Thank you to NIS America for providing Dashing Nerds with the review copy of this game!
Do you enjoy shows like CSI? Do you harbor a love for solving mysteries by piecing together the clues? Do you like strange Japanese pop-culture references? If you said yes to those questions, Danganronpa might just be the series for you.
The first two entries in the Danganronpa series (not including spin-offs or animations) were filled to the brim with mystery, murder, and just enough soul-crushing despair to make you consider setting the game down until curiosity makes you inevitably come crawling back. You just have to know how the story is going to end and just what the heck is actually going on. How will the battle between hope and despair end? Most importantly, who will survive?
Rise and Shine, Ursine!
Danganronpa games have always been heavily story-focused visual novels above all else, spicing the genre up with mini-games and first-person exploration. You can’t come into these games expecting hours of fast-paced combat—the twists and character developments are the real meat of the games. Danganronpa V3 is no different in this regard, which is good news for fans excited to return to such a unique franchise.
Note: Since spoilers are a very real problem with reviewing a game such as this, you’ll only be getting the basic set-up here.
Upon starting V3, you’ll step into the shoes of the female protagonist, Kaede Akamatsu. Kaede wakes up in a deserted classroom with no memory of who she is or how she ended up in such a strange place. After meeting the other students, you run into the “Monokubs”, four miniature versions of series baddy, Monokuma. In the face of conflict, the students learn that they all possess a unique “Ultimate” talent. But they are caged inside the school grounds by a massive wall. The only way out? To survive by killing another student without being outed as the murderer or becoming one of the last two survivors.
Those familiar with the past games in the series won’t find anything too surprising with the set-up, outside of the new circumstances of the setting. It won’t take long for the player to slide back into the routine of suspecting everyone and trusting no one.
“I’m not an NPC, you A-S-S!”
Balancing suspicions and feigning indifference might seem easy enough at first, but you WILL have to interact with the other students and contend with some light dating-sim elements during downtime. By hanging out and giving gifts to the other characters, you’ll be learning more about them and raising bonds to unlock powerful skills used during class trials. It’s going to be nearly impossible to avoid finding favorites and that’s what makes the second half of each chapter so brutal on the heartstrings—somebody is going to end up dead…and somebody is going to be the murderer. Be ready for some harsh tension when the characters you love end up in a puddle of stylish, neon-pink blood, or worse—coming under scrutiny for having no alibi.
One of the biggest problems with Danganronpa V3 is that, while you will end up liking characters, the cast in this iteration has a good number of duds. A few of the students rely on annoying gimmicks and never develop past them. Because of the way the murder-mystery plot works, I can understand why these characters exist, but it won’t make them any less grating when they say the same catchphrase for the millionth time. The Monokubs tend to side-track dialogue for the sake of some seriously off-putting humor as well. As time went on, I found myself wondering what exactly the point of their characters was.
Killing Time! (The Investigation Phase)
Each chapter of the game elevates tension until IT finally happens… one of your classmates is found dead! Everyone left has to find as many clues as possible before facing each other in the class trial. At this point, you’ll be using the same first-person, free-roaming controls to examine the crime scene and interrogate. Each time you find a useful bit of evidence it will be stored as a “Truth Bullet” and placed in the menu to be reviewed at your discretion. By the way, take your time combing for vital clues. Despite the plot telling you that time is limited, you can’t leave a room until you uncover all the evidence inside. Pay very close attention to the fine details in each case because not everything is going to be obvious. And, like any satisfying mystery, there are instances when circumstances involving one piece of evidence can be used to disprove the conclusions you may have come to.
Let the Games Begin! (The Class Phase)
After the Investigation Phase comes the Class Trial, where you’ll be experiencing most of the “gameplay” that Danganronpa offers. There is a multitude of mini-games to play through on your quest to solve the murders and save the lives of the innocents. The most common and important is the classic Nonstop Debate, where you shoot the Truth Bullets you gathered in the Investigation Phase at your classmates’ statements. The most common solution is to fire a Truth Bullet that directly contradicts a statement. However, there will be times when you find an opportunity to agree with a statement or even flat-out lie. That’s right, you can lie your way to the solution! But each time you choose to do so, you’ll risk your influence, bringing you closer to failing the trial and hitting retry.
