly, many of those characters were girls. I could not stand Hiyoko Saionji, Mikan Tsumiki, or Mahiru Koizumi. I also was not a fan of Akane Owari, Teruteru Hanamura, or Kazuichi Soda. All of these characters lacked the charm that could have reeled in their negative aspects, unlike the characters from the original game. If the characters did have such redeeming qualities, then they were buried in their optional events which in itself would be a problem. I never had to spend free time with characters in the original game to find something I liked about all of them.

This isn’t to say there aren’t characters I did like. Despite how much he turned me off when I first met him, Gundham Tanaka grew to be my favorite character in the game.

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I also quite enjoyed Sonia Nevermind (and the growing dynamic between her and Gundham), Ibuki Mioda, Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu, and yes, even Nagito Komaeda.

Chiaki Nanami on the other hand was my most difficult character to parse. I liked Chiaki, but was well aware of the fact that I was supposed to due to how heavy-handed her character design is. Just like DR1‘s Kyoko Kirigiri, she’s a female character that the hero confides in, becomes very influential during the Class Trial, and is critical to the story.

But unlike Kyoko, Chiaki never wavers between friendly and distant – between cold and comforting. The player’s faith in her is never tested, as there is no reason to ever doubt her, even after the point where her true nature is revealed.

More over, Chiaki is designed to be cute, meek, well endowed, and given the talent of Ultimate Gamer. Every little thing about her begs the average Danganronpa player to like her and it’s no surprise that the PlayStation Trophy for completing her report card is the highest earned among all the report card trophies.

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It’s all a bit too overt for my tastes. What interaction I’ve had with Danganronpa fans where I suggest even a little that Chiaki is overrated has been met with harsh resistance. Kazutaka Kodaka desperately wanted you to like this character and people unwilling to listen to any criticism about her design bought into that hard sell exactly as intended.

Mysteries

DR2‘s mysteries blow the original game’s out of the water and it isn’t even close. In the first game, I was able to piece together nearly every case before heading into trial but it was the exact opposite with the sequel. After the first case, I had no idea who the blackened was each time the trials were beginning.

This is no small part due to DR2‘s setting. Because the environments were so much more imaginative, it allowed for cases with more variables. The fourth case in particular – at Grape House and Strawberry House – had so many moving parts (literally) that even when it came time to select the blackened, I still couldn’t piece it all together.

Then there was the fifth case involving Nagito’s dastardly plot to flush out the Future Foundation mole. Of all ten primary cases between the two games, this one is by far my favorite. It’s like an onion with layer after layer of thought and reasoning put into it. Even when it’s over and done with, there’s still the final revelation that Nagito failed and wanted the mole to survive the trial.

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Gameplay

Like I wrote in my thoughts about DR1, I found the changes made to the trial mini games of DR2 to overall be a step backwards. The high points of Nonstop Debate and the Closing Argument are still there, but everything in between was made more arduous. Particularly, the change to Hangman’s Gambit is terrible and made even worse by the fact that the game has the gall to call it “improved” when introducing it in the tutorial.

I’m also one of the players that fell on the negative side of the fence when it came to the addition of Rebuttal Showdown. It was an excellent idea in theory but it fell flat in practice. Every time it happened I found myself just mashing through the other person’s dialogue (which obviously causes audio to be skipped) and then easily cutting through the right statement.

The idea that other characters can step in and challenge you, similar to how you call out their statements in Nonstop Debate, is an excellent idea. When Nagito stepped in and said “No, that’s wrong!” in the first trial, I have to admit I got pretty hyped. But the execution of the mini game itself is sorely lacking. Hopefully DRV3 comes up with something better.

Story

Goodbye Despair ends up repeating a lot of the ideas and themes of the first game, and even admits as much by spelling out the parallels between the “Killing School Life” and “Killing School Trip” in chapter 4. Unfortunately, this does mean that it lacks some of the charm the original game had.

