Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review

As someone who is relatively new to the Danganronpa series, I was extremely excited to play one at release.1 Danganronpa V3 promised to be a new experience completely separated from the Hope’s Peak Arc. I initially felt like it was a wonderful addition to the series for the first five chapters, and then it went off rails in a way that is entirely unforgivable to me. I will not and can not recommend Danganronpa V3 to anybody, as it’s such a pretentious mess of a game that spits directly in the face of anyone who cares about the world of Danganronpa. Although the game has artfully crafted cases and new trial mini-games, the finale of the game ruins the rest of the game in a way that makes me sincerely hope this is the last game in the series.

 

 

MAJOR spoilers below the cut

Danganronpa V3 begins with 16 Ultimate students trapped in a high school and forced to participate in a killing game. If this sounds familiar, it’s because that’s how all the other games have functioned. However, there are a few differences. First, you’re all dressed in normal school uniforms and remember being kidnapped. Second, the Monokubs 2 change their clothes into their Ultimate personalities, wiped their memories, and started the killing game exactly as it has before.

You begin playing as Kaede, the Ultimate Pianist, who is the first mainline woman protagonist in a Danganronpa game. This in and of itself is pretty revolutionary! It was exciting, and her interactions wth her fellow participants were fascinating. They did a great job building up Kaede and Shuichi, the Ultimate Detective, as new friends and potential love interests. Kaede consistently supports her fellow classmates, and she reminded me a lot of Makoto Naegi, which is never a bad thing. However, as you play through the first trial, you begin to realize a horror that has never occurred in a Danganropa series before–you’re playing as the murderer in the case.

Through subtle hints within the first chapter, you realize that as you’ve been playing as the perpetrator of the first murder. Once Kaede is proven guilty, her execution occurs. Danganronpa is known for its crazy executions, but I do think that Kaede’s may possibly be the worst of all of them. 3 The game then shifts to Shuichi as the main protagonist of the game, and he is revealed to have the famous protagonist ahoge under his hat. While Shuichi is likable and a fine protagonist, especially with his Ultimate ability, it’s a shame that the first woman protagonist of the mainline series was discarded so quickly.

The next few cases are emotional roller coasters, and they’re especially well built. They keep you guessing, but they rarely have instances where you’re absolutely stumped as to what you should be doing. I admit fully to crying during two of the cases because of my emotional attachment to the characters. However, there is one character who is so utterly unlikable that he makes Komaeda look like a saint. Kokichi Oma may possibly be one of the worst video game characters I’ve ever encountered. Nothing about him is likable, he is obnoxious, he is evil, and he consistently is placed as a red herring in the game. Even at the very end, it is proven that he is actually primarily a trickster, which is not at all fitting with all the absolute terribleness he pulls throughout the game. Miu Iruma is also one of the worst Danganronpa characters I’ve ever run into. Extremely sexualized as it is in her design, she is also obsessed with sex and constantly is called degrading names because of her arguments throughout the trials. She puts other characters down for their bodies, which is completely unacceptable. 4

This brings up another issue–Danganronpa has always had a problem with fan service and sexualization, and nothing here has changed. There are still gratuitous moments designed as fap bait, including a changing room scene and a scene filled with sexual innuendo and art of Miu’s breasts pushed up against K1-B0. One of the worst instances of sexualization is in the form of a sort of torture porn-style scene, which made me extremely uncomfortable to watch. In Kirumi Tojo’s execution after the second trial, she is dramatically climbing a spiked rope in order to escape the school. She encounters saws, which begin removing her clothing as she climbs, as well as cutting into her skin. You repeatedly see her flinch as she is being cut, and her clothes more and more are removed as she climbs until she is left in nothing but her underwear. After she gets to the top, the rope detaches, and she falls to her death at the bottom. The game makes a point to show her bloody and in her underwear after her death. It’s very uncomfortable to watch, and it doesn’t seem accidental that the developers felt the need to unclothe this woman as she is literally dying for freedom.

While the game does a really great job of getting you attached to different characters and having strong cases throughout, the entire game becomes a sham during the sixth chapter. You get a glimpse of typical series antagonist Junko Enoshima before the sixth chapter, and it seems that it will continue the trend of “it was Junko all along.” Unfortunately, it gets worse than that. It even tries to set up Kaede having a twin who may have been the mastermind. Once the game started blatantly referencing Hope’s Peak Academy around the fifth chapter after going most of the game without it, it seemed that the team didn’t feel confident enough to create a good ending without falling back on the previous successful stories. That lack of confidence led to a disaster of an ending that ruined anything good this game had.

