It has taken me a long time (far too long) to come up with substantive thoughts about the Ultra Despair Girls soundtrack. And yes, that is what this is. “Zettai Zetsubou Shoujo,” if you find this prefix tossed around, is the Japanese equivalent, which more accurately translates to “Absolute Despair Girls.” NISA went with “Ultra” and we’re following suit in our coverage of the import soundtrack.
So, by executive order, I have decided to talk a bit about the game itself first, to put it in context to the other games in the franchise. Then, we’ll get to the music.
Ultra Despair Girls exists as a side-story in the Danganronpa universe. It takes place chronologically between the first and second main-series games, so it’s something of a “Danganronpa 1.5,” except that it isn’t at all in the same genre as the main series. UDG plays out like a fast-paced, colorful puzzler/shooter, like older Resident Evil games, but with a cardboard anime style. Top it off with some XP grinding to increase levels and some over-the-top storylines involving apocalypse-inducing robotic teddy bears, and you’re in business!
As such, a game that builds from the first game’s chronological story, and simultaneously works to foreshadow the events of the (already-known) second game, is bound to have a lot in common with both games. Can you see where I’m going with this?
See, the problem I’m having with the Ultra Despair Girls OST is that, unlike the game itself, this soundtrack doesn’t have as much new and original ground to cover. The developers would obviously want music from the other games, and that’s exactly whey got.
Any song in the tracklist that begins with “DSO” is an arrangement, often very similar to the Danganronpa 2 version, of a series theme song. There are other songs that are also from the series even though they don’t include the DSO prefix, such as “Argument -HOPE VS DESPAIR-.”
Now, the soundtrack does have some memorable themes of its own. The most notable is “Wonderful dead,” which comes in five variants (we’ve sampled 001 and 004, found at the beginnings of discs 1 and 3 respectively, for your consideration). This theme includes some awesome non-lyrical vocals, some clean and some filtered through weird grainy goodness… the kind of thing we’d expect from Takada by now. This theme works extremely well in-game, and it sounds cool on its own. It is a worthy addition to the soundscape, and I hope it makes at least one appearance in Danganronpa 3.
I am partial towards a moving piano ballad at the end of the first disc, “This Is the Path We Follow.” Both the game and its soundtrack are moving at this zany pace, and even the slower moments have a quirky feel and sound to them. The rare moment of genuine sentiment is a lovely, and perhaps necessary, break from the mayhem. We’re given reminders as to why we do what we do, and this song is exactly that for the protagonists of UDG.
My favorite upbeat original piece is “Shou’s Fever Time” on the third disc. This is like, a chiptune music battle on heavy stimulants. There are a couple songs of this style on the soundtrack, but none of them have the pull, the strong execution, the “it” factor that this one does.
Like the other games, Ultra Despair Girls goes out on a Japanese vocal track. This particular piece, “progressive,” is performed by Aya Uchida and Megumi Ogata – the voice actors for protagonist Komaru Naegi and her older brother Makoto Naegi, respectively. This is a great track, easily my favorite of the three written for the series thus far. It helps the soundtrack “end” on a high note (I put “end” in quotes, since all tracks after that are short jingles or sound effects).
Here’s my conclusion about this soundtrack, though. Since it does synthesize some of the best tracks from Danganronpa 1 and 2, if you don’t own those soundtracks, you may as well get this one in place of them. However, if you do have those soundtracks (and considering you’re reading this, you might) this is a pretty hefty soundtrack with a strange mix of re-used tunes, filler tracks, and the occasional worthwhile piece of original music. So, unless you’re a hardcore collector, I’d advise you to just stick with the Danganronpa 1 and 2 (or really, just 2) OST, at least until DGR3 is released.