The Danganronpa series is known for being delightfully dark and twisted while at the same time wrapped in a layer of light-hearted eccentric silliness. The main crux of the series centres around Monokuma and his ‘killing game’, where a group of students are forced to live together and the only way to leave is to kill someone without being caught. It’s a brilliant mix of social simulator, murder mystery, and courtroom drama. Thankfully Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is just as deviously brilliant as its predecessors.
This time round the game takes place in the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles with 16 new students thrust into the limelight. The students awake in the dilapidated academy with no memory of why they're there, what’s happening in the outside world, and only limited memories of themselves. Each student is talented in some weird and wonderful way from Kirumi the Ultimate Maid to Kokichi the Ultimate Supreme Leader. Of course the prize for zaniest character has to go to Monokuma - the malevolent robot bear and self proclaimed headmaster of the academy. In this instalment, he has five adorable children – Monokubs – to help him. Each of the five Monokubs have their own distinctive personality, and they'll frequently derail conversations with their nonsensical interactions which adds to the atmosphere of confusion and dread.
Danganronpa V3 follows the same game flow of the previous entries. You’ll be able to walk around the school and get to know your fellow students by hanging out with them and giving out gifts, but it won’t be too long before someone is pushed into thinking that murder is the only way forward. What follows is a brief period of investigation before an eventual class trial to determine the guilty party.
This is what makes the Danganronpa series so great. It’s so easy to grow attached to these characters and the feeling of loss that you’ll get as one of their lives is cruelly snuffed out is really intense and heartbreaking. Uncovering the guilty party via the class trial doesn’t tend to provide much relief either as finding out ‘whodunit’ means that the murderer will receive punishment from Monokuma – a grotesque and imaginative execution which can at times be hard to watch. The narrative of the game is very strong, and you’ll enter each new chapter wondering who will die next and hoping that at least some of your favourites will somehow survive. Learning the motives behind each murder is gripping: everyone has different reasons, and while there are some characters you won’t feel much pity for, others will have you yelling at the screen with how unfair everything is.
The class trials are where the bulk of the fast paced action occurs. You’ll have to use evidence that you unearth during your investigation as literal ‘truth bullets’ to shoot down any inconsistencies in another student’s argument. Things are a little bit trickier this time around as you're also able to agree and back up a fellow student’s argument. The most interesting new addition is the ability to just flat out lie if you need to. This adds an extra level of thinking that you’ll need to do to find the best way through a debate. It can sometimes be tricky to work out exactly which one of these tools you’re supposed to use in an argument, especially when things aren’t always worded very clearly, but thankfully, these moments of ambiguous wording are rare and so won’t mar your experience too much.
You won’t just be shooting truth bullets, either. There are one-on-one debates where you’ll need to slice through your opponents arguments, as well as new mass panic debates where three students argue at the same time and shout over the top of each other. There’s also the new scrum debate, which occurs when the students are deadlocked in an argument, and you’ll need to match up keywords to break down the opposing team’s logic.
The trials are quite lengthy, with lots of information to absorb and plenty of twists throughout. It can all start to feel quite tiring, so it’s good that there are some fun new mini-games which help to break up the debates. These range from a puzzle game where you have to remove coloured tiles to unveil images to a car game where you drive into letters to reveal a question. They’re all fairly simple to complete but they make for a very nice change of pace.
When you’re not taking part in class trials, there are various things to keep you busy such as a casino and an extremely tricky 2D platforming game. It’s also a good idea to try to collect as many different gifts as possible, as having some on hand at specific points in the game will unlock additional little scenes and new artwork. It’s nice that even though the game is quite dark at time,s there are some lighthearted, amusing moments between the students that will help keep your spirits raised.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a fantastic sequel which will have you thinking about various plot points long after the credits roll. There’s a great new cast of characters as well as five new adorable little bundles of mono-craziness to get to know. School life has never been so deviously deadly.