Set between Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is the first game in the series that introduces third person exploration and combat, whilst retaining the bonkers anime storytelling of the previous entries in the series. As a complete newcomer to the series, I have to admit that bonkers is barely a strong enough word to convey how I felt about Danganronpa: Another Episode, and if you find yourself playing the game without any context from the wider series, you may find (as I did) that it will take some time to get used to.
So what is it? Well, its hard to summarise, but basically Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls features a macabre tale about an island-city called Towa, and a group of sinister children who call themselves The Warriors Of Hope. Seeing all adults as demons, these children plan to use an army of Monokumas (robotic bears with sharp claws and glowing red eyes) to kill all the adults on the island in order to create a haven for children such as themselves. Players take on the role of Komaru Naegi, a girl who has been mysteriously imprisoned on Towa for over a year, and must seize the opportunity to escape when a Monokuma breaks into her apartment.
She is soon armed with a megaphone hacking gun by the mysterious Byakuya Togami and joined by the quiet yet totally psychotic Toko Fukawa (and her alternative personality, Genocide Jack) and the conversation between these characters becomes the main driving force behind the game. Danganronpa: Another Episode is dialogue heavy, with full voice acting in English or Japanese, and in the main, the story is interesting. The setting is truly appalling, and there are bodies and baddies all over the place, so watching how Komaru and Toko handle the dire situation they are in is where most of the reason for playing lies.
The gameplay fails to match the standard set by the story however, and considering this was originally a PS Vita game, it’s easy to see why. There is very little variety among the enemies, and the shooting is dull, flat and one-dimensional, clearly belying the simplistic gameplay that is needed to avoid frustration when making a handheld shooter. During any fight scene, Komaru can switch with Toko who instantly transforms into Genocide Jack for a limited time (whilst her battery charge lasts) and can use a brutal melee attack to brutalise enemies, which is much more fun.
Komaru herself defeats the hordes of Monokumas using her hacking gun, which in itself can be equipped with a varied range of “Truth Bullets.” The main shot simply destroys Monokumas, but more interesting options allow players to force them to dance, take control of them or set fire to them. The gun is used in other ways too, with an early “Move” bullet being used to flip distant switches. Several of these Truth Bullet modes lead to interesting ways to defeat enemies (especially where bosses are concerned) but none of the modes outside combat are especially varied or interesting.
I was quite disappointed not to see better use of Genocide Jack, considering how much more fun and effective her means of dispatching enemies is, especially considering the transition to a legitimate home console. Thankfully, there are some other means by which Danganronpa mixes things up, including via strange pseudo-stealth sections that have Komaru hacking an arcade machine and then using it to plot the movements and view angle that Monokuma in the next room have. This is hardly rocket science, but in a game that has otherwise quite crappy combat, it does at least introduce another way to proceed forwards.
Graphically, I did appreciate some of the unique artwork that Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls features, but the in-game graphics themselves are broadly quite poor in my opinion. The levels are incredibly basic and made up largely of long, dull corridors and large, featureless rooms in the main, with a few exceptions. In-game cut scenes are a bit better, with good use of the manga style to display facial expressions and animations, which in turn enhanced the dialogue and story elements that I’ve already described. In addition, there are several scenes throughout the game that feature full anime sequences, and these are fantastic.
Danganronpa also features a soundtrack that has a lot of positives. The music is pretty nutty and not exactly to my taste, but what it does do is suit the visual style and the story being told, and it further creates a feeling of desperation during fight scenes. Music aside, the voice acting is excellent, with every line (and there is a lot of it) fully voiced. Sound effects are good too, and overall the entire aural experience throughout Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is quite strong.
In conclusion, I found Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls to be a dark and disturbing experience that was interesting enough to keep me engaged throughout the twenty hour story. Unfortunately, I had to force my way through what I felt were pretty tiresome shooting sections, but credit to the developers, they have attempted to spice things up a bit by introducing variable elements. This is simply a hangover of the game having been released first as a PS Vita game, and to boot, that release was around three years ago.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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