Screen Critics Melissa takes a look at Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony – does it fulfill the potential of this much-loved series?
Danganronpa has become an iconic anime style visual novel series. Besides the quirky designs, mascot, and stereotyped characters what the series centers around is its Killing Game. 16 students are trapped and their only possible escape offered to them is to participate in the game. The option they are given to escape is to murder a fellow classmate and get away with the crime. Each murder is punctuated by a class trial. Should the real criminal not be caught then all the remaining students will be killed and the true criminal as the sole survivor.
The formula of the main series of games has stayed largely the same. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third installment following Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair. The changes that happen in each are the 16 students, setting, and the trials.
Each of the 16 students has some type of Ultimate ability meaning they are prodigious in that field, like an Ultimate Artist or Ultimate Inventor. They often will have quirks related to their talents and possibly some unexpected or unrelated traits as well. These quirks and personalities help the characters stand out. I personally found Danganronpa V3’s cast to be the most memorable. The game did a better job of establishing more characters, which is difficult with such a large cast. Prior games I felt I was only learning more about certain characters for a chapter which began to clue into their tie in the killing game. That structure has not entirely gone, but it is not as prevalent this time.
In Killing Harmony there are small moments for more characters in each that help them each standout and make it easier to get more attached to them. Which can be disappointing when a favorite ends up killed off or the murderer, but it helps the story. There is a greater sense of loss from the standpoint of the player. Having played the prior titles of the series I am well aware of the stakes, but having a greater interest in the characters makes it a bigger impact when it does occur. Even more interesting when I attempt to assume something based on the knowledge of prior games to be proved wrong.
The meat of the gameplay is focused on the trials that occur at the end of each chapter. A trial will only start after all potential clues have been collected, at least those that the main protagonist is aware of. The trial contains series of mini-games that players need to navigate in order to uncover the truth of the crime. The first and largely unchanged segment is the Non-Stop Debate. This sequence has characters will talk one at a time. Their dialogue will appear on screen with weakness in their statements standing out in a bolder-orange font. This weakness can be counteracted with ‘Truth Bullets’, that is evident from the case.
There are some new variations of this sequence. First of which is times where multiple people talking at once called the Mass Panic Debate. It just requires a bit more managing to keep track of the different threads of dialogue and make sure to counter the right weakness. Someone else can also get in the way of countering the proper weakness. When that happens by hitting ‘X’ to use the silencer, like for the ‘White Noise’, will quiet them down and open up the other areas again. For a majority of the trials, I never needed the silencer since there was enough time to get the correct counter. As a result, I had forgotten about the use of the silencer. I mostly mention this so hopeful avoid help someone else avoid the frustration I had.
The other change to this sequence is the ability and requirement for lying at times. By holding Triangle the ‘truth Bullet’ will switch to the opposite lie. The ability to lie at these times was another addition that helped the characters stand out and be more believable especially for the main protagonist. Though missing with a lie can cause a lot of damage, so be careful. With both of these changes, I found it best to let the conversation run through at least once. When you need to lie and what you need to lie about aren’t always clear so using the protagonist thoughts on the end can be helpful to determine. For the mass-panic, it can be easier to focus on one thread at a time till finding the correct statement.
Next is the Hangman’s Gambit Version 3 and thank Monokuma that is has changed. The previous version in Danganronpa 2 was a frustrating mess that I never got by without damage. This time the game has grayed out orbs that will show their corresponding letter when shined on with a light. The letters must be selected in the correct order to spell out the clue.
After that is the new ‘Mindmine’ game. The game is about breaking the blocks. There need to be two or more blocks of the same color to break down the blocks. After a set of blocks is broken any of the remaining blocks that were surrounding them will switch color. The point of the game is to break down the blocks to uncover an item or statement to answer the question. The item must be completely clear. If there is one block is left cover the item it can still be broken, at the cost of time.
Next up is the Psyche Taxi, a change to the Logic Dive of Danganronpa 2. Instead of sliding down a ramp and jumping over gaps it more like a racing game. The goal while driving is to hit the letter orbs to form the question. Once the question is formed it will do into the thinking time and then give the multiple choice answers with the lanes being the section. Get in the lane for the correct answer and hit the female figure at the end to move forward. The section will have 3 questions to answer each time. More cars and moving letter orbs will be added in later trials to increase the difficulty.
Besides the rhythm game becoming more akin to a rhythm game with button indicators appearing on the screen with a time limit to the corresponding button. There is the Split Opinion, the remaining students will take sides on a matter. One side will make arguments and the player side will refute them. There are keywords in each argument that will need be to match with the rebuttal. When all the statements are lined up properly it is just about matching the button shown on the screen to push the other side back. The button will change over time.
That’s a lot of mechanics in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony worth discussing. The trials had one other change from a story stand-point I felt, they had more emotion. I already early on that the character felt more development. Through that, there creates a deeper connection as a player and even more of loss when they become the victim or the killer. It can be downright depressing at times. I have to praise the game for doing it because it created a sense of despair. A running tone throughout the series and the overall purpose of the Killing Game.
There are still some issues. The script for one has become far more vulgar and graphics. That area of dialogue tends to come from select characters more than others. It is leaned very heavy on and sometimes got to be too much. If it was meant for humor and to lighten some of the more depressing aspects of the story I did not get that take. On a more technical side, the voice volume plays extremely low. I needed to increase the volume of Voice to the max and decrease the music and sound effects to get a good balance.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has become my favorite of the series. It made not just the concept memorable, but the characters and story memorable. The setting isn’t cumbersome to navigate. The twists in the story were odd at times, but not completely illogical for the sake of being random. It is an amazing game and to apprieate, it fully would require playing the prior games of the series. There are plenty of references to grasp from anime and movies. It will reference the previous games of the series and future games with an Easter Egg for Ultra Despair Girls 2.