MDA & Kinds of Fun for Danganronpa (Ember Fu)

Danganronpa is a game loved for not just it’s unique story and zany artistic style, but also many iconic mechanics throughout the game. Of course, one of DG’s core aesthetics is Narrative, a game you play for the unraveling drama. However, in this quick analysis, I’d like to focus on the iconic “Class Trials” that conclude each story arc and present DG’s unique fun in Challenge – in fact, beyond the story these trials are wrapped in, they are very much played through like obstacle courses that the player must clear.

While there are far more mini-games involved, the trial is defined around a standard “discussion” stage and a set of broad mechanics that structure it. In one of these segments, the player watches as other characters discuss some aspect of the murder, with their statements appearing as floating text across the screen. This text appears in varying positions and sizes, and moves at varying speeds and orientations. The player also has a set of text-displayed “evidence” (i.e. the text “Knife”) that they can have loaded and switch between. They can maneuver a gun crosshair across the screen and press a button to shoot their statement at the point on the screen. If the correct evidence hits the correct part of the floating text, the segment is cleared. However, incorrect matches will penalize the player by decreasing the amount of “lives” they have left. Finally, reaching the end of the discussion scene play without attempting a correct/incorrect shot will lead to replaying the scene from the start until action is taken. However, there is a timer counting down throughout this segment, and if the player runs out of time, they will be penalized and have to try the segment again, having failed.

It’s also worth noting other additional and underlying mechanics for these segments. For instance, the game will sometimes introduce more rules on top of the base ones I’ve described, such as the appearance of extraneous floating text (identified by being a different color) that can prevent the player from shooting the correct text. This extraneous text can be clicked on with a separate button to remove them, which also adds time to the timer. Altogether, this gives rise to dynamics like time pressure, limited tries/allowed failures, and stress for accuracy. The player is constantly reminded of the persisting countdown timer and number of remaining lives. Despite the scene being replay-able multiple times, the penalty for the loss of time replays require means that the player cannot afford to miss or shoot inaccurately. For some, this means accuracy cannot be compromised even once if they want a perfect clear, and for less stringent players, it is still something they must manage to some degree in order to clear the segment.

These dynamics come together to create an enjoyable challenge, of having to accomplish the main goal (matching correct floating text with evidence) while overcoming other smaller obstacles (such as the extraneous text mechanic). Furthermore, players are challenged to do so within limited, decreasing time and very high accuracy. Clearing the segment and doing so optimally ends up being quite fun, bringing a sense of accomplishment gained from overcoming presented obstacles.

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