Danganrompa: Another Episode Ultra Despair Girls is a somewhat basic but thoroughly enjoyable dive into the deepest and darkest corners of the Danganronpa universe.
Danganronpa: Another Episode Ultra Despair Girls Review
Developer: Spike Chunsoft, NIS America
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 copy for review.
My love of Danganronpa is likely well-known by now. I loved Danganronpa 12 Reload, as the characters and setting were unlike anything else. A third-person shooter spin-off seemed like a strange fit in a series of text-based adventure/courtroom drama games, but Ultra Despair Girls somehow manages to make it work.
Taking place between the first and second Danganronpa titles, Ultra Despair Girls focuses on Komaru Naegi, the younger sister of Trigger Happy Havoc’s main character, Makoto Naegi. Accompanying Komaru on her adventure is Toko Fukawa and her psychopathic split personality, Genocide Jack. After a series of surreal events thrusts the girls into an anarchic city infested with killer robot bears, the two must find a way to get out of the city before they’re murdered by a bunch of villainous children. The story is as insane as it sounds, but it has a great deal of depth to it. The narrative proves itself as a strong and worthwhile story as it goes on, thanks largely to the dark atmosphere and complex characters.
“You’ll constantly go between despising and feeling terrible for the Warriors of Hope, which is the sign of a well-made group of antagonists.”
The murderous children, dubbed the Warriors of Hope, aim to kill all the adults on the island to create a paradise for kids. Egged on by series villain and stand-out character Monokuma, these kids all have surprisingly dark storylines, dealing with everything from alcoholism and abuse to pedophilia. While Danganronpa is an incredibly dark series, the more realistic types of mature content took me off guard, leaving me impressed at how well Ultra Despair Girls handled these sensitive topics with genuine emotion. You’ll constantly go between despising and feeling terrible for the Warriors of Hope, which is the sign of a well-made group of antagonists.
Gameplay-wise, Ultra Despair Girls is a mechanically run of the mill third-person shooter, outside of some truly interesting bullet mechanics. Typically, you’ll run around shooting a variety of enemy Monokuma using a speaker-phone blaster. There are numerous “bullet” types that can be used, each with its own unique function. These bullets prove to be the highlight of the shooting system due to their varied functions. Some bullets simply wound enemies, while others make them dance, or can activate electronic devices. While you’ll still end up using only a couple types of bullets, the selection of abilities injects some necessary adrenaline into the slower-paced shooting.
“Not to mention, it’s always fun to take control of one of the best characters of the series, homicidal tendencies and all.”
Players can also become Genocide Jack for limited periods of time, which gives some much-needed variety to the otherwise samey gameplay. Switching to Jack is an exciting experience, as she is invincible and focuses entirely on close-quarters combat using her iconic scissors. Swapping between these two characters provides a hectic sense of flow to combat, livening it up a bit when it gets too dry. Not to mention, it’s always fun to take control of one of the best characters of the series, homicidal tendencies and all.
The Monokuma designs run from hilarious to horrifying, which is in-line with how stellar the design in Danganronpa is. The ball-Monokuma, based on Pac-Man, is hilarious in both its appearance and its attacks, while the Junk Monokuma is legitimately unsettling in its design and movement. The variety of enemies is impressive, and keeps Ultra Despair Girls fresh for quite some time.
The visual quality of Ultra Despair Girls is impressive, especially for a Playstation Vita game that has been ported to the PS4. The usual hallmarks of the Danganronpa series are present, such as sharp pink blood and detailed facial expressions of despair, and they’re as striking as ever. Danganronpa has always put stylistic intensity at the forefront, and Ultra Despair Girls serves as no exception. The visuals are actually toned down slightly to match the darker tone of the midquel, which fits well, even if it takes a bit of fun away from the usual look of the franchise.
The sound in Ultra Despair Girls is astounding, as it can easily evoke the strongest emotions from players. The introduction of skills and new enemies is done in a “Microsoft Sam” voice, which is as jarring as it is fitting, while the music hops between heavy and suffocating to fast-paced and silly. The voice acting is just as impressive, with the Warriors of Hope standing out most. At one moment the kids can be annoying and infuriating thanks to their shrill voices, while in the next they can be pitiful as they border on sobbing. It’s a strong balance that takes real talent to pull off, which is thankfully present.
The Final Word
Danganronpa Another Episode Ultra Despair Girls stands as a great narrative-based game and a great Danganronpa game alike. The suffocating tone and complex characters perfectly compliment the humour and hectic world the characters inhabit. Despite the simplicity of the core gameplay, Ultra Despair Girls is a strong title that’s worth killing for.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good