Kill all the adults. It’s fun, right?
Children are the future. If raised properly and given the ability to successfully execute independent decision making, they promise a bright, bright future. But children are also extremely malleable, capable of being influenced by those they love or look up to, particularly their parents or their teachers. They trust almost unconditionally. So what happens when that trust is abused, broken, then discarded? That is the tale that Ultra Despair Girls tells.
Any regular to the DanganRonpa series understands just how dark and hopeless each title can become. Ultra Despair Girls is no different; in fact, I believe this entry may take the metaphorical cake when it comes to a dark narrative. The premise is this: a group of children calling themselves the Warriors of Hope have besieged Towa City with the intent to kill every last adult to create a peaceful paradise in which only children exist.
You play as Komaru Naegi, the sister of Makoto Naegi-the protagonist of Trigger Happy Havoc. Komaru fights alongside the split personality of Toko Fukawa. Komaru and Toko must play a game of survival against time and the Warriors of Hope equipped with the latest technology from the Future Foundation, the group that fights despair. They have a megaphone that projects different coded bullets capable of dismantling Monokumas.
Gameplay is pretty simple in Ultra Despair Girls. The game runs as a third person shooter, with the ability to transform Toko into Genocide Jack for a hack-and-slash style play. Through the course of the game, Komaru is gifted different bullet types for her weapon, allowing the player to approach different situations with a range of options. Basically, the game is split into five chapters. Each contains a prologue and an epilogue. Throughout each chapter, you traverse the city and buildings of Towa City, battling a range of different Monokumas on your way to your destinations. It just so happens that, at the end of each chapter, you must also battle a boss.
At intervals throughout the game, Komaru is given the options to upgrade her bullets and Toko’s scissors. Toko’s upgrades are fairly straightforward. They include the ability to increase combo time, battery life, etc… Battery life represents the period of time you can use Toko. Komaru’s upgrades are words that increase the amount of shots, power, and effect of each actual bullet. With the proper combination of words, Komaru can increase the power of her bullets by an exponential amount. This is, however, really unnecessary. I did not buy many of the words in order to upgrade Toko; and even then, I barely used Toko. While the upgrades to Komaru are nice, they’re all quite unnecessary–at least in a regular run through of the game.
Luckily, levels are interrupted with small puzzles, if you will. Komaru and Toko come across multiple arcade machines that enable them to see the upcoming area. It shows the layout of the next map and the locations of the Monokumas therein. In order to proceed through the area, you must defeat all of the Monokumas. However, it is possible to take them all out at once. This is necessary to earn a perfect on the puzzle. The arcade machine gives you the only bullets you can use in each puzzle to earn a perfect score. These are fun intermissions between what can become repetitive gameplay, as each puzzle is unique in its own way. Unfortunately, the boss fights don’t offer much variety until the final showdown. And with only a handful of different Monokuma types to keep you busy throughout the game, there isn’t much variety in regular combat, either.
This isn’t necessarily despair inducing, as my brief description may have you believing. As I’ve stated already, DanganRonpa tells a dark story through its overarching narrative. Once you understand just why the children are doing what they are doing, you’ll understand just how dark the scenario is. The series is really one of the best franchises on the Vita, and the storytelling is also superb. Of course, it is anime inspired, which means lengthy scenes full of dialogue, extended exposition, and the quirkiness of the Japanese. For some, this is no big deal. It’s welcomed, even. For others, however, it can be a major turn off. If you know what you like, though, this game is well worth the time and money.
If you’re not sure whether you’ll like it, play Trigger Happy Havoc. If you can make it through the detective-style, narrative heavy gameplay, you’ll certainly find things to enjoy in Ultra Despair Girls.
DanganRonpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls is a mechanically solid third person hack-and-slash shooter that offers hours of gameplay presented through the grim lenses of a despair filled narrative. While gameplay can become stale through time, variation in how each level is laid out helps break the monotony. The game shines with its story, and fans of the series will find much to love here.