Hi! It’s been a little while since we last did one of these, huh? There are a few reasons for that, chief among them being that I was originally set to do one for Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and then… I got a review copy of that game and figured I probably shouldn’t read Japanese reviews so as to avoid accidentally biasing my own thoughts on the game. But we’re back now to look at more Japanese user reviews now that game releases over there are starting to pick up steam for the coming holiday season, starting with Danganronpa: Another Episode. Site regulars likely understand how this column works, but if you happen to be new, be sure to check this post for the basic premise and then this one for a complete understanding of how review breakdowns work in their current incarnation, especially with respect to how reviews from MK2 operate.
With that out of the way, let’s look at some reviews!
- 5 Stars: 42 reviews
- 4 Stars: 40 reviews
- 3 Stars: 23 reviews
- 2 Stars: 11 reviews
- 1 Star: 6 reviews
MK2 Ranking and Average Review Score (as of October 18, 2014): C ranking; 69/100, 5 reviews posted
*Amazon Japan sells Danganronpa: Another Episode across three different editions, meaning that reviews were split across different product pages. For the sake of readability, the review averages and star breakdowns have consolidated the relevant numbers into one centralized listing.
As is commonplace in this feature, player reception among the two sites used to sample review data indicates a consensus that, at least scoring-wise, isn’t necessarily quite as flattering as Famitsu’s assessment of Danganronpa: Another Episode, even if the aggregate numbers are otherwise respectable, especially when considering how far genre-wise the game is from Spike Chunsoft’s wheelhouse. Given the fundamental premise of the game as an offshot that ties into the plots of the two main numbered games released thus far, most of the Japanese player reviews are written by existing series fans and, if nothing else, feel that the game’s aesthetic design and writing make it a worthy entry in the franchise. Things get a little worrisome, though, once the discussion turns to the actual gameplay design. But first, let’s focus on what gives players hope over despair about this newcomer in the franchise.
A Japanese game industry term that shows up time and again in player reviews is “fan disc.” Ardent Tales fans are likely familiar with the concept, given Bandai Namco’s previous proclivity for releasing such things in droves exclusively in Japan in previous generations, but for the remaining laymen, the concept of fan discs can more or less be understood in literal terms, which is to say that they’re things like spinoff games or special art compilations that are meant to tide over diehard fans of a given series in-between major releases. Put in such context, Danganronpa: Another Episode is considered to be more or less a good take on the idea, essentially giving existing fans plenty more of what they want and expect from a Danganronpa game to make its consumption an actually worthwhile proposition, rather than just functioning as a cynical piece of merchandising.
To this effect, in spite of the transition over to an entirely different genre, Another Episode is widely praised for being recognizable as a game from the series in the ways that matter most. On the aesthetic side of things, there are compliments abound for both the art and the music, which are each widely considered to still be stylistically top-notch. The voice acting similarly gets kudos for being as solid as ever. Most importantly, though, its story is largely proclaimed to maintain the same sort of tone and emotional balancing that people have come to enjoy and appreciate about the series. As is often the case with series that attract really dedicated followings, while there is some debate as to how good the overall arc is in comparison to the first two games, the general consensus among those who focused on it in their reviews is that the game still definitely has its share of high points and is of an overall high enough quality to be worthy of the Danganronpa name. As Amazon Japan user Kakashi contends in his 3/5 star review, Another Episode maintains most all of the critically important things players have come to expect from the series’ story, including the despair motif, the self-awareness about its existence as a game, and a fun climax towards the end.
When time isn’t being spent in the Danganronpa games on making players and the cast each feel completely terrible about themselves and the human condition, quality characterizations tend to be their main narrative bread and butter and here, too, many players contend that Another Episode continues to excel. As is to be expected, Komaru gets the lion’s share of the praise as the main star of the game, with many enjoying watching her grow into a stronger and stronger young woman who can better take what her vicious world deals out to her over time. Although she starts off functioning as a character who’s excessively normal to a fault, much like her brother, the protagonist of the first installment, Gyuusuji, the most highly rated positive review on MK2 with a score of 77/100 points and seven likes attached to it, notes that her growth is distinctly unique and doesn’t tread upon developmental ground that’s already been covered in the past, making her pleasantly stand out as her own character.
Toko, while not seemingly getting quite as many specific ovations from reviewers, is still predominantly believed to be a good addition to the game and that she and Komaru have fun dynamics together. Gyuusuji’s review, however, goes out of its way to expand upon this point, mentioning that Another Episode goes to great lengths to try and make her a more sympathetic character than before by delving into her past, her sense of humanity, and her overall mentality. More generally, a number of players also specifically pointed out that they felt the game was sufficiently meaty in terms of story content, although it notably tends to clock in at around the 10 to 15-hour mark in contrast to the main games’ lengthier run times on first playthroughs, with Amazon Daisuki, the writer of the most popular positive review on Amazon Japan, expressing surprise at how much was present for a spinoff.
