Thursday, January 28, 2016

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls -- Or: "I Knew There Was A Reason Why I Didn't Like Kids"

Judging by the lack of activity on this blog, it almost seems like Alex and I disappeared from the face of the Earth. (Spoiler alert: we probably did.) In my absence, I've actually managed to finish a couple of games (Surprise, surprise!), and one of them is Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls.

At this point, my love for the Danganronpa franchise is practically public knowledge. So, when news of a spinoff featuring Makoto's younger sister Komaru -- accompanied by Toko a.k.a. Genocide Jill of all people -- came out, I pretty much lost all chill. The fact that gameplay heavily relied on shooting didn't hinder me either, because IT'S DANGANRONPA OKAY.

Ultra Despair Girls takes place between the first DR game and the second, so playing Goodbye Despair isn't really necessary to understand the story. I do feel like having played the second game made the UDG experience more enjoyable, most especially with the involvement of Nagito (a.k.a. my One True Love) in the plot.

Speaking of the story, UDG carried the usual dark aura that all the DR games have. Settings-wise, you're placed in a world where The Tragedy is rampant, so everything is bleak and overrun with Monokumas.

I went into it all excited and giddy -- to the point that I forgot that this was still, in essence, a Danganronpa game, so naturally, deaths were imminent and inevitable. One character in particular got my fangirl blood pumping, only for them to lose their life c/o Monokuma. It left me devastated -- which I have to give kudos to the game for, considering despair is a heavy theme concurrent in the franchise.

If you've ever played -- or at least watched -- Trigger Happy Havoc, then you might acknowledge the resemblance between this dude and a certain Ultimate Programmer we know and love.
I also liked the several mentions of characters who were related to the cast from the first DR game. It was like getting a whole basket of Easter eggs -- albeit not very happy ones, but Easter eggs nonetheless. The occasional anime cutscene was a nice touch as well, and it only made me wish that the rest of the franchise could be adapted into an anime series (we need anime!Monomi ok) just like Trigger Happy Havoc.

The main antagonist is a group of kids whose goal is to overthrow all the adults and create a safe haven for children. In addition to their goal, they're also the main driving force behind the Monokuma kids wrecking havoc on Towa City.

It all sounds very juvenile and very nonsensical -- almost like a game of pretend among children -- but as the story unfolds, you get to understand just exactly why these kids want to get rid of adults.

HERE'S WHERE THE SPOILERS KICK IN: The game got real dark, real fast. With themes of child abuse and even sexual abuse towards children, it's no wonder why these kids want to be rid of adult supervision. It was the adults who violated them, after all. What made it more painful was how their abusive pasts unraveled; a lot of times, the kids were simply triggered, making the revelation of their assaults all the more sinister and dark.

UDG's main group of antagonists a.k.a. the 'Warriors of Hope' a.k.a. a bunch of brats with dark pasts.
Out of all the kids, I despised Monaca the most. She was the leader of this gang of misfits, but she was incredibly annoying to me. Granted, I did feel some sympathy towards her once the game shed a a bit more light on her history, but I was definitely glad to see her go once the time came.

Whereas the first two DR games were visual novels in nature, UDG takes a different route, being a third-person adventure game. Combat mainly consisted of utilizing a megaphone gun that is equipped with a variety of abilities as you progress throughout the story, but you're also given the option of switching to Genocide Jill -- albeit temporarily -- when things get a little too difficult.

Seeing as I have no aim, the combat aspect of the game was a little tricky for me at first. Thankfully, the game is pretty generous when it comes to providing ammo and health. It's especially generous when you're in the middle of a boss battle and you run out of the specific bullets needed to defeat the boss. (I played on normal difficulty though, so I'm not sure if this is still applicable to the highest difficulty setting.)

One issue I had with the gameplay was the A.I. of the Monokumas. For some reason, the Monokumas could detect me when I was just a hair's breadth from their sight, whereas in other situations, I could just glide by them without a hitch. It ultimately made their A.I. feel rather inconsistent to me, and it was incredibly frustrating, especially during the Monokuman sections of the game which I always aimed to complete perfectly in order to get a higher score at the end of each chapter.

It came to a point where the gameplay became a bit repetitive for me, so in spite of buying UDG in haste the moment it was available at my local gaming shop, I ended up dropping it like a hot potato just as I was at the rear end of the story. It took me about 3-4 months before I could pick it up again. I think it was mostly the Monokuman sections that really got to me; they were such a CHORE to clear perfectly sometimes, and the wonky Monokuma A.I. just pissed me off.

However, getting to fight a whole roster of Monokumas was interesting in itself, with particular bullets corresponding to specific Monokuma 'species,' so to speak. Of all the Monokuma types, it was the Junk Monokuma that really got to me. That thing is HELLA freaky.

I don't think playing Ultra Despair Girls is absolutely necessary to get a full picture of the franchise's universe thus far, but if you're a Danganronpa fan like me, then this is definitely worth checking out. While it doesn't beat the original formula of the first two entries, I do believe it was an interesting wild card to throw into the Danganronpa mix.

I'm pretty much at the Point of No Return with regards to Danganronpa by now. Throw anything DR-related and there's a 99% chance that I'll bite into it, so you can be certain that I'll be throwing my money at Spike Chunsoft again once the next DR game is released. (WHICH!!! WILL ALSO BE AVAILABLE ON THE PS4???? OMG???? DIS HOME CONSOLE LIFE???? SAVE ME!!!!!!!)

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