Danganronpa V3 is less of a sequel and more of a new beginning. But does the new story present new opportunities or does it sink like a rock?
|Console||PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, PC/Mac/Linux (Steam)|
|Publisher||Spike Chunsoft, NIS America|
|Genre||Visual novel, point-and-click, experimental|
|Purchase (PS4)||Purchase from Amazon.|
|Purchase (PC/Mac/Linux)||Purchase from Steam.|
|Purchase (PSV)||Purchase from Amazon.|
So it’s past Halloween and I didn’t put up my final game review on time. Well, I’m going to steal a quote from JonTron:
Ohhhh noooo… I really bit THE BIG ONE AGAIN!
So just pretend it’s Halloween!
So we’re at the latest entry of the Danganronpa series. And boy, is it yet another doozy! How does Kodaka do it? Making some likable characters, putting up some intriguing mysteries, cracking a few memes, and killing off waifus and husbandos like there’s no tomorrow! And often, in a bizarre fashion.
And then we’re pulling our hair going, “KODAKA WHY!? WHY YOU DO DIS!?”
So if you haven’t known about the series and you’re still reading this for some odd reason, Danganronpa is a series that is basically Ace Attorney meets Battle Royale. While Danganronpa V3 is the third main series game, it does not continue the story of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Instead, that job carried over to the anime series called Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School.
No, Danganronpa V3 is a new story arc in a new setting. Same basic premise, but a fresh start. So theoretically, you can come in with new expectations and no knowledge of the previous entries. That’d probably be confusing as fuck considering we had to conclude the last story arc as a 26-episode anime, but I guess you can jump right in if you have no prior experience with the series.
So now, time for more of the…
A Universe Full of Hope and Despair
As expected of a Danganronpa game, the visuals are exciting enough to make a graphic designer orgasm in rainbows. Appropriately enough, we’re talking about a series where the main draw is a messed up game show where the game host trivializes the tragedy of death. Because there’s nothing like a good ol’ trial where you must indict your classmates and punish them with an elaborate execution. We’re pretty sick that way, aren’t we?
Took the words out of my mouth, you little freak.
So with that said, let’s go over the familiar stuff and the new stuff.
The exploration sections of Danganronpa V3 seem to follow more closely to the exploration in the first Danganronpa, consisting of a first-person view and 3D areas. But compared to Hope’s Peak Academy in the first game, the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles is larger and has a more interesting environment overall. It’s like the academy is more like one big research university than a high school. The fact that every student has a research laboratory dedicated to developing their talents is a nice touch as well. Out of any location in the series, the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles is the most varied and interesting place to explore. It’s to the point where I was actually looking forward to exploring new areas of the school, even if they could be long and drawn out.
You view individual rooms from a fixed camera, being similar to a point-and-click interface. You’ll get used to this interface during investigations, where you must analyze a crime scene and gather evidence. A cool addition is that you can now hit certain objects in the rooms, earning you some extra Monocoins.
To Infinity and Beyond!
Danganronpa V3 stars Kaede Akamatsu, the Ultimate Pianist. Unlike the previous Danganronpa protagonists, Kaede is quite exceptional from the beginning. She’s generous, spirited, confident and has a strong sense of justice.
Our past protagonists—Makoto Naegi, Hajime Hinata and Komaru Naegi—started off with low opinions of themselves. While this is not a bad thing and they’re as normal as normal can get, it can get pretty tiresome when you have similar characters being the main star. So Kaede Akamatsu was quite a breath of fresh air.
After an unfortunate event, Kaede gets killed off as the main protagonist and the torch passes onto Shuichi Saihara. Unfortunately, Shuichi is quite similar to our past protagonists, including the trait where he has low confidence. It really does feel like Danganronpa V3 is just going through the motions of the past games.
To give Shuichi some credit though, he’s an intelligent pessimist and a very earnest guy. After Kaede’s death, Shuichi went from this meek and weak-willed person to a much more involved character in the future Class Trials. He’s not as susceptible to despair as our previous protagonists and he’s even willing to lie to reach the truth behind the Class Trials.
The story is about sixteen amnesiac students who found themselves trapped in a prison school called the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles. Just like in the previous games, a robotic plush bear named Monokuma plays the role of a sadistic headmaster. But this time, he has help: his five children called the Monokubs, who can control large armed mechs to threaten and punish the students.
The students try to escape the school, but to no avail. And to make things worse, Monokuma brings up a new Killing Game. If someone doesn’t die within two days, every student will die in one big execution. So Kaede and her new friend, the Ultimate Detective Shuichi Saihara, believe that they must capture the mastermind of the whole ordeal.
