Who says that the Vita is a dying system, which lacks any noteworthy exclusives? Despite what some naysayers may proclaim, Sony’s handheld is currently the gaming machine that I play the most – thanks chiefly to its library of unique titles. Two of my favourite games in recent times are Danganronpa and its sequel – a pair of releases, which Western gamers can only play on the Vita. As a fan of the franchise I wasted no time in picking up the latest instalment “Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls” once it became available to download off the European PSN store. The purchase was a bit of a gamble, as this spin-off is very different to its predecessors, but I had faith that Spike Chunsoft could complete a hat trick of stellar DR titles. In terms of storytelling they once again delivered the goods, but the same cannot be said of their QA practices.
Chronologically speaking, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls takes place sometime between the first two Danganronpa games (you should however tackle the series in release order, as Despair Girls’ finale spoils some of Danganrona 2’s mysteries.) Players take control of high school girl Komaru Naegi, who has been imprisoned in a flat by the anarchists responsible for plunging the world into despair. The game’s opening sequence sees Komaru escape from her cell, after the heroic Future Foundation assaults the building she is trapped in, but her safety is far from assured. The underage Warriors of Hope have declared that Towa City should become a paradise free of adults, which is bad news for Komaru. If she is unable to flee from the kid governed metropolis she will be executed for the crime of hitting puberty.
Unlike its predecessors, which were visual novel murder mysteries, Ultra Despair Girls is a much more action-orientated experience. To be exact, the game is a third person shooter (akin to Resident Evil 4) although instead of blasting Latino parasites this game has Komaru using a megaphone to protect herself from hordes of bloodthirsty robot bears. Thankfully Komaru is not alone in this adventure. Aiding the teenage protagonist in her endeavours is Toko Fukawa – a self-loathing novelist who transforms into the serial killer Genocide Jack whenever she loses consciousness or sneezes. Mental note – be sure to keep pepper pots well away from Toko. When things get dicey players have the option of temporarily controlling Jack. She is invulnerable to damage and proficient at slaying teddies with her twin scissor fighting techniques.
Being the bipolar reviewer that I am, I am going to give Danganronpa Ultra Despair Girls two scores. My personal rating for the game is one star. Why such a low score I hear you ask? Well, the answer is that my save file got corrupted shortly after I defeated the final boss. This forced me to watch the twenty-minute epilogue on YouTube and denied me a number of unlockables that become available once the ending credits roll. Perhaps my overpriced memory card is to blame? Nope. From reading NIS America’s official forums I have learnt that the game has a glitch, which may corrupt your file should you save after a chapter ends. I guess shipping broken games isn’t an Ubisoft exclusive practice. I expected better from NIS America, especially as the game has been out in Japan for over a year.
For anyone else, I think Danganronpa: Ultra Despair Girls is worthy of four stars. Hopefully a future patch will sort out the tech issues or at the very least anyone reading this review will not suffer my misfortune (creating multiple save files is a wise precaution to take.) Compared to other shooters the game may not be anything special, but it more than compensates for its shortcomings via lashings of humour and good storytelling. I also appreciate how the change in genre didn’t dumb down the franchise. Aside from pulverizing automatons, Komaru’s megaphone has a number of features that aid with puzzle solving. Over the course of the story you’ll use the detect mode to scan for clues, the link bullets to hack into enemy bots and the move beam to traffic cars out of the way (Towa City is an environmentally friendly place saturated with electric automobiles.)
It’s a shame that an eleventh hour bug tarnished my opinion of the game. Although I had a lot of fun playing through Danganronpa Ultra Despair Girls I will always remember it for being the game were sloppy QA cost me twenty hours of progress. The title certainly lives up to its name – once I realized I couldn’t reload my last checkpoint I was plunged into a state of despair.