Game Review

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls Review (2014)

The Danganronpa series is known by fans for their unique brand of horror that puts young teens and children in ‘games’ of life and death. The spin-off title, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls put a twist into the series. The events of which take place between the main series titles, Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair. The main series of games follow a chapter formula involving a murder, the mystery and the trial to determine the murderer. Ultra Despair Girls throws the trials out the window and enters into the realm of shooters for the gameplay. Is this PlayStation Vita outing worth a look?

The main character of Danganronpa is Komaru Naegi, the younger sister of Makoto Naegi who was the protagonist for the first title of the series. Komaru had been held captive for over a year by the start of the game. She is able to make a bitter-sweet escape thanks to the world falling into despair and chaos with crazed Monokumas running around killing adults. Her escape and survival are assisted by a group calling themselves Future Industries. They provide a hacking gun used to combat the murderous Monokumas. She does not fight alone, she forms a team with another character from the first game, Toko Fukawa. Their goal is to get out of the city together, but it will not be an easy task.

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Even without the trails, there is plenty of murder and despair to be had. The spin-off keeps the overall twisted tone of series but giving a new avenue to explore the twisted world. As Komaru players will use the hacking gun. When using the gun the point to aim for is the glowing red eyes of the Monokumas. The gun will gain a variety of bullets.

The standard bullet will simply attack them, but new types will allow for taking control of enemies, activating machines, and scanning the environment for clues and hidden items. The different bullets give an upper hand to defeating the various types of Monokumas flooding the streets. The act of switching between them I found somewhat irritating at times. Not to say it is difficult, but when dealing with a swarm of enemies that need different bullets to handle them it can be juggling task that caused some panic when they started surrounding me.

Around then is when I found the best option was to switch to Toko Fukawa. To be accurate, players can switch into Toko Fukawa’s alternate persona, Genocide Jack/Jill. Jack uses her signature murder weapon, scissors, to deal up-close slashing attacks.There is a both a limit on the number times she can be used and for how long she’ll be around. For this reason, I found it best to save her for tight spots and the boss fights.

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The spin-off contains references to the previous games. The obvious and notable reference being the appearances and mentions of characters from previous games. Some of the prior characters heavily influence the story and events of this game. At the very least the game seems to expect players to have played the first game of the series. It would also recommend it. The game does include flashbacks and exposition to highlight key points of the first game that are needed to understand the story, but having the full knowledge of that game will make for an overall better experience. At the very least it might be worth watching the anime adaptation of the first game, Trigger Happy Havoc.

The artistic style of the game remains similar. The vibrant colors that stand out against the darker setting and morbid story. The main antagonists of the game are young children apart of Hope Peak’s Elementary school, with titles of Lil’ Ultimate. Where Komaru and Toko are high-schoolers and basically adults to their younger minds. Within the morbid story, there are small moments of levity where the game pokes fun at its own randomness. A character questioning, “What is this a video game?” and even referencing gameplay and final boss terms.

The areas of the game are repetitive partly in the design, but more in the need for backtracking. For players looking to find collectable items, there will be even more back-tracking to find the hidden secrets. Or if struggling to find the solution for progression. It may not be a frustrating issue, it can be annoying and boring one when going through the same area you just struggled to get past before.

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A personal bias that elevates the Danganronpa experience is the two lead characters are female. Not just the fact that they are female, but they’re developed female characters that change through the course of the game. Komaru is a new character so her growth is slightly less noticeable as we’re still learning about her character. Still, she makes strong changes from what she was at the start to the end. Looking at Toko Fukawa, I expected them to slack with her character as she was partly developed from her previous role in the first game. I was proven wrong as upon introduction even she had already made great strides and changes from when last seen and the events of this game only further her growth. The bond developed between Komaru and Toko is also a large part of the story and helps in showing their personal growths.

For those of who enjoyed the characters and atmosphere, the previous Danganronpa games made this game will probably be a fun time. The change to shooter and with less focus on investigation gives a different pace that can be rewarding and welcomed after playing through the trials of 1 & 2. 

Warning: This contains mentions of rape and child abuse. Anyone sensitive to these subjects should take caution or avoid this game.

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