Psycho Pass Mandatory Happiness is the visual novel adaptation of the anime series Psycho Pass. The series was created by mangaka and anime writer Gen Urobuchi. It was originally meant to be a successor of Production I.G’s Ghost In The Shell but evolved into its own stand alone story. It runs parallel to the first 12 episodes and sets up its own story entirely while remaining faithful to the original anime.
The series focuses on the public service/security bureau which serves as the investigative and police force for the Japanese government. Three characters not seen in the original are introduced. The story takes place in the 22nd century Japan in the near future.
You play as either inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi or enforcer Takumi Tsgurchi. Nadeshiko is focused on recovering her missing memories while Takumi Tsgurchi is looking for his missing lover. Alpha, the main antagonist, is a mysterious teenage boy whose main goal is being a wish granter and to bring happiness to others.
He is heavily involved in chemical warfare, mass manipulation and also human depopulation as part of a bigger plan.
Nadeshiko is a woman of logic who deals with facts and is by the book. She is mostly emotionless and speaks in a monotone and bland voice most of the time and she has no real life outside her job.
Takumi Tsgurchi is a lot more emotionally driven. His major flaw is his own impulsive nature and his belief system of good and evil. He is a stock action hero type of character that can be seen in other works of fiction. He can also get a bit off topic at times instead of focusing on the job and he can easily go hectic during combat at any given moment in contrast to the more professional and precise Shinya Kogami. They are both members of the public service bureau in Japan.
Enforcers are those who are considered “criminally latent” meaning they have the tendencies to be dangerous individuals and their purpose is to serve as soldiers for the public service bureau and nothing else or they would end up being killed. Inspectors are the detectives and they are involved in keeping the overall peace and solving crimes, both moral and legal.
The game contains many dark themes per the writing style of Gen Urobuchi and despite its “T” rating, is actually ultra violent, nihilistic and very dark and edgy. As a cyberpunk anime, it is not focused on time travel or aliens, instead it is focused on Artificial Intelligence, Espionage, Surveillance and Organized crime. The world in Psychopass is based upon Meritocracy and those who are “useless” are dropped like flies. The mantra is to live a stress free live but at the cost of personal individuality and the moral complications of this emotional state.
Takumi and Nadeshiko work for the public security service of Japan and they are new transfers to the main division of the public service bureau. Anybody can become a criminal unintentionally, either due to stress or through certain character flaws. Because of this, there are two options, execution or to serve as enforcers for the public security service.
The Sybil system is a form of security system that predicts crime probability and it serves as a form of surveillance all across Japan. The system is what keeps order in Japan and jobs are also assigned based upon merit and personality. There are three important qualifications in order to be “safe” from being a target of the Sybil system. You must be criminally asymptotic, have a personality that does not fit within conventional human standards and you must be objective and place personal feelings and biases aside.
Crime coefficient is used to predict the probability of crimes in Psycho Pass, the higher the number the more likely the individual is considered to be a threat and is to be either neutralized lethally or non-lethally. Everyone is a suspect, even victims of the crime can be neutralized.
Mental health is very fragile in the series and everyone is required by law to keep an eye on their hue as it can change to a lighter or darker color depending on how they handle circumstances and those who have an imbalanced hue will be shunned. Hues are what is referred to the mental health state of individuals in Psycho Pass.
Emotional repression is very common in the series and it is also very unhealthy for individuals to go through as the Sybil system indirectly brings the fear of others out in order to just live a happy life. If one slip occurs, then they are labeled as latent criminals and could be marked to death. The concept of psycho pass refers towards a person’s mind, their lifestyle and the state of their well being.
The series does not focus on humor and anime trends like Moe or slice of life school elements. In fact, during the creation of Psycho Pass, terms like that were banned outright because this series was created as a counter culture against mainstream anime. So Fanservice in the game is not something you would often encounter. This actually worked well in the long term and it felt quite natural as the game focuses on building close relationships with your workers without getting involved in romance. Your relationships with characters varies depending on the choices you made and it can open new routes if you made the right choices.
The series references many forms of media such as literature, video games, anime and tv shows. It heavily inspired by these mediums especially cyberpunk fiction.
All of the overall themes and story in the game is really interesting and compelling from start to finish. The game is fairly long and the pacing is slow. The action does not happen all at once, instead it takes its time and the amount of information given about story lore and cases have to be taken one at a time as this game is very story driven especially.
The soundtrack is very good with both new songs and songs from the anime.
Its dark visual and cyberpunk neo noir art style goes perfect for the storytelling and atmosphere. The characters managed to fit in with the background mostly. The animation was very smooth and exactly like the anime. The characters and background designs look well made and nicely detailed and are done by the Reborn manga artist Akira Amano.
