Danganronpa is returning this month, with Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. The North American publishers of the series, NIS America, released the demo of V3 a few weeks back. The demo highlights new mechanics and sets up the new cast of characters. Having the exact same premise of the past two games, Killing Harmony centers around sixteen teens trapped in a secluded area and forced to take part in a killing game orchestrated by a devious bear named Monokuma. To win the killing game, one of the teens needs to kill one of their classmates and successfully convince the rest of the characters that they are innocent. A trial is performed to determine who the culprit is, and if the murder isn’t voted guilty by the majority, everyone besides the killer will be executed. However, if the correct murder is chosen in the trial, then only the murder will be executed.
The demo has you take control of the protagonist of Killing Harmony, Kaede Akamatsu, and allows you to walk around a mysterious campus. The demo has three stages, similar to how chapters are set up in the previous games but only shorter. The first stage has you walk around and talk with the fifteen other students in the building. The demo even has Makoto Naegi and Hajime Hinata, the protagonists from the previous two Danganronpa games, among the students. They give Kaede hints and clues in how to play the game. There is a very Meta story here, as both Makoto and Hajime are aware of the nature of the demo and how it won’t affect the events of the main game’s narrative. Monokuma goes along with it as well, constantly calling the Makoto, Hajime, and Kaede the protagonists.
The second stage is an investigation, where you walk around to find clues to uncover the mystery of the murder case. The third stage is the main meat of the demo; the demo ends on the trial, where you and the other characters need to find out who is the true culprit. It is during the trial that players discover the new mechanics of the games. New mini-games are included, and most of them feel more polished than the mini-games found in Danganronpa 2. Whereas the mini-games in 2 felt more like padding and tedious, the games in V3 are easier to do and overall more fun to play with. Mind Mine, which is a puzzle-style mini-game in which the player destroys blocks in order to uncover images hidden underneath, is probably the newest edition I like the most. The main goal of the trial is to find the truth among the evidence and having to debate with the others to convince them to agree with you.
Aesthetically the game takes the exact same anime-style that the past games had. The disproportion bodies and bright colors give the series a very cartoony look. The demo, in general, looks very beautifully; it is easily the best looking Danganronpa game yet. The details in the character designs are more elaborate, the colors pop more so than they did in the other games, and the graphics are definitely a step up from the past installments. The improved visuals is most likely due to the fact that V3 is the first game in the series to be released on the PS4 first, rather than on the Vita. A Vita version will be released along with the PS4 though, so if you want to have a Vita version of the game that is still an option.
The Danganronpa series has always had dark themes and complex narratives that contradict with its cartoonish visuals. V3 is no different; while the overall moral message in the franchise has always been about hope versus despair, V3 adds a new layer in that debate with the concept of lying. The protagonist has a choice to lie during the trial, which was an impossibility in the last two games. The point of the lie was to get to the real truth and seems like it would be a major gameplay mechanic in the main game. One of the other characters is a constant liar, making up evidence and stories in order to confuse the rest of the characters.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is also the first game in the series where a good chunk of the main cast does not seem to be innocent or likable teenagers. Danganronpa casts of 1 and 2 consisted of likable characters that make it legitimately hard to imagine anyone killing anyone, which is why it was always heartbreaking to discover who killed who in each trial. A vast majority of V3 cast look very suspicious, with half of them giving the impression that they are capable of killing anyone. There is a particular mask-wearing weirdo who I would be shocked it does not turn out to be one of the murders in the full game. Some of the other cast members also do not come across as welcome as past characters as well, with many characters treating the main protagonist rudely.
It is not to say that the cast isn’t fun, as there is a lot of hilarious dialogue and interactions with them. If anything, the new direction with the cast only helps to highlight the darker tone that V3 takes and helps elevate the stakes. Monokuma is as gloriously despicable as he was in past entries of the series. The music is also still awesome, with several classic tracks returning.
The main issue of the demo is that it suddenly stops, leaving a very unsatisfying feeling in the end. It is especially unfulfilling because the trial in the demo will not be in the main game, so there will not be resolution to it. Though the demo all but confirms the trial is really just a hoax, it doesn’t really do much to make the demo feel satisfying in the end. Despite that, the demo is still very much a joy to play with. If you like the past Danganronpa games, than you will like the demo and most likely Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony in general.