Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: PS Vita
Release Date: September 01, 2015
Price: $39.99 US – Available Here $59.95 AU – Available Here
The Danganronpa series has grown quite popular over the past few years with fans of the series hoping for a third game to be released and continue the storyline that has been developed over the course of the first two games that were only released in the West last year. Instead, Spike Chunsoft chose a slightly different route and created Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, a spin-off title set between Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair. Featuring a different playstyle from what fans are used to, is Ultra Despair Girls able to be as memorable as the core titles?
Now before we go into the story here, I will begin with saying that there are some rather significant spoilers for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc contained in this game so if you are keeping the first game in your backlog or are on the fence about picking it up, you should avoid Ultra Despair Girls and the rest of this review as there will be spoilers regarding some events that took place during the first game. In fact, there are even spoilers in this game regarding certain reveals that occur in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair but those will not be discussed.
Moving away from the confines of a locked school and isolated set of islands, Danganronpa Another Episode follows the story of Komaru Naegi, who happens to be the younger sister of the protagonist from the first game. She has been held prisoner for a year inside of an apartment in an unknown location by unknown captors and is completely unaware of the events that have transformed the world over the past year. The despair that she felt from being imprisoned is nothing compared to the feeling of having to stare down a Monokuma with razor sharp claws smashing down your door.
Despite having no way of fighting back, Komaru manages to briefly escape the robot bear only to run into Byakuya Togami who informs her that they are members of Future Foundation and are there to rescue her. After giving her a special hacking gun Byakuya is forced to separate from Komaru and it is only shortly after this that she learns the grim state of the world and where she is currently located.
The advanced Towa City managed to avoid most of the devastation from the despair that flooded the world but that has come to an end as an invasion of murderous Monokumas have begun killing everyone that they come across. Controlled by a group of children calling themselves the Warriors of Hope, their only goal appears to be to create a paradise for children where no adults are left alive. After meeting up with Toko Fukawa, Komaru must find a way to escape Towa city alive.
The idea of children taking over a city would have been difficult to believe coming from any other writers besides those of the Danganronpa series. While the game may have moved away from murder mysteries, there are still plenty of mysteries spread throughout Danganronpa Another Episode and thanks to some amazing writing from the aforementioned staff. The plot features a number of crazy twists that spice up the already intriguing storyline especially since there always is more to the story than initially meets the eye, especially in regards to the children in the Warriors of Hope. That being said, the story this time is a bit slower paced due to the nature of the actual game so expect a bit of downtime between major events.
The core characters of Komaru and Toko work well together with Komaru constantly trying to play the “normal and plain” card only to become quite a likable lead character, showing that greatness does run in the family, while Toko, one of a few characters that has previously been given the least amount of development in the series, manages to grow quite a bit in this game (especially since she has learned to partially control her serial killer personality Genocide Jill), while the world itself is riddled with collectible notes and books that provide extra details about the world and even some first-hand accounts of what happened to some areas of the city.
Now, taking the clue finding, mini-game completing, puzzle solving courtroom mechanics out of the hands of a series such as Danganronpa may have left fans worried but they shouldn’t be too concerned. Instead of the standard formula, players now will be playing in a third-person shooter where Komaru and Toko travel throughout the destroyed and corpse riddled streets and buildings of Towa city in order to escape.
Along the way Komaru will need to use her megaphone shaped gun to shoot electronic codes called “truth bullets” at the various Monokuma enemies that come across their path as well as at various items in the environment to solve puzzles. You see, while the standard “break” bullet is generally used to eliminate Monokumas (with shots to their red eye causing an instant kill) Komaru also receives a number of other truth bullets that cause various effects such as causing the enemy to dance, moving a piece of machinery to either eliminate an enemy or clear a pathway, or even uncover hidden objects in the world.
That being said, the shooting mechanics are fairly simple and unremarkable at best. There are occasional areas that challenge the player to complete a specific room using only specific truth bullets and accomplishing a set goal at the same time to spice things up but for the most part you’ll be wandering through the various hallways, eliminating Monokumas, picking up coins that they drop, gaining levels, purchasing “bling” bullets to add bonuses to your standard truth bullets using the aforementioned coins, and equipping skills found scattered throughout the world by utilizing skill points gained from leveling.
Toko does serve as a way to break up the generic third person shooting action, but only for a limited time. Thanks to her growing understanding of her other half, Toko can now transform at will into Genocide Jill using a stun gun. When playing as Jill, players will be able to utilize the serial killers scissors to deadly effect by tearing through Monokuma enemies and even bosses with powerful combo maneuvers and special passion attacks. Of course Jill also remains invincible while fighting making her a force to be reckoned with, though players will need to keep an eye on their battery meter because when it runs out, Jill reverts back to the meek Toko, though Jill’s abilities and transformation time can be enhanced at the aforementioned shops scattered throughout the city.
Visuals & Audio
It wouldn’t feel like a Danganronpa game without some classic stylization to make sure that the violence and death that appears in front of the player is as haunting and creepy as possible without actually showing gore and Danganronpa Another Episode pulls it off quite well. As you venture through the admittedly very simplistic looking streets and buildings of Towa City there will be bodies scattered everywhere. Sometimes they’ll be piled up in a corner, stuck to a wall, or in some other morbid position that is only presented in a blue or pink human shape with no other details other than being surrounded by pink blood. This creates some very gruesome looking scenes that the player will end up filling in the missing details without actually showing how terrible it is.
To make things worse, there are little children wearing Monokuma masks regularly celebrating or jumping around on corpses to really drive the creepy feeling home. Outside of the adventuring, the cutout visuals from past games return for a few scenes but more often than not cutscenes are presented using 3D models and rarely are even shown in full anime form for a real treat.
The soundtrack for Danganronpa Another Episode manages to sound just as haunting as past games in the series which is a nice touch given the tone of the game. As for the voice acting, the English voice actors for returning characters have reprised their roles in great fashion while the new characters fit in quite well. As for the Japanese voice track, players have the option to download it for free from the PlayStation Store if they wish to go that route.
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is a move away from what fans of the series are used to and while there may have been some concern that it would cause the game to lose focus of the storyline thankfully those fears can be put to rest. While the gameplay mechanics are all fairly standard, they aren’t terrible by any means and with amazing writing to back it up and fill in gaps between the two main games, this spin-off is one that fans should be eager to pick up.
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