Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 02.10.2016

Review for Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness on PlayStation 4

When the anime of Psycho Pass burst onto the scene in 2012, it was met with rave reviews. With its fantastic premise, memorable characters, and great story, it felt a return to the glory days of cyberpunk anime. When it was announced it would be getting a game adaptation, fans were ecstatic, especially when it was announced to be a Visual Novel title, a genre that fit perfectly with the source material. Not only that, it was being developed by 5pb, creator of arguably the best VNs of all time, the superb Science Adventure series, and best known for Steins;Gate. Strangely, though, the title was an Xbox One exclusive in Japan… Thankfully, it's on PS4 and Vita here in the West, but how does Mandatory Happiness play? Cubed3 finds out…

Set in the year 2112, Psycho Pass sees a Japan governed by the omnipresent "Sibyl System," a system that controls the lives of its citizens by constantly monitoring their mental state, not to mention assigning them a career, and even controlling the borders of the country. Everyone in Sibyl's care has a "Psycho Pass," which shows the mental state of the individual made up of their personal profile, their "Crime Coefficient" - a rating that establishes the person's probability of committing a crime - and their "Hue" - a colour representation of the person's emotional and stress level. Sibyl constantly monitors the Psycho Pass of its citizens and any "Latent Criminals" that it discovers are dealt with by the "Ministry of Welfare Public Safety Bureau Criminal Investigations Department."

It's this CID that is the centre of the story, made up of "Investigators" and "Enforcers." Investigators are regular people who have been assigned the job, but due to what they have to deal with on a regular basis, they must keep a close eye on their own Psycho Pass. Then there are the Enforcers, criminals themselves brought in to track and capture their own kind - a nostalgic reminder of Cyber City Oedo 808. Both types of CID agent are equipped with Dominators - large transforming firearms that can read the target's Hue and Crime Coefficient, and will deal with targets appropriately, for example, low-level criminals, like a thief, with a low figure Crime Coefficient, leads to a Dominator firing a stun to disable them, whereas for high-level aggressive killer, the Dominator will switch to lethal mode and kill the suspect.

Screenshot for Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness on PlayStation 4

Mandatory Happiness's original story comes from the writer of the original anime, Gen Urobuchi, and centres an advanced AI named Alpha who just wants to make people happy. There are four cases to investigate and Alpha's touch is felt from the very beginning. Alpha is quite the intellectual Lenny; he's just trying to help people, so when he sees a boy that wants to be with the girl he likes, he brings them together, even if she's reported missing and the boy is somewhat… unhinged. He reunites baby and mother, even when the mother is clearly unstable and hurting her child. If he sees the Hue of his charges begin to worsen, no problem! He can just force feed them drugs until they are smiling ear to ear! It makes for an interesting and sympathetic villain. He's also plugged into most of the city, seeing through every camera, controlling every drone and every self-driving car. The four cases all bring the CID staff closer to the truth of what Alpha really is, and makes Alpha question his purpose as he sees that making one human happy can negatively affect others, not to mention the ever human trait of after finally receiving what they always wanted… just wanting something else.

Although there have been two seasons of anime, with a movie in-between, this is set during the first season. This is a smart decision since the first season was far superior to anything that has come since and by season's end many of the characters were forever changed. Mandatory Happiness gives the opportunity to revisit the characters and world in its best version.

Upon starting the game, there is a choice of two characters, each with their own story to play through. These are a pair of completely new and original characters. As with the original, the protagonists are an Inspector/Enforcer pair; the Inspector, Nadeshiko Kugatachi, seems cold and unfeeling at first, as much as an automaton as Alpha, mindless of the feelings of others. Nadeshiko is introduced as having lost her memories during an accident in her CID training, and as her story develops, her memories can begin to return. The Enforcer is Takuma Tsurugi, a young man who had a promising life and career ahead of him, but when his childhood friend vanished, he grew obsessed with finding her. His Hue worsened as he chased his obsession and he was eventually flagged as a latent criminal and subsequently arrested. He immediately took the opportunity to become an Enforcer, hoping he could use his position to find his friend. He's a real old-fashioned man with his heart on his sleeve.

Screenshot for Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness on PlayStation 4

It's a common problem that inserting new characters into a previously established story and cast can mean they feel tacked on, but that's not the case here as both characters are strong and well developed, fitting in well with their already established CID colleagues and playing off each other in the dialogue throughout the cases. This is very much Nadeshiko and Takuma's story, but, even so, the classic characters get plenty of time in the spotlight. Not just the original protagonists of Akane and Kogami, but also the side characters like Masaoka and Shu, who are much more fleshed out.

All the original Japanese cast is back for the game and all of them deliver stellar performances. The new characters have some big names, too, as Takuma is played by Shinichiro Miki, a prolific seiyuu who includes Roy Mustang from Full Metal Alchemist, Urahara from Bleach, and Akira Yuki from Virtua Fighter, amongst many others. Nadeshiko is played by Aya Endo, another veteran with plenty of characters and series to her name, including Sheryl Nome from Macross Frontier, Miyuki from Lucky Star and, recently, Karin Kanzuki from Street Fighter V.

Some of the other Visual Novels out there include puzzles and mini-games to keep players interested instead of just reading through oceans of text with the occasional dialogue selection. Mandatory Happiness keeps this as a pure VN, and the only interaction from the player is the X button to move to the next line (unless it's on auto-play) or the same X button to choose what reply to use or choice to make. It's a bold choice. Unless the story is strong enough to carry the game on its own, it can easily put people off. The story here is more than strong enough, though. Even without the choices, each of the protagonists' paths is genuinely captivating, with stories that could have just as easily worked as another season of anime.

Screenshot for Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness on PlayStation 4

Whilst there are no puzzles or mini-games within the main game, there's one tacked onto the menu - a block moving mini-game that is also available within the extras area. Very evocative of Threes, this mini-game uses a grid of sliding blocks, and matching two blocks creates a new single block. There is a free play mode and a ton of challenge levels with specific matches required that get maddeningly frustrating. Like the best mini-games, this is simple to start but hard to master and is hard to stop playing; it's a nice little addition.

Regardless of what characters' story is played through, it is the same four cases, but from each character's point of view, giving a very different perspective on each investigation, along with developing the unique story of each protagonist. There are plenty of endings for the completionists out there to aim for, too. Four cases there may be, but, based on the choices of the player, a bad ending can appear far earlier in the story. The game quite smartly integrates the Sibyl system into the choices made, and certain actions may seem like a quick way to resolve a situation yet may actually have a big impact on the character's Hue. This can be addressed by taking supplement medication to keep the Hue in check, but relying too much on this supplement can have a negative effect and once again end the story prematurely.

Screenshot for Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Anyone who doesn't enjoy Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness clearly needs to get their Hue checked. The story is enthralling and compelling, with enough routes and flags to warrant replays. It manages to add more depth to the characters and universe, which were already well developed, and is a better accompaniment to the superb first season of the anime than the movie or second season. There have been some phenomenal Visual Novels over the years, games like Steins;Gate, Danganronpa and the Zero Escape series, so there's no higher praise than to say this is easily on par with those gems.

Developer

5pb

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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