Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (PS4) – Review

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Posted July 13, 2017 by Chris Berto in Video Games

Playing a game where the antagonist wants to rule the planet or end the lives of a particular group of people isn’t anything new, but when the antagonist is a group of children whose only goal is to kill all adults…. Well, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls takes players on a dark, emotional roller coaster. The game takes place between Danganronpa 1 and 2 and acts to fill in the gap between the two stories. Perhaps the most drastic divergence Ultra Despair Girls takes from its predecessors is the shift in genre, from a visual novel to a third-person adventure game with mild shooting mechanics and some light horror elements.

The story focuses on Komaru Naegi, a high school girl who is forced to flee captivity when she is suddenly attacked by a group of murderous black and white robot bears known as Monokumas. Komaru eventually teams up with Toko Fukawa, an estranged member of a force known as Future Foundation, who agrees to help only when she discovers that her “love interest” may have been captured after having helped Komaru. Together, the two uncover the truth behind the Monokumas that have been aggressively, and violently murdering any and all adults they come across; meanwhile a group of children who call themselves The Warriors of Hope have banded together to hunt down every demon (see: adult) in Towa City for no reason other than “it’s fun” and have been using the Monokumas to achieve their goal of an adult-free paradise.

Someone needs a timeout!

As the story unfolds, motivations for the Warriors of Hope start to unfold and what is presented as “just fun” in the eyes of these deranged, parricidal children turns out to be motivated by repressed feelings of child abuse, self-deprivation, depression, sexual abuse, and many other unspeakable acts. The inclusion of hidden collectibles that can be found throughout Towa City include manga and novels that act as dark, deeply disturbing recounts of the last thoughts of adults that have been killed by the children. The game is unabashedly morbid, but it’s all to drive a point. Not to be overly depressing however, Ultimate Despair Girls also sprinkles in some comic relief and a healthy dose of fan service through some cringe-worthy dialog between the two protagonists, but also in conversations with the girls and the Warriors of Hope. The writers also enjoy breaking the 4th wall from time to time with one-liners that let the player know they’re in on the fan-service nature of the game and they’re not afraid to poke fun of the situations the player may find themselves in.

Fan service!

Though Ultra Despair Girls is billed as a third-person action game, it’s still very padded with dialog and cut scenes like its visual novel cousins, and it’s a good thing because unfortunately gameplay is where the game suffers the most. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but none of the various elements are particularly good. Combat takes place in a third-person view as Komaru wields a “gun” in the shape of a microphone which fires “truth bullets” which come in a variety of ammo types such as Paralyze, Dance, Break, and Burn.

The interesting twist is that each type of bullet has it’s own unique effects on the Monokumas and can be used in various combinations to different outcomes. Shoot a Monokuma with a siren on its back using the Dance bullet and all other Monokumas in the area will be drawn to it. Couple that with “Break” and you can easily pick off all the Monokumas one at a time while they’re distracted.

Truth Bullets

All of this sounds great, and it would be if not for the controls and the camera. Aiming in third-person is done just as you’d expect, yet it feels just slightly aloof and never as precise as it should be, considering the game defaults with laser sight. The inability to quick-fire becomes a problem anytime several enemies start making their way towards Komaru simultaneously. The slow turn radius coupled with the slow rate of fire can make up-close encounters a daunting task. Thankfully there is a 2nd combat option.

By pressing “Δ” the perspective switches from Komaru to Toka’s alternate personality, Genocide Jack, a scissor-wielding sociopath with lightning fast reflexes and an immunity to damage. This ability comes at a price and is limited in use due to the need to fill up her special battery gauge.  This would almost solve the up-close encounter issue if not for the abhorrent camera controls.

There are two options given to the player, auto-camera, or manual camera. Auto-camera is all but useless and will more often lead to your death than it will help you navigate the open environment, and much like aiming in combat, the manual camera just doesn’t feel precise. In the case of Genocide Jack’s melee focused combat, the camera doesn’t feel equipped to keep up with her blazing quick speed and more time is spent spinning around in circles looking for your next enemy rather than sticking pair of razor-sharp scissors into them.

Snikt!

One of the more unique, if not distracting qualities of Ultimate Despair Girls is its art direction. The moment-to-moment gameplay passes in quality for PS2-era animations and the 3D models wouldn’t look out of place in the early days of the PS3. Considering this is a port of a PS Vita game, however, those shortcomings can be forgiven. Where the aforementioned distractions come into play is anytime the game transfers from the player’s control to cinematic cut scene or RPG dialog session. These can vary in visual style from one scene to another. Some moments are rendered in a very beautiful anime style cartoon, some are depicted as a voiced-over still image, while others use the in-game models to play out the scene. None of these art styles are bad, but jumping from one to another in between camera moves is a weird development choice.

The writing in Ultimate Despair Girls is where this game shines brightest. Like the games before it, Another Episode relies heavily on the player being engaged in the story. Throughout my time in Towa City I had genuine feelings of sadness and laughter for the characters in this world. Discovering the horrible backstory to each of the Warriors of Hope left me sitting speechless in my chair at the end of each chapter and at times even made me feel guilt for hating them the way I did. Watching Komaru come to grips with her situation and evolve from a timid, average, “nothing special about me” school girl who just wants to run away into a woman who is willing and able to fight back against the despair.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is ultimately a fun, if not morbid, ride that fans and newcomers alike should absolutely embark on. Despite some technical flaws, and the transition from pure visual novel to a 3rd person action, this is every bit a Danganronpa game as its predecessors. Spike Chunsoft may have some technical hurdles to overcome if they want to pursue this genre for future games in the series but they’re off to a good start so far.

 

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls

7

Pros

  • Engaging Story
  • Not Afraid Dip Into Adult Themes
  • Fantastic World Bulding
  • Believable Characters
  • Warriors of Hope aren’t quite what they appear to be at first

Cons

  • Poor Camera Controls
  • Repetitive Combat
  • Longish Cut Scenes
  • PS Vita Visuals Don’t Translate Well To TV



About the Author

Chris Berto
Chris Berto