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Review: Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

Aug 28 // Laura Kate Dale
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (PS Vita)Developer: Spike ChunsoftPublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: September 1 (North America), September 4 (Europe)MSRP: $39.99 So, let's start with where Ultra Despair Girls departs from the previous Danganronpa games on Vita. Instead of investigating crimes scenes for clues, the bulk of your gameplay time in Ultra Despair Girls will be spent as Komaru Naegi shooting robot Monokuma bears with a techno-megaphone. The megaphone, which apparently acts as a "hacking gun," shoots lines of "code bullets" to effect the robots you come into contact with. Break Bullets act as standard damage dealers, but your gun also has less typical ammo types, such as Dance Bullets that cause enemies to stop on the spot and dance, allowing you to put distance between them and yourself. Much of the core gameplay loop feels like you're playing a zombie-themed third-person shooter. Enemies tend to be slow and rambling, take time to kill, and deal large amounts of damage if they reach you. While this is fine in theory, claustrophobic environments, an overly close camera, and numerous invisible walls make this core gameplay at times more frustrating than it needs to be. The idea of a code gun shooting robotic enemies is cool, but the gameplay hiccups -- as well as the infrequency of acquiring interesting new code bullet types -- meant I rarely got excited. Oh, there's also a melee sword combat-focused playable character, but their use is limited by a meter. That's a real shame, because a second gameplay style available to switch to at any time might have helped keep the mechanics from becoming stale this fast. So, does the narrative save Ultra Despair Girls from death at the hands of one of Monokuma's elaborate devices? Well, yes and no. It rescues the game from death, but still gives it a mild case of public torture. [embed]307925:60156:0[/embed] In Ultra Despair Girls, we find ourselves in a city overtaken by murderous young children bent on seeing adults torn to shreds. This gang of prepubescent killers, the Warriors of Hope, have amassed an army of youngsters to control robots that are utilised to kill from safety. Playing as the younger sister of the first game's protagonist, who has conveniently been locked away in her apartment for a year and not noticed that the world has gone to shit around her, you escape with the series running split-personality serial killer and attempt to take back control of the city. Thanks to the shift in narrative focus from confined drama to city-sprawling mission, there's a lower frequency of plot twists than in previous entries. The twists and turns in the narrative are among the strongest in the series, but they feel padded further apart. The cast of characters introduced in Ultra Despair Girls are just as over the top, memorable, and well-written as any characters introduced to date in the series, which is one of the areas the game continues to shine. General moment-to-moment dialogue and character interactions are superb and were the driving force that kept me invested through to the end. The biggest problem: narrative pacing. The game felt like it was probably five or six hours too long. It's worth noting that both the enemy designs and narrative in Ultra Despair Girls are some of the darkest, creepiest, most unsettling to date, and that says a lot for this particular series. From horrible mutated creatures to themes I would hesitate to subject adult characters to let alone children, the game gets pretty unnerving in places. That's not a complaint by any means -- Ultra Despair Girls pulls it off perfectly. Ultimately, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls just didn't click for me the same way previous games did. Sure the narrative still has some strong moments, but it's punctuated with third-person shooter gameplay that doesn't enhance my engagement with the narrative the same way the first two visual novels did. If you're a series fan, there's a good, text-heavy, hands-off narrative to be explored here, but the gameplay sections really dragged it down for me. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Danganronpa review photo
Great story, odd gameplay loop
Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair have been some of my favourite Vita games in recent years. A pair of murder mystery visual novels, the games melded puzzle solving, courtroom drama, and murdered school kid...

ATLUS photo
ATLUS

Persona 4: Dancing All Night launches in Europe this November


Not the worst delay, I suppose
Aug 22
// Kyle MacGregor
Persona 4: Dancing All Night is coming to Europe on November 6, NIS America has announced. As per usual (as far as Atlus goes), the PlayStation Vita-exclusive rhythm game's PAL version is launching a tad later than its North American counterpart, which debuts September 29.
Rodea: The Sky Soldier photo
Rodea: The Sky Soldier

Rodea: The Sky Soldier delayed again


Now planned for November
Aug 12
// Kyle MacGregor
NIS America has once again delayed the release of Rodea: The Sky Solider. After initially planning on a September release, the publisher pushed the game back a month. Now it's happening again. The new target dates are Novembe...
Witch demo photo
Witch demo

The Witch and the Hundred Knight Revival has a demo pack-in with Dengeki Online


Man I miss demo discs
Aug 11
// Chris Carter
The Witch and the Hundred Knight Revival doesn't interest me all that much as I wasn't really a fan of the original game, but the fact that Japan is still get demos from magazines makes me happy. If you spring for Dengeki Pla...

