Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls takes place between Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, connecting some of the dots and revealing the fates of the first game’s survivors. Unlike the other two games, however, Ultra Despair Girls plays more like a horror survival title with elements of both third-person shooters as well as the adventure genre.
But is this title worthy of its predecessors, or is this spin-off as dead as a Hope’s Peak Academy student?
“It has been a year and a half since my imprisonment began.”
In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, players took control of the “Ultimate Lucky Student” Makoto Naegi. During the course of the game, Makoto was trapped inside the school, forced into a dangerous game in which students would have to kill each other in hope of leaving. While the game explored in great detail the horrors of the blood-soaked school, it spent only a little time describing what lurked outside the gates. This is where Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls comes in. Rather than taking place in a locked down school or a deserted island, this game instead takes place in the heart of downtown Towa City.
With a name like Ultra Despair Girls, it shouldn’t come off as too much of a surprise that Makoto Naegi does not regain his main character status. That honor is instead bestowed upon his little sister, Komaru Naegi. As the game begins, Komaru begins her morning routine. She gets up, gets dressed, and has her well-balanced breakfast. Things seem pretty normal until it is revealed that she is a prisoner of her own home. Ever since “a certain incident,” she had been separated from not only her family but also the outside world itself. opportunity quite literally knows however as someone is finally at the door. As a cruel twist of fate, however, it is revealed that the knocking is that of Monokuma himself. Or at least it appears that way…
Just as all hope seems lost, none other than the Ultimate Affluent Progeny Byakuya Togami appears to save the day. Wielding a special megaphone that can shoot “Truth Bullets” to hack Monokuma, Byukuya gives himself just enough time to hand Komaru a matching item before sending her on her way. Her luck quickly runs out however as one incident leads to another and she finds herself in the hands of the Warriors of Hope. These self-proclaimed heroes see themselves as the protectors of children everywhere, killing any adult or teen who stands in their way. Quickly seeing that Komaru does not like the cut of their jib, the send her out into the city. Rather than granting her freedom, however, they force her to reenact The Most Dangerous Game.
The game is dark, there is no question about that. In fact, Ultra Despair Girls may be the darkest of the three. The Warriors of Hope and their legion of Monokuma Kids are nothing short of disturbing. Not only do they threaten to kill Komaru, but they’ve already littered the streets with dead adults. It isn’t limited to only outsiders that enter the town, however, as some were said to have even killed their own parents. Despair in the air.
While the genre of the game may have changed pretty drastically, the story told has not. In this case, it’s a good thing. As with the previous games, Ultra Despair Girls features the themes of hope against despair. Komaru and her new friend Toko do their best to escape the “taken” city of Towa. While the idea of escapism is certainly present, the game seems to be lacking something vital: Monokuma. Though a plethora of Monokuma are present, they act as little more than mindless robots than anything. The smart-talking incarnate of evil that players love to hate and hate to love is nowhere to be seen. While it makes sense considering the continuing plot, the game doesn’t feel quite complete without an “upupupu” every now and again.
“Dark and depressing… Just like me.”
One of the most notable aspects of Danganronpa has always been its design. Through the use of pop art inspired anime graphics the games have always had a way to look exciting yet terrifying at the same time. Ultra Despair Girls is no exception to this rule. For the first time in the series history, the game features anime cutscenes during pivotal moments. These fit perfectly by keeping dark overtone with just enough light colors to almost give the viewer some hop. They may feel nostalgic to those fans of Danganronpa the Animation.
Unlike with Mokoto and Hinata where players took a first-person perspective, they will experience everything in the third-person with Komaru. As such, the series usual static 2D images wouldn’t quite work here. Instead, Komaru, Toko, Byakuya, and the Warriors of Hope are all represented with fitting cel-shaded models. While the series hasn’t used much in terms of 3D imagery in the past, the dark textures allow them to blend right in.
Only the main characters are textured in detail, however. Most of the adults in the game, whether they be alive or dead, stand out only as a single color. In some ways, this feels reminiscent of Persona 4 and the upcoming #FE, but at the same time, it also feels a bit underwhelming. With so many characters shown in such simple ways, it becomes too easy to tell who is important and who isn’t.
“However, it was a bit… too powerful. I had to make a few modifications. For game balancing purposes.”
Gameplay is where Ultra Despair Girls varies most from its predecessors. The most obvious change is the push for the game’s entirety to be within a 3D environment. This allows for a more believable world as well as opens up the game to its action based elements. Ultra Despair Girl’s main gimmick is the Truth Bullets. Rather than being used as evidence in a trial as before, they can be now used as actual weapons with help from a special megaphone. At first glance, this looks like nothing but a gimmick for the sake of being one. Even this reviewer had a hard time swallowing the idea that this could be fun. Within only a few minutes of playing the game, however, this mind was changed.
When Komaru first gets her hands on the Hacking Megaphone, all of it eight modes are unlocked. While this does feel game breaking, it gives a fantastic sneak peek as to what the game is capable of. After a run-in with a certain individual, however, the weapon is locked to only its most basic Break setting. This is the main mode that generally appeared in trainers and it used to “break” the army of fake Monokuma. While it is neat, it is the balance of this mode along with numerous others such as Dance and Knockback that really makes things fun. The game generally is able to find a good balance of strategies to keep things from feeling stale, this is especially true later on in some instances when two or three different bullets used in a row are needed to defeat an enemy.
Komaru actually is not the only playable character in the game. Throughout the game, it is possible to call on Genocider Jack for assistance. As excepted, she comes fully equipped with her special scissors as seen in the first game. While Genocider Jack the game becomes something more of a hack and slash with an emphasis on slash. While control of Genocider Jack is timed and can only be called upon when a special gauge is full, she is completely immune to bodily harm. While a cool feature, the power, and immortality of Genocider Jack takes away the game’s tension. Perhaps even more concerning is that her almighty scissors just seem to take away the fun of playing with the Hacking Megaphone. Luckily the use of Genocider Jack is limited, otherwise, it might be Resident Evil 6‘s melee attack all over again.
“Oh that reminds me, I never told you my name!”
When the previous games were released, they both offered the option of dual audio. With Ultra Despair Girls however, only the English dub is available on the card. Before anybody flips a table, however, it should be noted that the original Japanese audio will be available free to download once the game is released. As the game has yet to be officially released, this review will only focus on the dub.
As for the English dub, many of the voices from the original game return including Toko, Byakuya, and Makoto. Without giving too much away, a certain character or two from the second game also appear. Fans of the previous dubs should be happy to hear their favorite voice talents return. The talented Cherami Leigh voices the leading lady Komaru Naegi. She’s best known for her works as Fairy Tail‘s Lucy Heartfilia, Hyperdimension Neptunia‘s Plutia, and Sword Art Online‘s Asuna Yuuki. Needless to say, that’s she’s pretty darn good. Unfortunately the same can not be said for the game’s seemingly primary antagonist, Kurokuma. His annoyingly unforgettable voice only makes this reviewer miss the original Monokuma more than ever before.
When it comes to music, Danganronpa sure has a handful of iconic tunes. Many of these return in Ultra Despair Girls. For the most part, it is pretty great to hear these songs again. In some instances, it seems a little inappropriate. This isn’t in an NSFW kind of way, but more of an “oh no they didn’t” sort of way. Some characters just shouldn’t share their themes.
Overall Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is a great spin-off. The game features splendid 3D graphics that compliment the series standard 2D art styles. The gameplay, while seemingly gimmicky at first, feels like the right amount of action and strategy. At the end of the day, it does exactly as any competent spin-off should do. It not only expands the Danganronpa universe but also establishes a memorable experience of its own.
HEY! HEY!! LISTEN!!! gives Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls 8.4 Monokuma Kids out of 10.