Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Review: Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (PSVita)

Welcome To Despair

Review Supplied by NIS America

Despair cannot be without first feeling hope. The Danganronpa games have taught fans of the series this and with the latest entry in the series, it is confirmed that it does not take much to put the whole world in a state of despair. In your darkest hour will you give up or stand up and show the world how to feel hope once again! Let us begin Another Episode.

Another Episode takes place a year after the event of the first game. By this point the whole world is in despair - cities have crumbled and riots continue. The story of Another Episode involves a naive and innocent girl called Komaru Naegi, the younger sister of the first game’s main protagonist. She has been trapped in an apartment complex in Towa City for the past year, not knowing who is responsible or why she is even there. This all changes when she is forced to flee for her life as she is attacked by a robot Monokuma Bear. During this struggle she comes across a group of adults know as the Future Foundation who were tasked to come and rescue you. At this point you have hope that all will be OK but like the other games in the Danganronpa series, hope cannot exist without despair. During a struggle with a large wave of robot Monokuma Bears you end up with the main weapon of the game - the Hacking Gun. With this you are able to defend yourself against the robot Monokuma Bears but during the chaos of it all, you end up getting yourself captured.

Two days later you wake up to find yourself in another room with a familiar face instructing you on what to do next. This is where the game starts to show its dark undertones. You are being held captive by a group of school children calling themselves the Warriors of Hope. They have one simple goal - kill all adults. There reason? Well this is very simple. They are doing this because it is fun and they enjoy doing things that are fun. It is a very childish way to look at thing but when you thrown in the fact they want to actually kill all the adults, well it becomes some what twisted.
This is where the main plot and game play of the game begins. You are dropped back into Towa City and are now part of a little game the Warriors like to call, the Demon Hunt with you (and any other adults) being the Demons. You do not fight this fight on your own though. Soon after your are dropped into the city you come across Toko Fukawa, a survive from Hope Academy, who joins up with you as she is an Intern for the Future Foundation and their task is to keep Komaru safe. However, she is a very strange character with a violent (but useful) split personality and has some very sexual fantasies about the leader of the Future Foundation but because she is such a polar opposite of Komaru, it works well.

Game play it vastly different than that of the previous titles. For starter the the original Danganronpa games were interactive novels whereas as this is a 3rd Person Action game. This is a nice change of pace for the series as I found that the interactive novel genre can be a little difficult to start with but end up being worthwhile as the story progresses. With Another Episode being more of a game, it is a lot easier to get absorbed by. Yes there are still some lengthy cut scenes and a lot of reading to do but this is still a story driven game that is full of mystery and horror.
There is a lot more tension with Another Episode because you have more control over your character. You feel a lot more tense as every action you carry out will have a direct reaction to your character whereas in previous title it did not really matter what you did, the story always ended taking you down the same path. I am not saying the story changes to your actions in the game, just that you may play a different experience compared to that of another player - there is a lot more skill involved this time round.

The main game play mechanic is the Hack Gun. This is given to you very early in the game and is very powerful. However, like all games, the upgraded version of the gun is striped from you only moments later. The gun fires out computer code that then interacts with the target. These are fired using Truth Bullets and can be switched around to have a different effect on the target in question. The first two you start with are Move and Break. The Move command allows you to move certain pieces of tech and press buttons whereas the Break is used to destroy the Monokuma robots. The way in which the character has been modelled to hold the Gun is creative - instead of holding it up like a soldier would, she is slouched over a little with the gun held quite low. It portrays that sense of danger and that the only item she has to protect herself is this gun, which she has very little knowledge of. This sense comes across when you aim it too. The camera gets a lot closer to you and moves a lot slower than normal. It feels like it takes a lot of effort for her to even aim the gun let alone shoot it. It reminds me of movies where an inexperienced person takes a long time to fire a weapon and they usually end up doing it with their eyes closed. However you look at it though, it is a simple way to get across to the player how terrified the main character is.

