Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the third main instalment in the visual novel series, takes place in an alternate reality, where trust is hard earned and easily lost.
Rise and shine, ursine
Okay, so I’m new to the Danganronpa universe, but I can safely say that Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is an adventure, one which gets better, and weirder the more you play.
Kaede Akamatsu, a normal high school student, awakens in Hope’s Peak Academy but not all is as it seems. She’s been kidnapped, along with 15 other talented students.
The game, developed by Spike Chunsoft, progresses as Kaede (the Ultimate Pianist) and Shuichi Saihara (the Ultimate Detective) begin to explore what is known as the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles, during which they are greeted by a family of maniacal robot bears. These bears, known as the Monokubs, lead by Monokuma, attempt to pit the students against each other in a “killing game”, but not before copious amounts of banter. The “game” is designed so that the 16 new acquaintances slowly grow apart, start fighting, and ultimately kill in order to be set free.
Enjoy your killing game
The game, which is split into sections, allows players to look around rooms, interacting with parts of the environment and other characters in order to fill in pieces of the story. Danganronpa V3 is quite long, at around 40 hours, and offers a linear story experience but with time dedicated to exploration. The game also makes light references to popular series’ such as Death Note and even Spongebob Squarepants.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is heavily focused on a Cluedo-esque story experience, however, players will have to spend a considerable amount of time scrolling through dialogue text, though this makes the player take in more intimate details. Arguably the best part of the game, antagonists Monokuma and his Monokubs, benefit from this as they break the tension with hilariously random comments and behaviour. This can get explicit, though again this adds to most comedic elements in the game. The constant back and forth between the player, the other characters, and the Monokubs is complimented by flawless Japanese-English localisation, great voice acting, and a stand-out soundtrack. The 3D/2D pop-up style is also really striking and fits the theme of the game. Artist Rui Komatsuzaki deserves credit for the unique design and brilliant, sometimes slightly disturbing art work.
Danganronpa V3 moves at a slow pace but gives the player a lot to do. If you’re a fan of fast action, you may grow impatient at the progression of the game, however, the story quickly picks up as more detective work is completed. Monokuma actually pokes fun at this in-game, commenting on the state of the prologue and breaking the fourth-wall.
School Life & Class Trials
This leads onto the two main types of gameplay in Danganronpa V3, School Life and Class Trials. School Life allows players to try and forge relationships with the other students, learn more about their situation, and collect evidence to use in Class Trials if a murder is discovered. Players can also hit things such as desks and chairs with R1 in order to obtain Monocoins. These can be collected later in the game as well, and allow the player to purchase gifts from the school shop to give to other students during free time.
Class Trials are designed so that if the guilty “blackened” is found out then they are punished, however, if the wrong person is accused, then the group is punished. This is made harder by Mass Panic Debates in which characters talk over each other, with the player trying to discover who the killer is by using “truth bullets” (gained from crime scene evidence). Truth bullets that are collected can be used by pressing triangle on statements during Non-Stop Debate. These are used to blow away contradicting accusations, and to uncover the truth.
It takes a while to get used to Class Trials. These are large parts of the game which include many mini-games to make debates truly seem overwhelming and hectic, and keep the player guessing. This results in a lot of trial and error, although after a while players will be able to make full use of the tools available; such as using truth bullets to intentionally lie, helping to flush out the killer.
So long, bear well
The main problem with the game is that it has trouble explaining things to the player. This works in some situations, adding to the mystique, however, can also become confusing when some elements are left unexplained or are explained all at once. Levelling up, for instance, can be done simply by walking, and the importance of this isn’t brought up at any point.
While fans may notice that Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony doesn’t reinvent the series, it simply doesn’t have to. Spike Chunsoft does a great job creating a universe that can get even non-anime fans, like myself, invested with the games’ personality and charm. The game will suck players in with shocking revelations, and through making connections with some of the games’ eccentric “Ultimate” students. This makes it that more impactful when a body is discovered, and a Class Trial begins.
A gripping story full of twists, and interesting characters with individual personalities, combined with a unique style and tense, frantic gameplay results in an overall fantastic novel game, with one of the cutest, most insane villains of all time.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is available on PS4, PS Vita and Steam.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony£44.99
- "Psycho-cool" art style and direction
- A great soundtrack - Mr. Monokuma's Lesson V3 is a personal favourite
- A gripping story with an interesting cast
- Some of the best video game villains ever
- A lot to take in at first if you haven't played the previous games
- Controls seem unclear & can go unused for large portions of the game
- Skill list is hidden away and not explained well