When NIS America announced that they’d be bringing Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness to the West, it was a great day for fans of the series and fans of visual novels everywhere. The first season of Psycho-Pass is truly outstanding and a must watch anime and whilst I didn’t find the game to be quite as engrossing, I can say that fans will love it.
Mandatory Happiness is set during the first 8 episodes of the first anime season and it introduces several new characters who fit perfectly into the world that the anime set. You choose to play as Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi, a woman who cannot remember her past, or Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi who is looking for his missing loved one. Both characters feel natural to the Psycho-Pass world and go through brilliant character development and whilst you can play through as both characters to learn more about each character, both paths to intertwine quite heavily. A hacker known only as Alpha is trying to bring happiness to everybody but through illegal movement and so the government are trying to bring him to justice. It doesn’t help Alpha’s case that his idea of happiness is actually rather horrible.
The story can sometimes move along a bit slowly or read a tad dry, but overall NIS America’s translation team has done brilliantly in bringing 5pb.’s work to English, and it’s nice getting to see more of a cast of characters I really like. There are some great twists and turns and Mandatory Happiness is actually a good starting place for newcomers to the series, although I’d recommend watching the first season of the anime first to better know the cast.
Mandatory Happiness is a relatively short journey at around 6-8 hours per route but it invites you to replay it through as another character and make different choices to see how else the game could pan out, and it’s a worthy game that would make for 3-4 episodes worth of anime content alongside the phenomenal source material. Some endings aren’t very fulfilling or conclusive whilst other endings are better, so it’s up to you to play around and see what you get!
Being a visual novel, there isn’t much in the way of gameplay. There are choices to make in-game which affect your relationships with other characters and how events play out, again offering replayability. Other than that you’ll be reading plenty of text and just prompting the next bit of conversation unless you set the text progress to auto. You can save whenever you like which is handy and there’s a database to read up on terms you might be unfamiliar with. My biggest issue regarding gameplay is that there’s no cross-save between the PS4 and Vita versions, and it turned out to be a feature I sorely missed.
The anime’s art style has been perfectly re-created here with dynamic 2D portraits and CG images, and watching the UI from the Inspector’s or Enforcer’s eyes as they see how they should apprehend their target is exciting. The menus are easy to navigate and it goes without saying that it’s even easier to play, and I can’t fault it gameplay-wise – if anything, I’d be shocked if it somehow got being a visual novel wrong, especially with such a high profile series.
Psycho-Pass can be a pretty violent series but there isn’t much here that’ll make you shy away visually, although character expressions and the detailed text can unsettle you rather easily. It’s beautiful art isn’t lost on PS4 or Vita, with both versions showing sharp images and clear, easy to read text. The only thing worth noting is that on Vita, images and text would load a bit slower once a different character appeared on-screen and started talking but I wouldn’t let it have a huge impact on which version you decide to buy.
There’s no English dub, which is a bit of a shame considering how excellent the anime dub is, but overall most fans will expect this to be Japanese-only and with cast members reprising their roles, there’s really no room for complaint in regards to audio. It’s well-acted and perfectly blends in with the atmospheric soundtrack which matches the tone with the story and, as you’re likely to already know, the narrative and concept aren’t particularly happy ones. Mandatory Happiness doesn’t quite have the memorable tunes like the anime does with its opening and ending themes, but it does what it sets out to do extremely well and helps set the tone of the game perfectly.
If you’re a fan of the anime then Mandatory Happiness is a must-buy, especially if you want to see more of the cast and have another well-written story with twists and turns that’ll keep you guessing. The content can sometimes be quite vile and unsettling but overall this is how Psycho-Pass has always been, but it’s an engrossing world with a likeable cast that keeps me coming back and I don’t regret it. Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness’s Western release isn’t only a victory for Psycho-Pass fans but for visual novel fans too, and I hope it performs well enough for NIS America to justify bringing over more visual novels. If you’re a fan then you should definitely buy it and if you aren’t, then watch the anime on Crunchyroll or Netflix, or buy the physical Manga UK release, and then pick this game up. It performs well on both PS4 and Vita, so kick back with your platform of choice and enjoy the ride.
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