Criminal Girls 2 photo
Criminal Girls 2

Criminal Girls 2 gets a real trailer, don't watch it at work


Still on Vita
Aug 10
// Chris Carter
NIS has just put up a new gameplay trailer for Criminal Girls 2, and as I noted above, you probably shouldn't watch it at work. NIS promises that it'll be a tougher game in general with an expanded battle system, and it'll l...
Disgaea 5 photo
Disgaea 5

Yes, Disgaea 5 will have plenty of classic characters as DLC


Flonne confirmed
Aug 07
// Chris Carter
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is coming to the US on October 6 on PS4, and in true NIS, it will have lots of character DLC. It will arrive in five batches, which will feature characters from Disgaea 3, 4, and D2, as well a...
Yomawari photo
Yomawari

Yomawari from NIS is still creepy, still cute


I'm digging the music too
Aug 04
// Chris Carter
A month ago we just had screens to go by, but Yomawari is shaping up nicely if this new trailer from NIS is any indication. Backed by beautiful music, we get to see a bit of gameplay here, which involves a girl searching for her sister and dog in a city. It'll drop on October 29 in Japan on Vita (!).
Legend of Legacy photo
Legend of Legacy

Legend of Legacy published by NIS America in Europe


Winter (2016) is coming
Jul 28
// Josh Tolentino
Despite the "America" in the company name, it looks like NIS America is the publisher of choice when it comes to bringing Atlus games across the pond. That's certainly true for their latest announcement, the 3DS-bound RPG Leg...
Onechanbara photo
Onechanbara

Onechanbara Z2: Chaos hits Europe next month


Bikini zombie slayers return August 28
Jul 18
// Kyle MacGregor
Onechanbara Z2: Chaos is coming to Europe sooner than anticipated. After NIS initially announced the sexed up zombie slaying game for an autumn release, the publisher has revised those plans, saying the PlayStation 4 exclusive is now targeting an August 28 launch. In the meantime, XSEED is bringing the title to North America this Tuesday, July 21.
Criminal Girls 2 photo
Criminal Girls 2

Criminal Girls 2 announced for the Vita


Launching in November
Jul 15
// Chris Carter
Criminal Girls: Invite Only was released earlier this year for the Vita in the US, and had a rather mixed reception. That isn't stopping NIS from announcing another game however, as Criminal Girls 2 will launch on Novemb...
Disgaea photo
Disgaea

The Disgaea Triple Play Collection is coming to the US


Expect it soon
Jul 10
// Chris Carter
NIS has announced that the Disgaea Triple Play Collection is coming to the US on September 15. It's currently available in Europe, but today is the first time the publisher has revealed that it will be coming furthe...
Stella Glow photo
Stella Glow

Stella Glow coming to Europe spring 2016


Better late than never
Jul 10
// Kyle MacGregor
Stella Glow is coming to Europe next spring, NIS America has announced. The strategy role-playing game is the last effort from Japanese studio Imageepoch, which closed its doors back in May after filing for bankruptcy. Sega r...
Yomawari photo
Yomawari

Creepy NIS Vita horror game is actually kind of cute


Yomawari
Jul 02
// Steven Hansen
NIS (Disgaea) recently teased a spooky game with live-action first-person flashlight footage and a requisite creepy child. It ended up being for Yomawari, which is coming to Vita in Japan on October 29. It's about a young gir...
Persona 4 Dancing photo
Persona 4 Dancing

Persona 4: Dancing All Night coming to Europe without delay


We shared the same mad potion
Jun 30
// Kyle MacGregor
It looks like Persona 4: Dancing All Night might arrive simultaneously (or close to it) across Europe and America, as NIS has followed Atlus' lead, announcing the rhythm game for a "Fall 2015" launch. In addition to the stand...

