The Danganronpa series was something of an enigma for me until just a few months ago when I received the opportunity to review the first two games in the series as part of the Danganronpa 1•2: Reload collection on the PlayStation 4. Since that time I have absolutely fallen in love with the whole, twisted world of Danganronpa and waited with bated breath for the third ‘main’ game in the series to land. Well now that I’ve played through Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony I can honestly say that not only is this one of the best games the series has ever produced but one of the best games to release this year… period.
Like Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair before it, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is part graphic novel, part crime-scene investigation and part trial simulator. And like these previous games the basis of the story revolves around a group of talented youths (called Ultimates) who are trapped in an abandoned school with the only escape being to get away with murdering one of your fellow Ultimates. While this premise, on its own can make for an interesting story, Killing Harmony cranks it up a notch by constantly throwing the plot on its head with new characters (like the adorable but deadly Monokubs) and by throwing plot twist after plot twist at the player, not only giving the story a unique feel but keeping you on the edge of your seat unlike any game in the series has done before.
While the story of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the best the series has produced the gameplay portions have also been refined to the point that the famous Class Trials now feel even more dynamic and stressful which is both a good and a bad thing. One of the additions for example calls the Mass Panic Debates has every cast member talking over eachother at the same time, forcing you to identify which character is speaking the truth in a mass of jumbled speeches. Now while this does lead to a more engaging trial portion since you’re no longer simply picking an answer out of a set number it can feel overwhelming, especially when your coming off of hours of more subdued gameplay and reading. In fact, I would say that as a whole that’s my biggest gripe with the series in general, that the transitions between gameplay could be smoother and less pronounced. But overall, the gameplay itself matches the tone of the story beautifully and it has never been as good as it is here.
Of course, listening to characters tell stories and solving whodunits is not all there is to do in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony as outside of the main game, you will find tons of secrets and easter eggs to find that you can either use to improve your relationship with one of the 15 other Ultimates or just to fill in some background details about the game. And these are details you will want to dig into because the cast of Killing Harmony are all filled with personalities that are interesting, mysterious and engaging. Throughout my play through I kept getting attached to certain characters and found myself genuinely upset when they were eventually (gruesomely) killed which again speaks to the strength of the writing and story in general.
When it comes to the game’s visuals, you can tell that being developed with the PlayStation 4 in mind from the beginning definitely makes the best looking Danganronpa game to date. The anime-style character designs are all exceptionally well crafted and help gives each of the cast members a personality all their own. The new Monokubs are particularly fun takes on the (now) classic Monokuma design and showcase a new type of fun and playful sadism that wasn’t present before. The inside of the school is also more detailed than in the previous games and you’ll really have to scour the full screen if you’re looking to interact with a piece of the scenery rather than just looking for out-of-place objects like before.
Really the whole game’s art style and presentation speaks volumes to the game’s personality. Somewhere between serious and full of despair and lighthearted and comical. The Monokubs in particular bring a lot of the comic relief thanks to their dark sense of humor which (almost always) lands perfectly. With dialogue being such an important part of the experience it was important for developer Spike Chunsoft to deliver yet another top-notch effort and again they have hit it out of the park. The story is also much less predictable this time around and in fact sometimes I was fully expected “something” to happen only to have something totally different surprise me which was refreshing to see, especially after playing through three of these games already.
So I haven’t really said anything negative yet about Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony yet and honestly there isn’t much bad to say. The game is a blast to play and will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. However, and this is something I mentioned when I reviewed Danganronpa 1•2: Reload but this is definitely not the type of game that will please everyone. In fact I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Danganronpa series is one with pretty niche appeal that will keep its existing fans very happy but likely not convert any new players. Add to that Killing Harmony comes in at $59.99 on the PS4 and you have a game that I can really only recommend to fans of the series and genre.
In a very short amount of time the Danganronpa series has gone from a total unknown to me to one of my favorite series (not just in video game form). The series won me over with its solid writing, exciting story, great cast and plot filled with twists and turns, all things that are elevated to the next level in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Even the gameplay, which admittedly could get a bit repetitive in the past is spruced up here though with mixed results. All in all though, if you consider yourself a fan of visual novels, detective stories and dark anime in general, then I highly suggest picking up Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, you’ll be in for a killer time.
A copy of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony was provided to Link-Cable by the publisher for the purpose of this review.