"Danganronpa V3 seems like a must-play for fans of the series, with the only tough decision being whether to buy on PS4 or PS Vita."
The Danganronpa saga consists of two adventure games, one shooting game, two anime series, and a handful of light novels and manga. Through those stories, at least thirty exceptional students and alumni of Hope's Peak Academy die horrifically, typically under tragic circumstances of bloodshed and betrayal. And the blood is always a shocking electric pink. With Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, another chapter of the twisted Japanese murder mystery series is on the books.
Danganronpa V3 is the third Danganronpa adventure game, fitting the basic framework of the first two Danganronpa PSP titles, which first arrived in English-speaking territories as PS Vita ports. A group of students is trapped in a mysterious space (a locked school in the first Danganronpa and a tropical island in the second), with killing a classmate as the only means of escape. Whenever a student dies, the survivors hold a trial to determine the killer. If the killer is correctly identified, they are executed. If the students guess wrong, then the killer goes free. This process is conducted by Monokuma, a homicidal bear robot who acts as Danganronpa's host and major antagonist.
Danganronpa V3's open demo at E3 is set in a school, much like that of the first Danganronpa, but the demo is not directly ripped from Danganronpa V3 proper. The murder victim is Yasuhiro Hagakure, the fortune-telling student from the first Danganronpa, who, amusingly, is the murder victim in every Danganronpa demo. The protagonists of the first two Danganronpa adventures, Makoto Naegi and Hajime Hinata, are also present in the demo, but not as main protagonists; that honor goes to newcomer Kaede Akamatsu, the "Ultimate Pianist."
Every major Danganronpa character is a student with a specific "ultimate" talent, even if that talent is merely the luck to win a lottery to attend Hope's Peak Academy. These students have over-the-top personalities and character designs, serving Danganronpa's absurd tone and offbeat humor. Among the new characters are an Ultimate Witch, Ultimate Maid, Ultimate Entomologist, and Ultimate Inventor. The final version of Danganronpa V3 will have sixteen characters, more than were present in the demo, and will be sans Makoto, Hajime, and Yasuhiro. Danganronpa V3 has an all-new cast, and unless there's a crazy twist of which I'm unaware, the only returning character is Monokuma. Monokuma is accompanied by five "Monokuma cubs" that also assist their "father" during the proceedings.
The demo's gameplay is consistent with the first two Danganronpa games with one key twist, plus new trial minigames. The investigation gameplay resembles an adventure game or visual novel, with Kaede checking the crime scene and interviewing other students for witness statements. When Kaede finds valuable testimony or a key piece of information, it's saved as a "Truth Bullet." The class trials resemble a Phoenix Wright cross-examination segment mixed with an arcade shooting game. During the trial phase, dialogue floats across the screen and the player uses a targeting reticle to shoot problematic statements with contradicting Truth Bullets, prompting new discussion and testimony. Unfortunately, the demo ended right at the trial's midpoint. No E3 attendees got to see who killed Yasuhiro.
New to Danganronpa V3 are "Lie Bullets," where Kaede alters Truth Bullets to attack a statement, aiming to uncover new evidence by catching other students in their own lies. In the demo, the other students realized Kaede was lying, but there were no serious consequences (the statement she challenged was also a lie). In the final game, Lie Bullets will be key to success in class trials, but using one incorrectly results in a major penalty. Danganronpa also has block-breaking, word search, and driving minigames at certain points during class trials to make logical connections. The driving game in particular was colorful and fun, with players traveling through a Las Vegas-esque desert landscape and picking up escorts based on clues.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony released in January of this year in Japan and is scheduled for a late September release in North America and Europe. A Steam release is also planned alongside the PS4/Vita versions. The full demo will come out on PSN later this summer, and players who complete the demo will receive an item or bonus in the complete game upon first playing it. The E3 demo was quite entertaining, hitting all the high notes of class trials in the first two Danganronpa games, but with crisper visuals than ever and a fascinating new gameplay feature in Lie Bullets. Danganronpa V3 seems like a must-play for fans of the series, with the only tough decision being whether to buy on PS4 or PS Vita.