Rodea: The Sky Soldier might be a bumpy ride

Jun 25 // Kyle MacGregor
Rodea: The Sky Soldier was initially conceived as a Wii game, but it came too late in the day for a system nearing the end of its life cycle. It needed to be reworked as a Wii U and 3DS title. The thing is, the Wii is a special console, and Rodea was developed with its unique attributes in mind. Motion controls are a tad different than standard inputs, and the transition between the two seems to have left an indelible imprint on Rodea's design. Taking to the skies in this aerial action game doesn't come as second nature. With the press of a button, Rodea lifts into the air and hovers for a moment as you aim where you want him to go. He can't fly indefinitely, though, and will fall to his death unless you find another object for him to bounce off within an allotted time frame. It seems like the type of interface that would work seamlessly with the Wii's IR pointer, but on Wii U GamePad, I found myself flying off at odd angles, often coming frustratingly close to objectives that seemed just out of reach. Perhaps it's the sort of thing that comes with practice, but in a brief demo on the E3 show floor, I only got a glimpse at what sort of joys Rodea might have to offer.  Though it never felt intuitive, there were flashes when I managed to soar through the air with some semblance of precision. And in those fleeting moments I could really feel Yuji Naka's (Sonic Adventure, NiGHTS into Dreams) fingerprints all over the game, as I bounded from one floating isle to the next, collecting rings in this ethereal obstacle course. More than anything, my time with Rodea: The Sky Soldier made me oddly happy the Wii U version is coming tethered with a copy of the game on Wii. I'm not sure how much easier it will be to pilot on its original platform, but it feels like that's how it was intended to be experienced. Either that or flight isn't a skill easily mastered in a few mere minutes.
Rodea impressions  photo
Awkward aeronautics
My first flight with Rodea: The Sky Soldier wasn't a smooth one. But perhaps that's to be expected of a title that's seen such a turbulent development history. The project went dark shortly after its initial announcement in 2010, then underwent a change of platforms -- something that seems all too apparent after a few minutes with the final product.

Obligatory scary child photo
Obligatory scary child

NIS gets creepy with new teaser


Obligatory scary child
Jun 23
// Steven Hansen
These days, Japanese games being creepy usually has more to do with upskirts than spooks. Fatal Frame couldn't even get squeezed into Nintendo's E3 event. Still, very-anime publisher and developer Nippon Ichi recently upload...
Trailer photo
Trailer

Lost Dimension brings anime paranoia to PS3, Vita


New E3 trailer
Jun 21
// Steven Hansen
Have you ever felt like you can read snippets of your friends' thoughts and that some of them are out to get you and you'd be better off killing them? Same, same. Lost Dimension tasks a group of 11 capable warriors with stop...
The Legend of Heroes photo
The Legend of Heroes

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel hits Europe this fall


Falcom loves you
Jun 11
// Kyle MacGregor
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel is coming to Europe this fall, NIS just announced. The good word follows news that XSEED Games is publishing the upcoming PlayStation 3 and Vita RPG in North America this autumn. We'...
Rodea: The Sky Soldier photo
Rodea: The Sky Soldier

Rodea: The Sky Soldier launch delayed


Now coming in October
Jun 10
// Kyle MacGregor
The wait for Rodea: The Sky Soldier has been a long one and it just got a little bit longer. NIS America has revised its plans, pushing back the upcoming Wii U and Nintendo 3DS action game's September launch until O...

Review: Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy

Jun 09 // Chris Carter
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy (PlayStation TV, Vita [reviewed])Developer: Experience Inc.Publisher: MAGES, 5pb. Games (JP) / NIS America (EU, NA)MSRP: $39.99Release Date: July 24, 2014 (Japan) / June 5, 2015 (EU) / June 9, 2015 (NA) Operation Abyss opens up with a bang -- your character has just woken up in the "gloomy darkness," next to multiple severed, bloodied bodies. Holy shit, right? It gets a little bit goofier from there, as a hooded man suddenly appears and tells you "basically, you've been kidnapped," as an army of half-human zombie monsters attack. You're immediately offered a choice: trust the man or not, which doesn't really end up mattering. Then a Magical Girl shows up and fights a giant crocodile. It pretty much never lets up from here. New Tokyo Legacy is set in a near-future version of Japan. Those creatures? They're called Variants, and it's up to the government-funded Code Physics Agency, which you've just been forcefully inducted into, to save the day. It must be said, if the silly intro wasn't any indication, the art for the game is incredible, and full of life. A lot of scenes may feature static portraits, and the dungeon designs might be on the bland side, but the art style (and by proxy, the main cast) is always colorful and interesting. Likewise, the darker elements of the game are just that -- dark. Creatures look suitably horrific, the narrative can go darker when it needs to, and on occasion, I was straight-up creeped out. There's also a ton of weird story elements like the blood of Florence Nightingale, Leonardo da Vinci, and Hanzo Hattori used for "Blood Codes," to gain abilities and special powers. No one can say that Tokyo Legacy isn't unique. [embed]293318:58901:0[/embed] Like most lengthy dungeon crawler experiences (this one is roughly 40 hours), it takes about six hours of walking until it takes off sprinting, and by then I was sucked into the world. Dungeons aren't obtuse, but as previously mentioned, they are on the bland side. After about 10 hours of play some of them started to blend together, and there isn't enough indication on-screen to denote hidden areas or locations of interest. I definitely don't want a streamlined "go here" indicator, it would just be nice if there was an inkling of uniqueness to the dungeons, since everything else is painstakingly crafted. There's lots of customization involved, including equipment and ability choices and statline tweaking. In terms of choices in relation to the narrative, there's not a whole lot here. This is an old school dungeon crawler through and through, and although there are some light forks in the road, none of them are emotional or engaging. Your key plan here is to go and defeat monsters to further the overarching story -- not your personal one. That's partially because each playthrough uses randomly generated characters, which can be customized, but don't necessarily play any real role. That extends to a lack of any real romantic element, since your party is essentially a collective. Unlike Demon Gaze, Operation Abyss' recent predecessor, Legacy is a bit more forgiving. For instance, you can now go freely back to your base if you wish, which is where you'll level up and sort through your massive inventory. The good news is that there's no "rent" or statistical hit to worry about, and if you're having trouble, heading back to rest up isn't a terrible idea. There's still a lot of menus to wade through and stats to painstakingly tweak back and forth, but it's more accessible than a lot of other crawlers since it doesn't penalize you at every turn. Because of that design decision though, it loses a bit of its edge. Despite the fact that Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy can be a bit by-the-numbers inside dungeons, it's anything but in nearly every other facet of the game. While I probably won't be rushing to complete it again anytime soon, it was a lengthy enough adventure that will stay fresh in my mind for some time. [This review is based on a retail build provided by the publisher.]
Operation Abyss photo
The Walking Variants
One of the very first PC games I ever played was a dungeon crawler. It was called MadMaze, a title released on 1989, playable on the Prodigy internet service -- yep, it was during the dialup era. While crawlers may not be one...

