The Danganronpa series has certainly taken the American J-gaming scene by storm with its brilliant mix of lovable characters, exciting argument sequences, and intricate story. There is quite a bit of lore that was established from even the first game that are explored even further in the second title. The latest outing, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls explores the period in between the two titles and, in a twist, is a shooter rather than visual novel detective game.
Like Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, Ultra Despair Girls‘s main protagonists are very related to both the first title and Hope’s Peak Academy. After being trapped in a room for more than a year, Komaru Naegi is able to escape just in time for a city-wide riot with the to begin caused by Monokumas and the children who control them for the purpose of ridding the city, and perhaps world, of adults.. Together with Toko Fukawa from the original Danganronpa, they must end the riots while rescuing Byakuya Togami, who has been captured since he tried to save Komaru.
While the game only fills in the gaps between the first and second titles, it is hardly “filler” content in the overall scope of the story. Aside from giving precious background information on how Goodbye Despair was set up, the writing in Ultra Despair Girls is able to stand on its own, exploring themes of parental abuse and how quick society moves to demonize a group. For fans of the series, there are also plenty of tear-jerking cameos thrown in aside from just the protagonists themselves. Throughout this terribly depressing narrative, the game still manages to keep the charm that is so prevalent in other parts of the series, which is only strengthened by the both funny and sexual references to anime tropes.
Despite the signature NIS American localization that simply gets everything the American otaku wants, the title does have shortcomings in its presentation. This is most apparent in the alarming absence of Japanese audio and English subtitles. While the former is available through DLC, the latter is nowhere to be found, which is almost inexcusable and confounding seeing as how this is a mobile game. Either grab some headphones or wait till you’re alone to play this, because you’d hate to miss any lines. The dubbing itself is also in need of some work; I have never had a more awkward experience than my friends and family hearing the grunts and moans of Ultra Despair Girls.
Seeing as how this is Spike Chunsoft’s first attempt at a shooter, the game is definitely respectable. With a myriad of bullet types, including those that make the Monokuma dance or even give players control over a Monokuma, it would seem that some of them would end up being superfluous. However, that is hardly the case, with almost every bullet type being used all the way up until the very last boss fight, all of the different types of ammunition feel like they serve some purpose.
For most of the game, players are encouraged to take the stealthier route. While the game does give an instant kill option if players are able to shoot a Monokuma square in the red eye, but this is generally pretty difficult as the Monokuma will strafe, turn, and do almost anything imaginable to avoid being shot. Though the maps feel like a stealth shooter, there are plenty of puzzle segments that are a a hybrid of both stealth and puzzle titles. Elaborate set ups generally allow players to defeat all the Monokuma in any given room, which definitely tests players’ knowledge of the game mechanics and ability to understand the movement patterns of a group of Monokuma. On the bright side, these segments always allow players to run and gun it instead, though that will waste more of Komaru’s meager ammo.
While the base game is designed rather well, the leveling system and customization feels a bit unnecessary and trivial. As players level up, they are given more points to allot to skills; while this is all well and good, I found myself with a surplus of points half way through the game. The game’s customization system, which allows players to add adjectives or “bling” to truth bullets, have hardly noticeable effects that range from adding more room for ammo to having an increased “effect.” I certainly didn’t notice.
If players can look past the voice acting, which will easily be mended by the incoming Japanese voice acting DLC, and odd leveling rewards, they’ll find an intriguing shooter that mixes stealth and puzzles while adding in an interesting story that builds upon the Danganronpa lore. For fans, the question of whether or not to purchase this is a no-brainer, but everybody should give the title a try.
- Elaborates on the Danganronpa universe
- None of the bullet types feel superfluous
- Funny and deep narrative
- Combination of puzzler and stealth is fun and challenging
- Rewards from leveling and customization system are hard to notice
- Cringe-worthy English voiceacting
- No subtitles? Really?
Available on: Vita; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Spike Chunsoft; Single Player; Released: September 1, 2015; ESRB: Mature; MSRP: $39.99; Official Site
Note: A promotional code was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.