Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third mainline game in the series. The story of the original games ended with the anime and this marks the beginning of a new chapte. As always, sixteen Ultimate students are trapped in an unknown facility and forced to kill each other by en evil robotic bear named Monokuma. This time, he is accompanied by 5 children appropriately named Monokubs.
Just like the other two mainline games, it is divided into three parts – Daily Life, Deadly Life and Class Trial. During daily life, you can hang out with other classmates, give gifts and get to know them better. Once you max out your relationship, you will gain a unique skill. Deadly Life starts after a murder takes place and consists of all of the investigation sequences. Find clues by both talking to classmates and examining objects which are then used as Truth Bullets in Class Trials. This is where the main game takes place as you argue amongst each other, play minigames and try to find the culprit. If you are successfully able to find the murderer, he/she will be killed. If you are unsuccessful, they will be able to escape and the remaining students will be executed.
Non stop debate is still the key pillar where everyone tries to recollect the events, analyse the situation and make deductions. Your job is to then either find inconsistencies within the argument or agree with the appropriately highlighted statement. In Danganronpa V3, you will also have to twist the truth and lie in order to find the true culprit. You will often encounter white noise which will obscure the colored arguments and must use the silenced to remove them while focus lets you slow down time in order to aim properly. If you aim for a specific part of the highlighted words, you can use a V-Counter which gives you more points and monocoins. You can use this ability in other minigames as well to greatly increase your score.
Apart from the above mentioned changes to non stop debate, existing minigames have been refined. Hangman’s gambit is actually viable this time, instead of the mess that was Improved Hangman’s Gambit in Danganronpa 2. As hidden letters move around, a light moves passes by at regular intervals which briefly reveals them. You can also use focus to display the letters.
Mass Panic Debate consists of arguing with multiple characters at the same time and trying to concentrate on what each one is saying in order to find inconsistencies. Rebuttal Showdown is a 1v1 battle where you must slice your opponent’s words before shutting them down by providing hard evidence. Psyche Taxi is just a different version of Logic Drive where must collect letters while avoiding other cars before answering 3-4 questions in a row. In Mind Mine, several objects are hidden behind blocks and you must break them by selecting a group of the same colour. As you break one section, all blocks around it change colours.
Perhaps my favourite mini-game is where all characters are divided into two groups and must overpower the opponent by consistently selecting correct arguments in response to their accusation.
Danganronpa V3 is easily the best, most refined version of the gameplay concepts introduced in the original. Unlike Danganronpa 2, none of the minigames are a pain to play and as long as you’re paying attention, it’s clear what game is asking you to do. With improvements all around, the there is more variety and a better flow than ever before. I only had issues with closing argument but since that takes place only once it’s not a big deal.
I also think that it overall has the best selection of cases in the series. While it may not reach the highs of the 5th class trial in Danganronpa 2, the quality of the mysteries presented is more consistent. There is not a single bad case, which is something I cannot say for the other two games. Along with more variety in gameplay, the design of class trials is improved further to remove annoyances. As an example, other classmates rarely waste time by using nonsensical arguments. I also never found myself in a situation where I had figured out everything before it was revealed to me.
Just like the cases, the cast is again consistently great save for maybe one or two. It’s just heart-breaking to see your friends dying or ending up being the killer. The theme of friendship and betrayal is ever present, making every class trial a tense affair. While there are less standout characters in Danganronpa V3, it’s a better option than having a few unlikable classmates.
On the other hand Monokubs are easily my least favourite part of the game. They are loud, obnoxious and at times disgusting. Worst of all, they take away crucial screen time from Monokuma, who dominates the conversation whenever possible with his aura and presence. Combined with the fact that this is the third game, it never really succeeds in instilling the same sense of dread that was present in previous titles.
Danganronpa V3 successfully avoids the trap many sequels fall into – it does not repeat the same themes or ideas that were a highlight of previous games. The main theme of Hope vs Despair is still a part of the game, but it does not get repeated over and over again like in previous titles. Just when you think the game is falling into that trap, it miraculously comes out of the pit in a way that makes sense. That being said, I expect the ending of Danganronpa V3 to be controversial. You will either love it or hate it. It’s incredibly difficult to explain why without spoiling the many surprises that are in store for you, but make no mistake, the writers are clever and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the story and cases themselves take an unexpected turn.
Danganronpa V3 has the best gameplay and cases in the series, but it is less emotional than the other two. Instead of making a safe sequel and repeating the stories, the game takes massive risks. It is just as surprising, depressing and uplifting filled with stunning moments and shocking revelations.