Following the success of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, and Danganronpa 2, Spike Chunsoft switched up gears a bit by introducing Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls. The newest game in the series, Ultra Despair Girls switches up the style of gameplay entirely, moving the gameplay from a visual novel and murder mystery style game to a third-person shooter action-adventure.
While the change makes the game entirely different from what fans of the series are used to, that doesn’t mean the game loses its brutal and maniacal themes and style. The game’s story is still rather twisted and dark, keeping the first two games’ hopeless focus right at the forefront.
I don’t want to dwell too heavily on the story here, since it is really a big focus of the game. The plot takes place between the first and second Danganronpa games chronologically, with Komaru Naegi as the lead character. She is joined shortly thereafter by Toko Fukawa/Genocide Jack, who is searching for Byakuya Togami.
Komaru and Toko are the two playable characters in the game. Komaru meets up with Byakuya at the beginning of the game, and he gives her the hacking gun that will function as the main weapon throughout the game. The gun itself looks like a megaphone, but it has tons of uses as you progress through the game from stunning enemies to revealing things like footprints and other clues.
Shortly after crossing paths with Byakuya, Komaru runs into Toko and the two team up. Toko has trained herself to control her Genocider Jack personality through the use of a stun-gun, and this will function the rest of the game as a special attack of sorts. If the stun-gun is fully charged, you’ll be able to take control of Jack for a period of time to cut up your enemies with her scissors. Jack is able to massacre tons of enemies very quickly, which becomes incredibly useful in some sections of the game.
The plot itself revolves around Komaru and Toko stopping the ‘Warriors of Hope’ – a group of elementary school kids who have decided to kill the adults of the world to create a paradise for kids. And how do they plan on doing so? With Monokuma robots, of course! This sets Komaru and Toko off on a mission to stop the kids while disabling or destroying the Monokumas that have taken over Towa City.
The story gets incredibly twisted, dark, and disturbing at times, which follows the series’ specialty to a T. Each character can be hiding something at every turn, with hidden emotions and motivations, creating a rather depressing and unnerving picture as to what the world of the game has come to. Truly, the hopelessness of the first two games is present here in full force.
And, just like before, any and every character is subject to spine-chilling cruelty and even deaths. Though the pace and word of the game feels very different from the murder-mystery style of the first two games, the risk of what’s on the line hasn’t decreased at all. In fact, it may even be that much higher than in the classroom trials. And it’s this story that will be a major driving force as you go through the game.
The gameplay, however, isn’t as easy to write home about. The over-the-shoulder third person shooter mechanics work well, but they take quite a bit of getting used to. The controls feel clunky and a bit slow for a long time before you adjust, and the game’s beginning suffers because of it. With the opening of the game feeling a bit slow to begin with, the added trudge of the controls make the first hour or two feel like walking through a swamp.
Thankfully, it doesn’t remain that way after the gameplay opens up a bit. As Komaru gets more functions attached to her hacking gun, the gameplay becomes that much more varied. Situations in the game tend to alternate between a puzzle-solving section and a combat section – though that’s not to say that puzzle sections don’t have combat. Often times, you’ll find yourself dealing with enemies while puzzle solving, or sometimes the enemies themselves are the puzzle.
However, the puzzle sections are definitely the highlight of the game. Once you have a few different attachments for the hacking gun, the puzzles become more and more complex, leaving you to think your way through it. While the puzzles may not be the type where you walk in circles for an answer for twenty minutes, some will have you think outside the box to solve them.
On the other hand, the combat moments can feel weak in comparison. The controls leave the combat feeling somewhat sluggish, and since Komaru’s movements are limited, you’ll find yourself taking hits that you feel like you should have been able to avoid. In addition, Komaru is rather fragile so those hits that you felt you should’ve dodged can add up and kill you.
Genocider Jack helps lessen some of the burden, as she can quickly wipe the floor with rooms full of enemies, but since her use is rather highly limited, Jack can’t help much in the longer fights. Thankfully, most combat sequences aren’t unfairly difficult, and may just require certain approaches to deal with a specific threat.
As for the game’s visual design, the only thing that needs to be said is that it’s clear you’re playing a Danganronpa game. The bright pink blood returns, as does all of the highly stylized art with its thick lines. Despite most of the game’s locales being of a dark and dank color scheme, the bright blood color as well as the oddly colored corpses at every turn give the game a brightly colored appearance. And, despite the transition into a full 3D, the models are as every bit as well designed as Danganronpa’s previous cardboard cutout style.
Unfortunately, minor issues crop up throughout the game that detract from the fun a bit. Many areas of the game feel almost unfinished as you trek down relatively empty corridors and areas of town that feel empty of everything but walls and enemies. I’ve had a peculiar bug happen once or twice as well during my time with the game, though that may just be my own bad luck.
Ultimately, Ultra Despair Girls is a good follow up to the previous Danganronpa games. It still carries a consistent tone throughout, and the writing is as good as ever. And don’t let the game’s design fool you – despite being an action title, Ultra Despair Girls is just as heavy on text as the previous games. Thankfully, the story is the best part, so making your way through all the text never feels like a chore. And, despite a few issues here and there, this is still a Danganronpa game, and worth your time.
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita using a code provided by NIS America. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 8
- Great writing as always
- Interesting puzzles
- Awesome art style
- More Toko/Jack
- More Danganronpa!
- Controls and gameplay can feel clunky at times
- Occasionally empty locations
- Bugs (?)