Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness works just right as a companion episode to the series, but only appeals to those who were already fans.
The base of the Psycho-Pass anime has a lot of cyberpunk, but ultimately it is more of a police series than a philosophical one, no matter how much its characters even cite Ortega y Gasset from Madrid. In the year 2113, Japanese society is isolated from the outside. An automated system called Sybil recognizes the chances of someone committing a crime: the Sybil system measures general mental state often (Color) and can analyze it precisely if necessary (crime rate). The Office of Public Safety, where the protagonists of the series and the game work, is in charge of imprisoning or eliminating people who Sybil considers dangerous to society.
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is a visual novel set at an undetermined point in the first season of the anime; Akane is fully integrated into the team but has not yet started the final leg. In an independent case of the series, a kidnapping in Tokyo opens a plot that ends up leading to a crisis that threatens the inhabitants of the nearby town of Sado Marine City. The game’s two main characters are rookies: Inspector Nadeshiko Kugatachi and Enforcer Takuma Tsurugi. For those who do not know the series, the executors are people with a high crime rate who are considered suitable as armed arms at the service of the inspectors, a figure closer to a detective.
Both enter Division 1 simultaneously, where the protagonists of the series work. Although they do not know each other at all, there seems to be a certain link between the two. Takuma has been searching for a missing friend for months, to the point where desperation increased her crime rate; Joining the police as an executor allows him to continue investigating the case on his own. Nadeshiko, for her part, has to overcome an amnesia that has erased all her memories.
The format that this visual novel uses is the most classic that can exist: we spend most of the game reading and from time to time we make decisions that affect the course of the rest of the adventure. Each character has half a dozen endings depending on how they have solved the cases, what they have prioritized and how the protagonists of each adventure have left standing. The source material had plenty of potential to have included something to accompany the text and give the narration a bit of agility. Hacking minigames, scenario investigation, confrontations with criminals a la Snatcher … Not all visual novels need a touch of hybridization like in Ace Attorney or Danganronpa, but I think in this case it would have helped to make up the script problems.
I mentioned in passing in the first paragraph that the series, despite its cyberpunk setting, in almost every episode tiptoes over the philosophical and social issue to become a detective series. The same thing happens in the game: Mandatory Happiness poses a series of scenarios about the relationship between happiness and free will, but he hardly stops to develop them and they soon dissolve in the middle of the persecution. It seems that all of Division 1 has the same opinion and they hardly need to stop to argue about the motivations and consequences of the criminal’s actions.
The structure of the game is somewhat strange, divided into three chapters with different lengths; the first two last a couple of hours, while the third is close to six. They usually consist of an investigation part, in which we make decisions between different methods of finding the victims, and an action part, in which we have to select from up to four options how to face a direct confrontation. Our decisions depend on how long it takes to get to the crime scene, the status of the victims and whether the criminal will be imprisoned or executed on site. The game doesn’t do a good job of showing us the consequences of the decision; still less to show us whether the choice had real consequences.
Employing two new agents instead of two veterans of the series also ends up weighing, since the main characters are turned into comparsas and we hardly know more about them. The new ones, for their part, try to introduce people who do not know the series to the world, but their stories taking an excessive importance for the limited interest they have and it is also easy for us to touch an unsatisfactory ending when it comes to contributing answers to the mysteries of the game.
Perhaps what fans of the series may like the most are some small events that happen during the third chapter, in which we develop the relationship with a character that we have accompanied a lot during the missions. They are funnier than introspective, but they bring a bit of variety and focus on the characters that really interest us. As a completely separate mode from the main game we have a small clone of the 2048 game (in turn, a less graceful Threes clone) with skins of the Psycho Pass characters and some additional obstacles. Its only real function is to give us credits to be able to unlock sketches and audios.
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is relegated to a curiosity only suitable for fans of the series who want to enjoy one more adventure with the characters from the first season. The script that is unable to take advantage of the cyberpunk aspect of the series, wasting an interesting premise and presenting some protagonists who hardly contribute to the universe of the series. If you have not seen the anime, it is difficult for this game to catch your attention.