Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Anniversary Edition

 

Review by · January 12, 2022

Any beloved series strives to go out with a bang. As numerous installments pass, players’ hopes build until they can’t accumulate further. It’s at this peak that Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony Anniversary Edition sits, the culmination of the series’s distinctive assemblage of gameplay systems and narrative-bending themes. Each piece that comprises Danganronpa‘s one-of-a-kind puzzle is polished to the point that the very idea of Danganronpa reflects off of each surface.

Danganronpa‘s unique blend of different gameplay styles is at its very best in V3. Testimonies are stimulating both mentally and visually. Words race and vault across the screen in a way that simultaneously matches what’s being said and keeps players alert. As the game progresses, accounts of items being moved get carried away by fellow sentences and hypotheses about stabbings get struck through. These testimonies are the pinnacle of the series because of the quirky execution as well as effective case writing. Danganronpa V3‘s mystery-solving features far fewer leaps of logic compared to some past series cases, so players can focus on figuring out whodunnit as they use the class trial to synthesize the information they’ve gathered during investigation.

Hangman’s Gambit is also the best it’s ever been. What started as a not-so-puzzling nor strategic spelling quiz in the first Danganronpa and grew into a more puzzle-oriented spelling pileup in Danganronpa 2 is now a memory game. The minigame now offers more letters—both in terms of number and type—to make the process of completing the missing word smoother for players who already know the word and for those who need a little push to figure it out. All the while, the memory aspect of letters going dark maintains the mode’s puzzle-like flair.

Also returning from a past game are rebuttals, now in prime form. Not only does the sword’s visual indicator make the process of cutting through arguments easier to accommodate for, but the words move in at much more manageable speeds compared to Danganronpa 2. In fact, all of V3 has a smoother difficulty curve than 2, as testimonies speed up and more truth bullets appear at a reasonable pace rather than just dumping players right into the deep end from the start. All of V3 benefits from this perfected difficulty curve, but it’s especially noticeable in the vastly improved rebuttals, where an overload of truth blades combined with far too fast testimony resulted in mindless swiping back in 2.

Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony Anniversary Edition screenshot of a Mass Panic Debate with three students speaking over each other.
Many different pieces make up V3‘s trials, but they’re all executed with such polish that they help keep the process engaging rather than feeling overwhelming.

Logic Dive, the snowboarding spectacle also introduced in Danganronpa 2, was far more enjoyable than rebuttals, and even it returns new and improved in V3. The Psyche Taxi is a racing minigame where players pick up blocks to fill in the blank questions, then move into the right lane to answer it. Mastering the delicate balance between directing and accelerating the vehicle further adds to the mode’s fun factor, and even more enjoyment is added to the process thanks to the absolutely phenomenal music track associated with it.

Music is one area no Danganronpa game has ever missed the mark in due to Masafumi Takada’s unquestionably masterful compositions, and V3 features plenty of mixes of classic series tunes that are just as good as their originals. In addition, the entirely new tracks are absolute bangers that will imprint themselves into players’ minds with ease. It’s almost preferred to take as long as possible during testimonies and Psyche Taxi just to get to hear their fantastic music. V3 is a game worth booting up for its music player function alone.

Another extra feature worth opening V3 for is the casino. The trial’s refined minigames, including a fun minesweeper-meets-color-matching puzzle game Mind Mine, are just plain fun enough to want to play on their own, and players can do just that in the casino. Accessed either through free time in the main game or the Extras menu like the music player, the casino includes more generalized, less trial-themed versions of these games. In the casino version of Hangman’s Gambit, for example, the goal is to catch the right colored fish rather than spell out words. The casino also enhances V3’s already strong gameplay diversity by offering worthwhile rewards redeemable with the coins earned during these games, including casino-exclusive skills to use during trials and alternate menu themes based on the game’s different characters.

Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony Anniversary Edition screenshot of Kaito encouraging Shuichi.
V3‘s spectacular set of characters gets to shine through brilliant writing as well as a large collection of splendid CGs.

