Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony Review – A Masterpiece
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC, PS Vita
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: NIS America
Release: 26th September (NA) / 29th September (EU)
Price: 59.99 / 39.99 (Vita)
Danganronpa is a special series for me, symbolizing the reason why I bought a Vita before truly falling in love with japanese games and taking away many hours of sleep I wasted to unravel Hope´s Peak secrets. After a mediocre anime, a pretty alright Third Person Shooter spin-off and 2 main entries, Danganronpa finally returns for the last time, probably. Oh, wow, what a masterpiece Danganronpa V3 became.
Unlike Danganronpa 1+2, V3 promises to not play in the same universe as its predecessors, in order to give newcomers a chance to experience it as well. Still the basic premise didn´t change. 16 Ultimate students are trapped by Monokuma inside a school forced to participate in the so-called Killing game to free themself or stay trapped forever. Once a murder is committed the students have to unravel the identity of the murderer in a class trial or die trying. Nothing new for anyone who played Danganronpa before but especially for newcomers a very interesting concept.
As in every other previous game Danganronpa V3 is a very story focused visual novel revolving completely around the class trials and murder cases. Consisting of 6 chapters, which are divided into daily life, slice-of life style sections, and deadly life. Every chapter tells its own captivating murder story which needs ot be unraveled through collecting evidence and solving mini games.
Once a murder occurred an investigation starts where the needed evidence for the class trial needs to be found by talking to the others or simply investigating. Since it´s a very linear visual novel missing evidence is basically impossible, due to the various walls the game sets up to prevent any progression until every piece of evidence is found. After finding everything the class trial will start where the case will be solved. Sounds like a lot but it´s actually quite easy to understand and execute. The fact the cases are never clear before the trials and start to unfold themself during the various trials always made Danganronpa a great crime series.
In contrast to most visual novels Danganronpa V3´s class trials aren´t purely consisting of text but also of little mini games to spice things up a bit. Driving the psyche taxi, answering questions to clear some things regarding the case up, counter contradicting statements with truth bullets, all these things look and sound great and can offer some pretty good ways to involve the player. Unfortunately, all of mini games except the mass debates don´t depend much on the actual knowledge about the case nor present a big challenge. The psyche taxi for example is plain boring, easy and way too long. Surely they just exist to offer a change but nearly every mini game except the mass debates is worse than in previous ones. I hate psyche taxi. The mass debates on the other hand work perfectly, relying on logical thinking and knowledge of the case.
The cases themselves are as great plots as always, offering intriguing stories around characters and events full of twists. While I still think that Danganronpa 2 had the best murders from the series Danganronpa V3 manages to find a really great balance between easy to grasp and hard to solve cases. None is easy to get at the beginning but the moment it slowly unwrap itself is simply amazing. Especially the early 3 were probably the best due to the sheer surprises the game had in store where the last 2, excluding the final trial, seemed a bit easier. Nonetheless the quality of the plots didn´t suffer after all these years and even manages to play with the expectations by presenting seemingly reused scenarios but drives them in a whole new direction.
Besides these trials Danganronpa V3 is stuffed with 16 characters, an all surrounding mystery and dozens of hours of reading. Some may fear that 16 individual characters may be a bit much but Danganronpa can deliver well characterized, unique and simply well written persons here. Everyone may resemble a cliché at first glance, yet because of both the interactions between them and the occasional free time events where the background of chosen characters can be discovered, it´s too hard to not identify or bind to any of them. Surely it´s not possible to like them all but the fact I hated, liked and suffered with numerous of these persons through their misery, is a sign of truly great writing.
However, while all these things are well-known from previous installments of this series, Danganronpa V3´s ending is something I need to point out. It´s just like no other ending, not like anything before. Everything about this ending symbolizes Danganronpa and what makes it so special. The conclusion of one my dearest series is weird, special and brilliant just like the rest of it and it once again shows how this series can hide its secrets right in front of the player.
Danganronpa V3 is hard to describe without spoiling, it´s weird brilliance achieved by superb writing, great characters and a story full of mysteries and clever twists always were the reason why I loved this series. On the one hand I´m sad this may very well be the last Danganronpa game we´ll ever get, that such a series has to end. On the other hand I´m happy it concluded in such a fitting, amazing way. Everything clicks, everything works and everything truly feels like Danganronpa. At the end it´s nothing more than a masterpiece. Thank you Danganronpa.
[A Review Code was provided by NIS America]