Anime adaptations into the realm of gaming is nothing new, with this happening quite often for the PS Vita in recent years. In many cases, they are some of the platforms strongest titles like Bandai-Namco’s Sword Art Online games being personal favorites of mine.
But NIS America is making an adaption of an anime into the realm of gaming with Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness, taking the popular Science Fiction X Mystery Police themes the anime presents but adapting them into a visual novel set in-between the anime’s first & second seasons.
We will be publishing a full review of the game later this week but I wanted to talk about my first impressions with the games first major case and how I played through it twice.
The game is set in a future where everything is at peace and there is no crime, but accomplishing this requires strict rules. In place in this future, is DNA testing where you can find out if you will become a criminal in the future and if you are ‘too far gone’ & have to be put down. This is decided by special guns that can either stun you or make you explode on-sight based on how they read your DNA.
With this in place, we have our main characters, who we can pick between male & female detectives. They just joined the force and your first case has you stopping an young man trying to have some fun times with a close female friend.
The rest of the game explores another plot where a rouge AI comes alive and is trying to make ‘everyone happy’, with the first case focusing on this characters efforts in assisting the young man to reunite with his female friend.
Before moving on to the core gameplay and design elements, I want to comment on if you need to watch the anime to fully enjoy this title. Its recommended you watch at least the first season of the anime, but I watched the full first season after playing the first five hours of the game. Meaning that I enjoyed my time with the game & understood the core elements of the games world before experiencing other media of this franchise. The game does a great job putting you in the Psycho Pass world with a glossary that explains many elements of the games world & the anime’s main characters play supporting roles to your main character(s).
Gameplay & Design
What makes this story unique, is that you determine how the case ends. I played through this case twice upon learning this (once as the male main character and again as the female main character) and they work alongside iconic characters from the anime to solve the games cases.
The game at its core is a visual novel, with everyone speaking in Japanese Voice Acting (with English Subtitles) and they establish the main characters you are trying to ‘capture’ or ‘put down’ in the case, the backstory of the case, & you trying to solve the crime by talking with your fellow detectives.
I really enjoyed these portions of the game as it felt I was right in the middle of a police investigation, having a voice in the middle of this operation. It was rewarding once the game let me make my own choices, as at specific points, you can make choices with where you go or how you speak to people.
This can help save the criminal or like my first run through the case, cause further issues for the investigation to the point where they were too far gone and had to be put down. I was so upset with how the case played out I started again as the male main character and made different choices. What impressed me, is how this opened up completely new conversation branches and a more positive outcome to the case.
Once I finished the case, our main foe learns of our main characters and comments on them based on the choices you made during the case. Overall, the core gameplay and design here is the traditional visual novel but with the Psycho Pass mechanic carried over from the anime (which decides if you ‘stun’ or ‘take out’ the criminal), it makes your choices have heavy impact and gives replay value for the games cases.
Psycho Pass has a futuristic presentation considering its setting and I love how the menus are set up. They look like you are looking through a special HUD or something, fitting in with the games setting quite well. You even see your characters ‘Hue’ (states the ‘mental state’ people are in) on the top-right of the screen when paused for example.
Another touch I personally enjoyed is that you can save at any point (helping you make different choices if you want to see all the outcomes to an case) and how the game has a database of all the terms/characters from the anime. You can read up on this as you play through the game, being very helpful to newcomers of the Psycho Pass franchise & explaining some of the terms the characters bring up.
The voice acting for the game is quite strong, with many of the voice actors from the JP Dub reprising there roles and matching each character you see. The localization of the game is also very well done, with characters being written to have a lot of personality & never felt boring to interact with.
Sound design of the game is solid, with the sound bites playing when you interact with menus being nice to listen too & the music matching the games mood.
Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness is a really well done visual novel that gives you a number of options for dialog choices & decisions for the cases you try and solve. Its a game that honors the IP its based on and uses it to create a very strong core gameplay mechanic.
We will be reviewing the game later this week and hope you look forward to it. This game is releasing for the PS Vita & PS4 platforms Tuesday September 13th.
This game was played on the PS Vita platform with a review copy provided by NIS America.