Ever wonder what life could be like for the unfortunate students of the Danganronpa series if no one was out to kill them? If your answer is yes then Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp might be your cup of tea.
First off, if you've played Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony's post-game mode Ultimate Talent Development Plan then you'll already be familiar with the gameplay of Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp as it's essentially a larger version of the same type of game that's set on a series of tropical islands. Besides the visuals and characters, this spin-off doesn't share much with the series' main titles as it plays more like a board game with light RPG elements and some card collecting. v1d30chumz 3-236-107-249
Initially, you'll only have one character to play as but as you complete that character's 52 days in paradise, you'll earn currency to spend on unlocking more characters who are all from the main series with 60 of them in total. It's pretty fun to see characters from the different games mix as you watch their relationships unfold given how unique and strong each of their personalities generally are.
After picking a character and starting on the islands, your main goal is to find scrolls by defeating a boss on each island which will weaken their Monobeast counterpart. Providing you've spent enough time levelling up and improving your equipment, you'll then be ready to take on the Monobeast that's blocking access to the next island. There are 5 islands in total and you only have around 50 days to explore all of them so it can be quite a challenge to explore the last one before your character's development time is up.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of events to entertain you as you make your way to the next boss including shops to explore, treasures to collect, random story events, decisions to earn boosts in specific stats, and, of course, turn-based battles. However, I found all of this to become quite tiresome after completing a few characters' playthroughs because the boards don't change and most of the time, I was able to unlock almost all of the islands meaning the reward of unlocking something new diminished fairly quickly. Needless to say, fighting the same bosses and getting the same scrolls to unlock the same islands over and over no longer felt fresh after a few hours.
Each character that completes a playthrough becomes eligible to be added to your party for some light dungeon crawling in a separate mode simply called Battle Mode. Well, is it really dungeon crawling if it's just a menu where you select to go to the next floor and the next battle commences automatically? The battles in this mode get hard pretty quickly so you'll really need to focus on playing through the board game multiple times to get enough characters for a chance at getting past the first few floors.
As you develop your character in the board game, you can choose to increase the strength of their abilities such as using ice or healing magic or improving certain stats. Having a variety of these skills is important to get past certain Battle Mode enemies. It's still a simple system, however, and generally less interesting than the board game except that there are a greater variety of enemies to face.
Anyway, the mix of pixelated visuals and cartoon cutscenes is very faithful to the Danganronpa series and it looks great on Switch. Plus, the arcade sound effects do a good job of constantly reminding you that while you're playing a board game just for fun and to improve your skills, you're also under the watchful eye of Monokuma and pals who are probably seeing the whole experience in a nefarious way. For example, I occasionally had the choice of undergoing surgery that Monokuma's kids would perform on me to enhance my abilities which sometimes would amount in greatly improved stats and other times, it greatly reduced my abilities thus making the next few battles tougher. This underlying sinister tone definitely hangs in the air even though there is technically no killing game to survive.
Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp is a welcome game for those who'd like to see how characters from the franchise would get along if they were trapped together on a tropical island. However, the gameplay is a bit too simplistic so unless you're really into grinding and collecting, you probably won't play it for long before wanting to play something more substantial from the main series.
- + Watching characters from the various games interact is entertaining
- + Pixelated visuals and arcade audio make the presentation pop in a fun way
- - Gameplay becomes repetitive due to short playthroughs that are too similar
- - Battle system is overly simplistic
- - Game board world is too small