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REVIEW / Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (Vita)

 

After the tragedy that occurred at the end of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, a year and a half later, everyone is just trying to get things back to normal.  All may be for naught however, as the white and black bear-shaped robots known as Monokumas are back and they are literally out for blood this time.  Trapped on an island ruled by despair called Towa City, you take on the roles of Komaru Naegi, Toko Fukawa and Toko’s alter ego, Genocide Jack.  Together you must make your way around Towa City in an effort to find a way off the island while using your wits and any items that you may come upon to survive the many incarnations of Monokumas.  In Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, NIS America and Spike Chunsoft has teamed up once more to take you on another thrill ride where one false move could mean your demise if you let despair into your heart.

 

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Komaru (left) and Toko (right – AKA Genocide Jack) are two very different people but they manage to work together to fight the Monokumas and possibly make it off the island.

 

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is the next adventure in the Danganronpa game series that pits you against the world’s most maniacal two-toned bear.  This time out of the gate, the game is described as an action adventure, but it is really designed more like a third person shooter.  Gone are the trials where you try to determine if one of your so-called friends is telling the truth or not, replaced with finding “truth bullets” that you shoot from your megaphone-like Hacking Gun that you get from a stranger who is sent to free you from an apartment that you have been locked in since “The Tragedy.”  Yeah, you read that right.  The children of Towa City have risen up and have vowed to kill all of the adults, which you quickly learn about after you break out of said apartment building.  While most of the kids are out of their minds, there are a few who will help you by gifting to you the different Truth Bullets that you will need to make it off the island.

 

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You should stay away from most kids but there are a few that will give you a new Truth Bullet to battle many of the incarnations of Monokumas that you will encounter.

 

The Truth Bullets are a holdover from the previous Danganronpa games, however, they seem to have been stripped down into a more simplistic idea where you gain control over the robot Monokumas and other electro-mechanical items in the game like cars and vending machines.  All told, there are eight different kinds of Truth Bullets.  Early on, you will be given “Break,” “Move” and “Dance” which will allow you to traverse the beginning areas with ease.  The Truth Bullets do exactly what they describe: “Break” bullets will destroy Monokumas, “Move” bullets will cause cars to move and vending machines to spit out their wares and “Dance” bullets will cause Monokumas to dance while attracting other Monokumas to their immediate location.  It’s up to you to get creative and use these Truth Bullets to clear a path through the very linear areas and make it to the next check point.  If you get swarmed by too many Monokumas, you can switch to Toko’s alter ego, Genocide Jack, who uses a pair of scissors to quickly and effortlessly dispatch of any Monokumas that get too close.

 

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The “Dance” Truth Bullet will make your target immediately start dancing while attracting other Monokumas in the vicinity. Maybe there is a car you could use to run them all over at that point…

 

The visuals in Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is the highlight in an otherwise very narrow, path-focused game.  The artwork is done in a cool anime inspired style that Spike Chunsoft is known for.  The colors are somewhat muted and serve to set the tone of being in a situation where you may not make it out alive.  Dead bodies litter the streets and corridors where you travel, so it is fitting that the environments are somber and brooding.  The character designs are some of the best that I have seen in any of the previous Danganronpa games and helps to carry this game along even when you are backtracking through many areas that you have already seen before.

 

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The sky above Towa City is red and foreboding and the other environments that you will see are also just a dour.

 

The sound effects in this game are on par with what you would expect from the series with the maniacal laughter of the Monkumas and the blasts of the different Truth Bullets ringing out of your headphones.  The soundtrack is also one aspect of this game that really stood out to me.  Spike Chunsoft does such a great job of setting the mood for a particular event or location with just the right type of music that it is almost unreal.  The English voice overs are also a high point and serves to bring the characters to life and if you have the space on your memory card; NIS has made the Japanese voice overs available for free but it will take up almost 2 GB of storage space.  These elements all combine to become the best parts of this game which unfortunately still falls way short of the genius of the previous two titles in the series.

 

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Li’l Ultimate Homeroom is the ringleader of the uprising of all the children. While she may look cute and unimposing, she is very dangerous.

 

Where the first two games were very engaging and offered gameplay that really allowed you to use your brain in figuring out who the real enemies were among the people in your group, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls chose to dumb the formula way down and make this game into some sort of linear slog-fest.  Shooting with the Hacking Gun feels more like the carnival BB-gun shooting games where you shoot at paper targets than an authentic third-person shooter.  Having the different flavors of Truth Bullets which affect the Monokumas in different ways works well being that they are all robots and your Hacking Gun has the ability to infiltrate the inner workings of the killer robot bears wirelessly.  However, the fact that the areas in the game are used over and over and aren’t very inspired made the game feel like it was just rushed out the door without any real thought behind the gameplay.

 

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The “Break” Truth Bullet does just what it says. It’s regular ammo that you will find in the environments or “Move” out of vending machines. It’s somewhat limited so be sure to make every shot count.

 

In addition, the dialogue sections of the game always last just a little too long and take you our of the game entirely.  It seemed like every time that the action would ramp up, you would have to stop and have some long, drawn out discussion with your partner, Toko Fukawa or her alter ego, Genocide Jack, about her twisted view of the world or the people that inhabit it.  It just seemed like the game designers were trying so hard to get the point across about the severity of Toko’s split personality that it crosses over into ridiculousness very quickly.  There is so much dialogue that doesn’t really move the story forward that it makes the game feel more like a visual novel instead of an action adventure game.

 

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Monokumas come in different versions such as the Ball, Junk, Siren and Bomber Monokumas. Each has to be dispatched in a way that exploits its particular weakness.

 

I have to admit that I was very disappointed at the direction that Spike Chunsoft took with this third entry in the Danganronpa series.  The first two games were such groundbreaking adventures that this current iteration simply can’t hold a candle to them.  The terribly linear direction that the game takes along with the lack of any kind of real gameplay features hurts this game tremendously.  I’m having a hard time recommending this game to even the most die-hard Danganronpa fans, to be fair.  If you are so inclined to experience this game for yourself, you can get it now for $39.99 but I would really suggest that you at least rent it first to see if it is a game that you want to add to your library.

 

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