Psycho Pass is a fantastic series which was followed up by a god-awful sequel and a movie I hear is at least alright which I still haven’t bothered with due to what season 2 did to my ability to care. Mandatory Happiness takes place before the end of season 1 (somehow, even though that makes no sense really) so my hopes for it were reignited and once it was coming to something anyone owns (PS4/Vita, rather than an Xbone exclusive) and in English – I pre-ordered it pretty early on. Early reviews were coming in from loads of no-name sites that NISA endlessly spammed about and things were looking good. Then the game released and I got my copy.
From the very first moment you start into this story you’re assaulted by multiple problems on the Vita version (I can’t confirm if they are there on the PS4, given their nature I would hope not). The first is the resolution, this clearly was not made for handheld devices and it wasn’t gone back over and ported properly at all. Aside the main text area which also is clearly not properly displayed, absolutely all other text (and there’s a lot in the HUD elements that constantly pop up) is absolutely unreadable because it’s so smushed and smeared from being squished and then stretched. As for the readable main text, sure you can read it, but it’s blurry because it was basically just sized down without any further thought. The game doesn’t allow for screenshots (wow, gee, I wonder why) but even if it did they’d probably display much better in that resolution and on a PC than on the actual Vita screen anyway, so it’s hard to show this in an image so I didn’t bother trying (all images here are just from google image search), especially because the only option would be to use a cellphone to take a picture of a screen which would make it all unreadable anyway and just work against the point in the end. This was originally created for the Xbox One in Japan where it surely made record setting high sales for the console with maybe 8 copies sold to the 13 people who had the proper console to play it in the entire country, so I hope the PS4 version is better as there should be no changes to the resolution and stuff there.
This is just the start of the issues that with a VISUAL NOVEL shouldn’t exist, though I will say that’s probably the biggest given the entire game is reading and now that’s a shitty feeling pain in the ass that hurts your eyes. The core element of the entire game fights with you every step of the way. The next issue I ran into was with the “controls”. Again, this is a visual novel – no gameplay elements, just press x to continue text and occasionally up or down on the d-pad to pick a choice. However, by some masterful feat, this is INCREDIBLY clunky. I don’t even know how to explain this really because of the fact YOU JUST ARE PUSHING X A LOT and it SOMEHOW FEELS TERRIBLE. It’s unresponsive for starters, half the time it just won’t register your input (the Vita itself is fine, I’ve never had such an issue before with mine and even tried other games to double check and it is 100% this game) or has VERY DELAYED REACTIONS to your input. You’ll push x to continue the text and it will just hang there for a few seconds half the time or jitter on to the next line. Again, clearly not ported properly at all.
On top of that, it’s lacking any quick save/quick load functionality and the menus are also terribly designed for a handheld game and also suffer from the same input delay as the text. There is also no touch-screen support whatsoever and everything is just squished down from what was clearly never meant to be on such a small screen. It also suffers from slow loading times pretty regularly – well, maybe not “loading” times but very slow…pacing? I don’t mean in the writing (also slow) but in the way things take to actually start. You’ll sit at black for awhile, then you’ll see background, then you’ll see a character portrait, then you’ll finally see the shitty unresponsive text box and text appear. That makes sense but any other time it’d be near instant, here it feels like ages any time a scene changes like it’s barely fucking running or something but was probably a fucking retarded choice on the part of the staff rather than a technical issue. All of these are things that should be basic fucking functions or fixed and ARE in almost every single other visual novel on the Vita and even smartphones.
To put this into some perspective or maybe more correctly to make a comparison, I just had finished a really great Vita visual novel, “Amnesia: Memories” on the Vita. It ran perfectly, everything “felt” great about the game’s responsiveness, and it was a very fluid experience that had all the options you’d want without trying to over-complicate itself. L1 for quick save, R1 for quick load, if you don’t want to push x just tap the screen to continue text or pick options by poking them, smooth running and never any hang-ups or slow “loading”, and a clearly built for a handheld menu all with snappy reaction time. The exact opposite of what Mandatory Happiness provides in every way.
The quality of the writing itself is also the exact opposite of Amnesia: Memories, it’s pretty poorly localized thanks to the always-shit team over at NISA. I can’t speak for how much of this was undoubtedly censored and over-localized, but boy is it ever “cringeworthy” at times. Everyone speaks in stilted unnatural ways that also don’t fit their characters at all and above all else you get incredibly embarrassing emo teen-girl poetry style flowery writing on a regular basis seemingly out of fucking nowhere. Though it makes sense, I suppose, as if you pick the female character she’s a literal fucking doll of a person. I guarantee there’s an explanation somewhere in the story as it does bring it up a lot, but holy shit how about not making the protagonist an emotionless, droll, fucking boring non-character who says the most obnoxious meaningless shit every chance she gets? I can’t speak for how the guy is, but he seems annoying as well just in the opposite direction based on every single time he spoke in the woman’s story. The old cast is back in full but it’s not as great a feeling as you’d expect after the novelty wears off in the first 10 minutes of getting more Akane and they all feel like “fanfiction” I guess. The writing staff clearly tried making them like they were in the show…and that’s how they feel, like they’re trying to be like they were in the show – rather than actually BEING that way. It has a habit of just being plain boring story-wise too, with no real hook at all and an antagonist that doesn’t make you interested in seeing his story play out and learning why he’s doing any of this.
For some reason the game also blocks 100% of screenshots which is another shitty missing basic element that there’s no reason for aside pure laziness because the Xbox One lacks any screenshot functionality, unlike the PS4 and Vita, and they didn’t bother adding one because this was the laziest port job possible. I kind of mentioned this already but just pointing it out on it’s own as well. There’s also an issue with the art of the two new main cast members (the ones you “play” as) in that they don’t match the art style of anyone else at all and the coloring and shading on them is wildly different. They stand out in a very ugly way even in promo art, like someone’s shitty self-insert fanfiction characters photoshopped onto official art.
With all these problems – especially the writing, and the fact that the game made that writing a chore to try and read – I ended up completely frustrated, annoyed, and honestly just fucking bored of this VN only a couple hours in and haven’t touched it since. Do I plan on finishing it some day? Probably because I own it, but I don’t know when. Do I recommend it? Absolutely not unless I do finish it and the story is somehow so mindblowingly amazing that it makes up for everything leading up to that point and the abhorrent port job, doubtful that’s the case though based on what I saw and the fact 90% of the “twists” are plain as fucking day in the first 30 minutes.
I need to try this game.