So it’s all boiled down to this, after two stellar Action Visual Novels, the third mainline entry of Danganronpa has finally come to the west; having played the original two games, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair through to completion, I was excited to meet my brand new classmates in what was being anticipated as one of the best entries in the franchise so far…
…And what I got was something…A little different from that expectation.
For those uninitiated, Danganronpa is set in an alternative Earth where the world’s brightest and boldest are entered into the Japanese ‘ultraschool’ Hope’s Peak Academy – Here each student has an ‘Ultimate’ title, representing that they’re the best individual in that field for their age bracket – Ultimate Programmer, Ultimate Maid, Ultimate Soldier, Ultimate Tennis Pro and even being the Ultimate Robot all qualify at Hope’s Peak.
…Danganronpa V3, though, doesn’t have any Ultimate Students in it from the get-go, at least – The students this time all seem to be from a random assortment of lower-end High Schools, who’s talents and personalities are artificially whacked up to provide the illusion of them being Ultimate students – This much is evident from the get-go when our main protagonist, Kaede Akamatsu stumbles out of a school locker dressed in her usual High School attire.
The plot certainly sets itself apart from the previous entries in a more mysterious, but more realistic pretense – Here, students who showed signs of one day becoming ‘Ultimate’ have been kidnapped, amplified to 11 and let loose in a ruined Juvenile Detention School patrolled by none other but the Monokubs; this game’s version of Usami / Monomi from Danganronpa 2 – These five colorful critters each sport a unique personality, also tweaked up to 11, acting as the children of Monokuma, the supposed ringleader of this whole debacle.
Abandoned in a decrepit juvenile detention center with six bear animatronics, the group of demonic teddies offer up a chance of escape – Kill someone and escape an impending ‘Class Trial’, and you get away for free, no strings attached, whilst everyone else dies. Horrid, right?
The story itself seems to move along initially at a breakneck pace, with our main characters figuring out that there has to be a mastermind behind all of these events before the first murder even happened, something that took Danganronpa 1’s cast more than 4 Chapters to figure out – Take note, however that whilst the plot details do go quickly, there is one key issue that Danganronpa V3 has that I just can’t get over.
It takes SO damn long to clear the first chapter.
In previous titles the first Chapter was done within an hour or two, case closed, stakes ramped up, gruesome death over. In Danganronpa V3, however, I had only cleared the first trial and gotten past the Execution after the fourth hour. It even got to the point where the first motive to kill, the First Blood Perk (Which allows whoever kills first to walk away scott free) got nearly entirely ignored for a second motive – A 48 hour death clock. Unfortunately this cheapens the first case by a considerable amount, with previous entries in the series having greater personal stakes at risk, like being able to see your family again, or having your deepest, darkest secrets told to the world – Nope, this time we just get a freebie and a 48 hour time limit.
Talking on a more technical level, Daganronpa V3 runs brilliantly, maintaining a pure 60fps experience at 1080p, with every transition, cutscene, environment and execution looking flashier than the last – It was a pure joy to explore the new environments in Danganronpa V3, accompanied by the brand new soundtrack composed by Masafumi Takada. Trials too have seen a considerable improvement over their predecessors, with a brand new Trial Minigame, Mind Drive, which tasks you with an Outrun-esque gameplay section where you have to drive to answers as fast as possible, the new Scrum Debates were the room splits into two groups to debate a polarisation of opinions, Mass Panic Debates, where multiple characters speak over eachother in a frenzy, and the unique ability to invert your Truth Bullets, turning them from “Truth Bullets” to “Lie Bullets”, allowing for large portions of Trials to be skipped if someone knows exactly where to lie in a debate.
The 16 characters in the main cast all have unique, identifiable personalities, backstories and quirks that make them tick, with some having game-long plot threads and others feeling rather…Forced. Kiibo (Or K1 B0), despite him being featured a lot in promotional art, is reduced to comic relief for the most part in the game, excluding the last few chapters where his character really gets fleshed out – Kokichi Oma as well feels very much like a discount Nagito Komaeda from Danganronpa 2, however he too undergoes many personality shifts and changes across the whole narrative – The game even has two of the largest twists in Danganronpa’s entire history, which raise a few points of controversy, however for the sake of reviewing this game I’ll be missing these two points in the game.
So, in comparison to Danganronpa 1 and 2, is Danganronpa 3 a big-enough improvement on these titles to warrant it worthy all over the place – Minigames are picked up for a split second and are dropped the next second, some points in some Trials appear to be quite convoluted, and some lines of dialogue just feel there to pad out the game…But on a mechanical level, yes, this game does serve as a worthy third mainline title, but on a narrative and storytelling perspective I can’t help but feel that too much padding gets in the way of the most important, crucial events – If the people who crafted this story limited a lot of these extra scenes to optional gag reels or bonus modes (Similar to how a lot of personal events were limited to Danganronpa 1 & 2’s School Mode), then I feel that the plot would flow a little better and overall produce a bedazzling gemstone of a visual novel.
Just a shame that some of these nicks are surprisingly apparent.
Overall, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a fine visual novel that improves greatly on the Danganronpa formula – The only things holding it back however are a somewhat fractured, filler-ladened plot and some poor characters. Excusing these points, if you’re a fan of the previous two main titles, then you’re sure to love Daganronpa V3 – If you’re just getting into the series, however, you may be put off…
All things considered, I’m rating Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony an 8 / 10.
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