I also think it’s important to note that unlike the first game, the player is more in-tune with what’s happening outside of the killing game itself than the characters are. As the player, you should be well aware that there is no refuge beyond the shores of Jabberwock Island, virtual or not. That knowledge takes away some of the mystique of the story because it should be obvious that characters are not going to find a happy ending.

DR2 instead relies more on enticing the player with the mystery of the island’s nature and what Future Foundation is. It really feels like you’re supposed to go through the game continuously wondering how everything will tie in to the original game and just how much time has passed. This direction, as well as the key players from the first game all returning in the sixth and final trial stunts DR2‘s story, in my opinion.

I also felt that the game taking place inside of a virtual reality is even more of a cliché than the trope of the characters suffering from amnesia. The possibility of the killing all being simulated was something that had crossed my mind in the very first game when the photos of dead characters living happily had appeared.

Perhaps Kodaka knew that had been a suspicion among players and intentionally decided to act on it DR2. Even if that’s the case, it doesn’t change how empty I felt to see it confirmed. When it became abundantly clear that the game was a virtual reality, all I could think was, “Of course it is.”

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The lone shining spot in all this is the reveal of the characters being the Remnants of Despair and Hajime Hinata as Izuru Kamukura. These revelations only continued to fuel the intrigue I had over the events that had happened in the story world prior to ‘The Tragedy’ occurring and the cast of DR1 locking themselves inside of Hope’s Peak.

But I also think that’s part of what makes DR2‘s overall story design a bit frustrating for me. The core game, from chapters 1 through 5, felt like a repeat of the first game but with characters that were more hit and miss. Then after chapter 6 dumps all the crazy plot and world building on you, you end up with even more questions.

How did Junko turn the DR2 cast towards despair? What were they like afterwards? How did Makoto end up capturing them and getting them into the Neo World Program? Just who is Future Foundation beyond Makoto, Kyoko, and Byakuya?

What started as a simple concept of imprisonment and forced killing had grown into an absurdly complex world by the end of just two games. The who’s, what’s, why’s and how’s of the Danganronpa universe are utterly ridiculous and it really feels like a house of cards that Kodaka just kept building and building upon. Unfortunately, all house of cards fall over eventually.

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Conclusion

Like its predecessor, Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is a good game and very good visual novel. Its strengths are its mysteries and overall functional improvements to how the player moves around and interacts with things in the game world.

However, successes are offset by failure and missed opportunity in other areas. Trigger Happy Havoc‘s biggest weakness was the gameplay of the Class Trial mini games. There was so much room for improvement and yet somehow DR2 managed to make things worse by adding half-baked ideas and actively making Hangman’s Gambit worse than it already was.

On top of this, the cast of characters was very hit and miss. Some were fantastic to get to know and interact with; even more than the average character from the first game. However, the characters that weren’t enjoyable were far more grating than anyone from the first game ever was.

The inconsistency in character development is compounded by the continued absurdity that Kodaka added to the story world in the final chapter. After about 40 hours of gameplay between the two games, the final hour of DR2 begins to show the signs of stress to the story world’s creaking, crumbling foundation. In Danganronpa‘s next two major entries, those cracks would only get wider until the house finally collapsed in.

Thoughts on Danganronpa pt. 1: Trigger Happy Havoc

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If you follow me on Twitter you may know that in early October I took up the challenge to play through Spike Chunsoft’s popular visual novel series, Danganronpa.

What started as an agreement to play through just the Vita versions of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair grew into watching the Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School anime and playing through the spin-off title Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls as well. For posterity I also watched the original animated series adapted from the first game titled Danganronpa: The Animation. I did not however read any of the manga adaptations or novel stories, so please excuse my ignorance on those.

For longtime fans of the series that are curious to my thoughts now that I’ve seen all the high points that it has to offer through 2016, I’ve decided to compile everything into a series of blog posts starting with the first game. This really is a reaction for those already familiar with Danganronpa which means there will be spoilers.

