We’ve seen a few games show up in the past few years that toy with the idea of a perfect society. Take the Bioshock games, for instance, which are all about cities built on lofty ideals that hide darker truths within. More recently, indie survival game We Happy Few presented a vision of a world where everyone’s happy…because anyone who isn’t is quickly removed. The anime / manga series Psycho-Pass also deals with these themes, and curious fans of dystopic fiction might want to check out its localized visual novel Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness.
If you’re not familiar with Psycho-Pass, then you might be familiar with Minority Report, which is pretty much the same thing. In the future, everyone is subject to the Psycho-Pass, a sort of constant psychological screening performed via brain scan that measures emotional state and personality. The purpose of this screening is to prevent crime before it happens; if the probability of someone committing a crime exceeds a given level, the go-ahead is given for agents called Inspectors and Enforcers to restore order by any means necessary.
Mandatory Happiness focuses on new game-specific protagonists. Inspector Kugatachi has amnesia issues, while Enforcer Tsurugi’s search for a missing friend has left him wanting in the eyes of society. They both come into conflict with Alpha, a mysterious boy who intends to create a world of permanent happiness of his own design. The two characters present different takes on the story, with the former offering a more serious and cold perspective while the latter is more emotional, but as in the rest of the series this is can be a brutal and gritty tale.
The world of Psycho-Pass is far beyond the concept of someone being innocent until they’re proven guilty, and you’re intended to keep order regardless of your personal feelings on the matter. The happiness we see in this world is manufactured, and it shows. You’re even able to keep track of your own character’s mental state, which can change according to the course of the game and the actions you take.
Mandatory Happiness’ writing and gameplay (such as it is) are high-quality, as we’ve come to expect from the modern era of premium visual novels. This is a full on VN rather than a kinetic novel, so you’re able to make decisions and in-game events will change to reflect them. Having two playable characters does a lot for the game’s replay value, and it’s absolutely worth your time to go through it again with the other character when you’re finished. (Incidentally, if you’re looking for a more action-packed experience than a visual novel, there was a Minority Report game on sixth-generation consoles that involved plenty of throwing people out of windows to their deaths…that’s neither here nor there, though.)
Visual novel fans and anyone who’s into Psycho-Pass have probably already got this one on their radar, of course, though it can be a little wordy and exposition-heavy for newcomers to the genre. It’s a well-written adventure that’s worth checking out. Even if you’re not familiar with Psycho-Pass, if you liked Minority Report in theaters, you might find something to enjoy with Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness.