After the second Danganronpa and the anime that ended the trilogy, I wasn't sure the series would continue -- but Monokuma is back and up to his old tricks again! Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third main title in the popular Danganronpa series and just like its predecessors, this game isn’t for the faint of heart. The formula hasn’t changed much (which is a good thing), but once again you are thrown into one twisted story.
V3 starts off in familiar fashion as you and 15 other students awaken to find yourselves trapped inside the “Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles”. Shortly after, series antagonist Monokuma, along with his 5 new “Monokubs”, shows up to explain the rules of the killing game in which students must kill each other to escape the school. The story can be played and enjoyed by newcomers to the series as the plot is a self-contained story, but I highly recommend playing the first two games if you want a deeper understanding of events that unfold throughout the 40-hour adventure.
The game is broken down into 3 segments: daily life, investigations and class trials. Daily life is a great way to learn some background on the characters as well as explore the mysteries of the school. After a murder occurs, things get serious fast and students must investigate. This is Danganronpa after all, so as expected it delivers some pretty gruesome murders and imagery. During investigations, you must search for clues and get witness testimonies, all which will be used to narrow down the suspect in this game of "whodunnit"
Class trials are where the bulk of the gameplay takes place. The series' unique take on arguments is on full display here as plenty of new features have been added, as well as improvements on current ones. Minigames still primarily dominate class trials, and I found them to be somewhat underwhelming this time around as most just simply aren’t fun to play, such as the new Debate Scrum. Non-Stop Debates, on the other hand, have been vastly improved.
The most notable addition to these debates, however, is the ability to lie. In previous games, you must expose lies with evidence and facts, but in V3 you can use “lie bullets” to completely change the course of a trial. Telling lies isn't always mandatory so thinking freely and knowing when to tell one adds another layer to trials that wasn't there before. While the result of the trial is the same, it’s nice to see different paths can be taken to get there.
I was a little underwhelmed with a few of the class trials this time. After a brilliant first trial, the following ones aren't as good and seem to drag on a little too long. Fortunately, V3's final two trials are strong, especially the controversial ending which I'm sure will be a conversation among fans for a while!
I've always been a fan of the series' pop-up art style and it's even better now with the shift to home consoles. The 3D environments look splendid as do the 2D characters. Each area you visit has its own theme that makes it feel very unique as you explore.
The writing here may not sit well with everyone. Danganronpa has been notorious for its crude jokes and sexual references, but V3's vulgarity can sometimes be a bit much. Specifically Miu, who seems to make a sexual reference every time she speaks. Otherwise, the writing here is pretty solid and there a lot subtle pop culture references that are entertaining.
As is the case with its predecessors, V3 features a sensational cast of characters. Everyone has a distinct personality to set them apart from others, like the self-proclaimed mage, Himiko, with her ridiculous supernatural explanations for events happening in the school lightens the mood of an otherwise serious plot. Other characters such as the optimistic Kaito, extremely vulgar Miu, and the deceitful Kokichi help to round of a great cast.
Upon completion of the main story, you unlock the endgame content which features more modes than any other game in the series. “Love Across the Universe” places you back into the school, but without the killing game factor. In this mode, you are free to just talk to other students, take them out on dates, etc. Love Across the Universe gets rid of the tedious resource gathering mechanic that was present in previous games and instead focuses solely on character development and relationships.
Other modes consist of the Card Death Machine; a minigame that gives you collectible cards. These cards are used to play in the two other game modes: Despair Dungeon and Ultimate Talent Development Plan. There’s a lot of content to play after the story is done that can easily add on another 20-30 hours of gameplay for hardcore fans.
Danganronpa V3 is not without its flaws. Class trials don’t always pan out and pacing gets in the way at times, but this is still the same Danganronpa fans have grown to love over the years. The wonderful cast of characters and immersive plot coupled with a plethora of endgame options makes this a must-play game for fans and newcomers alike.
Writer for Darkstation since 2014. I've been playing games my whole life and starting writing about them in 2010. Outside of gaming I enjoy anime and watching my Philadelphia Eagles let me down every Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @jsparis09