Every so often, there comes a game that feels like so much more than the sum of its parts. These games affect players in significant, emotional ways through knockout gameplay, design, characters or story, and as a result manage to imprint a truly unforgettable experience on the player. For me, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is one of these games.
For the uninitiated, Danganronpa is an incredibly weird videogame series that fuses together genres like visual novels, puzzles, first-person adventure, and mini games. The basic premise of all three main games in the series is a group of exceptionally, and uniquely, talented high school students finding themselves trapped within the confines of some flavour of the foreboding educational institution, with no recollection of their life beforehand.
The principal of the school, the literal two-faced, maniacal teddy bear Monukuma, forces the students to participate in a vicious “killing game”. The goal is simple. The person who kills one of their classmates, and is not exposed for their crimes in the following “class trial”, will be able to leave. The rest of the students are killed as punishment. However, if the killer is exposed, they are the only one executed; the rest of the students remain trapped, living another day and waiting for the next murderer to strike.
Danganronpa marries this bleak setting with a striking sense of style, an amazing soundtrack and a whole lot of crazy. It’s basically Cluedo meets Battle Royale meets Ace Attorney meets Persona. And yes, it’s every bit as amazing as that sounds.
As the game is plot-focussed, I won’t go into too much detail. All I will say is that, while many of the game’s later plot has been divisive, to say the least, I greatly enjoyed the many twists and turns this latest game throws our way. The ending, in particular, is something that won’t be leaving me any time soon.
The main meat of the gameplay comes from the Ace Attorney-esque Class trials. In these, you use your evidence to literally shoot down contradictory statements, firing them as “truth bullets”. These are coupled with some fun little minigames to help keep things interesting. These generally flow a lot faster than in Ace Attorney, giving proceedings a breakneck pace. A new addition is the ability to lie on the stand, an interesting addition I wish was used more than it was.
Danganronpa marries this bleak setting with a striking sense of style, an amazing soundtrack and a whole lot of crazy.
Before these, you also have time to wander around the campus, investigating and gathering evidence and statements. Between all the murders, you can wander around the school, hang out with your fellow students and get to know them a little before they’re potentially horribly murdered. These free-time events play out similarly to Persona’s social links and confidants, and really help flesh out the already colourful cast.
For those interested in checking out Danganronpa, I would definitely recommend playing the previous games before this one, as spoilers abound in later chapters. And for anyone with an interest in plot-focussed games, I absolutely recommend checking it out. For existing series fans, while the plot has been divisive, it’s still an essential experience. In a year packed to the rafters with amazing games, Danganronpa V3 managed to stand out as one of the very best.