Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the forth game in the Danganronpa series, was probably my most anticipated game of 2017. After I was gradually won over by Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc back in 2014 and then falling completely love with Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, the series is now one of my favorite video game series of all time. But as impressions from Japanese players started trickling in, it became clear that Danganronpa V3 was going to be the most divisive entry in the series yet. Would it deliver for this longtime fan of the series? Read on to find out!
I’d like to start by noting that many of my final thoughts on the game venture into spoiler territory, so I suggest reading my Danganronpa V3 First Impressions post to get a spoiler-free version (I will clearly warn about spoilers in this review, though, so don’t worry!). The fact is, though I had no idea how I would feel about the game when it was all said and done, now that I’ve completed the game I can still say my overall feelings are still in line with what I said in that post. Just now, I’m feeling even more positive!
If for whatever reason you’d rather not read my first impressions piece, I’ll quickly reiterate a few of my thoughts from that. First, you 100% must play the previous games in the series in order to appreciate Danganronpa V3. While it’s not a direct sequel to Danganronpa 2 (for that, watch the Danganronpa 3 anime), it’s absolutely necessary to play the previous games in order to appreciate this one. If you wanted to jump in here, it may seem like a lot of catching up to do, but I promise that it’ll be worth it!
Going in I was apprehensive that Danganronpa V3 would not be able to deliver on the high bar set by the previous games. Namely, I loved the edge-of-your-seat suspenseful stories presented in the visual novel format, which introduced a wide cast of characters that you gradually grew to care for over the course of the game. Then, when a murder occurred, you had to investigate and go into a trial to determine the culprit, and nearly every trial culminated in some amazing reveal about a character or the game’s world that kept me dying to learn more. The trial minigames were never a favorite of mine, but I appreciated how they broke up the gameplay and kept the tension high throughout the trial.
Well, the first trial of Danganronpa V3 convinced me that it was going to be just as engaging as the previous entries in the series! I was so thrilled to find that Danganronpa isn’t afraid to do something new that might even turn off a portion of the series’ fanbase. While the second trial was definitely a low point for me (the culprit was clear even before the trial started), after that I was kept questioning right until the very end.
And that ending! Of course I’ll have to save my full thoughts for the spoiler section of this review, but suffice it to say, I loved it. Fundamentally, I want a Danganronpa game to come out of the left field with something I never even considered a possibility, and the major reveal in the final chapter was the pinnacle of things I never expected to happen. In a year full of truly amazing games, Danganronpa V3 still manages to be a serious contender for my game of the year, and that’s largely due to the events of the final chapter.
I do have to mention that one of my only disappointments with Danganronpa V3 was not the game itself, but the fact that screenshot and recording functionality is blocked on PlayStation 4 after you finish chapter one (I assume screenshots are blocked on Vita as well, but I’m not sure about the PC version). While this is to avoid sharing spoilers, I really disagree with a developer taking the player’s right away to make their own decision whether or not to take a screenshot or post a video.The function is built right in to the system! I know this is becoming increasingly common, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. In fact, even if you decide to use your own recording software, NIS America has made it clear that Spike Chunsoft will take action against video footage or streams of content past chapter one.
There was also a very unfortunate textual mishap in the opening cutscene of the game, which didn’t make a great first impression. Luckily, the editing was much better for the rest of the game, and I was generally pretty happy with the localization. However, since not all the lines are fully voiced in Japanese, I’m not really able to compare the English text with the Japanese. Regardless, if you’re only playing in English, the script is still very enjoyably written.
Story-wise, the only aspect I was not particularly fond of was the addition of the Monokubs. They’re just not funny! I think Monokuma could’ve carried the game alone, but I suppose they wanted to add something new to the enemy roster. Maybe they did their job by making me thoroughly dislike them.
Regardless of these minor irritations, Danganronpa V3 is something I didn’t believe possible: a forth game in a series that is just as good, if not better, than previous entries. It still falls slightly behind my favorite, Danganronpa 2, but that’s because it’s going to be pretty hard to beat Megumi Ogata’s Nagito! I really hope they continue to make more Danganronpa games, because it’s clear they’ve still got some wild ideas up their sleeves.
At this point I’m assuming you’ve played through the entire game and are interested to hear more specifically what I thought of the ending. I was very curious to see how I would feel because it’s been so divisive among fans, and I had no idea what side of the fence I would fall because (thankfully) everyone was keeping things vague. Well, as I mentioned earlier in this review, I absolutely loved it! I want to be surprised by a Danganronpa game, and the reveal that the characters and events of all previous Danganronpa games and anime was a fiction created within the world of Danganronpa V3 was brilliant! I also found it extremely fitting with the whole game’s focus on truth and lies. But even before the final chapter, I knew the game wasn’t afraid of pulling punches when it switched protagonists during the first trail! That was such a cool moment, but then again the whole fact that I think killing off the protagonist of a game is “cool” is something the ending wants you to consider, isn’t it?
I also really love that the game asks players to question the nature of fiction itself, and our own interest in continuing to play games that focus around putting a cast of quirky characters through the wringer until only a handful survive. Even though I was encouraged to reflect on these things, I never thought the game or its creators were disparaging me for enjoying the series. Rather, it felt like it was musing on the nature of creating itself, and how players of games are not just passive consumers of Danganronpa or any other video game. In the other Danganronpa games, you can theoretically choose not to vote for the blackened at the end of a trial, but by making this choice and thus the option to simply not participate anymore the forefront of the final trial was really fascinating to me. Oh, and the reveal of the true meaning of “V3” was honestly one of my favorite lightbulb moments of the year!
A lot of the discussion I’ve seen regarding the ending seems to be that fans of the series are unhappy that the pervious Danganronpa story is now relegated to fiction. Somehow, this negates everything that has happened thus far. I would ask, does knowing that Danganronpa is a made-up story within a made-up story really make the games you played or the anime you watched any less interesting or impactful? I honestly can’t see how it does. It’s very possible for Team Danganronpa to make more games with the original Danganronpa cast and expand on that universe, or even continue with the V3 world. There are so many opportunities!
Between NieR: Automata and Danganronpa V3, 2017 has given me two amazingly compelling game experiences that address some surprisingly similar themes. Though Danganronpa V3 ultimately left me with a few questions still left unanswered, that’s exactly why I keep coming back to the series for more.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is available for PS4, PS Vita, and PC. A PS4 copy was provided by NIS America for the purpose of this review. This post contains affiliate links. Any purchases made using my affiliate links goes towards helping the site grow. Thanks for your support!