Dungeon Travelers 2 photo
Dungeon Travelers 2

Censored RPG travels to Europe October 16


チーズ トイレ
Jun 05
// Kyle MacGregor
[Note: This image was created by Destructoid. It is not a reflection of Dungeon Travelers 2's in-game graphics, or how Atlus has gone about applying "minor edits" to four of the game's images. Sorry for any confusion.] A...
Danganronpa photo
Danganronpa

The new Danganronpa launches in September


Another PS Vita exclusive is on the way
Jun 04
// Kyle MacGregor
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is on its way to North America on September 1, publisher NIS America announced today. After that, the plan is to bring it to Europe on September 4. Here's the premise: "Komaru...
Witch photo
Witch

Here, have some Witch and the Hundred Knight Revival PS4 footage


Enhanced port for PS4
Jun 03
// Chris Carter
The Witch and the Hundred Knight is getting a new lease on life on the PS4 in the form of the Revival remake, set to debut later this year in Japan. Developer Nippon Ichi Software has provided a new set of vid...
ATLUS photo
ATLUS

Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold charts western release


Soon in America, not so much in Europe
May 30
// Kyle MacGregor
Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold: The Fafnir Knight is penciled in for an August 4 launch in North America, Atlus has announced. Oh, and Europe will (predictably) have to wait until February 12, 2016. The dungeon crawler is an enhance...
ATLUS photo
ATLUS

Lost Dimension finds Europe on August 28


One month after North American launch
May 21
// Kyle MacGregor
Lancarse's Lost Dimension is coming to Europe on August 28, NIS America announced today. The tactical role-playing game debuted on PlayStation 3 and Vita in Japan last year and is on its way to North America on July 28, ...
High fashion photo
High fashion

Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls gets limited edition


Want to rock a game tie and eye patch?
May 19
// Steven Hansen
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is coming to North America and Europe this fall. It's a weird little third-person megaphone shooter with light puzzle elements set between the first and second games in the mai...
Lost Dimension photo
Lost Dimension

Lost Dimension will launch on July 28 with free DLC


First character trailer released
May 13
// Alissa McAloon
It's a good news day for fans of the upcoming tactical sci-fi RPG, Lost Dimension. In addition to the announcement of a July 28 release date, Atlus has announced that $20 of DLC will be given away for free during the tw...
Witch and the Hundred photo
Witch and the Hundred

The Witch and the Hundred Knight 2 is happening


In addition to that remake
May 12
// Chris Carter
NIS has announced, by way of the above teaser trailer, that a full sequel for The Witch and the Hundred Knight is in the works. This is in addition to the PS4 remake of the first game, entitled The Witch and the Hu...
Disgaea photo
Disgaea

Disgaea classes will pop up in Operation Babel: New Tokyo Legacy


Choose the top six
Apr 30
// Chris Carter
Operation Abyss: New Tokyo Legacy is still on track for a release in June in the west for the PlayStation Vita, but you'll get a chance now to vote for some extra characters from the Disgaea series to appear in the seque...
Danganronpa photo
Danganronpa

Western Danganronpa sales reach 200,000 for both games


Nice work, NIS
Apr 29
// Chris Carter
Good news Danganronpa fans -- NIS has announced that both Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair have sold over 200,000 units in North America. For a niche visual novel that's only available on the PS Vita, that's prett...

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