With the camera moving slower during aiming I did find it difficult to land good shots onto the Monokuma robots but it is something that comes with practise. At first you may find yourself being trapped in the corner but if you take your time and aim for the weak point (the red eye) you will find the battles will become a little easier. Also, it is worth noting that you do not have unlimited ammunition so it is best to work out an efficient strategy as soon as possible. Do not worry too much about it though as there are plenty of opportunities to gain more ammo back.
This being said though, there are different types of Monokumas spread throughout the city (including a bomber type) that will force you to change your strategy. It is a simple way to keep the game play fresh and also keeps you on your toes.

Another new game play feature is the Arcade Machine. Once access you will be able to look into an adjacent room so you can work out a suitable path to the exit. This is sort of a game within a game as each room will have an objective. For example, the first one is to escape without being caught. So by using the arcade machine you are able to plan out your route to the end with ease. It is a nice game play element and helps split the game up. There also challenge areas that will test your puzzle solving abilities.
At the end of each chapter, instead of a trial, there is a stage boss. These are a lot tougher than normal enemies but are not too difficult to defeat - classic hit them in the flashing spot until they live no more.

Your upgrade your hack gun by using “Bling”. They can be brought using Monocoins that you pick up from destroy the Monokuma Robots. The Blings have various effects that change the attributes of your gun. The gun can only hold two Blings at once and if you combine the correct ones, you get a better effect.
Another Episode has levelling up system for your character and as you do so you will gain Skill Points. These points can be spent on skills that you will find scattered around the city. This is where you will increase your amount of health but it does not matter how much you have, if you reach zero it is game over! Do not worry though, like the ammo, health can be picked up from present, item machines and fallen Monokumas.

As mentioned earlier, you team up Toko Fukawa on your survival missions and for the most parts she is just a tag along AI. However though, if you find yourself in a pickle you can switch to her and activate her aggressive alter-ego, Genocide Jack. Unlike Komaru, Genocide Jack cannot take damage and is very powerful. Once you increase your combo to a certain level you can activate her ultimate power which is seriously overpowered.
Fair to say, you would happily use her for the entire game but to activate her, Toko has to use her stun stick that runs on batteries. Once the battery level reaches Zero, you can no longer use Genocide Jack. To be able to use her again, you will need to pick up batteries that can be found throughout the city (like ammo and health).

The graphics are refreshing to look at. The visual style from the first games is still present during cut scenes but with it being a 3rd person game, you spend most of your time in a 3D world. There are even some 3D rendered cut scenes for the key moments.  For the first time in the series the cut scenes have been developed by the same people as the Anime and they are fully voiced.
 The character models are fantastic and the Monokumas look terrifying and hilarious at the same time. The environments look just as good and offer variation but they are all just glorified corridors. The soundtrack is where the Danganronpa series all shines for me. For a game that is full of so much hate and despair, it is amazing how upbeat the tracks are.

Plenty of difficulty setting to choose from if you fancy a challenge
In general, Another Episode is a solid enjoyable game. however there are a few issues with the game which I must bring up. The biggest issues is how the areas are set up. They are not all as one - they are made up of little sections that have load screens when you pass the invisible wall connecting them. The problem is not the load times, it is that you can easily slip from one area to another as you are fighting the Monokuma bears (due to how you back up when defending yourself.)

A spin off from a visual novel is always going to be a risk but Another Episode does it well. It manages to distance itself enough from the style of the original games to become something of its own. With the other games you are always comparing them against each other but here, this is something completely different. It has the makings of a 3rd person shooting but there are elements from the visual novel that keep interesting and original. If you enjoyed the setting and story of the visual novels but just could not get past the heavy amount of text, Another Episode is for you. Knowing about the first game will help you understand the game more but it is not key as this is a spin off with its own story development.

Fans and newcomers to the series will find a lot of enjoyment with Another Episode. It is a fun 3rd person action game with a very dark, twisted story at its core. They say the children are the future of this world but after you play this, you may want think that one over. However it is worth remembering that all is not as it seems.


Who Should Play This?

  • Danganronpa fans
  • Players who could not get into the original visual novels but are interested in the overall story should give this a try
  • Anyone looking for a story driven 3rd person shooter. 

Who Should Not Play This?

  • Fans looking for another Dangenronpa visual novel
  • Still a lot of reading to be done - not a fan? May want to sit this one out
  • Anyone looking for a quick responsive 3rd person shooter

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