Most of the characters were multilayered and had great character development. The standout character in the entire game is Shinya Kogami. He is highly skilled at both combat and detective work and always has a professional and calm demeanor. On a personal level, he shares close relationships with other inspectors and he never takes anything at face value and he is also pretty skeptical about the Sybil system. Shinya has a unique perspective on things and he often uses his critical thinking to provide different kinds of ideas on how to solve cases. He has strong morals and he never lets hypocritical society rules or red tape stop him.
Another standout character in the game is Shogo Makishima, one of the villains in the story. He is not a tool like Alpha, he has his own agenda and he operates on his own free will. He likes to bring out the worst in people. He has a keen interest in literature from deceased authors as the words from dead are the closest he can be to feeling human. His main goal is to eliminate the Sybil system, something public service bureau would agree with, especially Shinya Kogami but they disagree with Shogo’s methods. Another reason why Shogo is against the Sybil system is due to the fact it encourages hive minded thinking instead of independent thought and true freedom to live. Shogo believes that people should also be able to live their life however they see fit without Sybil interference and this is another point that many in the public service bureau can agree with as well.
The voice acting was generally good as the Japanese voice cast reprise their respective roles. It has a generally good Japanese to English translation in the subtitles and the game has full voice acting and lip synching, something that is very unusual for Japanese games in general. This was a really good decision as it made the experience seamless and immersive. In terms of gameplay, this had more interactive features in contrast to Chaos Child but it is still just as emotionally story driven as Chaos Child.
Each case you are given is very morally complicated and choices are to be carefully considered as it can lead to death any moment. Situations are always tense and very fast paced. As an enforcer or inspector, you have many different ways to approach a case. You can use lethal methods or use a more analytical approach.
At certain points in the game you are given multiple options to proceed through objectives. Some choices can lead to civilian casualties or your coworkers being badly injured. Both are given dominators which is a special high tech weapon that can be used for lethal or non-lethal purposes depending on the situation and it only unlocks once the threat level is high. Periodically you are given a choice to take mental tablets which helps calms down the user after cases. If you don’t take them, you are likely to end up either a criminal or dead.
One case where you have to take down this extremely emotionally disturbed mother and to save her two children from her own destructive behavior. She ends up being executed point blank due to how mentally unstable she is and how much of a danger she is to others and herself. Afterwards, you have to interrogate the husband and it turns out he is just as bad as the wife by not only being just neglectful to her and their kids but he was also just making false accusations of infidelity and he just couldn’t be bothered with the fact that he is the sole legal guardian of the children and he is more concerned about work. He ends up getting tazed and before that was beaten badly by Takumi and you have a choice to either let the beatings go on or not. Nadeshiko calmly but firmly points out the plotholes of his logic before she shoots him point blank.
The game has a good amount of replay value. Each choice allows you to take multiple different routes. There is a mini game in which you have to move blocks and each block that represents a psycho pass character will add up to a higher number. Eventually, there will be obstacles as you progress through the mini game and you will have to move around in different ways to maneuver around them. If all the blocks do not match and it is full and you cannot move anymore, it will be gameover.
The user interface is easy to use and to navigate through. You can use the points you earn to purchase the extra content in the game. You can rewatch cutscenes any time and peruse through the in game art as well. There are multiple endings in the game based on the choices you make. The game encourages you to play through different choices to see the other endings to get a better understanding of the main story.
The game has a large amount of save slots so you can use any new playthrough without sacrificing one or the other playthrough at any time. There are multiple different options for the audio. The speed of the dialogue can be adjusted to fit your own personal pace of how you want the story to be presented.
There were a few drawbacks mainly story related. Akane was a very weak, one dimensional, boring and uninteresting character. She is also incredibly clumsy, naïve and sometimes put her teammates into dangerous situations. Sometimes she takes a backseat to what is happening while the other characters, especially Shinya, does much of the problem solving. Nadeshiko was pretty flat and did not have much of a personality. She can be quick to dismiss things as nonsense.
In of the true ending of the game, more questions were left unanswered such as where did Tsugrgi’s lover disappear to and who is Kuagatachis past.
There were plenty of stuff in the game that could have been explored more deeply like the background of how Japan got into its current state and more of the themes and concepts in the game as at times felt underutilized.
Don't expect much character development in the game as it takes place during the early episodes of Psycho Pass and also the game expects you to already know the majority of the lore and concepts in it. The origins of the Sybil system is a bit of a mystery and there should have been some more information on something that has so much impact on the characters and the story. The dialogue can be a bit awkward at times due to translation errors.
Overall, Psycho Pass is a solid game and I highly recommend it.
It gets about 4 stars out of 5.
For the second game from Mages INC and for my first glimpse of Psycho Pass, the series is quite good. Fans of the show would enjoy this game and there is also more Psycho Pass material still being released like an upcoming third season. The story and gameplay interactivity in Psycho Pass Mandatory Happiness is the level interactivity needed for Chaos Child.