The other more interactive mini-games include the returning Hangman’s Gambit (Hangman with a twist), and Rebuttal Showdown. Rebuttal Showdown uses a sword to slash through as many of your opponent’s words as possible, forcing your side of the screen to cover their own until finally using a Truth Bullet on the statement you force out of them. There’s plenty of new mini-games as well. You’ll taxi drive through neon streets in order to collect and answer questions, find a challenging rhythm game, and even try out a version of Mine Sweeper.
Murder Game (Punishment Phase)
Regardless of how you get there, once you finally oust the true killer and everyone votes, you’ll have to watch them receive their punishment. These scenes are usually terrifying, morbid, and brutal, peppered with dark humor involving the killer’s Ultimate ability in some way. These are the parts that are going to make you feel like your stomach dropped to your feet, especially if the killer was guilty but also a victim of circumstances. Anyone who has played the other games should be aware that one of the most shocking executions in the series happens early on in Danganronpa V3.
After the punishment, its back to a new socializing and exploring before repeating the same phases. This can get somewhat tiresome when you know that you are going into another situation that will result in at least two more of your classmate deaths.
Musical Harmony in Killing Harmony?
Danganronpa has always had unique, oddball music with a focus on the techno side of things. V3 continues this trend and includes many remixed versions of themes from the rest of the series to get your heart beating in those moments when you find yourself shouting “No! That’s wrong!” along with your main character. This time around, there are lovely tracks with a focus on piano, highlighting Kaede’s talent as the Ultimate Pianist. Even the peppy songs have an undertone of something wrong, cementing in your mind the despair hiding below the surface of everything.
The voice actors do a great job of giving you the feel of the character being portrayed, at least in the English dub. You will find yourself hating the characters you are meant to hate, and loving the ones meant for loving. The only problems I found were repetitive phrases when scenes aren’t fully voiced (usually anything outside of trials and main events) and some characters don’t seem to be mixed well enough for their voices to be heard over the bouncing music.
Ultimate Art Assets?
Danganronpa V3 sticks to using its predecessors’ “animated cut-out” style for most of the in-engine graphics. What this means is that although it is possible to move around in a 3D environment, the actual students themselves are going to appear as flat and unmoving 2D models standing in that environment. It sounds odd but it works, giving a unique look to the game. During events, you will see static image cut-scenes, an occasional 2D animation, and toward the end of the game, CG scenes. The CG felt out-of-place, but the rest are eye-candy with enough detail to pick up clues for the Class Trial.
The HUD and menus have a computer mixed with Persona aesthetic to them, as before, which fits considering most of the menu-surfing is implied to take place in-game on a special tablet each character receives early on. There’s even an option to unlock and change the menu aesthetic as you progress through the game.
After the End (Bonus Mode)
Even though Danganronpa is a series about murder, each game in the series has had a special mode to unlock after the first playthrough involving working together with all of the other students to complete tasks in a time limit. This endgame bonus mode returns in a more simplified form, focusing on just hanging out and using the casino to purchase “date tickets” to further increase your relationships and maximize the levels soon as possible within a time limit. In other special modes, you can unlock are a collectible card game, a board game, and a turn-based dungeon crawler!
Putting Everything Into Place With the Closing Argument!
If you are a fan of the Danganronpa series (and you really should be or most of the plot details will be lost upon you), you’ll probably enjoy this game. There is one HUGE plot point at the end of V3 that is either going to make you hate or love it, however. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is heavily reliant on its plot to carry the player through and, although it has some big flaws that come up, it managed to do things that nobody saw coming. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a great game for anyone who loves a good mystery with high-stakes tension and a lot of zaniness tossed in—just remember to prepare your gut for the feels.
So Long! Bear Well!
- Great Mysterious Plot
- Use Your Brain To Figure Out Whodunnit
- You Will Have Feels
- Awesome Endgame Bonus Modes
- Repetitive Voiced Phrases
- Some Annoying Characters
- Polarizing Ending
- Repetitive Gameplay Beats