If you’re like I was a few months ago and still deciding whether or not to give the series a try, I suggest you look for more professional reviews of the very first game at least. The series has its strengths and weaknesses and I would not say that it’s for everyone. By all means, do your due diligence and make an educated decision on whether to try it.

Also remember that for those with curiosity in the titles and no Vita or dedicated PC to play them on, the first two games will be coming to PlayStation 4 in early 2017 as Danganronpa 1-2 Reload.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc

I should start off by saying that of all things in the series, the very first game is my favorite. The sense I’ve gotten from fans is that the second title is actually the more popular of the two, but after careful consideration, I must say that I prefer DR1.

Going into the very first game, I was sure to remind myself of two important things:

  1. These games were originally designed for the PlayStation Portable
  2. They’re just visual novels

Once you understand these, it’s easy to get past the very basic, 2D art style that the game has. In some ways, Danganronpa‘s basic visual presentation is both its greatest weakness and most charming detail. Undoubtedly, there will be players that can’t get past the design and choose to play other games from other genres. In my opinion, this is why you see DR1 score lower user reviews than DR2 on sites such as Amazon. DR1 gets negative response from people that couldn’t get into it whereas DR2 is primarily played and reviewed by people that already enjoyed DR1.

Characters

Of everything in the series, DR1 definitely has my favorite cast of characters. When you’re first introduced to the other fourteen students at the beginning of the game, it can be overwhelming. I remember thinking “How am I going to remember all of these people’s names and what their talents are?” Yet the story and script is written in such a way that remembering everyone’s names isn’t even a challenge and you find yourself liking each and every single one of them despite their personal flaws.

I can safely say that I did not dislike a single character in the first game. Not even one despite the despicable things that they can be driven to do. Even the characters that are intentionally rough around the edges and unwelcoming (such as Byakuya Togami and Toko Fukawa) all have their redeeming qualities and entertainment values.

Particularly, I found myself drawn to Kyoko Kirigiri (which some people may be painfully aware of). Without a doubt she is my favorite character in the entire series. The fact that the game’s most crucial moment tests your faith in her made me feel like I was firmly in writer Kazutaka Kodaka’s target demographic and was getting the exact experience he had intended for the player.

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What’s so brilliant about that moment is the fact that through much of the game, Kyoko walks a fine line between being too distant and yet the most trustworthy character towards the protagonist Makoto Naegi. Her hyperactivity during the first several Class Trials make it clear that she’s integral to the plot of the game. When it comes time for Makoto to make a tough choice, the game is really testing the player’s ability to judge characters by asking them to go against what they’ve been taught to do all game: call out lies and contradictions during the trial.

Overall, the cast is fantastic. The characters give the player the perfect combination of friendship, animosity, humor, and charm. No character crosses the line into being completely bothersome and yet, until the final chapter, no character is unassailable.

Mysteries

If DR1 has a weakness, it’s how predictable the cases are. With the exception of the second case involving Chihiro Fujisaki, I was able to more or less piece together every case before entering the Class Trials. And really, that exception was only born out of Byakuya’s interfering causing a major misdirection.

There’s also the tough reality that the Danganronpa fan base is very bad at not spoiling these stories. Chihiro being biologically male is given away every single day by the fans whose erm… tastes… swing in that direction.

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Junko Enoshima’s sheer popularity makes her the most iconic character in the franchise outside of Monokuma, which is really also her anyway. When Junko – or rather, Mukuro Ikusaba – died in the first chapter of the game, it immediately raised red flags.

Granted, I was still unsure whether everything in the game was real; whether the deaths were truly final. Still, that suspicion made piecing together the game’s final two chapter much easier and I imagine any other players new to the series (which there will be many once they come to PS4) will have similar experiences.

Gameplay

I think DR1 has the best overall gameplay in the series. Because these are primarily visual novels with anime, manga, and novel adaptations, the gameplay is limited to just minigames that occur during the Class Trial. Until Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony launches in 2017, the only direct comparison that can be made is between DR1 and DR2, since Ultra Despair Girls is combination third-person shooter action game.

