Danganronpa is easily one of my favorite visual novel series. Part of the reason why I have always enjoyed these games is because of the great character development and mystery that it offers. Even though you might have an idea of what to expect from the story and most of the plot twists, the developers will still find a way to surprise you and the same holds true for my experience with Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has taken the series to new grounds by offering a fresh start for its characters. Even if it sounds like the game is retreading on the formula established by its predecessors, it never feels like this is the case aside from the opening. The game is extremely long for a visual novel but the opening chapter itself will take you a few hours which means you have to go through a slow paced introduction which also gives a sense of deja vu. It is not until the start of the first class trial that things begin to slowly pick up and the story afterwards never takes a moment to slow down, offering a thrilling ride until the end of the game.
The story is set in a new location albeit with the same school setting. It also carries a slight futuristic vibe to it with robotic machines that guard the school and are now operated by five adorable Monokuma Kubs led by everyone’s favorite Monokuma. The interaction between Monokuma and his Kubs is hilarious and offers most of the comedic relief even during some of the serious story moments. The game begins with the main cast waking up in an unfamiliar location. They will soon learn that each of them have an ultimate skill and the reason why they were kidnapped and taken to this place is because of their ultimates. The motivation for the story appears to be the same as the past Danganronpa games leading to a killing game where Monokuma motivates them to kill each other. Those who are able to kill another character without getting discovered in a class trial will be able to escape this nightmare, while those who are caught during a class trial for this purpose will be executed.
There are 16 new characters that are introduced in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony and while some of the characters’ design appears to be a bit too similar to the old cast, each of them are quickly established to stand out on their own among the group. Of course, the nature of the game means that you will be losing these key characters as you progress through the story and it is easy to get attached to them making you feel the emotional weight when one of them is found to be guilty during the class trials.
Speaking of the class trials, they are back and are now officially the longest running trials in the series. The class trials can now last more than 2 hours and offer a lot of context behind the murder that occurs and of course there is always the victim blaming that is present in these class trials. The developers have introduced a lot of new mechanics for the class trials this time around. You even have the option to use a lie bullet instead of a truth bullet which will have the opposite effect of the truth bullet, complicating some of the class trials. Even though you can piece together most of the basic murder mystery during the trials, it is easy to get confused over some of the more difficult outcomes where you begin to doubt yourself as you present your arguments.
Just like with its predecessors, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony truly shines when it comes to character development. My initial reaction to the cast was pretty much of a stranger but by the end of the game, I had grown attached to most of them. I am always surprised by the efforts of the developer and of course the localization team also deserves praise here because they are able to retain the spirit of the original Japanese writing for the Western release. Each character sports his own unique personality and the game takes a lot of time to set them up which is why the opening chapter feels a bit too long but it is essential in setting up a base for the story.
The exploration is now expanded and offers quick travel to any location on the map. I played the game on the PS4 so the loading times were extremely fast and together with fast travel, they make travelling through school a breeze. You can also find out the location of each character during your ‘free time’ which is another mechanic that is making its return here. I didn’t notice any major change for the character interaction as they still work the same way and rely on gifts given during these moments to further improve their relationship. This can unlock skills that can be used during the class trials, however to equip them, you will also need to level up your character. You gain experience points by talking to others, or by walking through the school so it won’t be hard to accumulate a good set of skill points that you can then use to improve your chances in a class trial.
The map for Danganronpa V3 is bigger than any of the previous game and covers both indoor and outdoor locations. You do most of the exploration in first person and will unlock more areas of the school as you progress further in the story. The game is mostly linear in term of the direction taken by the story so don’t expect to see any major changes with the choices you make here.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony manages to retain the spirit and style of the series which is an achievement on its own considering the long gap between the first two games. You might think that the developers have run out of ideas after almost 3 games, but they seem to still offer twists that will leave you shocked until the end. There is plenty of content to play here with the main story taking atleast a good 30 to 40 hours for the first time around.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a visual novel adventure game developed by Spike Chunsoft for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and Microsoft Windows.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony continues the series tradition of a great story with a memorable cast of characters. The plot twists this time are the craziest yet and the game never takes a moment to slow down after a relatively slow paced start.