Monday, May 15, 2017

Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness (Vita)

Psycho-Pass:  Mandatory Happiness is a visual novel based upon the anime of the same name from 2012.  The game takes place within the anime's first 12 episodes, before Akane even meets Shogo Makishima.  The game features two new protagonists, Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi and Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi, thus, the story is told from two different viewpoints.  You select which one you want to follow from at the start of the game.  Mandatory Happiness assumes that you have already watched the anime and am familiar with all its concepts as it does not ease you in.  It dives straight into the thick of things, with references to the anime's key concepts although there is a glossary feature.  The key background of Psycho-Pass is that it is set in dystopian future Tokyo where technology scans people for their Psycho-Pass and in turn, their crime coefficient.  This allows the system to evaluate that person's tendencies and probabilities to cause crime in the future.

Stress and other negative thoughts will erode a person's Psycho-Pass and make them more susceptible to be picked up by the system.  Once detected, Inspectors and Enforcers are sent to either capture these people for rehabilitation or eliminate them if they have no hope of returning back to normal.  The difference between Inspectors and Enforcers is that the latter already has a tainted Psycho-Pass that is pretty much beyond all hope of return.  The story is solid and takes place mostly in one city, Sada Marine City.  It is not spectacularly amazing but it isn't boring either.  The team investigates various cases that seemed to be linked, with a mastermind behind the scenes fiddling around with people's Psycho-Passes.  Just like the anime, the plot serves to highlight the flaws of the Psycho-Pass system, managed by the Sibyl System and all the deception that goes into it such that society doesn't unravel itself.

The game showcases so many flaws to the Sibyl System that it makes the player surprised something like this was even implemented in the first place, or that it was accepted by the people.  The villain took a while to be set up but the most disappointing aspect is that after all the buildup, the resolution of the issue was quick.  Worse of all is how easily the villain themselves quickly calm down at the finale.  Mandatory Happiness is a pure visual novel through and through with heaps of text to read.  The story is told via character portraits and static backgrounds.  The game reuses music from the anime along with the same voice actors as the anime's cast.  The dialogue is in Japanese and really helps cement the fact that Mandatory Happiness is part of the Psycho-Pass universe.  The story is short, taking only around 4-5 hours to read.  What creates longevity is the multiple endings.  Choices during the story will influence subsequent events and endings.

Unfortunately, there are usually only minor variations in text in each route as the general flow of the story and events are the same.  You can text skip, either ones you've already read (but since text is similar but not exactly the same, the game will count some extremely familiar passages as unread and doesn't skip those) or "force skip", which skips all text until you stop it.  Any playthroughs after the first doesn't offer much more in terms of the other character's thoughts as you would have known all the plot twists.  There aren't enough unique scenes to make it worthwhile making the game much more of a chore to play, especially if you are aiming for all the endings.  The large majority of the game has extremely similar scenes, with only a scene in the middle being different as you may spend your free day with another character, and the ending.  This makes it feel as if the game is dragging out a short story and you are replaying the same thing time after time for the sake of a few ending scenes which aren't that satisfying anyway.

While on the game, the game has a good presentation, some of the quality of the artwork and character portraits is of a low resolution being the result of poor downscaling.  It isn't enough to ruin the game but it is noticeable.  There's not much in terms of extras but there is a tile swapping minigame (the "2048" game).  It can be fun but it forces you to grind and grind to unlock the pictures and sounds making it more frustrating.  The "story" levels that give you bonus points are heavily reliant on luck whereas if you play on free mode, it will take you hundreds of games to get enough points . It feels like pointless grinding if you are a completionist.  Overall, Psycho-Pass:  Mandatory Happiness is worthwhile for one or two playthroughs, especially for fans of the anime.  If you haven't seen it before, then it'll be extremely confusing.  The game can be tedious if you want to unlock everything but otherwise, it tells a solid story.


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