One of the greatest compliments I could ever give a game is that long after the credits roll, its ending stuck with me. Of these select near-masterpieces, there are very few to name. However, Danganronpa V3 joins that group without a doubt in my mind. Not only is its ending unforgettable, but its story, characters, and several of its cases are the finest the series has ever seen.
In the days since its completion, I've reflected on what Danganronpa V3 means to me and because of such, haven't had the desire to really play anything else at all. Most of my time thinking has been on attempting to piece together my feelings on this third entry in the series. That said, it isn't all well and good.
Danganronpa V3 will no doubt be the most polarizing game in the survival series, with many controversial and puzzling decisions made. For me, though, it is everything I wanted and more. It easily matches and exceeds the highest peaks that the franchise has ever achieved, in addition to its lowest points.
Danganronpa V3 - The Brady Bunch of Danganronpa
Before we get into the unfortunate mishaps V3 makes, let's begin with its strongest asset: its cast. The 16 students you will meet in this survival game - where successfully killing a classmate and getting away with it results in becoming the winner - are the most flawlessly written characters in the history of the series.
From the most compelling protagonist to date in Kaede to the mysterious Maki to my personal favorite Kaito, every single one of them is worthy of the spotlight and will most definitely have a fanbase dedicated to each. While the previous games always had their standouts, there was always the bunch that were clearly throwaways, meant to simply fill the roster.
That isn't the case here. Of the 16, I would argue there's only one character that could've been missing and the story wouldn't hurt, and even they had one of the strongest motivations you have ever seen. There is another person whom I hate with a burning, unrelenting passion, and it's only because they are so well written.
Even more evidence is shown how much care was put into V3's students when you look at the first victim in the game. What could - and previously was - a relatively pointless character just meant to get the killing started, actually had a greater effect on the overarching plot than almost any other person to date.
I could go on and on for days about this wonderful cast, but it would quickly delve into spoiler territory, so I'll refrain. Just know that each of the 16 go on an emotional rollercoaster that shapes them and molds them into someone completely different by the end. Everyone encounters character development in some form, and that is reason enough for you to not miss out on V3.
Danganronpa V3 - A Polarizing Plot
On the other hand, the plot that binds together the cast will be its most divisive ever. Going into detail would, of course, be spoilers but for series veterans, you'll know to expect twists regarding the overarching story. V3 kicks it up countless notches by presenting numerous twists and turns over the course of the game.
It's almost to the point of being too much, and is similar to its cousin Zero Time Dilemma in how controversial it will be for longtime fans. V3 has a clear message it wants to convey that isn't completely apparent until near the end, but it certainly beats the player over the head with it endlessly.
At times, it even takes itself too far. The final act of the game lacks so much of the poise and elegance that made Danganronpa 2's heartbreaking revelations so impacting, in favor of force feeding you its moral of the day even though you're already full.
Interestingly enough, V3 does a surprisingly great job of ushering in new players to the series by smartly brushing you up on the previous games bit by bit as you play, so we totally recommend jumping in if you're new.
Danganronpa V3 - A Tale of Two Cases
The game is bookend by two of the greatest cases in the game's history. In fact, the entire second half of V3 is almost flawless, minus the above complaints. Each one is so complex, intelligent, and uses its own established rules to turn itself on its head. It's a testament to these cases that the very first one - another usual throwaway meant as a tutorial - will probably go down as my favorite case in all three games.
While several of the cases are easily the strongest, it almost feels like the team forgot to pour into a couple of the middle chapters. They themselves had a lot of potential and were setup well, but ultimately fell flat and forgot what got them there. And the final case I mentioned earlier? It goes on far longer than any other case and well past what it should have.
That isn't such a problem in and of itself, since you can pace yourself as you like, but the gameplay doesn't help. Though most of the game is simply walking around the school and reading dialogue, the actual game comes into play when there is a death.
Like the Ace Attorney series, you investigate the murder scene and then duke it out in a courtroom. Investigating has been streamlined greatly in V3, with a new feature that at the press of a button will show you all of the items in the room that can be interacted with. For the first time, you don't have to point and click every pixel of the screen to find all of the evidence.
Unfortunately, the same can't be said with the trials. In the courtroom, you experience the real action where you shoot truth bullets at an opponent's statement, play crazy taxi in your head to figure out the truth, and battle the culprit in a rhythm-based trial.
Everything has been amped up to 100 in Danganronpa V3. Even the classic non-stop debate has new additions like three people talking onscreen at once and the element of lying. While new additions like the psyche taxi are great, the rest like the minesweeper minigame and rhythm battle are frustrating at best.
The difficulty of the trials aren't nearly as bad as in previous games, but it does have an unfair and unexpected difficulty spike in the second half, including one section that had me stumped longer than any other before it. The reason for that, though, was mainly due to V3's poor localization.
Danganronpa V3 - Localization Woes
Whether due to time constraints or what have you, V3 is plagued by localization problems. Though the translation was on point and it doesn't technically hinder from successfully conveying its story, I was constantly barraged by more grammar mistakes and unnecessary bugs than I've seen really ever in a mainstream game.
The very first words you see when the important opening cutscene of the game plays are even messed up, something you would think would've had a lot of people seeing during development. It's almost as if there wasn't a single person double-checking everything and that there were no QA assigned.
During trials, you will frequently see the words during a non-stop debate appear as if someone is typing them into the game right then. By far, the most astonishing mistake is during one of the classic closing argument sections where you have to recap the murder in order.
In it, a specific question is so poorly written that I couldn't understand what it was asking and ended up having to try every single option until I got the right one. This is in direct contrast to V3's phenomenal presentation. The jump to PS4 is immediately noticeable in terms of graphics.
The beloved 2.5D artstyle the series is famous for pops more than ever. The environments, color palette, and character designs are memorable. Everything from the animation to the aesthetics are brimming with this cyberpunk-esque theme that makes the game truly shine.
Danganronpa V3 - Conclusion
There's no doubt that Danganronpa V3 has its issues, the localization and forced message to name a few. Despite my gripes with those, I can't help but be amazed by its story, characters, and cases. Above all else, V3 is the highest point for the series. Though it is certain to be polarizing and divisive among its fanbase, it comes just inches short of being a masterpiece in my book.
Whether you are a newcomer or a hardcore fan, you can jump in right now and have an experience that you won't soon forget. It kept me up late at night trying to piece together the truth, wanting to play it every moment I wasn't, and cementing itself in my mind as an unforgettable game and the best in the Danganronpa series.
Cody Perez is an Editor at Game Revolution. You can follow him on Twitter @SoulcapCody.
A PS4 copy of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony was provided by its publisher. PC and PS Vita versions are also available.