And from there on, it’s a rollercoaster ride of WTFery. I thoroughly enjoyed most of Danganronpa V3’s story, as it’s been a while since I’ve been glued to a thriller that knows how to keep the suspense going. They managed to flesh out some of the characters in the main story rather than just letting you read into their side stories to get depth from them.
But of course, it does suffer the same problem as Danganronpa 2. It can be quite formulaic on its execution. In regards to the murder incidents, Chapter 1 will be an accident, Chapter 3 will feature two murders, Chapter 4 will feature a sacrifice, etc. They’ll rehash some of the same plot elements, albeit in different ways.
Does this mean that Monokuma is Donald Trump?
Furthermore, the padding, anime references and the modern-day memes can get pretty eye-rolling at times. It feels like there’s more of that than ever now, because of the existence of the Monokubs.
I don’t hate the Monokubs or anything, but I don’t love them either. Sometimes, they can be amusing. Sometimes, they’re… eh. Well, at least their theme song is catchy.
Want To Be Clooooose
The game regularly gives you Free Time, which you can use to go out with the various characters like it’s a Persona game. If you give the characters a gift you got from the MonoMono Machine from the School Store, you can improve your friendship with them and unlock new conversations faster.
Doing so will allow you to learn about character backstories and goals, as well as collecting Hope Fragments. In this game, Hope Fragments are the currency needed to purchase new abilities to use for the Class Trials, so try to get as many as you can. There’s also that chance where a character gets killed off, so you might want to stick to your favorites early.
Later on, the casino will unlock, allowing you to use casino coins to gamble and play mini-games. The mini-games themselves are pretty much modified versions of the mini-games used in the class trials, except these focus more on your skill and reflexes than logic. You can use the casino coins to purchase exclusive items, including the Key of Love—which is a required item to unlock the Hotel Kumasutra. The main draw of this hotel is to further observe the personalities of all of the characters, examining what traits they prefer in their romantic/platonic partners. And truth be told, they make for some fascinating character studies.
Of course, you can skip all this if you want to get to the Class Trials faster (though why would you…?) Speaking of which, time for the main event.
Mixing It Up
So somewhere along a chapter, one (or more) of your classmates dies. As part of the rules of the school, you must investigate the crime scene and hold a Class Trial to find the killer
What’s nice about these investigations is that it’s easier to pinpoint evidence in the rooms now, instead of looking at a screen with a bunch of circles on it.
Once you get your pieces of evidence together and equip your abilities, it’s time for Ace Attorney with mini-games!
The Nonstop Debate makes a return, virtually unchanged from before. Using the correct Truth Bullet (evidence), you must shoot a contradicting statement (yellow text). You can also use a Truth Bullet to agree with someone’s statement (blue text). A new addition is that whenever you slow down the debate, you may see a glowing red dot on a statement. If you shoot this red dot, you perform a V-counter, which earns you more points throughout the trial and therefore more Monocoins.
Another new addition is the ability to Lie. By holding down the shoot button, you can turn a Truth Bullet into a Lie Bullet. But be careful. Maintaining a Lie Bullet or missing with one will drain your Influence gauge (HP) much faster.
While lying is an interesting addition to the Nonstop Debates, it’s often not clear on when you need to use them. So when your Truth Bullets are not doing anything, then you probably need to consider using Lie Bullets instead. There’s just more trial-and-error here, really.
The Rebuttal Showdown also makes a return, where you must cut down someone’s words and eventually use a Truth Blade to contradict your opponent. What’s different here is that you now control a reticle (a straight line) to align your slashes. Pretty similar to the Nonstop Debate, but just a one-on-one debate.
Next up is the Mass Panic Debate. Now, this one is really fun. This is another modified version of the Nonstop Debate, except you have to listen to three debates at once. Occasionally, you must silence the louder arguments, but your objective is the same. You have to shoot down the contradictory statement with a Truth Bullet.
Hangman’s Gambit also returns, now called Hangman’s Gambit Ver. 3.0. It’s pretty much a game of real-time Hangman where you give the correct answer to a presented question. However, all of the letters are obscured, unless light shines on them. Best version of Hangman’s Gambit in my opinion.
Next up is Mind Mine, a puzzle game where you must break colored blocks to reveal the correct piece of evidence to answer a question. This one is kind of a pain in the ass. Whenever you break a block, every adjacent block of the same color will also break. However, the blocks SURROUNDING those adjacent blocks will change in color. If you end up breaking just a single block with no adjacent blocks, you take damage. Eventually, you must completely uncover the piece of evidence you want and select it to advance. It can be a fun mini-game, but it can also punish you harshly for making the wrong moves.