It is eventually revealed that Tsumugi, the Ultimate Cosplayer, was the mastermind the whole time. While this is not problematic in and of itself, what she reveals as she cycles through previous Danganronpa characters is that the killing game has been a season of a television show entitled Danganronpa, and the V3 is representative of the 53rd season. She explains that the entirety of Danganronpa, including the previous games and the anime, were all fictional and part of this television show. She says that the killing games continue because the outside world loves them.

As a fan of the series, this felt like a slap in the face. As I’ve played through the previous games and watched the anime, I became attached to the stories and characters. I cried when characters I liked died. I was happy when the protagonists were able to overcome Junko Enoshima’s despair. I mourned the loss of Chiaki Nanami twice. These games had gravity as a series where young people were forced into a situation of life and death, and the tragedies that led to a form despair apocalypse that changed the world forever in their stories. People died on rescue missions. People attempted to shelter hope. Young kids were able to overcome the worst possible situations to fight back and become a symbol to overcome despair. Although I am fully aware that these stories are fictional, they had a weight and strength that made them memorable in a way that made me care about how they turned out.

With V3, they tell you that these situations were earlier seasons of a killing game television show. They perpetually remind you that this world is fictional, and that people enjoy then killing game so it continues. While the game is trying to be meta in showing that yes, Danganronpa isn’t real and there are more because we keep buying them, it comes across as pretentious. It also completely spits on the love I had for those previous stories and characters and what they fought for. It essentially says they do not matter, and it indicates that the entire killing game is voluntary for a peaceful world. There was never an ounce of indication of this in any of the other games/anime. There was strong character and world building that explained a horrible situation that people had found themselves in. All the hard work that was previously put into the other games to show how important these characters were is gone. They say they’re all regular people with artificial back stories in a television show. I can’t accept that as a satisfactory ending to this series. I don’t think it’s clever or funny. It is mocking me for caring about these other stories. It’s one of the worst series retcons I’ve seen since the Star Wars prequel trilogy in that it removes what makes the series charming and good in the first place to replace it with try hard nonsense as some sort of statement.

To make matters worse, the final trial ends with K1-B0, Himiko, Shuichi, and Maki rejecting both hope and despair in a show against Danganronpa and the continuation of the killing game. When no one votes, the game shows K1-B0 destroy the school and self-destructing himself to create a hole within the play area of the school. If the game had ended with them rejecting hope and despair and dying along with the school, it would have felt more like they were sticking to their guns to end Danganronpa’s dichotomy. However, a post-credits scene shows that K1-B0 actually spared the lives of Himiko, Shuichi, and Maki. They climb out of the ruins, say that their lives may not be a lie, and they face going out into the world to see…with hope. Which they supposedly rejected not 10 minutes ago before the credit roll. It feels very much like the ending of Danganronpa 1, which was filled with hope in the face of a destroyed world. It’s a useless rejection in the long run, and it made me hate the choice of the ending even further.

I sincerely hope that this is the final Danganronpa game. I don’t feel that the team is capable of doing good work after this. I very rarely sell games after purchasing 5, but I sold this game after I completed it. I took it out of the system as soon as possible. This is a game that is a great (or terrible depending on your perspective of the word) example of what happens when development teams get too full of themselves. Nobody asked for some bizarro meta on why people play Danganronpa that ruins the series as a whole. They kept coming back for stories and characters that were tragic, inspirational, and well-written with good twists. After this, I will not come back because the team has proven that they’re not interested in nor capable of creating that type of narrative any longer.

  1. I only started playing them last year
  2. who are a disgrace and should’ve been my first indication that this game would not be good
  3. and I never thought that Danganronpa could surpass the brutality of Leon’s execution, but it’s definitely been done now.
  4. She often teases Himiko for having “mosquito bites” for breasts, and she condescends toward Kaede in the beginning for being flat chested, when she is nowhere near that.
  5. I still own World of Final Fantasy, and that was a hot mess of a game!

One thought on “Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Review

  1. Zach

    I have a very limited insight to Danganronpa since I’ve never played them, only watched. I absolutely sympathize with you; eagerly following or playing through a series to what should be a satisfying conclusion, only to have it completely stripped and executed in the most perverted fashion. Once you get invested in a material, it becomes difficult to reflect back even on the positive points of the franchise in a good light.

    For me, looking back at a series like Samurai Jack and I can’t comprehend just what in the hell the studio was thinking with their conclusion. I’m not alone in the sentiment regarding that, but understand a certain level of ‘author privilege’ is necessary for material to be unique. Sometimes unique, or being “clever” can still be very very wrong, unsatisfying, disappointing or frustrating. Samurai Jack’s finale bombed, and while there are a lot of moments I like in the series, I can’t look back on it as a series favorably, and that is frustrating as a fan who WANTS to like something.

    Reply

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