Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and its sequel Goodbye Despair were breakout hits for the PS Vita. Well, not really breakout enough to keep the series receiving official support, but you know what I mean. The reason these games got the kind of attention they did is a little fascinating, since it’s one of the standout examples of the modern Let’s Play fad helping to sell a little-known game; we can attribute quite a bit of this series’ success in the West to a Let’s Play on the Something Awful forums and the associated interested in that LP generated on Tumblr.
That’s neither here nor there, though; today we’re going to talk about Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, the series’ first action-focused spin-off.
So it’s a little difficult to talk about the backstory of this one without spoiling the first game, since one of the big twists from the original Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc plays a big part in what goes on here. Instead, a quick summary: this takes place a bit after the original game, the world’s messed up and Komaru Naegi, the sister of the original game’s protagonist Makoto, has to escape a city under siege by sister-eating robotic Monokuma bears; fortunately, she has the help of a serial killer with a split personality who uses a Taser to keep herself under control. Yeah, I know, it makes more sense when you play it.
Another Episode is initially presented as a third-person shooter a bit like Resident Evil 4. Well, maybe a drug-addled version of Resident Evil 4. Anyway, Komaru’s got a multi-function special gun to deal with the Monokuma bots. Shooting the bears will eventually take them out and there’s other functions like stunning them, but the real value of this weapon is the way it allows her to manipulate the environment and waste the bears with traps.
This is the core of Another Episode’s interactivity, causing it to eventually feel almost like a puzzle game. That’s a good thing, too, as combat’s not exactly easy and Komaru moves around like a sedated tank, meaning you can expect some deaths here and there by being unable to escape effectively. Your serial killer pal makes things a bit easier in a pinch, but her use is fairly limited so she’s not something to rely on.
This isn’t really the focus of the game, of course, as anyone who’s played the original Danganronpa titles knows. Instead, there’s a huge amount of plot, so you’re going to spend plenty of time reading, maybe even more than you spend actually running around shooting bears and traps. This is, of course, impossible to discuss in detail without ruining the main reason you’d play this and rendering the review useless. Instead, let me just say that it’s as well done as the visual novels and absolutely worth your time if you’re invested in their plot. If you aren’t, this game won’t do anything for you and you’re better off playing the originals first to get a handle on what’s going on.
The writing and translation are fantastic, but you really need some history with these games to get much out of this one. If you’re a Danganronpa fan, then Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is a must-buy and I’d be surprised if you don’t already own it. If not, however, it’s unlikely you’re going to have a good time following the adventures of characters you don’t know much about. At the moment, the original Danganronpa can be had to relatively cheap, so it’s worth a look if you’re at all curious about visual novels and will lead into Another Episode nicely.