- Utterly unique
- Won’t scare off new players too badly
- Debate systems are engaging
- Breaks the fourth wall constantly
- Sticks very rigidly to the same formula as before
- Depiction of women is uncomfortable
- Genuinely too odd on occasion
- Review Price: £39.99
Available on PS4 (version tested), PS Vita and PC
If you’ve played any of the previous Danganronpa games this will come as no surprise to you, but it’s important to establish for those that haven’t: this is one of the most bizarre games you’ll ever experience. Drowning in Japanese culture and its incredibly unique approach to titles like this, developer Spike Chunsoft keeps things mostly as they were in terms of what a fan would expect from a third entry in the main franchise but good grief, is that still utterly original.
Focusing on a group of schoolchildren who have been kidnapped, events take a drastic turn almost instantly because the only way to escape is to kill a fellow classmate and get away with it. If that sounds incredibly dark it’s because it is, and yet Danganronpa somehow manages to introduce such themes without ever plunging too far into the madness. It’s a balance that even after hours of play I don’t understand how it was achieved, but it is helped hugely by how keen the game is to break the fourth wall.
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While some of the translation leaves a lot to be desired – you’ll either be baffled or in tears of laughter – V3 Killing Harmony has no problems in giving a wink and a nod to the player, and it’s here where the true appeal lies. It’s almost like you’re one with the game and are going through it together, the journey mostly consisting of how weird everything can, and will, get. It’s wonderful, though, because – as mentioned – it does stop events from taking too dark a turn and instead becomes a charming pile of nonsense that isn’t afraid of pulling any punches.
This is helped further because much like a Phoenix Wright, you don’t really play Danganronpa as much as you interact with it. Unraveling almost in the same way as a novel would, you jump from scene to scene as the story unfolds, triggering when you’d like to move forward. You’ll still be very active within these moments – there’s mini-games which range from bonkers to downright awful – the major action coming in the form of debates.
Feeling very similar to Capcom’s classic lawyer once again, you’ll be tasked with keeping up with dialogue and trying to figure out who is saying what, who is telling the truth and, most importantly, backing up your side of the argument when pushed on it. Each of these transpires in a separate way from the other to keep it fresh, and the latter especially is both oddly entertaining and trying.
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Known as a ‘Scrum Debate’, it’s like a game of tennis, only the ball is two classes yelling about who killed who. You’ll know which side of the fence you fall on, meaning it’s essential you make logical and smart points in order to make your team sound like they’re not lying through their teeth. To call it different would be a huge understatement but you can’t help but get into it after a while. It’s, somehow, rather addictive.
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By this stage there’s every chance you’re terrified by what Danganronpa is and that’s perfectly fair, but it’s really quite astonishing how the developer has handled this for a new audience. While there is a learning curve as you begin to understand the structure in place, no prior knowledge is needed which is an accomplishment all of its own. Naturally fans of the series will appreciate it more at first, but aside from the madness, the barrier to entry is actually quite low given how other worldly this can be.
It’s a huge plus, too because there is a lot here to enjoy, the cast of characters in particular. None come across like anyone that truly exists thanks to the sheer lunacy at play, but they are all very distinct entities, and no one ever outshines another. This is important because you’ll be doing a lot of talking throughout V3 Killing Harmony, and knowing there’s a range of personalities to unravel is just far more interesting than a bunch of bland faces yelling at each other in a room. Surprisingly a few of these individuals are actually quite quiet, too, which can serve as a huge slab of relief.
It would be silly to suggest this wasn’t a niche because it absolutely is, but it’s also one of those titles that’s worth trying because there’s every chance it surprises you and opens up a whole new idea of what a video game can be. It doesn’t play by the traditional rules, but knows exactly what it wants to be. In short, Danganronpa is a confident nutjob.
There is absolutely something here, however, and if you’re fan of the weird and wacky you owe it to yourself to at least play the first few hours. The representation of women leaves a lot to be desired, but that seems like a redundant point to make within in this field as it comes with the territory. It doesn’t make it right, of course, but is worth keeping mind and this is not the time nor place to tackle it.
Still, Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony is a success for all the wrong reasons. And, I think, that’s a good thing…
Danganronpa is lunacy personified where games are concerned but does do a very good job in keeping the series going and make it accessible to newcomers, too. A crazy RPG experience.