In terms of gameplay, specifically, the main part of Another Episode that people can generally bring themselves to agree as being good is the game’s accommodation of players who don’t normally play shooters, thanks in part to its selectable difficulty tuning and the ability to summon Genocide Jill in battle. There are arguments to be made about whether aspects of the game are excessively easy for what’s ostensibly a third-person shooter, but as the next points will likely indicate, such an issue may ultimately be the least of its potential design problems.
Although its problems don’t necessarily relegate the game to outright kusoge tier in the minds of many reviewers, Another Episode exhibits a lot of elementary problems that could dub the game a sort of “My First Third-Person Shooter” for Spike Chunsoft, given its inexperience making games of its ilk, historically speaking. Chief among these problems are complaints about the game’s controls, as well as the game’s camera in general. With respect to the former, many reviewers feel that the game’s aiming doesn’t feel good and that even the inclusion of an autoaim system does little to reduce stress and making the game more cooperative during combat, an issue that’s further compounded by making the weak point of enemy Monokumas specifically be the red eye. While not making the game unplayable per se, these issues are widely called out in even the most flattering reviews that the game has attained among the playerbase, with many expressing the sentiment that the combat essentially isn’t good enough to constitute the bulk of the game outside of narrative development, especially in comparison to other games in the same genre available out on the market.
Camera-wise, the game is said to not always afford players an adequate field of view when they might most need it. Amazon reviewer Ronpaas, for instance, explains how major the impact can be. “The game has a habit of putting items on the ground by your feet. The problem with that, however, is that your feet are cut out of the viewing angle by default, so it’s easy to miss items that are otherwise worth picking up. I could go on about how much is wrong with the camera, such as how you can’t zoom out with it, too.” In the most critical review of the game on MK2 at 47/100 points, user Tonana also mentions that the camera can actively be a hazard during battle, stating that the autoaim skill that players can unlock doesn’t play nicely with the camera regardless of whether it’s set to automatic or manual control, making instances of being mobbed by Monokumas alarmingly regular. Even the most positive MK2 review by the previously-mentioned Gyuusuji points out the wonky camerawork, saying it makes it all too easy to get caught up in parts of the scenery too often.
While not brought up as often as the shooting and camera controls, a noticeable minority of reviewers surveyed also spotted significant bugs during their time in playing Another Episode. Some of them, such as the ones detailed in Taku’s review on Amazon, don’t necessarily hinder progress permanently, amounting to things such as freezing, save data not being read (outright corruption isn’t mentioned otherwise), and even movies and art pieces having wrongly attributed titles when viewed in the game’s gallery. Others, however, are a bit more severe. Taku’s review also mentions application errors showing up a handful of times while playing the game that forced it to shutdown Windows-style. Meanwhile, Gyuusuji, encountered a bug in the final boss encounter that made progression impossible, although there were other unspecified glitches that are said to manifest during other boss fights as well.
Although it’s not a universally disliked aspect of the game, some reviewers also took the time to point out that Another Episode seems to exhibit an uptake in grotesque and erotic scenes, as well as lewd jokes. These elements have been part of the series from the very start, but the perceived increase proved to be a turn off for some players, even if they otherwise by and large enjoyed the storyline itself.
It says a lot for the apparent quality of the story material that in spite of the game’s combat-related issues, Danganronpa: Another Episode is still lauded by many players as being a worthwhile game to play for those already invested in the series. While Japan, especially in recent years, isn’t a territory that’s completely bereft of competently made, enjoyable shooters, both first and third-person, Another Episode seems to be one of many that, in the eyes of a lot of player reviews, falls in the significantly less exclusive camp of being problematic in one way or another, albeit not necessarily to as drastically terrible a degree as some of the more famous examples from recent years. For those looking for another Danganronpa fix of any sort as they wait for a proper third number game to eventually come out, the shooter spinoff just might do the trick well enough, especially should it come out in a more universally comprehensible language eventually. The caveats aren’t insignificant, but it may well be one of those games where as long as expectations are held in check, there’s still a good time to be had underneath it all.
That wraps up another irregular installment of Outside In. I’m not sure when the next one will come out, but that’s mainly because I haven’t decided what game is really worth covering next! So if you’ve got ideas, let me know in the comments along with any other general feedback you have as well! Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you when I do next time!