The delightfully dark and twisted Monokuma is back, this time with his bloodthirsty children the Monokubs, to play another devilish killing game in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. With the other games in the franchise recently being re-released on PS4, you should be geared up and ready for another murder mystery adventure filled with zany characters, over-the-top writing and addictive class trials. Even if you’re new to the franchise, this is still a fantastic opportunity to see what all the fuss is about and why such a cult following for the series exists.
Another group of Ultimate students the best in their field have been gathered and locked away to participate in a game where the only way to escape is to kill another student, and get away with it. Majority of the experience is spent getting to know characters and learning their personalities, until a murder occurs, requiring you to investigate crime scenes, gather evidence and check alibis before a trial takes place, putting your detective skills to the test.
Wandering around in free time is the least interesting portion of the game, but the calm nature of this is intentionally contrast by the crazy twists and turns that the narrative inevitably takes. Environments are intentionally simple with a cardboard cut-out like quality, but that doesn’t mean they’re uninteresting. Characters in particular show a lot of emotion with their reactions, and the details of crime scenes are well thought-out and never without purpose. Slowly moving around in sections where you’re unable to fast-travel is sort of a pain, though.
None of Danganronpa V3 would work without a cast of quirky, memorable students, and this sequel is no exception. While they initially feel like caricatures with obvious differences, as the trials unfold and murders start taking place, they react to the extreme circumstances accordingly, getting more and more depth as you spend time with them. Some are definitely more likable than others, like the enthusiastic Kaede and the sort of dopey-but-cute Gonta, while there are mysteries surrounding other characters like Maki and Rantaro who keep you at arm’s length despite the extraordinary situation you share with them.
Dialogue is well-written and capitalizes incredibly well on everyone’s unique traits; inevitably, not everybody is going to get on well with their peers, while others form close friendships with each other, making their testimonials during the Class Trials questionable. Are they trying to protect someone or are they being truthful? Perhaps they’re throwing somebody under the bus because they have a personal vendetta against them? It’s tricky and fun to navigate, always keeping you questioning who you can really trust… if anyone.
“…the Class Trials can be emotionally exhausting in the best way…”
Class Trials themselves are intense by nature, but they also feel a little overwhelming at first with so many elements to keep track of at once. Different stages of the trials require you to find contradictions in characters statements, using the evidence you’ve collected. They last a while, so they can be emotionally exhausting in the best way, as you debate back and forth and try to figure out who the culprit is. The editing here is on point, with well-written dialogue really keeping you engaged and smart visuals shifting around the stage.
There are some smart mini-games in the mix that ensure you’re never too comfortable with proceedings, but more importantly it’s the twists and turns that will keep you on edge in Danganronpa V3, as characters you genuinely feel a kinship with begin to get killed off, and even more heartbreaking, are revealed to be calculated killers. While some of these outcomes land more successfully than others, it kept me enthralled and invested, the stakes always feeling high with my friends’ lives on the line.
Insane game-master bear Monokuma is as delightfully violent and malicious as ever, this time with his children, the five Monokubs, by his side. They enter each scene excitedly, arguing among themselves and often times completely going off on tangents, to the point where the students have to reign them back in. They’re still bloodthirsty, but they’re a very welcome colourful distraction from the serious tone that the rest of the game takes, complete with lots of puns, punctuated by a cheerful “So long, bear well!” as they leave each scene. For a bunch of sadistic psychopaths, they’re actually quite endearing.
The Bottom Line
The insane combination of memorable characters, twisted sense of humour and dark subject matter remains a unique mix, and is unlike anything else I’ve ever played. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony doesn’t change what made the series so engaging to begin with, simply crafting another enjoyable tale of suffering and despair. That may not sound fun to you, but it doesn’t take long at all for the strange narrative to suck you in, and once it grabs hold of you, you won’t want it to let go.