So when I finished Danganronpa 2 back in May, I wasn’t sure which entry to move onto next.
In the end, I decided to go with Ultra Despair Girls first and from there proceed to 3 and then finally V3, so let’s talk about Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls.
(Note: It’s impossible to completely avoid spoilers for the first Danganronpa while discussing Ultra Despair Girls, so if you haven’t played the first game, you might want to stop reading here.)
Set in between Danganronpa and Danganronpa 2, Ultra Despair Girls puts you in the shoes of Komaru Naegi, Makoto’s younger sister. As part of the motives for the first game, she was kidnapped and imprisoned in a mysterious apartment. Things take a turn for the worse when the city comes under attack by hundreds of Monokumas, and Komaru ends up joining forces with Toko in order to escape.
Now, I was a little worried about what it would be like to spend an entire game with Toko as a companion… but it actually turned out to be great!
This is basically Toko Character Development: The Game, and she (both regular Toko and Genocide Jack) have some great scenes that are among the most standout moments of the game for me. While she and Komaru clash terribly at the start, their interactions are a definite highlight.
Unlike the main series, Ultra Despair Girls isn’t a visual novel or adventure game. It’s largely a third-person shooter, as Komaru gets a special gun that allows her to fight back against the Monokumas. Over the course of the game, you get different bullets that have different effects. You also have a special meter that allows you to switch to Toko, who (as Genocide Jack) uses powerful melee attacks and special moves. Defeating enemies rewards you with Monokuma Coins, which you can spend on enhancements for your bullets or upgrades for Genocide Jack.
Gameplay also has a decent puzzle component. While some of these are riddles, there are also a number of challenge rooms where you’re tasked with killing all the Monokumas in a specific way. Figuring out how to use different bullets and the way different Monokuma variants react to them to meet the challenge’s criteria was one of my favorite parts.
And although exploration isn’t a huge part of the game, it’s worth poking around optional paths for the numerous collectibles, including notes that shed light on the grim occurrences in the city.
Speaking of which, this is probably the darkest Danganronpa game, easily darker than the first two. While death is a constant focus in those games, it’s presented in such an over-the-top way that the games maintain a lighthearted tone, but Ultra Despair Girls shows events with a much bleaker mood despite still having humor and wacky Monokuma antics. Aside from the terrified survivors hiding from the rampaging Monokumas and vengeful children who will gleefully torture and kill them, the main antagonists are children whose backstories involve various types of child abuse, and the game doesn’t shy away from very heavy themes.
It also has one… questionable mini-game section that made me wonder how it got past the ESRB. (Or onto Steam… I feel like with the way Steam is nowadays, it would get banned if it came out today.)
But it’s still as bizarre and over-the-top as the other games in the series – maybe even more so. It’s weird even by Danganronpa standards, and however far you need to stretch your suspension of disbelief to accept the Tragedy in general, prepare to stretch it even further. The heavier themes just make its clash in tones a bit more jarring than usual.
There are plenty of little callbacks to the first game that I enjoyed, as well as a few connections to the second. Despite being set in between the two games, it does contain some spoilers for Danganronpa 2, although it takes a couple of steps possibly meant to mitigate how much it spoils.
Anyway, with as divisive as Ultra Despair Girls is among fans, I was pleasantly surprised by it. The gameplay was simple, but passable, and the story was interesting. It wasn’t included in the recent Danganronpa collection, so if you want to play Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, you’ll need to pick it up on Steam, PS4, or Vita. It’s pretty different from the others, but I’m happy I decided to play it after all.---
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