When it comes to genre blends like visual novels with adventure games, the Danganronpa and Ace Attorney franchises are the most popular. Danganronpa started out on the PSP in Japan and eventually has seen releases on PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4, and Steam in English speaking regions. The first two games are classics and an essential package for anyone who likes interesting and unique stories. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the first of the mainline games to release across PS4, PS Vita, and Steam together. It does a lot of things well but has a few issues that soured my overall experience in comparison to the first two games.
If you’re new to Dangnanronpa, I suggest not reading this review and just getting Danganronpa 1 and Danganronpa 2. Both are available on Steam or PS4 in a package if you don’t own a Vita. V3 has some moments that spoil the original games and I would not recommend this as an entry point for newcomers. The best order would be Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc into Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair into Ultra Despair Girls before jumping into Killing Harmony.
You play as an Ultimate in the academy which has 16 students who are all Ultimates at something. These range from the Ultimate Pianist to Cosplayer and more. No one remembers why they are here and eventually the Monokubs show up. These are Monokuma’s offspring and he makes an entrance soon after them. The aim of surviving and graduating or basically freedom here is killing someone and trying to avoid being caught. Class trials happen where everyone tries to find out who killed in a particular area. If everyone votes for the actual killer, he or she will be executed. If the vote is wrong, the killer is free and graduates while everyone else is punished. There are a lot of twists and crazy moments in the story but the experience has a lot of padding. It took me nearly 55 hours to finish just the main story here which is nearly double of the previous games. This is because trials are much longer in addition to the non trial story moments also being super long.
Gameplay involves free time and story segments where you get to befriend and get closer to the other students. These moments end in you earning Fragments that are useful to buy skills for use in trials. There’s a murder that happens every few days and this leads to an investigation where you try and find clues. Once the investigation ends, the class trial begins. The flow is the same as the other main games but everything is drawn out. Once a trial concludes, you have some more free time as more areas of the school open up for you to explore. Interacting with characters and having certain items from the school store might reward you with extra scenes.
Visually, this is definitely the biggest budget Spike Chunsoft game. Unfortunately, there are some areas that look straight up bad. Some assets and textures are too low resolution for the big screen. I don’t get how a game made for PS4 and Vita from the start has such low resolution assets on PS4. Performance is not amazing on eveyrthing. I tried all 3 platforms and noticed that inspecting something or interacting with someone has a random delay during the animation. This is quite annoying compared to how speedy the first two games are. The UI on the other hand looks amazing and trials themselves with the debate sections look amazing. Some of the trial minigames like Psyche Taxi are terrible both visually and gameplay wise. Having played Danganronpa V3 on both Vita and PS4, the higher resolution and better framerate are not a good enough trade off for me when I can just touch to interact with something on the Vita screen.
NIS America’s localization is something I’ve enjoyed for all Danganronpa games despite many people claiming that characters are different from the Japanese versions. Masafumi Takada’s music here is a combination of redone versions of classic Danganronpa music and original music. He has done an amazing job for sure along with the voice actors in both English and Japanese. Japanase voice acting on Vita will be available around release in addition to a high quality audio patch.
Without getting into any spoilers, there are some twists here that will make or break your overall experience. I loved them but they don’t make up for story padding and poor pacing in the middle. There was no need to extend the game to nearly double the length at the cost of pacing. The ending is most definitely one that will be talked about for a long time among visual novel enthusiasts.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony on the Vita is not the best Danganronpa game for sure. It is worth playing for fans but Spike Chunsoft needs to take a good look at why people are fans of the franchise in the first place. It most definitely isn’t annoying trial minigames or overdone animations. I look forward to seeing people react to the concluding moments of Killing Harmony.
- New characters are nice
- Brilliant soundtrack
- Crazy good ending
- Lots of twists
- Some trials are painfully long
- Pacing issues
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has one of the best endings for an adventure game and only suffers due to bad pacing and length.