by Joshua Russo
Developer: Spike Chunsoft, NIS America
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Steam
Released: June 26, 2017
Danganronpa’s Ultimate Spin-Off
I’ve been a big fan of the Danganronpa series but never managed to get around to the spin-off entry Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls when it first released on the PlayStation Vita in 2015. Now that the game has come to the PlayStation 4 (and Steam), I figured it was time to dive in and catch up before Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony releases in the fall.
The two main games of the series, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, are great visual novel games on their own. What’s not to love about a group of high school prodigies solving murders of their classmates? I was hesitant when I found out Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls was an action-adventure third person shooter. What made the first two titles so good was the quality of writing across the board; story, characters and dialogue all contributed to unforgettable gaming experiences. Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls was able to finely balance another captivating story along with much more stimulating gameplay than the series is known for.
Ultra Despair Girls takes place in between the events of the first two games. Komaru Naegi, the younger sister of the the first game’s protagonist Makoto Naegi, has been kidnapped and kept as a prisoner for over a year. After a short and beautifully done intro scene, the game quickly gets to the action as Komaru escapes the building and the dozens of killer Monokuma bears try to take her life. Komaru is saved by a group of children who call themselves the Warriors of Hope.
The Warriors of Hope are no saviors and quickly throw you back out to fend for yourself. You’ll control Komaru with an over the shoulder third person view and her only weapon is a megaphone/gun that fires out “truth bullets”. In the previous games, truth bullets have been evidence used to solve the murders happening around you, but in Ultra Despair Girls, it’s physical ammo. As you progress through the game you’ll come across several types of truth bullets that perform in many ways. The basic truth bullet is “break” and will do damage to Monokumas, even taking them out in one shot if hit in the weak spot of its red eye. A “dance” truth bullet will stop a Monokuma in its tracks and force it to get its groove on. Some bullets, such as “move”, has no combat effect but will allow you to interact with things in the environment, be it collecting items, solving puzzles or moving obstacles. You’ll also be able to team up with Toko Fukawa from the first Danganronpa and use her “Scissor Fever” gauge for invincibility and instant kills. Taking out Monokumas in so many different ways is a straight up arcade-style blast.
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls does a good job balancing the story and combat, moving from one to the other just before things could get stale most of the time. There are some combat sequences that do tend to go on longer than they should and unfortunately the environments can get repetitive fast. The characters of Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls are once again a pleasure to acquaint. The ultimate children of the Warriors of Hope as well as several familiar faces from the other entries are written with the same consistent humor, quirks and personalities you’d come to expect.