Last year was a great time to be a PS Vita owner, in our Top 10 Games of 2014 there were two games that really stood out on the list and oddly enough they were both Danganronpa games. Now we have a third game from NIS America and it’s time to ditch the classroom and take the fight against despair to the streets of Towa City with a third person shooter game, while the gameplay type might be different it’s still the same old Danganronpa with new characters and even some familiar faces.
**Warning: This review will contain minor spoilers for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc.**
The first thing you’ll notice about the gameplay in Danganronpa Another Episode is that while the visual novel element is still there for some of the dialog, everything else is gone. This game is a genre mash up that consists of a over the shoulder third person shooter when you play as Komaru, but then switches to a good old fashion hack n slash beat ’em up when you take control of Toko. The balance between the two is handled really well and while you may be more tempted to take over as Toko and deliver devastating blows to the Monokumas the game will punish you with your rating at the end of the chapter if you do so since you can’t take any damage when you play as her. When it comes to the shooting aspect of the game it couldn’t be easy enough, whenever you aim there’s a conveniently placed laser sight that helps with getting those pinpoint accurate headshots on the various Monokumas, and here’s a hint, aim for the light up red eye and that’ll take them out every time. I will say this though and honestly it’s the only complaint I could really find or justify with the game, the controls for the camera is a bit annoying at times and if they added an option to zoom out a even slightly it would have helped tremendously.
While exploring Towa City you will find various collectibles along the way, various light novels will tell you fictional stories within the world and at times annoy Toko as she has a very strong opinion of light novels. You’ll also find notes that add to the story of Towa City and what happened leading up to where the game started, and returning again are monocoins and the shop which you can buy concept art, cutscene, etc jut like in the previous games. Or you can avoid all of those things and use your coins to upgrade Toko’s scissors or Komaru’s truth bullets. Speaking of truth bullets, it’s fitting enough that they returned even if there aren’t any more class trials because now they actually fit there name in Another Episodes, as there are various truth bullet types that will help you take down the various enemies, I won’t go into detail on all of the bullets as there are quite a few and it would give away some spoilers but there is one that will make your enemies dance, and if used on the right Monokuma it would bring attract all the enemies in the area towards it leaving them distracted and in one spot to be taken out quickly, my favorite truth bullet was the paralyze bullet as there are some very fast and hard hitting Monokumas that appear later on in the game and it was nice to have them stock in place so I could have a few extra moments to focus on getting a headshot with my break truth bullet, which is just a regular damage dealing round.
Story and Modes:
I’m going to try and talk about the story without any spoilers to the game but in doing so you will get a spoiler or two for the first game in the series Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Another Episode takes place a year and a half after ‘the incident’ from the first game, and it starts off with a young girl locked away in a well kept apartment until you realized she is being held captive but an unknown person(s), after a few scenes and a familiar face you find yourself being hunted by the new group of kids that are trying to continue the legacy of Junko Enoshima (you know the crazy antagonist from the first game) by spreading despair from Towa City and hunting down every adult. You play as Komaru Naegi in the game, and if that name even sounds slightly familiar to you that’s because she is the younger sister of Makoto Naegi, the hopeful protagonist from Trigger Happy Havoc. The main story revolves around Komaru teaming up with Toko Fukawa, another returning character, as you both fight your way through the Monokuma flooded streets of Towa City to stop the spread of despair and to figure out who is really behind everything. The story is really fleshed out via books you can find and read as you’re playing and I was really caught off guard and surprised to play as Toko and to really get to see more of her as a character because she was barely fleshed out in the first game.
As for game modes that’s where it’s really tough to go into detail on, in the past after playing the main story of the game you would unlock a nice ‘school mode’ mini game. This time around you get a light novel to read that gives you even more information into the world of Danganronpa, which can take up to two hours to go through depending on your speed of reading. Throughout the games main story though there are a few various mini games to play, ranging from puzzles to solve that require you to really think about which truth bullets to use to wipe out all of the enemies in a sectioned off area, if you are able to do so it will greatly help your ranking level at the end of the chapter. Also, there is a large amount of grinding to do so you can fully upgrade your weapons and there are various notes, posters, and other hidden goodies to be found through the game that will keep you busy for hours.
Visuals and Sounds:
After playing the previously released Danganronpa games I will say it took some adjustments to get use to the new visual presentation of Another Episode, as you are now exploring a full three dimensional world and characters I was a bit reserved with how it would transition from it’s visual novel style in the past. But, the game looks great and the various areas of the game have great designs and since the main enemies you will be destroying are Monokumas there were no shortage of uniquely designed enemies throughout the game. There’s more to the visuals in this game beyond just the gameplay areas, for the first time there are full fledged anime scenes in the game, which really helped deliver the story in those intense and dialog heavy moments especially because you no longer have to just go through pages of text to progress the story. Since this game isn’t a ‘who done it’ murder mystery like in the past the game had to really change it’s visual tones and elements to make it still have that ominous feeling that something bad is going to happen and you are never safe, which was effortlessly done with the dark environmental undertones and music, factor in the various character models for the Monokumas and they really stand out more.
I’m a sucker for video game soundtracks, and once again another Danganronpa game has an excellent soundtrack, I honestly couldn’t find any issues with not only the music but the placement of it as well. Audio is an important factor in a game, the right tones can really help elevate your emotions when playing a boss fight or even during an anime scene. It also doesn’t hurt that once again there is a great cast of voice actors to really bring the characters to life, and if you watched season one of the anime or played the previous games you’ll be able to recognize some returning voices to Another Episode. I wish there was more I could say about the game’s audio and video presentation but it was great and I couldn’t find any hiccups or anything wrong with it, if anything I could have just said ‘the game is awesome’ and left it at that.
The Big Question:
The big question here is if Danganronpa Another Episode can capture the magic that was in the previous titles while transitioning from a visual novel stylized game into a third person shooter? And I can say without any doubt that it has, Another Episode had a little bit of everything that made the other two games great and then added some more sauce to it. While I feel that this game would be a great “one shot” for the franchise and that future games should either go back to the older style of gameplay or at least maybe not be strictly a third person game, I wouldn’t get made if they did try this style of game again though.
Fans of the Danganronpa series and ThoseGamingNerds’ own Chris will agree with me when I say that you will always get a great value with a Danganronpa game regardless of the price. Whether it’s the great story and outlandish characters and dialog, or the addicting gameplay and extras that you get rewarded with after completing the game you just can’t go wrong with this game franchise. Another Episode might lack an additional game mode after you complete the main story but with all the little added bonuses from puzzles to solve and the return of monocoins and tons of content to unlock by spending them you will spend hours grinding and collecting coins to unlock every last bit of content. While I didn’t have that immediate need to replay the game after I beat it the addition of the light novel to read after you finish was a nice break from shooting everything and also gives that added information and insight into the world of Danganronpa. I could keep going on about the game’s value you but then that would keep you from ordering the game and playing it, so you should go do that right now.