Psyche Taxi, the replacement of Logic Dive from the last game. I like this one as well. Basically, you’re just controlling a taxi while running into a bunch of letters. Crashing into obstacles will cause you to take damage to your Influence gauge. Eventually, all of your letters will assemble a question, where you must choose the correct answer (by running over the correct person). This mini-game is definitely superior to Logic Dive.
The Debate Scrum. Now this one is pretty interesting. This one is a group debate, where two groups of conflicting opinions must battle each other to win an argument. Whenever an opponent presents his/her argument, you must pick the correct teammate with an argument to refute it. You have to correctly refute all of your opponents in one go to advance.
The Argument Arnament is the replacement of Bullet Time Battle and Panic Talk Action from the previous games. It’s a rhythm game where you must press buttons with the right timing. Sometimes, you’re also presented a symbol where you must press all of the buttons as fast as possible. The pacing is hectic and the timing is strict, but definitely a lot of fun.
And finally, the Closing Argument. You must summarize the entire murder incident by assembling a manga, by matching up the correct panels to the sequence of events. The major change for this mini-game is that you start off with only a limited number of panels, and you must use them up in order to unlock new panels.
…Wow. There’s so much to do in this game. Not only are the investigations more fun, but the Class Trials are a lot more fun too. There isn’t a single mini-game that I dislike here. Without a doubt, Danganronpa V3 has the best class trials in terms of gameplay.
The Final Closing Argument?
Thus far, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony seems to be the best entry in the series to date, with its engaging story and improved gameplay mechanics. And of course, it has a more interesting setting and some flashy graphics. And a well-made soundtrack full of excellent remixes and original tracks composed by Masafumi Takada.
Danganronpa V3 seems to be the best one… then the ending came along.
Where do I even begin with this mindfuckery?
Well, let’s start with this. As the story comes along, we’re slowly realizing that the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles seems a little too good to be true. Aside from a large barrier that covers the entire school, the school itself looks beautiful. Despite the beginning portion where the hallways were infested with plant life, much of the school was well maintained.
We also slowly learn about the academy and the characters’ past lives through literal plot devices called Flashback Lights. It turns out that the students once attended a reopened Hope’s Peak Academy, where the first game’s protagonist Makoto Naegi was the headmaster. Furthermore, this version of Hope’s Peak Academy was supposedly in a distant future, where the world was tormented by a terrible meteor shower and a plague. In hopes of preserving humanity, 16 students went into space in a giant space colony (which is supposedly the Academy’s true identity). And hopefully, repopulate humanity and find a new planet to inhabit.
So far, all of this sounded interesting. It was probably the darkest backstory to a group of students conceived for the whole series. Humanity is almost completely dead and planet Earth is a fiery wasteland. Furthermore, the Ultimate Supreme Leader Kokichi Ouma revealed himself to be the mastermind of the Killing Game, his behavior and actions implying him to be a Remnant of Despair taking after series antagonist Junko Enoshima.
However, Kokichi is dead by the end of Chapter 5 and the Killing Game continues, meaning someone else is the true mastermind.
So Chapter 6 came along and the Ultimate Robot K1-B0 (Keebo) tried to end the Killing Game by destroying the school, giving Shuichi and the remaining survivors until dawn to find the mastermind. Then they discover some weird evidence that contradicts their memories, causing Shuichi to call for a new class trial to discover the truth behind Rantaro Amami’s murder.
And so, we learn that the REAL mastermind is Tsumugi Shirogane, the Ultimate Cosplayer. It’s crazy enough that one of the series’s most unremarkable characters is the true villain, but that’s not what brought about the controversial ending.
The controversy is…
EVERYTHING IS A LIE. ALL OF THE MEMORIES WERE FAKE. DANGANRONPA IN GENERAL IS FAKE, INCLUDING THE CHARACTERS OF PAST GAMES THAT WE’VE COME TO KNOW AND LOVE. EVEN OUR CURRENT CAST OF CHARACTERS WAS FAKE, BEING IMPLANTED FALSE MEMORIES AND FALSE TALENTS FOR THE SAKE OF AN ENTERTAINING GAME. EVEN THE SCHOOL EXISTS IN ITS OWN POCKET DIMENSION. NOTHING BUT LIES AND FICTION.
There are not enough tables in the world to flip right now.
Now, I’ll admit, this ordeal is shocking and all sorts of fucked up in true Danganronpa fashion. It completely nuked the fourth wall and made us question what the hell is wrong with the mastermind and anyone allied with her. Normally, I would enjoy a twisted ending like this.