Although these menu themes have no practical value gameplay-wise, they may still be what players end up prioritizing their coins on because of Danganronpa V3’s appealing, phenomenal cast. No character in V3 feels needless or disposable—they each have their own irreplaceable role in the story, and many manage to break out of their founding tropes thanks to distinct character arcs that some characters in previous series titles notably lacked. All the while, players will get plenty of opportunities to see (literally) this all-star cast of newcomers with an extensive number of lovely CG illustrations sprinkled throughout the game. Danganronpa’s graphics, both 2D and 3D, have naturally improved with each passing game, and V3 makes the most of its peak visuals with plentiful pictures and the occasional—but still impressive—3D animations.

The story V3’s cast resides in beautifully builds upon the themes, both basic and bizarre, that prior Danganronpa games have explored. Everything, right down the characters’ Ultimate talents, has a role to play in delivering a story that is more relevant now than it’s ever been—and that story fits perfectly into the world of Danganronpa, elevating the series’ ideas to astronomical heights. Players will get the most out of its twists and turns by playing the other games in the series first, but V3 is a journey worth embarking on and a destination worth striving for.

To get to the end of this journey, however, one must get through the game, and it’s in this one area that V3’s execution fails compared to its predecessors: V3 isn’t very well optimized on Nintendo Switch. The game crashed six times throughout my playthrough, while I never experienced any such issues with the first two anniversary editions on Switch. It can be easy to alleviate the damage of a crash by consistently saving, but V3’s stellar writing ironically works against it here: because of the smooth difficulty curve for trials, it’s nearly effortless getting into a groove and just continuing without worrying about stopping the game to save. Game crashes are already bad enough, but they really snatch the player out of their immersion when they feel as though they have to save after every trial segment when they otherwise wouldn’t need to.  

Danganronpa V3 Killing Harmony Anniversary Edition screenshot of Monokuma praising themes in works of fiction.
What if Danganronpa V3… was an esteemed work of fiction… with magnificent themes… Aha ha, just kidding… Unless…?

I’d be lying if I said the crashes ruined my experience of V3; excessive saving felt like a small price to pay to keep the game’s engaging escapades going. And once they were over, the bonus content that unlocked was not only free from technical issues but also surprisingly copious. The “post-game” goals of previous Danganronpa titles are to get any remaining character events and use coins earned during trials to unlock art and music—a worthwhile endeavor, to be sure, but one that is completed quickly and without much engagement. V3, on the other hand, includes a board game mode where players can power up “cards” of their favorite characters. It’s a simple but addictive feature, contributing to many additional hours poured into the title—and it doesn’t come alone.

Players can take the cards they’ve strengthened into an RPG mode consisting of 100 floors of dungeon exploration and turn-based battles. Making your way as far as possible in the dungeon, returning to get new cards, training those cards, and sending them back into the dungeon is an unexpectedly captivating cycle that further adds to V3’s successes. With the greatest amount of additional content, V3 entices players to return to the game long after they’ve completed its main story.

While it’s true that players who can pick up a PlayStation edition of V3 may be best off doing so to avoid the hiccups of the Switch (and PC) port, it’s also true that V3 is a phenomenal experience that shouldn’t be missed regardless of the system it’s played on. By bringing what Danganronpa does best to its natural apex, Danganronpa V3 allows fans to experience the systems and themes of the series in their purest form, with all the fluff and frills set aside as meaningful bonus content. The result is a magical cast, gripping story, mind-bending ideas, and outstanding gameplay and mystery-solving that leaves an unforgettable impression—and that’s no lie.


Pros

Stellar cast, heavenly music, astronomical amount of bonus content, cosmic control of themes in a story that is inherently "Danganronpa."

Cons

Crashes can conjure catastrophe.

Bottom Line

The only thing holding this particular edition of V3 back are the crashes and occasional lag; otherwise, Danganronpa V3 is the absolute peak of the Danganronpa series and should not be missed.

Graphics
92
Sound
95
Gameplay
95
Control
87
Story
95
Overall Score 92
DISCLAIMER
This article is based on a free copy of a game/album provided to RPGFan by the publisher or PR firm. This relationship in no way influenced the author's opinion or score (if applicable). Learn more on our ethics & policies page. For information on our scoring systems, see our scoring systems overview.
Niki Fakhoori

Niki Fakhoori

Video games have been an important element of my life since early childhood, and RPGs are the games that gave me the opportunity to branch out of my “gaming comfort zone” when I was a wee lass. I’ve always spent a good deal of my time writing and seeking value in the most unsuspecting places, and as such I’ve come to love writing about games, why they work, how they can improve, and how they affect those who play them.