That means I find the minigames in the original game preferable to the ones in the sequel, though that has more to do with my displeasure with the additions in DR2 – an analysis for a later time. Rest assured, neither is anything to write home about. Danganronpa isn’t making fans because people really love something like Hangman’s Gambit. Outside of the series’ signature minigame, Nonstop Debate, they’re all pretty arduous and a means to an end. I also wouldn’t include the Closing Argument in this group, as its highly stylized manga format in combination with “Climax Return” make it the best presentation in the game.

Story

Despite the popularity of the series, the comprehensive story of the franchise was something unclear to me going in. When it was revealed that the students had lost two years of their lives to amnesia and the outside world they’re yearning for had been ravaged, it all came off as a combination of cliché yet absurd. DR2 acknowledges as much.

Still, the premise is nothing to scoff at. Once the player is able to suspend their disbelief and accept the premise of hope versus despair, the highly fanatical story world begins to satisfyingly flesh out beyond the first game.

The first game in particular has the advantage of being the most original with its concepts. DR2 revisits some of those concepts and does handle some of them better, but they’re revisits nonetheless. The originality of the first game and its uniqueness are undeniable.

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Conclusion

I find the original game to be the purest experience in the series. While not perfect, it lacks some of the flaws I find with the sequels and features the most likable cast in my eyes. The cases aren’t very hard to solve, but unlike its successor, DR1 has the advantage of the player still not knowing the truth about the world beyond Hope’s Peak’s walls which means they’re just as much in the dark as the characters are. The same isn’t true of the sequel.

Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc succeeds in what many visual novel games fail to do: Actually feel like a game. The world is full of Japanese or Japanese-inspired visual novels that are nothing but straight forward narratives with nothing but exposition and little to no character development. To be quite honest, I resent the genre for its lack of creativity. DR1 is a happy exception.

The game does an excellent job of actually demanding the player to use their logic and reasoning in trials while continuing to keep them guessing towards the end game and ultimate reveal all the way through. Combine this with likable characters, good art, good music, and tons of personality and what you have is a visual novel that is truly a great ‘game.’

Follow-up: P5 Q&A and Other Musings

Following the release of my long touted final Persona 5 analysis and predictions, I fielded questions on Twitter. Before we get to answering these, I first want to go over some additional things I’ve reviewed in P5‘s pre-release information that I couldn’t properly write about in the full-length piece.

THE SHIP LOCATION

In multiple videos, we’ve seen shots of an explosion occurring somewhere. My best guess is that this is happening on some sort of large ship.

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You can see what looks like an engine room. The second shot is at a dutch angle as people have trouble keeping their balance. It looks like a ship on water to me. Director Katsura Hashino mentioned there maybe being a luxury cruise ship in a recent interview. In the video of Persona summonings that Atlus posted a little while ago, one of the battles seems to be occurring at a location that fits this setting.

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In this battle behind the UI of Morgana’s navigation is a swinging chandelier. That simply does not match the battle footage of any of the well known Palaces. Furthermore, it should be taken into consideration that Morgana is the navi for this time period. That places this Palace prior to Futaba joining the team but after Makoto has.

There’s also shots of Ryuji in PV#03 and his commercial in what looks like the same explosion.

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There’s also a little bit of blood in this shot

My best guess is that whatever happens with this Palace, it must be very important to growing the Phantom Thieves of Hearts’ public notoriety. Certainly a massive explosion on a luxury liner is going to cause some headlines.

But what’s strange is that we know that the bank Palace – Makoto’s first – is the very beginning of July and the pyramid Palace (where Futaba awakens) is at the beginning of August. That’s a really small window of time to fit in an important event like this. Compared to the other Palaces from April-September, Atlus has been very reluctant to show anything pertaining to this location. There must be a good reason why.

