Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review

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With more than a hint of Capcom’s Ace Attorney and plenty of Battle Royale thrown in for good measure (the Japanese movie rather than the video game), the surprisingly successful Danganronpa receives its third mainline entry and its first to go directly to home consoles.

Now, allow me to be clear – when I say ‘surprisingly successful’, I’m not for a second suggesting that there is anything wrong with the quality of the series – other than the decidedly average spin-off, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, all of the mainline games have been largely fantastic – it’s just that, well, Danganronpa, beyond the utterly incomprehensible name (it supposedly means ‘bullet refutation’ which, yeah, doesn’t really help at all), is really rather bonkers. It’s a great premise, but not one that necessarily screams Western success.

But success it has had – it’s hardly GTA, but for a niche concept released, initially at least, on a very niche handheld, Danganronpa has proven to be the very definition of a cult hit thanks to its great premise, solid gameplay, and above all else, fantastic cast of characters, something that once again shines through in the catchily named, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.

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You could argue that the formula is starting to feel a tad stale and that, despite some genuinely fantastic moments, that this is the weakest of the mainline series, but even with these issues, Danganronpa V3, thanks largely to its surprisingly complex tone and utterly compelling cast of characters, remains a brilliantly written and uniquely emotional video game experience.

With its more grounded narrative (well, as grounded as Danganronpa could ever hope to be), the cases, that once again play out in a very similar fashion to Ace Attorney, are predicated on events that could conceivably happen. It’s something that the more fantastical second game moved away from, but a narrative choice that certainly helps to deliver a more relatable collection of cases, and subsequently, a more relatable cast of characters. And as always, it’s the games’ fantastic cast of characters that ultimately elevates Danganronpa above its peers. Sure, Monokuma (and his cubs!?) remains something of a mystery, but over the 30+ hours that you will spend with these characters as you try to decipher who the murderer is in each suitably bonkers mock trial, you’ll likely find yourself becoming surprisingly attached and subsequently emotionally impacted when they die.

And die they will. As per previous games in the series, the core plot remains largely unchanged with a group of teens abducted and made to take part in mock trials that force them to murder other students and attempt to get away with it, lest they all be killed á la Battle Royale (only, y’know, with fewer students and no Takeshi Kitano). Each scenario is separated into a specific case that includes investigations and interrogations, and most of them are actually pretty good. Some are certainly better than others, but like previous games in the series, the standard remains pretty high throughout. Sure, very little has changed in the grand scheme of things, and the quality of content is a tad uneven, but for the most part, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony represents yet another strong entry in to what has become a very impressive trilogy of games.

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As good as it might be though, it really is more of the same. The only elements that really set this latest entry apart from its predecessors is the ability to lie, something that can dramatically change the direction of the narrative, and the inclusion of additional mini-games, something that will please as many as it annoys. The mini-games in Danganronpa have never been its strong point, but the ones here are largely decent (if admittedly simplistic from a  purely mechanical perspective) and successfully play in to the themes and actions of each trial. Some will see this as unnecessary padding, but I for one found these breaks from the core gameplay loop a welcome change of pace.

It might be a touch too long, and yes, it is very similar to its predecessors, but Danganronpa remains a winning formula, one that works just as well on PS4 as it did on PS Vita. That successful mix of Battle Royale and Ace Attorney feels as unique as ever and its dark humour married to its surprisingly dramatic narrative combine to create a game as funny as it is emotionally complex. The characters are consistently brilliant, and while the additional mini-games will annoy some, they certainly don’t distract from what is a largely fantastic and utterly compelling gaming experience.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
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  • Graphics - 8/10
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  • Sound - 8/10
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  • Replay Value - 8/10
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Summary

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is best described as a mix of Battle Royale and Ace Attorney.