I was at work the other day and Virtue’s Last Reward popped into my head. It’s a game I haven’t played in a while, but is still a very good game. The main thing that I thought of were the files you get for clearing a room. They vary from small pieces of lore, to entomology, to real life examples and the background on many things in the game. One particular file always stood out to me: the one about Knox’s Commandments.
Knox’s Commandments come from the mind of mystery author Ronald Knox. It is a list of 10 rules that all examples of good detective fiction should follow. I remember thinking how interesting it is for that to be in a game about solving a mystery, even if it’s just a neat little tidbit. I also remember wanting to check how games stack up with each other in regards to it. And that’s exactly what I’ll do.
This is part one, there are more games I’d like to examine (all the Zero Escape games, Steins;Gate, Heavy Rain to name a few) but I only feel comfortable rating these first 4 games because they’re the ones most recent in my mind. I could be wrong about something here or there but ultimately I think this should be pretty accurate, if a little open to interpretation.
How It Works
Essentially I took each of the 10 commandments and checked how each game compared against it. For this first part the four games are Danganronpa 1, Danganronpa 2, Danganronpa V3, and Persona 4 Golden. All stories are centered around a murder mystery and would fit in well thematically with detective fiction. Each game will get a score of 0-10 for each commandment, for a maximum score of 100. It should go without saying but heavy spoilers ahead.
1.The Criminal Must Be Mentioned Early On
DR: 10, Junko Enoshima is seen just as early as any other student. Granted it’s not really Junko at that point, but my point stands.
DR2: 8, The mastermind is Izuru Kamakura, who is technically present at the opening, and is actually the main character, Hajime Hinata. I give it an 8 because the mastermind is technically right there, just before several life changes that lead to it.
DRV3: 7, To me it depends on the definition of mastermind. Tsumugi Shirogane was there all along, but to be fair she was just an employee of Team Danganronpa, the true masterminds. Then again Team Danganronpa was technically in the opening credits.
P4G: 7, This is a case similar to V3. The Killer, Tohru Adachi, was in the story very early on, but he is just a cog for the real “mastermind” Ameno-Sagiri, who was kinda dropped on us at the last minute. Which again was not even the true final boss, the honor of which belonged to Izanami. Honestly I’m making myself confused here, but I think a 7 is appropriate.
2.All Supernatural or Preternatural Agencies Are Ruled Out
DR: 8, First I think it’s important to distinguish Supernatural and Preternatural. The way I see it, Supernatural goes against everything that is believed, things like ghosts and whatnot. Whereas Preternatural are things that go against logic, things like 100 coin flips in a row landing heads. While not impossible, at least mathematically, it is pretty much so. Ergo, I’m giving Danganronpa an 8. Nothing is very supernatural, and I feel it’s actually pretty rooted save for the teenage girl destroying the world thing. Could happen, but pretty preternatural.
DR2: 4, At one point a student is shot with a bazooka and returns as a robot. Kinda out of nowhere too…
DRV3: 6, One of the students is the Ultimate Robot. A bit less extreme than Danganronpa 2, but still a bit of a stretch of the imagination.
P4G: 0, Persona 4 plays almost entirely on the supernatural, with the dungeon crawling segments taking place in a world inside the TV.
3.No More Than One Secret Passage or Room May Exist
DR: 9, There are a handful of inaccessible rooms (at least until the last chapter) but none of them are hidden, just locked. The only hidden area I can think of off the top of my head is the hatch in the Monokuma control room.
DR2: 10, The only thing I’d even partially consider is Hope’s Peak Academy. And that is also more locked and inaccessible than hidden.
DRV3: 7, The Mastermind’s hidden passage exists between the girl’s bathroom, and their lair (which is itself a hidden room, though it is discovered fairly quickly). Likewise Kokichi’s talent development room is hidden until the school starts to break down.
P4G: 10, I’d probably consider the TV world one big secret room, but other than that nothing stands out as applicable.
4.No Unknown Poisons May Be Used, Nor Any Appliance That Would Need A Long Scientific Explanation
DR: 9, The poison used in chapter 4 was mentioned beforehand and had very clear labeling. Monokuma doesn’t really require a long scientific explanation. Really the only thing even close to questionable would be the air purifier so I’ll give it a 9.
DR2: 7, The poison in chapter 5 has a very clear label, rendering it not unknown. However the crux of the 7 is those final reveals, mainly the Neo World Program and the Hope Resoration Plan, neither of which is super absurd, but still require some explanation.
