Developer: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Release Date: Sep 26, 2017
Edited by KnightAvenger
The Danganronpa series is like a multi-tiered basket, each level representing a single game in the lore of the overall story, and while it has been well over a year since my last venture into the world of despair and hopelessness, it is time to see if the fourth entry into the series and third to the main staple games can hold up to its two predecessors: Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a detective, adventure, anime visual novel developed and published by Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd., that while it brings back that same feeling of false hope and depth of story that made the first two novels a memorable experience, does add a few elements that can be questionable in nature.
Starting off in a dark locker, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony does something the previous novels did not, putting us into the shoes of a female protagonist as well as someone who already had a defined trait they are good at as an ultimate, adding a new fresh element to the story. We, the reader, begin our story in a dark locker, where our protagonist Kaede Akamatsu wakes up and finds herself in what seems like an old school, as the foliage is growing in the building. The locker next to hers bursts out, revealing Shuichi, who is as curious as Kaede is. However, that exploration ends quickly, as when they are about to leave the room, a giant mech appears behind them and tries to chase them while they make a run for it. They escape, only to run into fourteen other students when the mechs from before appear in the gym with them, tossing out what appear to be uniforms of a sort and a flashback to the start of the novel less than five minutes ago, where Kaede now remembers who she is, as does everyone else. Now, with memories returned, Kaede and her friend return to the gym where-who else but-Monokuma makes his grand appearance and announces a new killing game with some new twist added to the mix. However, the students flat out refuse to kill, as they find it immoral, and set out to find their way out of the school through another means. Monokuma does not plan to make it any easier on these kids, though, as, with the help of the Monokubs, a set of five different and smaller designed Monokuma units, he threatens to kill everyone within two days if no one starts killing. Will someone kill, do they have the will to survive, and who is really controlling Monokuma are all to be revealed the farther you go down this crazy wormhole. I will end my synopsis here, as this particular novel is very story driven, leaving little to chance, but the story does its job and keeps you in suspense the whole time.
Stepping back a bit, the story provided in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has a fair number of good points but it also has a few glaring errors to be wary of. The first issue I had was the constant drag along of the story in some segments of the chapters. While the story transitioned as one would expect, there were some scenes that overstayed their welcome and quickly became stale in terms of holding the reader’s attention. These scenes, while few, were a take away from the clean and self-driven story provided. Another issue I found was the lack of Monokuma as a threatening figure, like he was in Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair. As a reader, I felt that the Monokubs took away from this figure that is supposed to be despair-inducing because he acted as more of a fatherly figure to them. While I felt this change did add a new dynamic to the character as a whole, it took away from the overall story being unraveled. My final issue came down to its core narrative. In previous novels, the kids are brought to the locations on their own, shaping the story more around the protagonist and other ultimates. However, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony turns this around, bringing the characters to the killing game. There is no absolute explanation behind it, other than Monokuma just wanting another killing game and that they were kidnapped at random times during their daily activities. This leaves a number of plot holes early on that don’t get answered until much later on.
Coming into the trial room, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony’s game play elements are more polished versions from Goodbye Despair, along with some new ones that add to the mix. Note that most of the mechanics out of the trial game play are similar, if not slightly different, so my focus will be on the revamped and new elements added into the novel’s trial system, aside from the new slap feature, which can be used to get coins to use in the Monokuma shop. The first returning feature is the hangman’s gambit but with a new twist, where you must use a flashlight to shine on the letters and make the word. Also, returning is the logic drive, now called psyche taxi, where the player has to form a question using letters as you’re driving a car. Answering the question is as simple as slowing down and allowing the student to enter the car, which was definitely harder than anticipated. Starting with the new elements come mind mine, which takes the form of a puzzle-like mini-game where your task is to form a picture by destroying blocks. The second new element is debate scrum, which takes characters from both sides to make arguments; it’s up to the player to pick out which one is true to progress the case. Finally, I want to talk about the lie bullet, one of my favorite elements they added. In previous novels, the trials ran like one smooth picture where you had all the required information from the start. With Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, they added the lie bullet, as, sometimes, the trial can get off course. By using the lie bullet at the right time, you can bring the point back into focus and progress with the trial.
My only complaint I had about the trial system was the new hangman’s gambit, as having to find the letters in the dark to get to the same point as matching letters in the previous novels felt like a step backward. The lie bullet was one of the best new elements added, though, if only as by allowing the trials to go off the rails like they did, they added this welcoming thinking factor back into the trials, something that became absent as the trials progressed in the previous stories.
Prepare those 2.5-D glasses, as the presentation of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony follows the all-prevalent animated cartoon style and catchy, but dramatic, soundtrack. Visually, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony follows that of the dual art style used in the previous novels, allowing the 2.5-D and 3-D elements to shine through the, sometimes, crazy action going down on the screen. The backgrounds are as vibrant as ever, focusing more on this “school in the drafts” kind of feel, where tall grasses and foliage grow through the complex, adding new depth and mystery to the location the students are trapped in. These, too, show off the best use of the 2.5-D to 3-D models, as the characters stand out like paper cut-outs against the flat and continuous 3-D background scenery. The character art is nicely played off of, making good use of 2.5-D art, as well as the 3-D in the cutscenes and some of the trials where full body shots were needed to show the emotion.
Pulling out that synth machine, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony’s soundtrack is one part catchy, another part dramatic, and all around well setup. The soundtrack is mostly synthetic tones, something the series has become known for, adding in those classical notes to keep it fresh, as the mood changes on a dime. My only dislike of the soundtrack is the reuse of the first theme from Trigger Happy Havoc, which has stuck as the go-to theme for the series but with no new elements to make it memorable. The sound effects make their return and there are oh-so-many to choose from. The selection and usage do vary from scene to scene, which worked towards the novel’s favor in the end, but it left an absence in the final product, where more or fewer effects would have made that scene.
Overall, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony was a great continuation in terms of its story, different play on characters, the overall quality of life adjustments to the trials, and use of the presentation although not all features added were a success. The excellent writing, alternated story design, colorful cast of characters, addition of the lie bullet to shake up the trials, general improvements to the trials, continuous presentation between novels, vibrant and colorful backgrounds, and use of soundtrack make for a novel that stands out among the series.
- Excellent writing with the alternated story design
- A new colorful cast of characters to grow with
- Addition of the lie bullet to spice up the trials
- Overall general improvements to the trial systems and mechanics
- A continuous presentation between all novels
- The vibrant and colorful backgrounds
- Use of the soundtrack as a building piece
- Over 30 hrs of reading time and action
- Story can drag on in some places and general narrative issues
- New hangman’s gambit felt like a step back in game play
- Intro song feels flat after so many uses
DarkLunarDude gives Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony a Drastik Measure 8.0 out of 10.0 (80)
For the price of $59.99 (USD) on Steam, I can recommend Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony to those who enjoy a good murder mystery as well as to those who seek a challenging novel, as the story and trials get progressively more difficult to solve the farther you go. It is highly recommended that you play Trigger Happy Havoc and Goodbye Despair first, as the novel references spoilers and story bits from both of these novels that may confuse you otherwise.