Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness Review — A Dark and Thrilling Visual Novel Experience

on September 9, 2016 12:55 PM

In the future, a citizen’s mental state will be periodically monitored by a government AI known as Sibyl. In an effort to limit potential crimes before they happen, Sibyl will check a person’s Hue. The citizen will be diagnosed based on the color. Those who are caught early with darkening Hues can attend therapy or counseling to help them become a calm and productive member of society. However, there are some who avoid detection and allow their mental state to deteriorate to the point of no return, and consequently will commit hideous crimes unless they are stopped by any means possible.

This is the world in which the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita game Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is set. The game is a visual novel based on the popular anime series featuring recognizable and original characters. With all new cases and a new common enemy, does Mandatory Happiness act as a must play companion to the popular animated series?

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When beginning a new game, I was offered the choice between the two new characters, enforcer Takuma Tsurugi and inspector Kugatachi Nadeshiko. Although these characters are only featured in the game, I felt their personalities and character design worked perfectly with the already established cast of characters.

Inspector Nadeshiko was cold and almost robotic when interacting with other team members. Although her past is cloudy, she keeps her cool even when faced with difficult memories. Her stern personally helps keep her Hue color clear.

Meanwhile, enforcer Tsuruhi is a lively and helpful man. It’s unclear at first as to why he is even in the program as an enforcer which is for agency employees who have dark Hues. Slowly throughout the story it’s revealed who he is and what connects him to other members of the team including Nadeshiko.

Armed with a gun named “Dominator” characters will monitor the Hue of civilians. If the gun deems the person is beyond rehabilitation, they will have to be killed. However, the main purpose for the Criminal Defense Department is not let it get to that point.

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This is a visual novel so be prepared to read text throughout the entire game. However, this is not a kinetic visual novel so times will come when you have to make decisions that can highly alter the events that follow.

I felt that the game didn’t explain the cause and effect of the choices that the player makes. In fact, there is no tutorial offered in the game at all. There are times when prompts show up on the hub, but there’s no indicator as to what they mean. Although you start to get a good idea as the game progresses, it would have been nice to be told in the beginning.

Anytime during the game you can check your Hue color. After events take place your Hue might get darker and you’ll be asked to take a pill to stabilize your mood. This is a choice left to the player and you could choose to not take the supplement. By allowing your Hue to worsen, you increase the chance of Sibyl deeming you a threat which you’ll have to suffer whatever consequences that follow. I enjoyed this type of control over the story. Depending on what type of experience I wanted, I could alter the story dramatically by what I thought were the right or wrong choices.

This is where Mandatory Happiness makes its mark as a great visual novel experience. It forces the player to really think about the situations and clues in order to guide the team in the right direction. However, there will be times when you make the wrong choice and have to deal with the outcome, but that’s what makes this game fun.

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A good example of these outcomes comes early on in the game’s story. Playing as inspector Nageshiko, the team is hunting down a suspect and you must look at clues in order to find out where they are hiding. The clues aren’t solid and it’s mostly based on intuition, but it’s your own intuition as a player playing an inspector. Where do you think this person is and which team do you think has a better chance of finding them, it’s up to you.

The end result of your choice could determine if a civilian casualty will be added to the mission report. Furthermore, there are times when you’ll have your Dominator pointed and ready, but you’ll have to make the choice to pull the trigger.

Often times I regretted my decisions and wanted to go back to change them, but that’s not exactly the way this game works. The replayability the story offers is relatively high, especially if you want to see the story and missions from the perspective of an inspector and enforcer. Each may play out during the same missions, but they offer a completely different experiences.

Those who are new to the series, I would recommend that you spend some time watching the first few episodes of the anime. The game takes place during the first season, and periodically makes references to cases and moments that took places during the show. The Japanese cast also provide their voices for their respective characters.

Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness tells a gripping and immersive story that any fan of the series would enjoy. The liberties that the creators give the player when making decisions are appreciated and enjoyable to view as the path chosen is revealed. I had some trouble figuring out the various hub prompts that showed up from time to time, but that didn’t affect my overall experience. One thing is for sure, I’m not positive that I would pass Sibyl’s screening after some of the emotional and intense missions this game put me through.

 /  Staff Writer
Azario Lopez has held multiple positions in the game's media industry. At DualShockers he focuses on providing coverage for niche and indie video games in the form of news updates, reviews, and interviews.