PSYCHO-PASS Mandatory Happiness PC Review – Guaranteed Happiness?
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, PS Vita
Developer: MAGES, 5pb
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 24th April 2017 (PC) / 16th September 2016 (Consoles)
Review Key provided by NIS America
PSYCHO-PASS is one of my favourite Animes of all time, showcasing a world solely based on one system, to determine the fate and future of every single human. It´s the brutality and cruelty this world presents itself, that always fascinated me. Now the first and only game about this series, PSYCHO-PASS Mandatory Happiness, finally came to PC, so let´s see if it can make long-time fans … happy.
Mandatory Happiness takes places somewhere at the beginning of the first season of the anime, putting us in the shoes of either the newcomer Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi or Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi. As members of Division 1 we investigate in a variety of cases, along with well known Anime characters like Kogami and Akane. However, it doesn´t take long till something far bigger gets revealed, connected to every case and event with only one goal: Happiness.
Since Mandatory Happiness is a Visual Novel its story, characters, atmosphere and presentation are the most important things, unfortunately it fails at one point. First of all, the story is just amazing because it doesn´t make the mistake at just retelling the anime copying it. Instead it presents a scenario that details and questions new and interesting aspects of this world. What first seemed like a pretty boring set-up, with main protagonists that lost their memories and a typical “young-love” case, evolved into a story that questions happiness itself. Is it possible to make everyone happy? How can we make the most people happy? In combination with the episodic-like storytelling it didn´t only offer a very interesting philosophical plot but also a variety of cases and sub-plots. Unsurprisingly the other main-plot, revolving around the memory loss of the two protagonists is pretty cliche-y on the other hand, plagued by too heavy foreshadowing and a forseeable outcome.
Especially the so called “Turning Points” play a big role at getting you involved in the story. Like all Visual Novels, Mandatory Happiness offers multiple decisions that influence the outcome of each case, often deciding about life and death. Due to its really good writing and storytelling you feel connected to the characters and want to save them with your decisions, sadly the world of PSYCHO-PASS is never that easy. You will witness the death of characters, however, not caused by the game itself but by your decisions, underlining the cruelty of this world even more. Speaking of which, Mandatory Happiness also manages to catch the essence of PSYCHO-PASS´s world.
A world that´s controlled by Sibyl and the PSYCHO-PASS to decide if someone should be executed or imprisoned. The way the whole world revolves around a “machine” and lives getting destroyed just because they have a hard time is unchallenged to this day. Like the anime the game details the most difficult job in this world, the Inspector, who has to keep a clear PSYCHO-PASSwhile fighting the “craziest” people in this world. Due to the fact, that you control your PSYCHO-PASS through Tablets and actions in a way, gives this conflict a nice new insight, which works really well for long time series fans like me.
Interestingely a lot of these things mostly affect Nadeshiko Kugatachi´s campaign, while Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi´s campaign was just bland for me. Since Mandatory Happiness isn´t a long game, only lasting about 5-6 hours, it wants to balance it out by presenting you the story in two different perspectives. Unfortunately only the analytic and cold Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi really hooked me, with her emotionless descriptions, answers and way of talking, it´s something not many games or animes can do really well. Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi on the other hand just resembles your typical anime male hero stereotype, adding nothing new to the world or the game, instead of foreseeable dialogues. I still can´t understand why such a character exists in a Visual Novel that successfully adds so many new things to the PSYCHO-PASS universe.
Despite of PSYCHO-PASS Mandatory Happiness’ big license it obviously didn´t have much budget. For such a short game it barely had any memorable moments, presentation-wise, and just feels very static and poorly made. The dialogues are told by static character portraits that don´t change their facial expression or pose, fights or car chases only get barely described, underlaid by a single picture at best and the corpses of people you executed get presented in a black screen and some text. Nontheless the pictures, character portraits and background images look fantastic, really resembling the typical PSYCHO-PASS artstyle, yet the game just feels so static and low-budget, even for a Visual Novel. In contrast to the brutal and high profile anime I really expected more on this part, it just ruins a part of the bloody PSYCHO-PASS world. Especially when you saw how Visual Novels like The Silver Case (Review coming soon) present themselves.
Luckily its mediocre presentation doesn´t affect the PC-port. All in all, the PC version is nearly flawless, I never experienced any crashes, bugs or glitches, additionally it offers a wide variety of options for text speed, cursor symbols and much more. The only thing I have to criticise is its resolution lock, blocking any resolution above FullHD (1920×1080). Since I have a 4K monitor such a lock was pretty sad to see, leading to some unsharp texts and character portraits in fullscreen but I doubt this will affect many people and is easy to ignore.
To conclude, PSYCHO-PASS Mandatory Happiness offers a really great story and amazing representation of the PSYCHO-PASS universe, letting us dive once again into this crazy world. It shows new aspects of this world, asks new questions and expands the universe, story-wise it´s pretty much what I expected. On the other hand, it suffers from a weak 2nd protagonist, a lackluster and boring presentation and some little problems within the story. It just never feels like the presentation PSYCHO-PASS needed to convey its world and their problems, resulting in a worse experience than necessary.
I wouldn´t recommend PSYCHO-PASS Mandatory Happiness to everyone, only if you like Visual Novels and can deal with its sometimes boring presentation and love the PSYCHO-PASS world, you will be able really enjoy it. Nontheless I enjoyed my time with it because I´m such a big PSYCHO-PASS fan.