Allow me to start by saying you wouldn't be alone if the videos or images of the gameplay may have made you a tad bit skeptical or worried. But rest assured, while there are several major changes to the core mechanics of how you play this as opposed to the other Danganronpa titles, the lovable and beautifully drawn characters & the same 5 star writing remind you quick that this is not a mere spin off, but a whole new chapter in the universe of Danganronpa. Sure, there may not be any more class trials or comrades killing each other off, but as you will eventually find out with Ultra Despair Girls, it is not an issue. You will feel right at home in its bizarre & mysterious story & some fan favorites of the 1st 2 Danganronpa games also ensure you that same charm the series is known for. You can call this a 3rd person shooter/adventure game heavy on story/characters/emotions & once again, series creator Kodaka knocks it out of the park.
The story begins with a face some may recognize or remember right off the bat from playing the first Danganronpa (Trigger Happy Havoc) as Makoto Naegi's little sister Komaru Naegi. The 1st protagonist female of the series is both lovable and caring and the story kicks off with the poor girl being held against her will by an unknown enemy where she has been completely isolated & alone locked in a hotel room. You will witness the tragic and desperate everyday routine Komaru has developed since she has been held in captivity. But, on this particular story's beginning, the usual food tray and set of clothes that normally get routinely dropped off to her turns into a vicious and very recognizable encounter with a Monokuma bear with razor sharp claws and fangs breaking through the door to her "room" and stalking her, seeming to undoubtedly craving to devour her. You gain control of the girl for the first time here where it doesn't take very long for you to see a familiar face who also provides Komaru with her one and only personal weapon of the game. The Megaphone Gun. Komaru is informed that the Future Foundation was made aware of her and other hostages being held captive in Towa City, and that they have come to secure & rescue her & the remaining hostages. However, the bear that chased Komaru earlier is not one contained enemy but literally hundreds of thousands of the robotic beasts have emerged and are wreaking havoc on Towa City & its inhabitants. It isn't until a tad later that Komaru is first introduced to what some are calling the true enemy behind this incident, the group of middle school kids called the Warriors of Hope. This colorful & differing group of kids all have their own personal quirks and personalities and offer the perfect contrasting behaviors from one another. I will talk more about them individually later, but Komaru also runs into another mainstay familiar partner who will become her traveling companion and aid, Toko Fukawa aka Genocide Jack/Genocider Sho. The 2 girls embark on a quest that has many evolving goals but ultimately to stop the chaos being wrought out upon them and the citizens of Towa City. As you probably have come to expect of Danganronpa, there are always unseen & deep logical motives and driving forces at play and the story disguises most of these very well.
The most obvious featured change to the overall game is of course the gameplay. Most of the time during the game, you will either control Komaru Naegi who can blast Monokuma foes with Bling Bullets which vary in effects and type of damage done (more on that in a bit) or you can take the easy way out of any fight in the game by utilizing Toko's other personality Genocide Jack, who at the touch of a couple buttons can slice dice and also has an ultimate finishing move called Bloodlust, which fans may remember hearing the term from the class trial discussions in Trigger Happy Havoc. Never are the odds really stacked against you, even the boss fights feel overly easy and accomplished with little effort. The game offers several puzzles in the form of these weird Monokuman Arcade Machines. They usually all consist of you having to take out enemies using your different types of Bling Bullets which you unlock as you progress through the story. For instance, one of your special bullet types is called Paralyze and is used to shock an enemy and any others in close proximity to it. And throw in a puddle of water and the basic law of elements tells us that we can electrocute them all whence standing there. The puzzles are all pretty easy and like the combat, don't require tons of effort to figure out or accomplish. There are of course, a few exceptions to this, but the reason being not because it is hard to figure out, but more like the flawed mechanics cheat you out of your victory by bugging up time and again. That can be a bit frustrating but is a minor issue. The game has also got tons of lore scattered throughout the game in the form of letters, scrap notes and brief details and clues to the bigger mysteries at play in the shadows of Towa City. Trust me, you won't find em all on your very 1st playthrough without the use of a strategy guide. Also, hardly worth mentioning but there are also hidden Monokuma Kids who you might recognize as the very same Warriors of Hope Kids you're up against in the form of glittery specks of a shiny glow and you have to get close enough aim with another of your Bling Bullets, the Detect Bullet which allows you to see things that are normally invisible to the naked eye. The game judges your progress on each chapter completion and one of the requirements for the best possible grade is to find all the Monokuma Kids on every chapter.
Memorable Cast of Characters
What would Danganronpa be without its colorful cute and detailed list of characters. For me, the characters define this game more than any other features and they give this series the staple art style we have come to recognize as Danganronpa. Ultra Despair Girls is no different, and while a lot of times they can be overly eccentric, they will mostly all grow on you. Take our main girl, Komaru as she journeys in her own personal struggle against despair. At the beginning, she does nothing but cry and whine and moan about how utterly normal she is and how she is not a strong willed fighter and wielder of hope like her brother Makoto. But as she continues to press on with the aid and constant counsel from Toko, she slowly but surely begins to come around as a fully fleshed out person who wants nothing more than to do the right thing for everyone. Takes some time but she will grow on you and the events that unfold are a true treasure to witness. You will meet many new faces who you may also grow attached to but warning, don't truly get too close to any character from this series as you should know this always will result in complete and utter despair. The dialogue each character conjures feels as right and fit for their portrayed personality as ever, and the writing is superb in its brilliant and thought provoking ways of usually containing either 2 different meanings or informing hardcore series fans of events that came before. The plot is sinister and dark and also bizarre, but come on that is what makes these amazing journeys these beloved characters of ours go on so much of a joy to control and witness. The game is story HEAVY and I cannot go into much detail without spoiling it so just know to expect the unexpected and enjoy the ride. This 3rd entry into the series may be the weakest link in terms of coming after the original 2 games' splendid performance, but this game is right underneath em and honestly to be able to even achieve that is honorable in its own right. This is one journey you won't soon forget!!