The original Danganronpa never scared me. The first two games, Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair are unsettling and unnerving, but there’s a sense of detachment. You’re playing an adventure game with visual novel elements. The player is removed from the action, and there’s a sense of security that comes from that.
There is no such barrier with Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. For the first time in the series, I felt fear.
It didn’t happen initially, though there was an opportune moment for such a thing in the game’s opening moments. When Komaru Naegi, our heroine and sister of the original hero Makoto, is in her apartment jail, a Monokuma robot breaks through the door and chases her around the place. There was no way to attack it. All Komaru could do was run. The bear was slow, it’s attacks delayed and evading it to get into the hallway was easy.
No, I wasn’t afraid of the Monokuma until Komaru acquired the megaphone hacking gun. It was then that the two-toned bears became a real threat.
Like Resident Evil 4, Danganronpa Another Episode is a third person shooter with an over-the-shoulder perspective. When a Monokuma runs toward Komaru, it feels as though it is coming at you. Since the game doesn’t support touch screen controls, you have to aim the reticle with the left analog stick to take one out.
Since the initial Truth Bullets don’t have words attached to improve their abilities, it can take three to four shots to bring a Monokuma down. If you manage to target its red eye on the left side of its face, you can get a one hit kill, but it’s a small target and such a shot takes skill. Early on, someone won’t be accomplished enough to manage that often.
True fear came later, when I met two specific “species” of Monokuma. The first was the Siren Bear. If these robots see you before you defeat them, they’ll run at you and blast a siren that gathers all other enemies in the area for the worst sort of flash mob. They’re easily beaten once you have the Dance variety of Truth Bullets, since these will make them dance and lure other Monokuma robots away from you, but they first appear before Komaru gains that variety. Even if she does have Dance bullets, there are still instances where they will see her before you see them. Hearing that siren out of nowhere is the worst sort of surprise.
Still, a Siren Monokuma doesn’t hold a candle to the Junk Monokuma. The initial encounter with this variety is in the hospital, where one acts as something of a mini-boss. It is the first time Komaru encounters an enemy that is fast, almost always moving, and can not be taken down with a one hit kill. You have to constantly adjust her position. Even though the Dance Truth Bullets are available during this fight, they’re useless. It is a run-and-gun battle.
The terror is compounded by the fact that a Junk Monokuma is among the most horrifying creatures in Danganronpa Another Episode. It’s like something out of Five Nights at Freddy’s. The robot was put together wrong. It’s missing a limb. The smile is askew. It’s left eye is deformed and jutting out of its skull. Trust me when I say you’ll get a very close look, since a Junk Monokuma is fast enough to get right up in your face while you are trying to put enough distance between you two to line up a shot.
The Junk Monokuma’s debut is a momentous occasion, but in the worst way. When the robot bursts forth from its locker, you can tell it means business. It was the first time in the game I was scared, but not because I was afraid of what it might do to Komaru. It was about the effect it could have on me. I’m a wuss. I don’t do Five Nights at Freddy’s games because the thought of something like this heading right for me is not a happy one.
You’ll see what I mean soon enough. Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls will be released on September 1, and you can find it at Amazon for $39.99.