The first of these you encounter are Phoenix Wright-esque segments where you explore crime scenes in a first-person point of view. This perspective gives the game a bit of a claustrophobic feel, emphasizing the hopeless mood that permeates the academy walls as you gather important evidence and testimonies against a possible culprit in a murder case. Finding enough clues eventually leads to a Class Trial, a set of fast-paced mini-games that put your skills to the test.
Each mode of play in a Class Trial is a rapid-fire battle of wits as you point out relevant evidence to each character's testimony, "shoot down" letters to reveal clues, debate against other students in a rhythm game of sorts, and build comic strips depicting what you believe to have gone down in each case. Where the visual novel segments are at times too passive and overly wordy, Class Trials are an impeccable exercise in getting the blood flowing. They're as punchy as Danganronpa's neon-hued pop art, which is devilishly good at complementing the grisly deaths the students eventually succumb to.
Unfortunately, the anime-styled artwork doesn't look as attractive in-game as it does in cutscenes. The character models are 2D paper cut-outs akin to Parappa the Rapper, and this presentation removes a bit of the tension when you take a step back and see how ridiculous the models actually look. Luckily, the English voice acting is competent and matches beloved characters like Junko perfectly, slightly offsetting the bizarre artwork. If you prefer the original Japanese voice acting, though, you can select it as the default language, a welcome feature Otakus will be pleased to see.
Danganronpa is an accomplished amalgam of storytelling, character interaction, and deduction. It’s got an involving (if silly at times) plot to ensure you’re ensnared from the very beginning, several mini-games that make trials and evidence-gathering events worthwhile, and a macabre attitude that isn’t afraid to show its true colors. There’s a reason this niche Japanese favorite has had its praises sung several times over on forums like SomethingAwful and Let’s Play circles: it’s brilliant, and a franchise that we'd like to see more of. It is, what you might call, Super High School Level Fun--let’s just hope the same audiences who supported the Japanese release get behind this one too.