WHO IS THIS GUY AND HOW DOES MAKOTO KNOW HIM?

Here’s a curiosity I chose to leave out of the piece. In Makoto’s commercial, we see her speaking with this man.

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There are a few things here to keep in mind. First, remember what his computer screen looks like.

Next you should note the time frame of this shot. Makoto is introduced in the summer, but here she’s wearing her winter uniform. This is from the second half of the game. The time of day also suggests that it may be part of the big animated scene (believed to be after the MC’s arrest) I went over in the piece that has Haru and Futaba looking at birds and Yusuke painting one.

Next up is just how suspicious this guy is. Compare his computer screen to a few of the screens in this shot from the prologue.

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The screen in the dead center in front of the standing man with his hand on the desk is identical to the screen in the scene with Makoto. Now, granted, P5‘s animation creators – Production I.G. – are not inhuman. It could just be that they reused the same concept for generic, ‘tech mumbo-jumbo’ screens in these shots. However, the man Makoto is with does have a resemblance to the man that’s on the phone in the prologue.

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Is it the same person? I can’t say for sure. I also don’t know what it means even if it is. We know Makoto has a relation to Sae Niijima in some way and Sae is a public prosecutor. Could this man be another family member in the criminal justice system?

It’s also hard to say who these people work for. They’re set off in their own room in the casino, so the most obvious answer would be that they’re security. But we don’t even know if the casino is a real world location or a place that’s been warped into a Palace that’s part of the real world. For all we know, the casino could even be a police headquarters.

IMPORTING

I never imagined when I made a video about importing P5 that it would turn out to be such a touchy subject. There are a few things I left out of that video as I didn’t want to bog it down and make it longer than it already is. Instead, I’ll throw it in here.

On the subject of whether or not playing the JP game is in any way hindering or tarnishing my first experience of P5, I say that it’s all a matter of perspective. I choose to stay optimistic about it. The way I see it, I’m essentially going to get the experience of playing Persona 5 for the very first time twice.

Yes, that doesn’t entirely make sense. You cannot feasibly do something for the first time again. Just ask Catherine‘s Toby.

What I mean is, the two experiences are going to be so vastly different than one another that I may as well be playing an entirely new game come February. This fall I get to experience the joy of becoming familiar with P5’s art direction, music, dungeon gameplay, battle system, and core plot. In February I’ll take that a step further and get to more intimately know the characters, a completely new voice cast, the day-to-day calendar, and the best way to master the game. I will also get to talk about it with a whole new group of people. I’ll be just as excited to play Atlus USA’s game then as I am to play the JP game right now.

Also please do not spoil the game, importers.

ATLUS SHUTTING DOWN STREAMING AND YOUTUBE UPLOADS

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This news came down the pipe last Friday. P5 will not support the PS4’s built-in share feature, so if you want to capture footage from the game, you’re going to need your own dedicated capture card. Even if you have one, Atlus is warning you to not use it. There are already reports of P5 videos being hit with strikes on YouTube before the game even releases.

None of this shocks me. This exact same thing was happening last year with Persona 4 Dancing All Night. The issue of Atlus Japan striking down tiny YouTube channels even made it all the way to Kotaku. As far as I know, this issue was eventually cleared up in time and there are plenty of videos of P4D on YouTube now.

On one hand, I think I understand why Atlus JP is doing what it’s doing. Being stringent about YouTube uploads doesn’t seem to have anything to do with them being overly greedy or protecting their copyrights aggressively, like what Nintendo does on YouTube. It seems to be more in line with trying to limit the extensive evidence of their game’s story details.

Atlus primarily sells games that are story based. Full video of these game’s stories hurts them. But I also think, given that they eventually eased up on their hunt against P4D videos (and I heard similar stories regarding Persona Q), that this has something to do with preventing spoilers as well. Though early P5 adopters may hate this policy Atlus has taken on, it is in fact helping those that are worried about being spoiled on the game before next February.

