Danganronpa is a franchise that is very near and dear to me. I fell in love with Trigger Happy Havoc when it released on the PlayStation Vita here in North America in 2014. The follow up, Goodbye Despair, was equally as good when it released just a few months later. As a fan of the series and wanting to see what happened next, I was delighted when Ultra Despair Girls was originally announced and released in 2015, just one year after the second game. Being a drastic change from the model set by the original games, it took a little adjusting, but before long, I was back in this world and loving every minute of it. NIS America is now releasing it again, in it’s quest to bring the entire catalog to the PlayStation 4. So how is the port from the Vita to the PS4, and have my thoughts changed any? Keep in mind, there will be spoilers for both Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair contained within. That being said, read on for our full Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls review.
Title: Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Available On: PlayStation 4, PC, PlayStation Vita
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Review Game Provided by the Publisher
Ultra Despair Girls tells the tale of Komaru Naegi, sister of the protagonist, Makoto Naegi, in the first game. If you’re unfamiliar with Danganronpa, seriously. Stop reading this review and go play through the first two games. They are excellent detective visual novels with an amazing soundtrack and cast of characters. If you are familiar with the series, you’ll know that the most tragic event in human history has occurred, and that the teenagers at Hope’s Peak Academy were all linked to it in one way or another. In Trigger Happy Havoc, Monokuma sets the stage for the killing game that must be played in order for the students held captive there to escape. You have to kill your classmates and get away with it in order to taste freedom once again. Get caught doing so, and you yourself are the one that will be executed.
In order to encourage the students to perform these evil acts, members of their families and those they hold close to them are kidnapped, but it never really is explained throughout the story what happened to those who were abducted for the purpose of this game. Were they even taken at all? Turns out, they were. Ultra Despair Girls explains exactly why they were taken, where they were taken to, and throughout the twenty or so hours it takes to get through the main story, you’ll run into and meet several of the characters that are in some way related to the cast of the first game. This release ties a lot of loose ends together, and is clearly meant to bridge the gap between the first two games and the upcoming Killing Harmony, set to release this September.
Back to Komaru, the lead character of this game. She has been imprisoned in a two bedroom apartment for the last year and a half, which is how long it’s been since the first game took place. Unable to leave, she gets three meals brought to her daily from an unknown source, along with a change of clothes. When the game begins, you see how she has been living and wondering if she’s ever going to see the outside world again. Suddenly, she is forced to flee when her apartment comes under attack from deadly Monokuma robots. While attempting to run away, she runs into Byakuya Togami, a member of the Future Foundation and also an original cast member from the first game. He helps her escape, and also provides her with your main weapon used throughout the game, a Hacking Gun.
Komaru heads in the direction she was pointed in, and after a few scenes and tutorials, you are introduced to the second main character in Ultra Despair Girls. Toko Fukawa and her split personality, serial killer Genocide Jack, who also happens to be from the original game. The relationship that forms between Komaru and Toko is incredible throughout the five chapters of the game, and is definitely one of the strongest aspects about this release. Together, the two of them are trying to find out what is going on in Towa City, while doing battle with all sorts of different Monokuma robots and dealing with the Warriors of Hope. Who are they? Just five kids set on creating a paradise for other children by murdering every adult in the city. They are leading an army of Monokuma helmet-wearing kids, and basically destroying and killing everything in sight. I’m telling you, this series is so twisted, but the storytelling and presentation are top notch.
Let’s discuss the actual gameplay and what you’ll be doing when exploring Towa City. Everything takes place in a third-person view, controlling either Komaru or Toko. You walk around fairly linear areas, moving from one objective to the next. Along the way, you’ll run into Monokuma robots that need to be destroyed with the Hacking Gun. The controls for this are set up in the same style as any traditional shooter. The ammo is unique, however. Known as Truth Bullets, you have different types for all kinds of scenario. Break, the most commonly used, is a traditional type of ammo good against the robots. Move will allow you to move objects, such as cars, and interact with power sources, vending machines, and arcade cabinets. Dance will make the robots dance in place. Detect is useful for finding clues and hidden objects. There’s a handful of other types of ammo as well, which are all useful in some way. You can also attach Bling to the different ammo types in order to increase the ammo capacity, how effective it is, and how quickly the bullets fire.
When enemies are defeated, they typically leave behind Monokuma Coins, which are used to purchase the previously mentioned Bling, as well as upgrading Toko’s scissors that she uses to attack when in her Genocide Jack personality. Defeating enemies also provides you with experience. Leveling up allows you to equip different Skills that must be found in the world on the girls. These skills range from experience increases, drop rate increases, slower aiming and quicker aiming, and more health, just to name a few. There’s a lot of room for experimentation early on, but after a short while of playing and leveling up, you’ll soon be able to equip all skills with room left over, so don’t worry about it too much early on.
So I mentioned the friendship that forms between Komaru and Toko being a strong point in the game. This is helped tremendously by the incredible voice acting in Another Episode, topped off by Amanda Celine Miller and Erin Fitzgerald. Newcomers to the series include Matthew Mercer, Cristina Vee, and Cherami Leigh, who plays Komaru. Cherami is quickly becoming one of my favorite female voice talents in gaming and anime, thanks in part to her fantastic skills as Makoto Niijima in Persona 5. She sounds so much like she did in Persona 5, that I actually liked Komaru more because of it.
There’s a nice balance between actual gameplay segments and cutscenes, which are done in the same style and fashion as the previous two games. One thing you’ll notice when walking around is that everything just looks and feels old. The landscapes are rather dull and lifeless, except for scattered glowing objects that represent the collectibles in the game. Taking the Danganronpa universe into a 3D setting definitely shows that it is much better suited for the visual novel presentation, unless a major overhaul is done to the graphics and engine.
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is a great addition to an already strong franchise with a fan base that is eager for more. Even though this is a port from the PlayStation Vita, it’s still worth picking up if you skipped over it the first time. If you already own it, you’re better off waiting for Danganronpa V3 when it arrives later this year, as nothing new has been added to the game. Either way, this is a must-own for fans of the franchise, and is a strong addition to anyone’s library looking for a fun exploration and shooting game with an insane story and fantastic cast of characters. Just do yourself a favor and play at least the original game first. You’ll have a much better appreciation for it if you do!