Spin-offs can be a lot of fun because the new title doesn’t have to meet the expectations of the original. In the case of Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, it allows the visual novel to try its hand at a third person shooter, a new player base to experience the series and a different overall tone to the game. With Dangantonpa proving to be a popular and successful series, will Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls follow suit or are the developers pushing their luck?
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls takes place after the events of the first game, but before the events of the second game and follows Komaru Naegi, sister of the game’s original protagonist, Makoto Naegi, an average high school girl that has been mysteriously imprisoned in a room. After a brief explanation of who she is and what her life is like, Future Foundation comes to rescue her as the Monokuma attack. Komaru is given a hacking gun, powerful enough to destroy the Monokuma and successfully escapes only to see the town in shambles.
From here the story starts to branch out and introduces her brother, the situation, the children that initiated the attack, some details about the world and much more. At first the story is a bit bland, mostly due to the series visual novel background, resulting in a lot of exposition. Even though this might be hard for some people to get into, the story takes an interesting direction and has a couple of shocking twists that ultimately pays off in the end. With that being said, the same can’t be said about the gameplay.
The biggest problem with Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is that it’s too true to its roots. At the start, gameplay is sandwiched between the aforementioned long cutscenes and ultimately the story does the gameplay a disservice. This is due to the startling contrast between how the Monokuma are portrayed and how they’re during gameplay segments.
In the story they’re generally depicted as frightening robots that have no difficulty killing highly trained opponents, but during gameplay sections they’re slow and mindless enemies that probably couldn’t kill Komaru without her gun, much less with it. Even on the highest difficulty all the Monokuma pose so little of a threat that it simply takes you out of the experience. I understand that the developers probably wanted to make Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls accessible to their fans, but it shouldn’t be accessible to the point where I died maybe four times throughout the whole game on the highest difficulty.
Thankfully, despite the easy gameplay, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls tries to spice things up with various puzzles and mechanics. Every now and then you’ll find an arcade machine, signifying that the next room is a challenge. The machine will tell you what the requirements are, such as make it to the exit without being seen or destroy every enemy with a single attack and will also tell you which bullets you can and can’t use. These offer a nice change of pace, though the vast majority of them were straightforward to the point where I figured them out on my first attempt or immediately after my first attempt.
As mentioned above, the hacking gun has a variety of bullets that allow you to handle each situation differently. These include a dancing bullet (disables the Monokuma), bullet, shotgun, mind control, machine gun, interaction (turns switches or enables something) and more. Each bullet has a finite amount, so you need to constantly look for more ammo and converse whatever ammo you find. To further enhance things you can summon Toko, who transforms into Genocide Jack, who is immune to damage and can quickly dispatch Monokuma with melee attacks. You can only use this mode for a fixed amount of time, so you need to use it wisely or you’ll need to escape from the supposed threat.
As bad as the gameplay is, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls makes up for some of it by introducing interesting puzzles. So to progress forward you might need to look for invisible ink (another power of the hacking gun), decipher riddles or figure out the secret the game is trying to tell you. The only downside is that the game will eventually give you hints and then the answer if you’re stuck for too long. This sort of defeats the purpose of the puzzle, though it still beats them not being there in the first place.
Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls feels like a visual novel turned third-person shooter, which might have been the point, but it does not make for a satisfying experience. In many ways the game would probably benefit from simply removing the third-person shooter element, tossing in a couple of puzzles and adding some branching story paths, but still, fans will probably enjoy it. With that being said, unless you absolutely must know what happened between Danganronpa 1 and 2, I would suggest avoiding Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls.
[Editor’s Note: Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls was reviewed on PS Vita platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls Review,