My advice to you if this concerns you is to first read the Kotaku piece I linked. Second, if you do plan to capture or stream the game in someway, please be careful and considerate. As far as I know, there’s nothing stopping people with capture cards from streaming on Twitch or other similar services. YouTube is a different animal. I may be uploading P5 footage to YouTube, but not for LP purposes and it would be unlisted and removed of any metadata that would connect it to P5. Still, if Atlus begins dumping hours worth of Persona 5 footage into the content ID system (which I actually doubt they take the time to do outside of animated scenes), you may still get busted even if you have nothing linking the video to P5.

Note: Atlus’ posted policy about videos from Monday stated pre-release uploads being prohibited. We’ll have to wait to see if they loosen up in the next week.

Q&A

This info comes from Famitsu #1443. The description of the Star Co-op mentioned gaining the ability to switch characters in battle. This was aside from the “Baton Touch” skill, which was also mentioned. No footage of this function exists yet, but it may be identical to what was in ♯FE.

In addition to negotiation, Personas are still acquired through fusion in the Velvet Room. A Twitter follower of mine who was fortunate enough to play the demo also told me that in battles, should you kill all but one Shadow within the first one or two turns, the final Shadow remaining will panic and surrender itself to you without negotiation. The player can choose to turn it into a Persona, get money or items from it, or decline and kill it.

The full-length Persona 5 soundtrack has still yet to be announced. I suspect we’ll see Atlus say something about that this week at the Tokyo Gaming Show. Its absence has actually been very confusing to me. Atlus was quick to publish the full soundtrack to Shin Megami Tensei IV: Final when that launched early this year in Japan. It could be that P5‘s track titles are considered to spoil the game itself or perhaps by having no separate OST for sale, Atlus is trying to incentivize people into purchasing the 20th Anniversary Edition that comes with one CD for P5.

As for that CD set specifically (which leaked on Monday), it comes with five discs – one for each Persona game. The final track on each disc is a remix of a song from that game, but with a P5 twist on it. P5‘s remix combines the game’s title theme, “Wake Up, Get Up, Get Out There,” with the title track “Persona” from the original game.

The P1 disc uses only tracks from the original PlayStation game. The P2 disc has tracks from both original versions of Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment (as such, it has the most tracks).

The P3 disc has tracks from all three iterations of P3 including four tracks only on the female side of Portable and three tracks only heard in The Answer.

The P4 disc likewise has the big P4 tracks in addition to tracks that were added in with Persona 4 Golden. It does not include any tracks from the spin-off games.

The P5 disc is relatively limited. It consists primarily of tracks that have already been heard in some form via Atlus’s pre-release footage. The notable tracks are “Phantom” (title screen), “Life Will Change” (PV#04/prologue), and “Last Surprise” (battle theme). Many tracks are also not regular in-game music, but short songs that accompany animated scenes; like for example, the song that plays when the hero is arrested. In my opinion, the P5 disc doesn’t have a single track that can’t be heard in the first 2-3 hours of the game.

Besides the hero (who I think will be the best Persona protagonist yet), my favorite characters are Anne and Goro. Anne is definitely the girl I’m looking to turn into my sweetheart, as I’m usually biased in favor of the Lovers arcana. I also like that she has a bit more edge to her than the other girls and seems to be more like P3‘s Yukari, but with a more likable personality. Plus she’s cute as hell.

Goro is the guy I look forward to spending the most time with. Ryuji and Yusuke each have their pluses, but I think haven’t shown enough character yet. Though I do know more about Ryuji from the demo notes and that information made me sympathize with him.

Goro on the other hand, he fascinates me because he’ll be spending the first half of the game as the hero’s rival. I don’t think the franchise has really had a character like him since maybe Jun Kuroso in Persona 2: Innocent Sin. I can’t wait to see how he changes as a detective once he puts on a mask of his own and joins the team. I’m really looking forward to doing his Co-op and seeing him go from the hero’s rival to one of his best friends.