Author: Sam Greathouse
Title: Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
Release Date: 26 September 2017
Platform Reviewed: PC
Playtime: 70 hours
Sixteen Ultimates – exceptionally talented high schoolers within their respective fields – enter, all destined to undergo a series of class trials in the hopes of graduating. But in the world of Danganronpa, graduation requires one student committing the unspeakable. Killing isn’t the only requirement in becoming the “Blackened” student though; the guilty party must pass their classmates’ investigation and not be caught. With its original 2010 release, the franchise’s first installment, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, spawned what the games refer to as “the biggest, most awful, most tragic event in human history.” Under the watchful eye of the Mastermind, the world of Danganronpa spiraled into desperation following the events happening within the franchise’s central location, Hope’s Peak Academy. When we return to Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, a new group of students are again tasked with participating in the heart-throbbing, high-stakes Killing Game run by the sociopathic stuffed bear known as Monokuma. Each game’s goal – the hope of survival – can only be found by wading through lies and despair!
Story & Narrative:
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the latest installment, brings us a brand new location, cast, and mystery. With all of the students struck with amnesia and locked in a school-like prison, the characters (and player) must discover the truth behind the Killing Game and how the group fits into the Danganronpa world. The player starts out as Kaede Akamatsu, the Ultimate Pianist and first playable female protagonist of the franchise’s main titles. The majority, if not the entire, remainder of the cast are endearing and worthy to be included among the ranks of past favorites. What’s more, the new class manages to be witty, entertaining, and fairly multidimensional without mimicking the previous games’ students and coming off an unoriginal. Their designs and personalities certainly have more going on than most members of the original cast, but I wouldn’t say the bizarre is necessarily bad. Instead, in many aspects, DRV3 has stepped up and graciously accepted the weird. Although the main cast is stellar, some of the storyline takes a turn into the excessively over-the-top, even pushing the normally meta Danganronpa’s boundaries too far. Moreover, a good portion of the story didn’t come together until the very end, and the big narrative punch the players were waiting for was delivered in a less than optimal way.
Story/Narrative Score: 18/25
Gameplay & Mechanics:
Six chapters compose the bulk of DRV3, each containing free periods (to build relationships), chaos, investigation, and a class murder trial. For people familiar with the Ace Attorney franchise, think of Danganronpa as something comparable, but for a more mature audience. Despite being the third main (and fourth overall) Danganronpa game, the trial scenarios stay creative and clever without feeling too similar to previous games’. The mandatory minigames within the trial portions also managed to refine themselves compared to DR2. Psyche Taxi, or as some fans have referred to as Logic Drive, is a revival of DR2’s Logic Dive mini game, and is a fantastic example of the development team honing a pre-existing section and making it something iconic. New interactions like lying, Scrum Debates, and Mass Panic Debates have also been added, bringing a few new levels to the Class Trials. Various issues came up while playing on PC – the configuration and controls were sometimes less than optimal, both in feeling and functionality. Additionally, they would default to controller settings and prompts without any indication or way to change the settings in-game. This led to some crossed wires in the trials, essentially breaking the sense of immersion at crucial points.
Gameplay & Mechanics Score: 18/25
Although some the mechanics fell short, DRV3’s art stayed true to the franchise’s style – a mix of fantastically animated cutscenes dispersed between the classic visual novel 2D art popping up in the 3D world. I certainly wouldn’t call any part of Danganronpa realistic, but its gratuitous gore and bloodshed has returned in bright shades of magenta for DRV3 and looks better than ever. There was also a notable increase in the usage of 3D animation/assets; in my opinion they weren’t super necessary, but also not detrimental to the overall style. As for music, the Japanese composer Masafumi Takada returned to create a fantastic soundtrack. With his previous work on the other main titles as well as Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, Takada has established an iconic soundscape that’s both catchy and immersive. His work on DRV3 is no different in terms of appropriateness and quality.
Style Score: 25/25
There are a lot of things Danganronpa V3 got right: the art, music, characters, and gameplay were for the most part consistent with the rest of the series. While I’ve been a fan of the franchise, I must admit that I expected more from DRV3 as the third main installation. I’ve had a difficult time nailing down what bothered me, and from feedback I’ve heard from other players and long-time fans, that sentiment doesn’t seem to be uncommon. The most frequent complaints have been related to the price and story. With a release price tag of $40 for the PS Vita and $60 on PS4 and Steam, this game doesn’t come cheap. Although it is for the new gen, Spike Chunsoft justified hiking up DRV3’s price to double the previous games’ costs for different reasons. One factor of the high cost is the content available post-game, including an rpg mini game and voice acting from previous games’ characters. While throwbacks to the past can be neat and I enjoyed seeing some of my favorites return, I have to worry about how good Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is as a standalone game. Some points certainly felt nostalgic, but the game’s reliance on former glory seemed to convey the idea that it didn’t feel confident in itself as separate title.
Ultimately, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has a lot to offer to the franchise. In terms of gameplay and music, it’s the best in the series. Storywise – not so much. In a similar fashion to the anime, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School, fan opinions are mixed. Would I suggest picking up DRV3? Sure, but unless you’re a fan of the series already, maybe wait for a sale.
Overall Score: 81/100