Hello again, Ultra Despair Girls! This is my second time reviewing this game, having reviewed it when it released on Vita, and it’s been a pleasure returning to it. This Danganronpa midquel is a far cry from the series’ visual novel roots, opting for a third-person shooter vibe instead, and you know what? It succeeds in being a fresh, engaging title that the series can be proud of.
Ultra Despair Girls takes place between the first and second games, and it follows Komaru Naegi as she tries to escape the perils of Towa City. She’s joined by Toko Fukawa – and her split personality Genocide Jack – who’s present as she wishes to save Byakuya Togami who went missing in his attempt to rescue Komaru. The two battle the Monokuna robots and a new threat, a group of sadistic children known as the Warriors of Hope, as they fight to survive and bring a glimpse of hope to a horrifyingly ravaged world.
Whilst it’s as good of a game that it was on Vita, it’s not managed the jump to console without a few issues. The camera, which follows you or lets you control it yourself in one of two different options, can still be a tad cumbersome in its execution — you never have full control over it, which can be a pain if you’re becoming quickly surrounded by enemies. It’s unlikely to get you killed, but it might lead to some wasted ammo which is pretty distressing.
The shooting itself is solid and the range of ammo at your disposal adds a layer of strategy in how you tackle your foes – you can blast, hack, burn or paralyze incoming threats, with certain Monokuma being weak to certain ammo. There are a few mini-games, primarily an arcade mini-game which shows up way too often towards the end, that offer a fresh break from the shooting sections. When playing as Toko, the shooting is swapped out for hack and slash as you use Toko’s trademark scissors to destroy enemies. The game blends action, visual novel elements and puzzles exceedingly well, keeping the game from becoming stale over its almost twenty hour journey.
Ultra Despair Girls boasts a fabulous art style that still shines on PS4, even though the character models in cutscenes look a little less clean — this was a Vita game though, and it’s still a great port. Unlike the other Danganronpa PS4 ports, Ultra Despair Girls’ environments have been touched up along with the models so that both look better than they previously had done — the other games seemed to have only notably improved the character models. The 2D portraits look brilliant and are very emotive, and the new Monokuma designs are genuinely terrifying, along with the unsettling environment which is Towa City.
Speaking of emotion, Ultra Despair Girls has a wonderful English dub that gave me chills. Erin Fitzgerald reprises her role as the crazy Toko and Cherami Leigh does spectacularly as Komaru — I couldn’t help but empathise with her plight as she gives such a raw, powerful performance which deserves all the praise that it gets. Danganronpa generally has an excellent soundtrack and Ultra Despair Girls is no exception, featuring many remixes from the main games as well as a handful of new tracks. A slew of sentimental, quirky and upbeat tracks mix together to match the beats of the game, and I can be found listening to the main menu theme on repeat.
I’m very happy to see all of the Danganronpa games make their way to PS4, and I was initially disappointed that Ultra Despair Girls wasn’t joining its brethren but, thankfully, it’s now here and it’s as good as it’s always been. Ultra Despair Girls is a fast-paced, story-driven shooter with puzzles and riddles, and it fits perfectly into the world of Danganronpa despite being so different. I’d be happy if developer Spike Chunsoft wanted to tackle something like this again in future, and it’s another fantastic entry in a strong series of games.