Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness on PS4 and PS Vita
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is a standalone story that takes place within the first season of the anime. Mandatory Happiness being a midquel might make you think that it’s a story that doesn’t have any bearing on the Psycho-Pass canon, and it can be passed up with no real consequence. Well, that’s true, but Mandatory Happiness serves as a great supplement to the rich lore of this universe, and it comes with four new cases that will please anime fans with a penchant for the trademark goriness and disturbing tales that this series has to offer.
Before jumping into the game, it’s important to understand that Mandatory Happiness is a visual novel, which means that outside of a few decisions you get to make throughout the story, there’s no real ‘gameplay’ to speak of. While the game is fully voiced, and features the fantastic voice talents of the original cast from the anime, be warned that there isn’t much to do outside of reading and clicking through text boxes of dialogue. That said, the real draw of Mandatory Happiness lies in making the right decisions, and unlocking as many endings as possible to get the most complete picture of what’s really going on here.
At the start of the game, you’ll be asked to choose between two new characters: Inspector Nadeshiko, and Enforcer Tsurugi. Nadeshiko is a hyper-logical woman who makes all her decisions rationally, uninfluenced by emotion. Seriously, you could call her an android, and no one would fault you for that description. Nadeshiko suffers from amnesia, and is unable to recall anything from her past. On the other hand, Tsurugi wears his heart on his sleeve, and is a pretty passionate guy who ended up as a latent criminal while searching for a woman from his past. He allowed his emotions to get the better of him, thus clouding his Hue, and becoming a latent criminal who now works as an Enforcer for the police.
Both characters are markedly different from each other in terms of personality, and even though you’ll go through the same four cases regardless of which character you choose, you’ll be able to look at these incidents with a fresh pair of eyes and interesting insights about what Nadeshiko and Tsurugi are going through during these cases. Speaking of the cases, the story in Mandatory Happiness comes from the mind of series Creator, Gen Urobuchi. This means that you can expect the cases to get as dark and disturbing as they are in the anime series. By making the wrong choices, your Dominator can turn human beings into bits of mush, and traumatize tiny babies by killing their parents.
Your choices really do matter in Mandatory Happiness, and the coolest part of the game is that it’s often impossible to determine which is the ‘correct’ decision and which is the ‘bad’ one. Choosing to interrogate a suspect’s friends instead of searching their house could cause you to lose valuable investigation time, but will allow you to gain more insight into the person’s state of mind. Almost all of your decisions will play a part in determining the outcome of a particular case, and things can go south very quickly because of a seemingly inconsequential decision that you made half an hour ago.
Aside from just deciding how you want to approach each case, the game will also frequently ask if you want to take supplements or go for counseling sessions to manage your Hue. In the world of Psycho-Pass, a person’s mental state and worth is determined by the Sibyl System, a cyberized justice system that can tell you which career path will bring you the most happiness, and also judge whether you’re fit to live in this society or not. Strong emotions can lead to a clouded Hue, and that, in turn, can lead to an increase in a person’s Crime Coefficient. Even without actually committing a crime, you can be deemed a latent criminal if your Coefficient surpasses 100, and the police will be allowed to shoot you with their Dominators – a gun that can both stun and completely decimate a human being, depending on their Crime Coefficient.
Deciding whether to take supplements to ease your Hue or not is crucial to unlocking certain endings in Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness. By having Nadeshiko take the supplements at every turn and keeping her away from reckless behavior, you’ll likely be able to keep her straight-laced and alive till the end of the game. But you shouldn’t count on getting a satisfying conclusion by playing that way. In fact, I’ve found that walking the fine line between being a responsible Inspector and occasionally taking matters into your own hands is the most surefire way of getting all the answers to the mysteries presented in the game.
By introducing a new villain to the story, Mandatory Happiness is also able to question the value of humanity and free will – themes that are constantly brought up in the anime – with an interesting twist. In this case, Alpha is a cyborg AI who simply wants to bring happiness to everyone who suffers from a clouded Hue. However, one person’s happiness can come at the cost of someone else’s, and this creates a very fundamental conflict within Alpha’s own purpose and existence. As such, his definition of ‘happiness’ and methods of delivering said happiness becomes increasingly skewed and, needless to say, this results in a lot of trouble and widespread hysteria in this dystopian, cyberpunk version of Japan.
What does it really mean to be happy? Can human beings ever truly be happy if they’re always left wanting for more? And, more importantly, how do you even calculate a person’s emotions and determine their happiness level just from a Hue color? Alpha, Nadeshiko, and Tsurugi end up asking themselves these questions throughout the course of the story, and everything ties together neatly once you’ve figured out the ‘correct’ decision inputs required to reach your true endings.
If there’s one complaint to be had about Mandatory Happiness, it’s that the popular characters from the anime series mostly feel like foils to the development of these three new faces. This isn’t Akane’s story, and fans shouldn’t go in expecting to see more development between Kogami and his Enforcers; Mandatory Happiness is very much the story of Alpha, Nadeshiko, and Tsurugi, and this causes the rest of the cast to feel a little shallow from time to time. While the voice acting is superb and really helps to carry and deliver the weight of this heavy story, the lack of depth for the fan-favorite anime characters might be a little off-putting for some. Aside from some exclusive scenes that you can unlock by gaining favor with specific characters, it’s good to be aware that these characters won’t be stealing the limelight in the main story.
I should mention, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness isn’t very beginner-friendly, and newcomers might get easily overwhelmed by just how much there is to absorb. The game will give you little bits of plot exposition that explain what this world is all about, but generally, it expects players to already be familiar with crucial plot points and lore in order to fully enjoy its story.
If you’re a fan of the show but still on the fence for this one because of its status as a visual novel, I highly recommend that you pick it up for its story. For the most part, Mandatory Happiness is a Psycho-Pass game made specifically for Psycho-Pass fans. The story has no real bearing on the overall plot of the series, but it definitely adds a lot to the compelling universe, and even provides useful explanations for some lore points brought up in the TV show (hyper oats, anyone?). Mandatory Happiness is a great supplement to the already fantastic Psycho-Pass story, and I wouldn’t have any complaints if we saw even more standalone games contributing to the lore of this rich world.
Score: 4/5 – Great