Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls Review

Danganronpa

 

Title: Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
Developer: Spike, NIS America
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 2.3 GB
NA Availability: 
Retail | Digital Download

EU Availability: Retail | Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

In many parts of the gaming world, there are franchises exclusive to a certain system.  In recent times, these franchises have been slowly dwindling, developers opting for a more multi-platform business plan instead of only sticking to one system or one company’s systems.  There are a handful of franchises you can think of, like Halo for Microsoft Windows and Xbox or Uncharted for Sony’s PlayStation family.  But in many cases, the franchises that are exclusive to one or the other are becoming more of a handful than plentiful.

On the PS Vita, it’s even harder to differentiate these franchises.  Sword Art Online used to be an exclusive franchise, until Lost Song released in Japan and Asia for the Vita as well as the PS3 and PS4.  The Neptunia spin-off games are still exclusive, though even the Rebirth remakes went over to PC through Steam.  When I think about the Vita and franchises with more than a single title that are exclusive in the West, I think of the Danganronpa series.

Danganronpa is a series of visual novel mystery games that began on the PSP, but only localized in the West on the PS Vita, alongside its sequel.  In the Vita community this franchise has a lot of praise for its gripping story-telling and memorable characters.  Past the first two games, the newest game of the franchise is about to hit the PS Vita.  Here is my official review of Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls!

Story

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The plot of Another Episode takes place between the events of the first and second games, in a secluded city known as Towa City.  Komaru Naegi, younger sister of Makoto Naegi from the first game, is taken from her isolated imprisonment by a group of children known as the Warriors of Hope.

She is soon parachuted back down into Towa City, which is now a warzone with an army of Monokuma attacking and murdering all of the adults in the city, in the hopes of bringing about a Paradise for the Warriors of Hope, where children can live without adults being in their lives.  Komaru then sets out to fight back against the army with a hacking gun she received and try to find a way out of the city before she gets ambushed and killed.

The plot of Another Episode is hard to explain because it’s filled with so many spoilers.  The story showcases the outside world for the first time in the series and answers a lot of questions that have been raised.  Not only does it shed light on the outside world, but also the origins of Monokuma and the villain of the franchise.  As such, you should not play this game until you have played both of the previous games.

Gameplay

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Unlike the previous entries of the series, Ultra Despair Girls is a third person shooter with puzzle and action elements.  While the story scenes still maintain a visual novel atmosphere through all the story-telling, this is the first game of the series to not only have 3D visuals but have gameplay completely different from the previous games.

The game progresses in Episodic Chapters just like previous games and is guided mostly by story elements.  The story will make an objective you need to reach and then you’ll be sent on your way, moving through 3D environments on the way to that objective.  As you go through these areas, you will be bombarded with story dialogue as well as enemies to fight off with your hacking gun and puzzles to solve.  It is very similar to other shooting games, but with more puzzle and story elements than other shooters have to offer.

Story is the biggest part of the series and it maintains a constant presence as you go through the game.  I would argue that you spend a lot more time going through story dialogue and learning about the world around you and the overall plot than you do actual roaming and shooting.  This is to be expected out of a Danganronpa game, and there’s really a lot of story to be had.  I would wager there was nearly 2 hours of story dialogue in the ending sequence alone, savor the final boss fights.

Combat goes in two segments: Shooting and Slashing.  To get it out of the way, your companion character, whose identity will remain a secret due to spoilers for the first game, is used in a very hack n slash manner and also has a timer, so you can’t just use them throughout the entire game and button-mash your way through every horde of enemies you come across.  They are very over-powered compared to Komaru, hence the need for the time limit.

Shooting is done with your hacking gun.  There will be Monokuma enemies coming at you frequently, and you’ll need to utilize different bullet types that you acquire throughout the story to do different things.  For example, the MOVE and DETECT bullets interacts with puzzles while the Burn and Break bullets are used to damage enemies.  Another thing is that enemies come in many different types, each with their own gimmick to defeating.  Some enemies move faster than others and some are boss-level enemies that require specific strategies for defeating quickly.

These are also used in puzzles.  You will frequently find Arcade Machines that ask you to proceed through the next room in a specific way that defeats all enemies at once.  You can do this however you want, but if you do it by their rules, which is based around never being detected and only using specific bullet types, you will be rewarded at the end of each episode.  This adds a pretty big puzzle element to the game, outside of other puzzles that require you to investigate and find password answers in various rooms, definitely a nod to the investigate feature from the first two games.

Another addition are the RPG elements thrown into the game.  You gain experience and level up from defeating enemies, which gives you Skill Points.  These are used for equipping skills you can find and learn as you explore throughout the game and the more levels you have, the more skills you can equip.  You also get Medals from defeated enemies, which can be used in the shop for add-ons for your bullets or skills for your secondary character.

All in all, your first trek through the game should take you about 16 hours, if you do a fair amount of exploring that the game encourages you to do and don’t just run past optional mobs of enemies.  It’s a little shorter than the other games, but it has quite a bit of length to it.

Controls

The first thing you should know is that there are button controls for absolutely everything you can do.  The game does have some touch features like selecting ammo types, but everything that can be done with touch can also be done with the buttons.  Also, there are no extra controls on the PlayStation TV.

Movement is done with the Left Analog Stick and the camera can be moved with the Right Analog Stick.  The D-Pad is used for changing bullets quickly, rather than actual movement.  The L trigger can be held to aim your gun and the R trigger is used to fire.  The rest goes to the face buttons.  X lets you interact with objects, from NPCs to doors and ladders.  Circle can be held down to run/dash.  Triangle can be tapped to switch characters, and Square is used to pull up the manual bullet change menu.

The controls are pretty easy to get used to.  The developers also crammed a ton of tutorials into the game so you’d never be confused about what you need to be doing.

Presentation

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The visual presentation is something that will greatly surprise you.  All of the 3D visuals in Ultra Despair Girls look pretty much flawless.  If you look really close in normal gameplay, you may be able to detect a jagged edge or two, but the developers made this look really nice and could probably pass as a console game.

The performance is mostly good.  The frame-rate stays at a very steady rate.  There are a few times when it dips but it only does so slightly.  Resident Evil Revelations 2 didn’t have terrible frame-rate issues, but Ultra Despair Girls puts its presentation to shame.

The only issue I have is with the audio.  When you’re going through dialogue and set progression to Auto so it will play itself without button input, it skips some dialogue.  The game will be too eager to skip to the next dialogue segment that it will cut off the last few words of many dialogue sequences.  This isn’t just a one-time thing either.  It does it all the time.  If you don’t set it to Auto, it never skips.  It’s only when set to Auto that this happens.

Summary

Danganronpa: Another Episode is another great game from Spike and NIS.  On the downside, there is a small glitch in the dialogue audio.  Outside of this is a casual shooting game that will give series fans much-needed answers about the world of Danganronpa and the history behind Monokuma. 

9/10

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