Psycho-Pass Mandatory Happiness is a Visual Novel developed by 5pb. Who have developed similar visual novel games including Steins; Gate. Following along with 2 new characters introduced into the world of Psycho-Pass you will be taking on the role of an inspector or enforcer respectively, hunting down latent criminals and enforcing them. With every case you are given choices along the way, changing the final outcome of each case, the overall story and your personal Hue.
Split into 2 stories, 1 with the female inspector and 1 with the male Enforcer. Taking on cases given to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), you will stop a teenage kidnapping akin to Romeo and Juliet. The next case follows that of a Mother running away with her child, a riot at a school and some later cases that go a bit more into the overarching story. You are tasked with enforcing those whose crime coefficient reaches above levels of 100, over 300 and the target is to be killed through the use of the Dominator.
The game feels a lot better after watching some of the Anime it is associated with, a lot of terminology and lore is kind of lost when you are thrown into the game so quickly. Thankfully there are tips for how to play as well as a keyword glossary with information behind the words and places talked about.
As Tsurugi you will play through a 3 to 4 hour campaign, with a few choices here and there, mostly in the form of taking Mental Care Supplements to aid your hue, though if you make the right choices during cases, actually saving lives, you won’t need to rely too much on these. No matter your hue some characters will still mention you have a cloudy or dark one, minus 1 or 2 scenes. However you are treated to new scenes thanks to a low crime coefficient which I won’t spoil, but it’s a nice touch. There seems to be at least 3 endings with this character, the bad ending, a “normal” ending and a true one, though the normal ending can leave you in quite a bit of frustration as it feels as if the game is left incomplete.
As Nadeshiko you will also play through a 3 to 4 hour campaign, with seemingly less choices spread around however you will also be given the opportunity to take supplements. You go on the same path a Tsurugi, with a few scenes changed as you will be playing as another character in the scenes. This character feels to be the worst of the two, the monotone direction given to the character makes it rather hard to grow attached to them. As well as being the weaker side, Nadeshiko seems to play a harder role within the cases, the first one giving me quite a bit of trouble to actually complete it without death.
After quite a few playthroughs you will get to see all sides of the stories, around 12 hours or so to get all the endings for both characters if you make use of the skip feature, as a lot of the text is repeated. Besides the main story there is also a side mini-game where you can gain points to unlock dialogue, music and scenes to view again in the menu.
Like many other visual novels, a lot of the control is taken away from players, playing more akin to the choose-your-own-adventure books. You will be reading through endless text, from several characters before given a question to answer. X is used to continue text or select and option, L1 for Tips, L2 for a chat log, R1 for skip-forward and Square for the menu. Besides talking you will also need to keep track of your Hue to make sure it doesn’t become too dark/clouded.
Sadly, Mandatory Happiness fails to add in many other mechanics other than talking and the Hue. You will find yourself pressing X for an hour or so before you actually get to alter the game itself, which is great for those who love to get lost within books, but bad for those who want to play an interactive game. I feel since this is an investigative series we could have looked at crime scenes, scanned objects as evidence or shoot the Dominator ourselves, but sadly we are given descriptive text and images.
There isn’t much in the way of punishment in the game, I was only able to find 2 ways of actually dying before the ending came about. Using or not using supplements also carries little weight to it, acting as sort of an easy mode rather than a plot device. If targets are killed, rather than talked down or found before their CC raised too high, your hue worsens, but that only really affects you if you let it.
Overall thoughts and feelings
The music in the game is very calm, adding to the sense that harmony is held in high regard, however it can fall into the background a bit too easy at points. With overly loud background noises, especially the helicopter, you will hardly notice the soundtrack. When you do hear it however you can be blown away from its serene sounds for investigations and times of peace, and filled with energy when it comes to the endings of cases where the action rises. There were times where the music failed to play, or was not meant to, where the game became very empty and lifeless, however that did not last too long.
With its 4 hour campaign, set to be played several times, you will see reoccurring themes and text everywhere, with sadly only a Japanese voice cast to listen to. Forcing you to read or skim the messages to get the idea of the story. I feel the story could have been given to the player a lot better and easier if there was a choice of English or Japanese voice cast. Since the game is so text heavy, like many visual novels, you will need to be an avid reader or find yourself reading for much longer then you would hope to.
Psycho-Pass Mandatory Happiness gets an 8/10, it is a great game with a fluid story to tell, even if one side of the story is clearly directed better than the other. Multiple choices lead on several branching paths, feeling fresh with each new playthrough. You can easily play each side 2 to 3 times each, resulting in 20+ hours of game time, though due to its design it would be better suited to PC or handheld devices rather than a full console release (I Played the PS4 version). If you prefer text and story over gameplay then Psycho-Pass will tick those boxes, but a lack of control and mechanics might put other gamers off.