Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony on the Nintendo Switch is a game that provides a fitting conclusion to the Danganronpa series, making it perfect for veteran fans. Conversely, due to how the majority of the story separates itself from the established lore and characters of the first two games, it is also a good entry point for someone just dipping their toes into the Danganronpa world. Its unpredictable story makes a lasting impression, and its cast of colorful and charming characters pulls you into the world right from the get-go.
As a warning, depending on your relationship with and opinions of the first two games, the ending of Danganronpa V3 may be upsetting or frustrating. Part of it does fall onto how you choose to interpret the creators’ intent and the game’s message. When the game first came out on the PlayStation 4, the immediate response on social media was reactionary and negative.
First of all, let’s discuss the good things about it. No killing game story can work if the characters aren’t likable. The biggest threat to any story is the viewer saying “I don’t care what happens to these people.” (Un)fortunately, it’s very easy to like the entire cast, making every case upsetting no matter the victim or blackened. I was extremely invested in the survival of almost everyone.
As opposed to the previous games, where a rather large portion of the cast either remains despairingly useless or annoyingly uncooperative, all of the students in V3 contribute to both the story and class trials. Tenko and Himiko, for example, do not tend to provide meaningful insight during cases. But they retain relevancy through their interactions with other students and character development. This stands in contrast to similar legacy characters such as Hifumi and Hagakure from Danganronpa or Mioda and Akane from Danganronpa 2.
Another positive thing about the characters is that they generally seem to mean well. Though certain actions look rooted in ill will, it’s always revealed that they were acting in accordance to their own idea of what’s best. The underlying goodwill in the characters’ actions make it easier to swallow some of the more extreme idiosyncrasies. For example, Iruma skirts the line between humorous and grating. Innuendos, swears, and insults are peppered in literally everything she says. But she’s extremely easy to read. She’s just a shy and insecure girl who doesn’t know how to talk to people and ends up overcompensating. While I would personally never want to be friends with someone like Iruma in real life, she ends up being a very entertaining and well-rounded character outside of the more blatant fanservice scenes.
The stained glass aesthetic of the game is beautiful and provides a fresh look after two games that looked the same. Another positive about the Danganronpa V3 characters is how all of them collaborate together in class trials. It’s not just Saihara or Ouma who are presenting deductions. The others do as well, though with more varied success. This is best shown in the new mini-game, Debate Scrum.
Now, let’s move onto the negative. I can sense the limits of the Nintendo Switch when I play through the Danganronpa V3 class trials. At times when I open up the specifics of a piece of evidence, I can hear the audio stuttering. After using a Truth Bullet during a Mass Panic Debate, the shatter animation lags. The game froze and crashed multiple times. It instilled within me a habit of saving every ten minutes, lest I lose half an hour of progress again. While the game otherwise moves and looks impressively close to the PS4 version, these little issues shine a light on the different processing powers between machines.
Another thing that got left behind on the PS4 are em dashes. At first, I wasn’t entirely sure what the random spaces in dialogue were. But as I progressed through the game and they showed up more often, I started to realize that the em dashes were not properly appearing in the dialogue. Aside from the missing em dashes though, the translation of the game was very good.
The last negative is a mild complaint from the original game. This is the first game where you can turn a Truth Bullet into a Lie Bullet. Essentially, you lie about a piece of evidence. Every case has two points where you can lie–one dictated by the story and one you have to find yourself. The latter unlocks a “back route.” On the PS4 version, unlocking all the back routes grants you a trophy. But there is no achievement system on the Switch. Even if you do find a back route, you simply unlock a bit of new dialogue before you continue back to the main thread. It’s understandable that creating new endings or new dialogue paths based on back routes would significantly increase the volume of the game. But lying in class trials remains woefully underused, despite how it had been one of the selling points at launch.
There are also lots of extra modes that are entertainingly addictive time sinks. The dating sim mode was perfect for finishing remaining free-time events, without having to constantly go through the chapter select. I also greatly enjoyed the board game mode, where you could see characters from all three games interact with each other in a peaceful parallel version of Hope’s Peak Academy. Raising characters in the board game mode to dungeon crawl in the RPG mode for the purpose of using gold to pull for more characters to raise in the board game mode… It’s a cycle that I easily spent more time on than in the actual story.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is an amazing game for fans both new and old. It’s a great and beautiful send-off to the series. The story answers enough questions while leaving behind plenty of little holes to fill in with your own theories or interpretations. Its final theme and message are ones that I think about to this day, years after I first played it on the PS4. At times while playing the Switch port of Danganronpa V3, I wished I had developed amnesia between 2017 and 2021, if only so that I could experience the story and characters for the first time once more.
The Nintendo Switch version of Danganronpa V3 will come out on December 3, 2021. The PlayStation 4 version is readily available worldwide.