Reading this review will certainly clear your hue.
Developer: MAGES. Inc., 5pb.
Publisher: NIS America, Inc
Genre: Cyberpunk Anime Visual Novel
Type: Single Player
Release date: April 24, 2017
When we love a series, it is not uncommon to wish for a video game to be made in the same universe. Whether the game is actually good is up to how it is handled. A lot are bad, but there are some that rise up and are great. With two seasons and a movie behind it’s belt, Psycho-Pass comes up to bat with their own game: Mandatory Happiness.
This visual novel takes place somewhere between season one with a few hints of what already has or has not happened yet within the episodes. But if you are new, whether you never knew it was an anime or never had the time to watch it, do not be intimidated. Mandatory Happiness does appeal to fans the most, but they do not suspect everyone to know all the terms and how the universe works. It subtly tells you about everything that is relevant while also filling up a tip menu. It helps that the story is easy to follow so that even if you never looked at the tips you will follow well enough to understand.
Before going into the main bulk, you’re greeted with a prologue and a character selection screen. Instead of having you play as one of the existing characters, they opt for bringing in two new characters. You have the female Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi and the male Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi. This is not simply a sex change for the player to decide, but what background and who you will follow. Other than the obvious difference in job titles, Kugatachi deals with amnesia and has a straight forward attitude not allowing for much comedy. While Tsurugi is dealing with the loss of his lover that mysteriously disappeared, he also has a light-hearted attitude which is shown in his love for manga and video games. Small things change with the interactions and the overarching story being intact. These changes are shown as “turning points” when you encounter a scene that was influenced by your choices. Some more complexity is put into the choices as you have to deal with your own hue and have the right combination of choices. The other character will still be in the story, but acting on their default choices.
If you know Psycho-Pass, there are enemies, then there is the mastermind. It is the same here, but the mastermind is revealed early on. This reveals another character, an AI named Alpha wanting to clear the hues of everyone to please their mother. No matter what. The point of view switches between the character you choose to Alpha, so there was really no mystery on who is doing it or what Alpha’s thought process is. The cases you handle are caused by him trying to get to his endgame.
So what about the action? Many did expect a Psycho-Pass game to be more of an action, mystery game where you personally hunt down criminals in the universe. Of course, visual novels barely have animation parts, having eye blinks and interesting enough mouth movements synced to the voices, but Mandatory Happiness makes it seem like it was the fastest way to go. We do get an animation of a dominator being shot, but some modes use a flash of light as well. What makes it look cheap or rushed is when flashes of light are used alongside eye level portraits of who is in the fight stretched across a, most likely, black screen. This is used during action scenes and can be blinding and annoying in succession. They do describe these parts and put in sound effects, but what was included was not great. Especially when the background at least doesn’t reflect how many enemies there.
The writing is done well. With some hiccups here and there, it did not cross the line of being too cringy, though the foreshadowing in the big reveal is so bad. It gets mentioned a lot and can’t help but scream at them what it is. It also helps that the voice acting is great. What is amazing about this visual novel is that they were able to get the original Japanese voice actors. There were lines that I would have never read in my head with as much as they give in their performances. It gives another emotional layer to Mandatory Happiness.
Make sure you save, preferably at every choice. There is no feature like a flow chart for you to go directly to a choice and if you reach a bad end, it goes back to the menu. As multiple factors can contribute to a turning point, you may not remember all of the choices you gave.
The background music is barely memorable. Mostly it is just calm ambient music unless the story kicks it up. Action or tense scenes are met with more energy with the music. Especially when they bring out a remix-like track that has lyrics.
There is content you can unlock but it is not a favorable way. Other than the various tips that will unlock during your playthroughs, voice and picture content is also unlocked by the same way. At first, it does seem like you have it unlocked until you go to the extras on the main menu. This is where you can see all the content you unlocked and a minigame. But once you click to see your collected voice and picture content, you are greeted with a price. This can range from 1,000 points to 12,000 points. Essentially having you unlock it twice. If you are an achievement hunter, this may take hours to do.
The minigame is cute and fun. I loved playing through it even if I failed on a level as it balances helping and challenging you. It is a sliding block type, with you having to link up two of the same kind to equal the total on the top left so you can progress closer to a suspect running away from Akane. To make it easier, they have each block representing a character, allowing each level to go by quickly once you get the hang of it during the first couple of levels. So if you need an 8 (Kagari), you need to either combine two 8’s, something of higher value, or two 4’s (Kogami). There is nothing boring about it and having to grind it for points does make it seem there was no confidence in people liking the minigame.
My first playthrough, with Kugatachi, was eight hours long with another nine hours getting the other endings. Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness can last up to 30 hours if you want to see all 14 endings split between both characters. I do recommend this as there are scenes and information put in, taken out, or relayed in a different way depending on the route you take.
+ Good art
+ A lot of different paths to take
+ Love the minigame
+ Great voice acting and characters
– Grinding in the minigame to unlock Pictures/Voice contents
– Could have used more animations
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is essentially like a choose your own adventure book. Having multiple routes and endings between the two new characters based on the choices you make in the moment and all of them combined. And while this is mostly for existing fans of the Psycho-Pass anime, it is newcomer friendly. All-in-all this is a good addition to the universe with its flaws and all. I certainly enjoyed my time with it, and if you decide to get it, I hope you do too.