Title: Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: December 3, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Adventure, Board Game
Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp presents an interesting experience for fans. As a killing game series, the idea of seeing the characters interact in ordinary circumstances without the terror of death looming over them is a unique direction. Being an enhanced version of the Ultimate Talent Development Plan minigame from Danganronpa V3, the concept isn’t new, but the excitement of a full, dedicated game was infectious. Unfortunately, Ultimate Summer Camp ultimately proved to be a mind-numbing experience that only provided occasional fun moments.
When beginning, players are greeted with a lengthy series of cutscenes introducing this alternate universe-esque version of the Danganronpa world. The students from the 3 mainline games head into Hope’s Peak Academy together, with several of the characters from Ultra Despair Girls even showing up. Eventually, they all find themselves in the digital world of Jabberwock Island for an experiment before expected havoc runs amok.
The title may not boast an engaging narrative, but I found myself attached to it. Seeing these characters interacting is charming, especially after witnessing the threats of their previous adventures. In a sense, it’s cathartic, even if the characters themselves are not aware of it. Further, needing story reasons to make all of these characters meet up isn’t necessary for it to be inviting. Still, the fact that it was done shows that effort was poured into this new, bright world.
Regarding the gameplay itself, well, I found it to be a lukewarm mixed bag. In essence, players progress through a 50-day talent development plan board across six islands as a chosen character to find Hope Shards, become closer with the other students, and grow their respective talents. These tasks are done by landing on various squares; Growth, Talent, Shop, Event, Battle, Friendship, and Card. To be honest, the numerous systems in place are overwhelming and took me a few turns to fully comprehend.
Growth squares grant experience points and are the ideal way to raise character stats. I found myself beelining to these spots to make sure I wouldn’t encounter any unnecessary obstacles. Talent squares provide 1 of 3 Talent Shards. These Shards are used to learn skills in several fields, such as magical capabilities and offensive prowess. Card squares offer, uh, cards, used mainly for traversal and temporary stat increases. It’s best to use these soon after their initial acquisitions since there’s limited inventory space. Equipment and cards can be bought at Shop squares, though selling off the latter is equally as helpful.
Event squares trigger amusingly brief scenes with various outcomes dependent on choice. Their results provide stat increases. Perhaps most notably memorable are Friendship squares, which are, at least in my opinion, the most appealing factor of this title. A myriad of character interactions take place on these squares and are noteworthy because of the possible combinations that are not possible in the mainline titles. Additionally, for as short as these scenes are, they tend to have interactions that feel natural to their actual characterizations. Unfortunately, brevity plays a role in making the experience fall short.
This game is about quantity over quality, which makes sense given the sheer scale of playable characters. Regrettably, as a result of this large-scale cast, the interactions shared can come off as hollow and not fully realized. I understand that it’s simply not possible to have fully fleshed out conversations with everyone, but its absence becomes the most noticeable. The list of potential events per character did not feel like enough, and the brief interactions just left me wanting more. Eventually, I purposefully only stopped on Friendship squares to see these events play out since no other feature of the game was all that entertaining.
Combat in Ultimate Summer Camp doesn’t require much explanation. It is turn-based, and the skills one can perform are dependent on what is obtained from other squares. There are learnable character skills from Shards and also a Tower of Despair combat mode, but the dull combat system doesn’t have much depth. It was a mindless process of spamming attacks and when battles started to require some level of thought, it felt too late. There’s no initial tether that makes the idea of approaching battles thrilling.
When taking the lackluster combat system and gacha into account, Ultimate Summer Camp can be a straight-up demotivating experience. Players can unlock characters and Hype cards (upgrades) through a gacha system via currency earned from progress on the board game. Gaining each playable character is an extensively time-consuming process, though, which would be fine if the actual gameplay systems were satisfying. It is possible to spend real-life money for the characters and Hype Cards, and I can’t really blame anyone who chooses this route because if you desire to see the cast’s numerous events, it’s going to be a painful grind.
Danganronpa S: Ultimate Summer Camp is an odd experience to recommend because its inclusion within Danganronpa Decadence makes it approachable to all purchasers of the package. Further, its base standalone $19.99 price point is fair, if only for hardcore fans of the genre to spend a little more time with these characters. Those who found enjoyment in the Ultimate Talent Development Plan minigame will find a familiar experience, but there’s nothing really here to keep you engaged outside of a sub-par board game with gacha systems.
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