Mandatory Happiness saw its western release earlier this week. A gripping and thought-provoking visual novel coinciding with the Psycho Pass series.
A lot of you may have already seen the collection of Psycho Pass quotes from a previous post and been left with a vague impression of the series. Though seemingly cryptic and philosophical, they accurately represent how mysterious and morally grey the events in the series are. If you haven’t already, I would highly recommend watching it.
In the spirit of keeping things spoiler-free, I will simply suggest to anyone who takes interest in this visual novel that they should watch the first eight episodes of the first season of Psycho Pass before playing. The reason for this is that the events of the game occur within that timeframe. Having said this, the story is exclusive and all of the backstory is very well explained, so watching the anime is not vital.
As I mentioned earlier, the novel takes place within the first eight episodes of the first season. To some people, this doesn’t seem like a big enough time slot, so there can’t possibly be much that can be done in terms of story and character development. The reality is quite the contrary, since the novel features original characters, otherwise unseen, each with their own back story and role, giving rise to the notion that the plot of the series progresses independently of the game’s events, without drawing focus.
That being said, I am reluctant to call it a spin-off, as this would infer that the novel was the account of minor characters whose stories cross over with the original in very abstract ways. In actual fact, though their reintroductions could have been better, the original characters that Psycho Pass fans will be very familiar with feature heavily and have vital roles to play.
A refreshing touch compared to most visual novels is the choice of two playable characters. This opens up many different possibilities. For a start, you can choose between a male and female protagonist, meaning there is something for everyone. Yet, even then, they aren’t your average gender swapped, carbon copies of one another, they are completely different characters and both appear in the story regardless of your selection. For the most part, the events are concrete, not affected by your choice, with the exception of character specific narratives. It is much more the perspectives, dialogues, character interactions and back stories/motives, etc. that form the main differences.
Then we come to the classic choice mechanic that most visual novels have, where the player is given a series of choices or interactions that directly affect how the events unfold, be they immediate or more subtly. This is where things get exciting, because as anyone who has watched Psycho Pass will know, the choices that the characters are forced to make are very difficult with no obvious correct answer. The events that take place are very dark, down to earth and brutally realistic, all in true Psycho Pass fashion. As they unfold, you may find yourself sympathising with certain characters, yet angry with others, which will obviously influence your decisions. But choose wisely, because every decision has repercussions, whether you notice them straight away or not. If that doesn’t have you constantly watching your back or second guessing yourself, I don’t know what will.
Rather than used as an afterthought, this mechanic allows things to play out differently depending on the choices you make during your investigations and your relationship with each of the characters. This allows a huge number of possible outcomes, making almost every experience unique and adding some incredible replay value.
On top of all of that. you are constantly worried about how your decisions impact your character, whose mental state is constantly being monitored. It is definitely important to keep an eye on you hue, and every fan of Psycho Pass knows exactly why…..