PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happiness
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happiness is based on the popular anime series of the same name, but this engrossing visual novel isn’t afraid to carve out its own path. It features a very memorable setting, interesting characters and plenty of content to explore. The story is a little darker than most visual novels on Steam, which is a good thing and familiarity with the anime series isn’t required to enjoy this title. Any fans of the genre looking for something that will keep them busy for a while should definitely add PSYCHO-PASS to their collection.

Gameplay: Features an engrossing storyline, two protagonists, a branching storyline and plenty of different endings.

Graphics: Great character designs and backgrounds, but not much in the way of animations.

Sound: Full voice acting for all the characters and some nice background music too

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PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happiness

Developer: MAGES. Inc. , 5pb. | Publisher: NIS America, Inc. | Release Date: 2017 | Genre: Adventure / Visual Novel | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

For a game with the subtitle “Mandatory Happiness” it should probably not come as a surprise that it isn’t set in a very happy world. However, happiness is central to the gameworld and indeed the plot as everyone is constantly monitored and dire consequences await those who find their moods getting too dark. The Sibyl System pretty much runs the show and uses the Psycho-Pass technology to read the “hues” of everyone. Those with unfavorable hues can find themselves marked as latent criminals and things only get worse from there. Of course, somebody has to do the dirty job of enforcing the punishments meted out by this system and this is where the Public Safety Bureau comes into play. Consisting of Enforcers and Inspectors, it is their responsibility to track down people who are veering too close to unacceptable crime coefficients and take care of them. All of this will probably sound very familiar to those who watched the 2012 anime series of the same name on which this visual novel is based.

Mandatory Happiness was originally released as an Xbox One title in Japan before receiving PS4 and Vita versions. It took a little while, but now PC owners can also experience this great title. The game presents players with two different characters to choose from, Inspector Nadeshiko Kagatachi and Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi. Neither of them appeared in the anime, but they are both memorable characters with their own inner demons to battle. Nedeshiko is a capable, but troubled woman who cannot remember her past, and her personality causes some of her co-workers to liken her more to a droid than a human. Takumma on the other hand became a latent criminal when the love of his life disappeared. His future seemed bleak until he was enlisted by the Public Safety Bureau who make use of people with high crime coefficients as they are better able to understand criminals. The duo quickly finds themselves up against a mysterious opponent, called Alpha, who appears to be hell-bent on spreading happiness amongst the population by any means necessary. As Alpha’s actions become increasingly deranged, the Bureau has to pull out all stops to uncover what is really going on and put an end to the madness before their own hues are irrevocably tainted. As far as storylines go, this one is pretty gripping and kept us engrossed all the way through.

In addition to being able to see the story unfold from different perspectives, depending on who you choose as the protagonist, the game also presents you with a series of choices throughout the story. These choices can make the story branch and ultimately lead you to one of the many endings in the game.

This adds a lot of replay value to an already lengthy game, so anyone who wants to see everything it has to offer should be prepared to put in some time. Although we weren’t’ familiar with the original anime, we had no trouble following the story in the game. The game does use a lot of unfamiliar terms, but thanks to a handy “tips” section which serves as a dictionary you can refresh your memory or check out their meanings at any time. About the only criticism about the story is that it features some overly obvious foreshadowing, but this doesn’t detract from the experience too much. We really like the fact that your character’s hue plays an important role in the story and neglecting to do something to improve it when offered the opportunity can alter the way things play out.

In terms of visuals PSYCHO-PASS features a resolution of 1920×1080, which is quite welcome compared to what we usually get from visual novels. The game can be played in full screen or windowed mode and has some very nice artwork. The characters all look unique and there are tons of locations, all with detailed backgrounds. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of animations apart from blinking and moving mouths, but some great CGs make up for this. There are times when certain scenes could have benefited from accompanying artwork, but unfortunately the budget for the game clearly didn’t stretch far enough to allow for this. Interestingly enough, the game has some art, voice overs and scenes that can be unlocked from the “Extra” menu on the title, but these have to be bought using currency earned playing a bonus mini-game. The mini-game is quite addictive though, so this never felt like a chore. The interface for the game is straightforward enough, but pay attention to the “Help” screen in the config menu to see the keyboard shortcuts as these are not immediately obvious.

All of the characters in PSYCHO-PASS are voiced in Japanese and the overall quality of the audio is very good. The soundtrack is mostly mellow, but there are also a couple of tracks that are a bit faster for when the action ramps up. Everything from the background music to sound effects and individual voices can be adjusted separately, which is always a welcome feature in a visual novel.

There are a lot of visual novels currently on Steam that deal with whimsical or lighthearted topics, so it is refreshing to play a title that has more of an edge. From what we can tell PSYCHO-PASS is not quite as dark or disturbing as its anime counterpart, though, which is bound to disappoint some fans of the series. However, it is still a very enjoyable title and made a big enough impression on us that we went on to seek out the anime to watch. As such, we can heartily recommend it to fans of the genre looking for a title that has a bit more substance and content than what can usually be found on Steam.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7/8.1/10
  • Processor: Core i3 (Haswell)
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: VRAM 2GB (or Intel HD Graphics 4000)
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectSound
  • Additional Notes: Runs best on Skylake or better processors
  • OS: Windows 7/8.1/10
  • Processor: Core i3 (Skylake)
  • Memory: 3 GB RAM
  • Graphics: VRAM 2GB (or Intel HD Graphics 4000)
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 3 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectSound

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