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Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (Vita) artwork

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (Vita) review

"The kids aren't all right."

A note before we get started: DangaRonpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls takes place between the first two DanganRonpa games. The game itself contains heavy spoilers for the first game and milder ones for the second game. We're going to avoid most of the big spoilers, but a few smaller ones, mostly present in pre-release and marketing material for the game, are unavoidable. Read at your own discretion.

Komaru Naegi, younger sister of DanganRonpa protagonsit Makoto Naegi, doesn't know why she was kidnapped and locked away in an apartment 18 months ago. Every day she does her best to go about her life as normally as she can as a forced shut-in. Imagine her surprise when evil teddy bear robots (Monokumas) break down her door and attack her. After being given a “hacking gun” that's effective against the robots and being kidnapped once again by a group of evil children who see her as a demon that must be hunted and killed, she meets up with DanganRonpa veteran Toko Fukawa. If they want to make it off this robot-infested city, they'll have to work together.

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (Vita) image

It is immediately apparent that Ultra Despair Girls is a shooter for fans of the DanganRonpa visual novels. It's very story heavy, sometimes to a fault, with lots of cutscenes with voiced dialogue and clever writing. The Prologue chapter has very little gameplay and still manges to take more than an hour to clear, so it does take a bit too long to get started. Repeat playthroughs are dragged down a little by the need to skip so many cutscenes. If the story wasn't so good, this might not be worth it, but it is. The series has always had a mixture of humour and creepiness, and this may be the darkest entry yet. The children have declared war on the adults of Towa City and they're not holding back. Stylized bodies and blood litter the streets. Most characters are portrayed as coloured silhouettes, and the blood is the traditional DanganRonpa Hot Pink, but that just makes the carnage more surreal. The series standard art style is present, even in this fully-3D game, with bright, contrasting colours, flat background objects, and nonsensical geometry for anything you don't have to interact with. The game is gorgeous to look at.

Gameplay is a bit more slow-paced than most third-person shooters, with more of a focus on smart use of different types of ammo, rather than twitchy aiming and cover mechanics. Komaru's hacking gun can use a total of 8 different types of “truth bullet.” (Just go with it.) These can be used to defeat enemies or solve puzzles. The standard Break bullet damages robots. Hit a Monokuma in its glowing red eye to take it down in one shot and make your next Break bullet inflict extra damage. The Move bullet is unlimited and useful for interacting with machines, such as vending machines or switches. Sometimes it's possible to defeat enemies just with bullets that don't do any direct damage at all. For example, you can use a Dance bullet to make an enemy dance uncontrollably in place, then fire a Move bullet at a car to run him down. If a Monokuma is holding grenades, you can tip it over with a Knockback bullet, which will cause the grenades to scatter and explode, defeating any enemies nearby.

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (Vita) image

In a tight spot, Komaru can switch places with Toko, as long as she has battery power for her stun gun. She'll zap herself and switch to her serial killer alter ego, Genocide Jack. Jack doesn't take damage and uses her trademark scissors to deal powerful melee attacks. Land enough blows to charge her Lust gauge for powerful and humourous special attacks, such as a Spirit Bomb made of scissors (complete with “Lend me your energy!”) or a literal rain of scissors. Jack's insanity doesn't last long, but she's a fun get-out-of-jail-free card in a pinch.

Komaru's gun lends itself well to puzzle solving, so there are several puzzle rooms in every level. Normally, the goal is to defeat all of the present enemies at once. This can be accomplished any number of ways, such as by knocking them into pits with Knockback bullets or by collapsing the floor underneath them after setting off a chain reaction of bomber Monokumas. Fans of the logic puzzles in the main DanganRonpa games will likely appreciate these rooms.

Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls (Vita) image

Ultra Despair Girls is a fun spinoff that borrows many of the elements that make DanganRonpa work. The shooting is intentionally slow and meticulous, which is just fine for a handheld. The story is twisted and interesting, though sometimes intrusive with overlong cutscenes. Characters are well fleshed out, with even the villains being sympathetic to a point, and the friendship between Toko and Komaru is fun to watch develop. Fans of the series shouldn't be scared off by this more action-oriented take on the universe, but non-fans should give at least the first DanganRonpa a go before diving into Ultra Despair Girls.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (August 25, 2015)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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