Danganronpa 1 - 2 Reload is bundle of two murder mystery visual novels. It contains two games previously released on the PlayStation Vita -- Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair.
You play as a high school student trapped in a school (Trigger Happy Havoc) or an island (Goodbye Despair) with over a dozen other students. In order to leave the situation, a student must kill another without being discovered during the class trial.
Pro Fascinating premise of pitting characters against each other to break them psychologically
The Danganronpa games have a wacky but intriguing setup: locking a dozen or so students in a school together, and forcing them to kill each other in order to be allowed to leave. The twist is that the murderer can only leave if they are not discovered during a class trial. It's really messed up to watch the lengths the school's "headmaster" goes to in their efforts to drive the students insane and force them to kill their friends. At the same time, you get to know a lot about these individuals in seeing just how far they go to scheme and murder each other, all while attempting to cover up their tracks so as to not get found out.
Pro Engaging murder investigations and class trials
Once a group of students discovers a dead body, the "headmaster" declares that it's time for the investigation period. This leads you to a series of events where you search around the crime scene and any other relevant locations in a point-and-click style to find clues about the murder.
After collecting all of the evidence, you then move to a courtroom where you have to sort through your classmates' lies and biases to solve the mystery. Every phrase your classmates say show up on the screen as text, and it's up to you to use your "truth bullets", meaning your clues from the investigation, to shoot down anyone's lies or falsehoods to move the trial forward. There are also a few other mini-games that help you figure out the facts, like a cool rhythm game where you have to shoot someone's lies on-screen in-time with the beat.
Your closing argument has you put together the missing pieces of a comic book that shows the whole murder and cover-up, from start to finish, using pieces of evidence you uncovered, letting you see everything that used to be unclear. You then get to watch as the murderer gets punished in a creative and twisted way.
Pro Diverse cast of crazy but entertaining characters
There's a great variety of characters here, each with their own quirks and specialties. Every student is a prodigy, or an Ultimate something, such as the Ultimate Programmer, the Ultimate Yakuza, the Ultimate Fashionista, the Ultimate Swordswoman, the Ultimate Affluent Prodigy, and plenty more. And the so-called headmaster is a talking stuffed bear named Monokuma who delights in driving the students crazy enough to murder each other.
You can get to know the students as your friends by hanging out with them on your free time and giving them gifts. A lot of them have over-the-top, outrageous personalities that make them fun to be around, and their banter during cutscenes can be pretty hilarious sometimes with the way they argue and snipe at each other. Their specialties tie into the murder mysteries in interesting ways as well, so it's worth it to keep track of what everyone's best at.
Pro Stylish visuals
Right from the title screen, all the artful details in the game really pop out at you. The colorful UI, the style of text during class trials, and the quirky but interesting character designs are all unique and pleasing to the eye. The cast all have such different hair and eye colors, helping you tell everyone apart and remember who they are. Everything looks amazing and quite impressive.
Pro Catchy music with an experimental sound
The soundtrack is addictive to listen to and doesn't get old. It's a good mix of different sounds, like pop, rock, trip-hop, and electronica, put together to make songs that don't really sound like any single genre. Even though it doesn't sound all that familiar, the tracks somehow manage to fit every single situation quite well. You won't hear anything like it outside of this game series.
Con Not for players who want more involved gameplay
Since these are visual novels, that means there's more reading than actual gameplay. There are some adventure aspects, like getting to roam around the school during free time and investigations. The bulk of the gameplay involves talking to characters, point-and-click investigations, and getting through the class trials. If you're looking for something with more complex controls, these might not be the games for you.
Con Danganronpa 2's story isn't as compelling as Trigger Happy Havoc's
Even though Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair's story is quite entertaining and intriguing, it's not as interesting as the first game. Most of this has to do with how the setups in both games are similar: a group of outlandish students playing a killing game in order to escape, which means you have a general idea of what to expect this time around. Both stories are still solid in their own right, though.
Con Danganronpa 2 spoils the first game right from the start
Be careful if you decide to play this game before Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, the first installment. There are spoilers right off the bat, mostly involving certain characters from the first game. This technically is a standalone game since you don't need to know any information from Trigger Happy Havoc, but just in case you end up liking the series, it helps to start fresh from the first entry.
Con The class trials tend to hold your hand to help you solve the murders
During the trials, there's one specific character who tries to steer your thinking in the right direction. There are plot-related reasons for why it is always this character, but their efforts tend to undermine whatever thinking you arrive to on your own. What's worse, the investigation period before the trials doesn't allow you to draw any definite, evidence-based conclusions about who the culprit(s) is/are on your own. This means that you have to rely on this particular character to guide you to the right answer during the trial itself.
Con Some of the characters' over-the-top personalities can get exhausting
While the cast of characters never seem to run out of energy, their non-stop bickering and strangeness can wear you down over the course of the game. Not everyone is a chatterbox, but the ones who are never seem to shut up, and can end up turning you off after a while. You may even find yourself feeling relieved once a particularly annoying character gets killed off.
Con Relies too much on red herrings for entertainment
The murder mysteries start to fall apart once you realize that there's always some red herring used to create more drama. Looking through the clues on your own, you can usually come to your own conclusion about the culprit based on a hunch, but the other characters take every chance to sway your thinking in certain directions. In the beginning, this is okay, but it can grate on you as this technique pop up again and again.