Psycho Pass Mandatory happiness: an adventure in psychiatric paint by numbers

So there I am, sitting in the office.  Drawing my eye over Shu’s paperback manga collection, still wondering how he got hold of it in this day and age when my wrist communicator goes off. It’s a case, a kidnapping even of a school girl. Little did I know as I put down the book that this case would see me returning to my hometown, tackling a master hacker and even going toe to toe with the top brass of the MWPSB.

I’m a huge fan of the dystopian cyberpunk future. Issac Asimov is one of my favourite authors and the godfather of the genre for me, so when I first saw the anime for Psycho pass a few years ago I instantly fell in love with what it was going for. Saying that, it also made my expectations for any game for it absurdly high because anime based video games for me have a really bad track record of disappointment and money that I will never get back. This is also a visual novel and those that have read my earlier views on Nightshade know that these games are usually not my Forte but when since its Psycho Pass and since it already got raving reviews for the original PS Vita release I thought I’d give this game a crack. The port saw development from MAGES Inc and was published to Steam by the guys at NIS America Inc. now for £22.99 and again my experience with Nightshade I was out of the bat expecting a lot from this game for its price. For starters, the game comes with controller support! Now this may be a standard thing but I have yet to play another Visual Novel that actually has it. And when you pay £50  for an Xbox pad for the PC you tend to go looking for excuses to justify that kind of purchase on a student’s budget.

So the meat and potatoes of this stew is obviously the narrative, the tale, the story! The game actually has two stories that are interwoven which to be honest from the start I found remarkably clever. You are given the choice between playing as newly minted Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi or as newly enacted enforcer and latent criminal Takuma Tsurugi. In the world of Psycho Pass gone are the days of a regular police force and instead the world is governed by the Sybil system. A totally automated computer system that monitors a person Psychiatric state and assigns a reading based on how likely they are to become a problem to society or a criminal. Those who display the traits to become criminals are labelled ‘Latent Criminals’ and their Psychiatric state is displayed as a dark ‘Hue’ and assigned a high crime coefficient which is the numerical value used to determine how close a person is to being a danger. The govt choses certain latent criminals to become ‘enforcers’, Tsurugi is one of these. They are a special operative for the MWPSB and answer to inspectors like Ms Kugatachi. Depending on which character you choose to play as you will be given a different perspective and involvement in the tale that this game has to tell. The game weaves through multiple stories while trying to follow an overall plot. You will see yourself play through a few cases assigned to your department which is ‘Division 1’ while chasing the overall plot which is the apprehension of the mysterious ALPHA. It’s really hard to write about the plot to this game without giving away the main story to it. As you play through the stories you’re given some real value to the decisions you make and I had to load a save more than once because the decisions id made earlier in the game had resulted in a catastrophic failure and bad ending. Decisions are plentiful and more often than not offer a variety of options. I believe that most options I was faced with gave me at least three options available to choose from and they were all varied approaches to what I was doing. Not just re wordings of the same answer but with sarcasm or anger (Take note Fallout 4) the game focuses on multiple locations and also has a wide variety of cast members. For those with knowledge of the show you’ll get to chat with the whole cats of the show as its set before the events of the end of the first season, so Shu, Kagami, the Chief all make appearances and converse with you.

To go with the shows cast all showing up to this little field trip the majority of the games voice acting also makes an appearance here. Now I have to admit. As a westerner, I would have liked to have had the English cast voice lines too as I personally thought the Dub was better for me personally but the Japanese cast has done a very good job here! The acting is very emotion filled and you can tell they throw what they have at every line in the game. The game has a variety of paths that you can take too so if you want to experience the full glory of the voice acting for this game you’ll need to play a few times and experiment with the decisions you make to get various different conversations and voice lines. One thing I will note is that I LOVED the main character having voice lines. I chose to play as the Enforcer and his voice acting added so much to conversations for me. To hear my character, get angry, be excited and in general be more than just text lines made me really connect with the character and their plot. I can’t attest to the Inspectors lines from her as the main but her voice acting in my story was also very well done. She’s a bit monotonous but given her character is supposed to struggle with human emotion I feel the monotonous nature of her dialogue is actually rather a good decision. She warms on you as you progress through the game and eventually you do get to see some real emotion fly from her.

Mandatory happiness like most big budget games gets a pass on the visuals aspect of the game too. The UI I especially liked as it’s a bit fluid and rather cool looking. It’s got a data flowing kind of feel to it and isn’t just some static border for the game. The character artwork is obviously going to have a lot of attention paid to it. This is a game using the license for a popular show after all and for the most part the character art holds up and shines through. Characters all have a lot of detail and attention paid to them they visually convey emotions and responses clearly and in a way that adds to the games emotional feel. Now the character art isn’t perfect. I came across a few moments where the art had slipped in quality a bit. Especially concerning alpha. There is a part of the game where you see him sitting in a dark room and the artwork for him just looked really low par. It wasn’t awful but It just didn’t look like it matched the skill used on characters in the previous scene and even in the scene that followed. There are a few other scenes like that BUT it’s never often enough or common enough throughout the whole game to be a real issue.

Overall I feel this review is kind of short but to be honest I don’t really feel there is a lot to write about this game without spoiling the story. Gameplay is a visual novel level of gameplay but I felt far more involved in this game than nightshade. The artwork is very nicely done aside from the few instances it doesn’t really stay at the same level. Noticed a few English errors too but it’s a visual novel that’s been translated so really that’s going to happen in the process from what I heard in the feedback from last time. Is the game a recommendation for me? Yes! But only really if you’re a fan of the show or the genre. I don’t feel this is the game to bring new people into the fold for visual novels and to be honest the price is a little off putting. The game has a good length for the ending I got of around 7 hours although had I made a different decision near the end It could have been longer but the price is still a little high for a PS Vita port. Wouldn’t have taken a lot of effort to port this and it already made a killing at initial release. Too long didn’t read version. If you like Psycho Pass or visual novels then get this game. You’ll enjoy the time in it. If you’re new to Vis novels and haven’t seen the show then id be wary. Maybe get this in the sale and experiment.

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