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Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Spike Games
Release Date: Sept. 1, 2015


PS Vita Preview - 'Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls'

by Thomas Wilde on July 15, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

In Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls players will take on the role of two heroines, Komaru Naegi and Toko Fukawa, as they are thrust into a despair-ridden Towa City with one goal–escape.

At every E3, you are inevitably shown at least one game that, when you try to explain it to other people, makes you feel as if you've gone insane. This is a bold statement in a medium that also involves killer walking mushrooms, ancient bird aliens who've empowered a female bounty hunter, and every word that's ever come out of Hideo Kojima's mouth, but every year, for pure crazy, someone raises the bar.

This year, my crazy game preview is about Danganronpa Another Episode, a third-person action game that serves as an interquel to the two Danganronpa visual novels. It is a game about two schoolgirls, one armed with a gun and the other with insanity and two pairs of scissors, who fight a cult of anti-adult homicidal children and their army of mechanical demonic teddy bears in a depopulated Japanese city.

Another Episode is set six months after the first game and stars Naegi Komaru, the younger sister of the first game's protagonist, who has just spent a year locked inside an apartment while an organization called Ultimate Despair caused the outside world to tear itself apart.

When Naegi finally gets out, she receives a special kind of gun from a member of the Future Foundation and is told to try and escape the city. It doesn't work out, and Naegi is captured by a group of children that call themselves the Warriors of Hope. They plan to kill every adult they can find with their army of remote-controlled robots. As you do.

The Warriors drop Naegi back into the city to participate in a bizarre game, where they hunt her down for fun. Naegi soon meets Toko Fukawa, a survivor of the original Danganronpa, and her alternate personality, a homicidal madwoman who goes by "Genocide Jack." Together, they explore the city in search of escape, so Toko can try to find a missing friend of hers.

Danganronpa is a third-person shooter, but it's balanced with the expectation that it'll attract an audience that isn't particularly familiar with the genre, since the other two games are Phoenix Wright-style visual novels.

As Naegi, you can fight against the Monokuma robots and assorted other threats with your Hacking Gun, a megaphone-looking weapon that fires at least seven different kinds of bullets. Move bullets are used to solve puzzles by activating distant machinery, Break bullets are your minute-to-minute standard ammunition, while Burn, Expel and Paralyze bullets inflict status ailments on enemies. You can also fire Dance bullets, which are exactly what they sound like, or Inspect bullets as an aid in finding clues.

By firing a stun gun into her own head, Toko can transform into the virtually invincible Genocide Jack, who can carve just about anything in half in seconds by dual-wielding scissors. Jack is essentially a win button and is meant as a get-out-of-jail-free card for players who might not be comfortable with shooters. Once you activate her, you'll cut everything on-screen in half, but you won't be able to use her constantly.

Watching the game in action is bizarre, since it seems to run on dream logic and pure-strain insanity. I was previously unfamiliar with the Danganronpa games, but doing some research on them has convinced me that familiarity isn't really the obstacle here. Blood is deliberately rendered in bright shades to keep the atmosphere cheerful and friendly, even though you're fighting child-controlled killer robots at the end of the world, and the enemies are a deliberate mixture of cute and deadly.

I am given to understand that the Danganronpa games have a small but fanatical fan base, many of whom have likely beaten this game as an import already. From what little of it I saw at E3, those people have little to worry about, as it's received a top-notch localization that brings across the lunacy in living color. It's designed so it can be a new player's first experience with the Danganronpa story, although the more I read about that, the less convinced of that I am. Also, I'm not sure this is actually a thing. I might be hallucinating.

Genre shifts are a tricky thing, but between the built-in audience for the Danganronpa series and casual players looking for some action on the Vita, Another Episode is at least in with a chance. I'm not sure what I was looking at back in NIS's booth, but I can definitely say it left a strong impression.

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