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- Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
Ultra ridiculous might be more accurate.
During the recent NIS America press event in San Francisco, where we were feted with delicious food, an open bar, and Prinny plushies, the creator of the Danganronpa series was speaking in Japanese during the presentation and for a moment I became incredibly excited, since it sounded like he said they were making Danganronpa 3. But what I actually heard was him say—but my second-year college Japanese misheard—was something like, "Danganronpa Surie tsukutaimashita..." or "we wanted to make Danganronpa three, but..." building the scenarios for the Danganronpa games was a difficult and involved process, so they opted to make a third-person action game instead. That game is Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls.
For those who haven't played the Danganronpa series (minor spoilers follow), it concerns itself with the machinations of a homicidal robotic bear named Monokuma, and a somewhat convoluted plan to bring despair to the entire world known as The Tragedy. Set between the first and second game, you play as Komaru Naegi—the sister of the first game's protagonist Makoto Naegi—who has been trapped in an apartment for a year while the events of the first game have occurred. Upon being released, you are soon joined by Toko Fukawa, the girl whose alter-ego is the serial killer Genocide Jill, and the two end up fighting an army of monokuma robots.
While Ultra Despair Girls clearly doesn't follow the Ace Attorney-style visual novel of the previous games, it is no less lacking in the writing or concept department by comparison, and the action gameplay gives the player the chance to see how crazy and chaotic the outside world has gotten in the Danganronpa universe. An early side-scrolling scene of Komaru roaming the streets outside is filled with cartoon flames and explosions as the breakdown of society is shown around her, and interactions with Toko have the trademark wackiness of shifts between the shy character and her brazen Genocide Jill counterpart. Saving the game involves sitting on a giant-sized, potty-training plastic toilet in the shape of a swan in monokuma-black-and-white design.
Gameplay in the demo level provided was a mix of using a bullhorn Komaru is armed with to switch between shooting Monokuma robots with a blue laser and switches with a green one. It looked like there were slots for other beam types (and in the trailer there is a mode that looks like it can allow the player to take control of one of the robots by firing a heart at it), but it was hard to tell exactly what was going on, since the demo was in Japanese a bit beyond my reading and listening comprehension. Once Komaru is joined by Toko, you can switch over to play as Genocide Jill, whom Toko awakens by using a stun-gun against the side of her face.
This allows the player to effectively switch whenever they want from ranged to melee attacks, as Jill uses her deadly scissors against enemies, slashing them to ribbons. While my time with the demo was limited, it was clear there was a variety of different play styles, as one section required moving one character through an area without being seen, while the other character manned a 1980's style arcade cabinet connected to a security camera of the room. It's clear that making this a third-person action game doesn't mean that the developers have gotten lazy, just that they directed their focus to something other than a visual novel.
Danganronpa Another Episode : Ultra Despair Girls doesn't disappoint in the sense that it is exactly what you would imagine a third person action game would be from the Spike Chunsoft team who made the prior games. As I said to one of the NISA reps at the party, I'm really glad that they exist, because otherwise we'd probably never see an official American release of many of these games. Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls will release on the PS Vita later this fall.