DRV3: 8, The poison in chapter 4 was clearly labeled, and more importantly not even used, it was meant to be a red herring. However with the Ultimate Robot, Exisals, and their own version of the Neo World Program, I’d say that V3 needs some explanations too, though the appliances in question aren’t as convoluted as the ones in DR2.
P4G: 9, Only because the fog seems to have a poison-like effect on people. It’s not the killer of those who go to the other world, that’d be the shadows themselves, but it’s still the most mysterious “poison” in any of the four games.
5.No One With Extrasensory Perception or Similar Powers Can Appear
DR: 6, There’s Sayaka, who claims to be psychic when guessing what Makoto is thinking, but that has no bearing on the plot or cases whatsoever. Kyoko acts befitting of the Ultimate Detective, which means very acute perception.
DR2: 5, Mainly on the back of Nagito’s luck. It doesn’t come up much, but when it does it changes the story quite easily. It is very relevant.
DRV3: 6, Again we have an Ultimate Detective, and I’ll give him the same result as Kyoko got.
P4G: 5, I mean it’s not exactly extrasensory perception, but the main characters all receive a huge power that is pretty explainable and very useful in the case.
6.No Accident Should Help The Detective, Nor Should He Have An Inexplainable Intuition Which Later Proves Correct
DR: 4, The biggest example would be Alter Ego saving Makoto from execution. Definitely helps him, but technically isn’t an accident, I still choose to count it.
DR2: 10, I can’t seem to recall anything that fits.
DRV3: 9, As I’m replaying chapter 5 now, it’s glaring how much Shuichi is almost certain Kaito isn’t the victim almost immediately. His reasoning isn’t awful, but it’s still quite the intuition, which later proves to be correct.
P4G: 10, The biggest help the protag gets is the power of persona, which wasn’t an accident so much as it was a calculated move by Izanami.
7.The Detective Must Not Commit The Crime
DR: 10, Makoto is one of only a few students that did nothing wrong, in my opinion. So yeah, this one is an easy 10. He is framed by the mastermind for chapter 5’s murder, but we know he’s not the culprit and that he’s being played.
DR2: 6, As previously mentioned, the Detective himself doesn’t technically commit the crime, though a version of him does. Danganronpa 2 is kinda weird to explain in such short bursts.
DRV3: 3, The game starts with a separate protagonist, but it turns out she actually committed the first murder. Her successor never murders again, and it’s not like she was the mastermind, so only a 3.
P4G: 9, MC doesn’t commit the crime. The 9 is because in the Golden edition there is an option ending to become the criminal’s accomplice.
8.The Detective Must Declare Any Clues He Discovers
DR: 5, The major rift about halfway through the game between Makoto and Kyoko comes when Makoto refuses to share the clue he found (Sakura and Monokuma fighting, wherein Monokuma outs her as the traitor). Otherwise he’s pretty good about it though.
DR2: 10, Can’t remember Hajime hiding anything.
DRV3: 9, That’s kinda Shuichi’s whole arc: needing to reveal the truth no matter what. I’ll knock him down to a 9 though since he was so tentative to reveal the clues that pointed to Kaede in chapter 1.
P4G: 8, Again with the new ending you have the option of not revealing what you’ve found that would implicate Adachi.
9.The “Watson” (More or less sidekick, though the Commandments refer to them as “The stupid friend”) Must Conceal Nothing From the Reader
DR: 6, Kyoko concealing her talent, even after she learns it, as well as concealing the fact that the headmaster was her father come to mind.
DR2: 4, Nagito finds out all the students are former Remnants of Despair and keeps it from everyone.
DRV3: 7, Maki kept her true talent hidden. Likewise Rantaro kept his Survior Perk information hidden as well.
P4G: 10, The investigation team really doesn’t keep anything from the player.
10.Twins and Doubles Must Not Appear Unannounced
DR: 0, The main twist involves a twin so yeah, not even close.
DR2: 3, Likewise the twist involves doubles, kinda. Like I said, confusing.
DRV3: 10, No doubles.
P4G: 10, No doubles.
The final tally is as follows
Danganronpa 2: 67
Danganronpa V3: 72
Persona 4 Golden: 78
According to Knox’s Commandments, Persona 4 Golden is the best written mystery of the group. Will it continue to be after part 2 or will another game take the title?