Monokuma is back in action providing motives for a collection of sixteen teenagers to murder each other in a brand new killing game.
Danganronpa plays somewhat similarly to the Zero Escape series in that you're trapped in an enclosed space with a group of strangers and forced to kill in order to survive. Danganronpa V3 is set in the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles and the players are sixteen teenagers who have been selected as the best in their respective fields. For example, Miu is the ultimate inventor, Kaito is the ultimate astronaut, and Kirumi is the ultimate maid. How a maid can be classified as "ultimate" is beyond me but she must be pretty good to be part of the class. Each character has their own personality and back-story that explains their motivation for survival and influences how they interact with other characters. Some of the stories are dark and sad and others are just plain ridiculous but it's always fun to learn more about the personas that you'll spend time with and constantly question throughout the story.
At the start of the story, you could easily be convinced that the group is more than happy to sit around and wait it out until Monokuma (the mastermind behind the murderous game) decides to let them go. However, it's not long until the first death occurs and it sets the stage for more, whether intentional or not. Whenever someone dies, the group gathers at the crime scene and starts to investigate. It's important that you gather as many clues as possible because it's up to the entire class to ensure they uncover the murderer lest the rest of them be killed by Monokuma. If the murderer manages to get away with their crime, they are freed from the school and the rest of the class is murdered. If the class finds the killer, a brutal FMV plays showing the evil bear killing the murderer.
Thankfully, Danganronpa gives you time to collect all of the required clues to solve the puzzle but you likely won't actually be close to uncovering the evildoer until you're near the end of the class trial itself. Personally, this is how I'd rather have it as it keeps the mystery until the very last moment. The trial starts soon after collecting all of the clues and after the class members who survived previous trials descend down into a deep chamber that they won't be freed from until the murderer is discovered. You'll be hooked from the moment the first class trial starts, especially when you see how well Danganronpa V3 pulls off an unexpected twist early on in the story.
Uncovering a murderer in Danganronpa is nothing like in other detective games. Class trials are frantic with many of your classmates acting suspicious and trying to pin the act on anyone but themselves. It's a mix of heated discussion and mini-games to complete in order to uncover the murderer. Most of the discussion takes the form of a non-stop debate where you must shoot a bullet (a piece of evidence) at someone's statement in order to contradict it. There are multiple statements and clues to use so you have to pay attention to use the right ones. You have a life meter, too, although you can always try again without much hassle (assuming you save often).
Danganronpa V3 introduces many new mini-games to mix up the gameplay. In fact, there are so many that I initially found it difficult to follow and keep up with the instructions being thrown at me. Thankfully, the amount of new mini-games slows down after the first trial but I struggled with some parts given the often confusing instructions. One example is "psyche taxi" where you drive a car into floating cubes on a road to pick up letters that form a question then hit the person standing in the road that represents the answer. It's quite strange and I didn't feel right just slamming my car into an unsuspecting person but it does make the gameplay feel fresh.
Another new game is "mind mine" where you uncover pieces that cover up multiple clues and you have to pick the right one. "Perjury" is also new where you have to decide when to outright lie in order to continue the conversation in the right direction. It can be tough deciding when to lie, contradict, or agree with a statement being made. It's not always obvious and sometimes, you have to just try everything until something works.
I find that the Danganronpa series does a great job of providing the right level of difficulty and mystery to keep me hooked until the end and V3: Killing Harmony continues this tradition. I only once had an inkling of who the murderer was before the class trial started and I found that I had a bunch of clues with a very vague idea of how to piece them together but it took me going through the trial itself in order to see the big picture. There's simply no murder mystery series out there that accomplishes this as well as Danganronpa does and if they keep up this level of quality, I'll always be first in line to play the sequels. However, there are occasions when I know what I want to say but I can't figure how to get it across in the mini-game. To get my point across, which item do I present and at what time? I find this is a common problem in murder mystery games and Danganronpa occasionally suffers from it, too.
In between trials, you have free time that is spent walking around and talking with your classmates. The more you can grow your relationships with them, the more skill points you can spend to help you with the mini-games. You also use monocoins to buy gifts to give to classmates. I found it a little annoying how you have to figure out the right gift to give to a classmate in order for them to have more than a quick conversation with you. In previous games, you could build relationships without this so it ups the frustration factor a little when you're not that familiar with a character's hobbies. You'll also be given mysterious objects that you must match up with parts of the scenery in order to unlock new rooms. The school area itself is quite large to start and it only gets bigger as you complete each chapter. Every character has their own personal room that's customized just for them with scarily accurate detail.
One very specific thing that bugged me in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony was the lewd character Miu. I always expect a certain degree of offensiveness in Danganronpa games (it is rated mature for a reason). However, in the past, this usually came from Monokuma, someone that you hate right from the start anyway and don't really care about. When a character that you're supposed to bond with acts much worse than the way Monokuma does, it just gets annoying and out of place. Not one sentence came out of her mouth that wasn't disgusting and sexual in some weird and twisted way. It makes me wonder how the writers even think of these things. Trust me; you'll want Miu to be murdered quite early on so you don't have to cringe so often.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the ultimate murder mystery experience with many new ways to get through the class trials, a large world that expands the more you play, and an interesting story behind it all. If you're intrigued and can put up with the vulgar sophomoric content then this is a must-buy game.
- + New gameplay elements keep things fresh
- + Gripping story that constantly keeps you guessing everyone's motives
- + Expanding game world is fun to unlock
- - You'll be begging for Miu's death early on
- - It's occasionally difficult to choose how to present your point
- - Unclear directions for the new mini-games