But at the same time, it just felt wrong somehow, like it’s trying way too hard to be cruel and diabolical. It trivialized the whole plot of this game and even the entire series. The mystery Danganronpa V3 had been building up to was completely thrown out the window. None of it matters at all, throwing us into a series of red herring plot twists that never even happened to begin with. Stuff like the Ultimate Hunt, the Gofer Project, the meteor showers, the plague and the protests never happened. They were just fictional backstories written by Tsumugi Shirogane and the in-game Team Danganronpa.
This is pretty much an alternate take on “it was all just a dream.” Every character we got to know in this game are pretty much false constructs created by Tsumugi; their personalities, backstories and actions. And the game implied that their true selves were a lot more shallow as people.
Now, what if Tsumugi lied about all that stuff? Well, even that theory is questionable. She’s pretty much God in the Danganronpa V3 universe, being able to perfectly replicate any “fictional” character down to their appearances, personalities and voices. Even if she lied her ass off… then which of her statements are the lies?
So instead of going by the game, Shuichi simply told everyone to stop playing and don’t bother with the rest of the Killing Game. Through a deus ex machina, Shuichi won and Tsumugi was defeated. The only survivors left are Shuichi Saihara, Maki Harukawa and Himiko Yumeno. It’s possibly because the outside world willed it.
Even though they can now decide their own lives from there on out… there’s no knowing if they can ever truly leave the academy at all… After all, 13 of their classmates died pointlessly and the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles exists in its own pocket dimension.
This is easily the most bittersweet ending of the series. At first, it all feels so cheap and forced. It looked like there were no possibilities for a sequel because the characters literally challenged the laws of reality, and broke them.
But then I went back to what Keebo said…
Even though pretty much everything is a lie up to this point, the emotions of the characters (and even the audience) weren’t. Even if the characters were different people from a previous life, we still felt their experiences and emotions. And that’s the truth.
Shuichi mentioned that he believed that Hope’s Peak Academy and the Remnants of Despair were possibly real, that Tsumugi had to have based her cosplays on something.
In fact, the main theme of Danganronpa V3 is LIES. It’s the first game where your player character can lie. The red herring villain, Kokichi Ouma, is a compulsive liar and it’s heavily implied that he was never a bad person—just a misunderstood prankster who really enjoys ruffling people’s feathers, and believes that lies are a good tool for finding the truth. And of course, the big twist ending.
In a way, this is what happened with our remaining characters. Even though they were different people in a previous life, who they are at the present is not a lie. They managed to make friends with one another. Even though they’re fictional, they still hold power over people. And I agree with this sentiment. A well-told story with likable characters can truly change people. I even wrote something like that to some effect.
So contrary to what some fans may think, this isn’t some attempt by the developer to attack the fans for liking the Danganronpa series. It’s a risky ending that tries to present a point, leaving us with something to think on. According to the developer, Danganronpa V3 is not necessarily the end of the series, though it may take a while before a new entry into the series will come.
I still have mixed feelings on this ending, though. I wasn’t a fan of the deus ex machina at the end, or the fact that it left three survivors behind with nowhere to go. Even if they had won, their unknown fate seems even more cruel. Furthermore, we got invested into a plot for more than 20 hours… only to find out all that backstory was fake after all, which is quite a lot of time to waste. If the ending was handled with more care, I think it would be the best ending of the series ever presented to us.
…Yeah. So how about that Hope and Despair, huh?
Well, okay. Maybe the ending wasn’t that bad after all, but it did leave many people in shock by just how cruel and baffling it is. I mean, you played this game for a while and the ending makes you feel like nothing that happened actually mattered. Nothing meaningful was accomplished.
But at the same time, I do feel like the ending did have a point, so maybe that’s enough.
Anyways, there is some post-game content after you complete the main story. There is Love Across the Universe: Dangan Salmon Team, which is pretty much the obligatory School Mode. And there is Ultimate Talent Development Plan, which is like a board game mixed with RPG mechanics. The great thing about this post-game mode is that it allows characters from all three main series games to interact with each other, which makes for some really cool interactions.
The Ultimate Detective talking to the Ultimate Detective.
I’ll admit, I haven’t gotten far in this mode. The mechanics are bizarre and confusing to me, as you have to level up stats and cards for a turn-based RPG segment, and… yeah, I have no clue what I’m doing here.
Overall, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a solid game full of crazy plot twists and some real fun mechanics. Even if you haven’t played the past Danganronpa games, it’s still a lot of fun. So if you’re into logic-based games with plenty of Japanese dark humor and insanity, pick this one up.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony$59.99
- Great character art and visuals.
- The 3D sections are much more interesting to explore now.
- The English localization is done well overall.
- Engaging story and a colorful cast of characters.
- So far, the most fun trials of the series.
- Excellent soundtrack with some more jazz and electronic pieces.
- More filler than usual.
- The controversial ending might disappoint some.