Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Release Date: 9/26/17 (NA), 9/29/17 (EU)
Platforms: PS4, (reviewed) PSVita, PC
ESRB/PEGI: M/PEGI 16
MSRP (USD): $59.99 (PS4), $39.99 (PSVita)
By Adam Advocaat / Moofey
The Danganronpa series is one that quickly became a cult classic following the western release of its first game in 2014. Its status was more than confirmed when Guinness revealed that a character from this series is the most cosplayed video game character in the world. Now, on the heels of its worldwide popularity, series writer Kazutaka Kodaka has released his swan song for his collection of murder mystery visual novels in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.
Danganronpa V3 is the first new mothership game in the series since the original Japan-only launch of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair in 2012 on the PSP, and the first to be developed with consoles in mind. With these two factors, it leaves a lot of room for this to be the best game in the series to date, but does it fill its audience with hope, or does it sink them into the depths of despair?
"The premise of the story is a Danganronpa essential".
Danganronpa V3 casts players into the role of Kaede Akamatsu, one of sixteen talented individuals known as “Ultimates.” Kaede wakes up to find herself in an eerie school setting with no recollection of how she got there. It isn't long after she meets up with the other fifteen that series mascot Monokuma shows up and tells them that they will be taking part in a killing game.
As it turns out, all sixteen of them are trapped in a large compound called the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Individuals. Getting out is simple: Commit murder, and get away with it. When a murder is committed, the surviving classmates conduct an investigation and hold a class trial, where they try to figure out “whodunnit.” If they find out who the killer is, they're executed in a gruesome, ironic fashion, but if they guess wrong, the killer walks free and the remaining classmates are all executed.
The premise of the story is a Danganronpa essential. Although the story looks the same as the other two mothership games, veterans of the series will know that it's the journey of twists and surprises along the way that makes the story great, and those veterans should not be disappointed with the revelations contained within. V3 also boasts a cast of eccentric characters, from the boisterous Kaito Momota to the primal yet gentlemanly Gonta Gokuhara. Each character in this well rounded cast has their own talents and quirks that will make them both loved and loathed by gamers alike.
The game plays out in a similar fashion to previous games in the series. The game's “daily life” story segments play out in a visual novel fashion. This part of each chapter switches back and forth between point and click for examining rooms, and a first person mode for moving between them. At this point, Kaede and company will find new areas to explore, and Monokuma and his Monokubs will try to incite murder by introducing new motives. Free time events also happen here, where multiple opportunities are given to hang out with a character to try to get to know them better. Successfully doing so gives “friendship fragments,” which can be used to buy skills that can be equipped for trials. This progression of events continues until a murder occurs, which moves the chapter into its “deadly life” half. This part tasks the player with investigating the crime scene for evidence and testimony from fellow classmates, all of which manifests as “truth bullets” to use during the trial. Once all truth bullets have been obtained, the game moves into the more technical point of the game: the class trial.
"...some debates have a solution that involves lying instead..."
Unlike the segments before it, trials are driven primarily with action-based logic puzzles; The most prominent of those being the non-stop debate. Players are presented with specific truth bullets to combat a series of statements made by fellow classmates, with the goal being to either hit the correct orange weak point with the truth bullet that contradicts it, or the correct blue agree point with the truth bullet that supports it. New to V3, however, is the ability to turn a truth bullet into a lie bullet by holding down the triangle or right mouse button, then releasing it at a weak point to bluff it. However, missing with a lie bullet will cause Kaede to take damage to her influence, and responding incorrectly will cause more damage than normal. Even when the solution to a non-stop debate is of the more traditional route, some debates have a solution that involves lying instead, which opens up a “backroute,” an alternate conversation, for that trial segment
New to both this and the returning Rebuttal Showdown is the Mass Panic Debate, which works like a normal non-stop debate but with three people talking at the same time, and the Debate Scrum, where the trial’s participants are split off into two teams and the whole argument needs to be pieced together. Both of these new styles of debates tend to come around at least once per trial, and though Debate Scrums are a favorite for sure, it feels like it could have been fleshed out a little more. Mass Panic Debates, on the other hand, don’t feel any more difficult other than the need to occasionally silence someone who’s drowning out the other two.
"...a level of immersion never before seen in the series..."
As with previous entries, trials also come with a slew of other minigames. V3’s contribution to the minigame pool comes with Mind Mine; The player is presented with a field of colored blocks with the goal of clearing adjacent blocks of the same color, causing the blocks around those cleared to also change color. This reveals pieces of evidence underneath it, and the game is cleared when the correct piece of evidence is uncovered and selected. Though it seemed nifty at first, it got both dull and unforgiving fairly quickly. (Fortunately there is a skill that will counter its unforgiving nature.) Mind Mine joins its usual, retooled cohorts. Series veterans will be pleased to see that Hangman’s Gambit has been toned down from its chaotic Danganronpa 2 version, though they might not see the same with Logic Dive’s dumbed-down stepchild, Psyche Taxi. Argument Armament becomes this game’s Bullet Time Battle/Panic Talk Action, but with more emphasis with hitting the correct prompts in time instead of constantly mashing away at the beat. Finally, Closing Argument, the game where the details of the crime all get pieced together in manga form, gets a nice aesthetic upgrade with a functional UI that makes navigating and solving it that much easier.
Danganronpa V3 thrives visually with being the first game in the series to have its console and PC version developed and released in parallel with its traditional portable counterpart. The game takes full advantage of the extra screen space to create a level of immersion never before seen in the series while not leaving its roots behind, all in crisp 1080p and running at a stable 60 FPS. All this is backed by yet another great mood-setting soundtrack by Masafumi Takada and above average English voice acting. As per the previous games, every Japanese voice line has been dubbed here, and that includes the entirety of every trial. For those that don’t find the English voice acting to their liking, the game includes the original Japanese voices as well.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the perfect swan song for Kodaka’s legacy, without defining a true end to the series, and surpasses the expectations set for the previous two mothership titles. It’s a 40+ hour experience that is sure to have its audience on the edge of their seats for most of it. If everyone had to play one visual novel that was released this year, this should be the one. The only sense of despair that this game invokes, is from finishing the game and realizing that there’s nothing left.
Pros and Cons
Great story! +2
Colorful cast of characters! +2
Awesome music! +2
Trials are fun to play! +2
Visually pleasing! +1.5
Feels easier than other entries -.5
FINAL SCORE: 9