I was a bit scared when Dangan Ronpa V3 was announced. The first and second games were amazing! I wondered if they could keep it going for a third game but my worry was misplaced. You're in for a crazy ride with Dangan Ronpa V3.
Why did I start playing it?
I'm a long time fan of Dangan Ronpa (a statement I feel strange for saying because of this game...). I played it a long time ago when the only way an English only speaker could play it was a fan translation you had to hunt down on the internet. I was thrilled to see it get so popular over here that the original and all its sequels got a western released complete with voice acting.
What is it?
Dangan Ronpa is a murder mystery Visual Novel style game. So it's mainly reading and story.
The basic set up of all 3 games is that a number of high school students are gathered, all with some particular talents. They get to be called ultimates in their talent. For example in this game, we have the ultimate pianist, ultimate tennis player and so on. These students get locked in an area, normally a school with no memory of how they got there and told their only way out is to kill a fellow student. Once they have killed someone the students are given a chance to investigate the murder then something called a Class Trail is held where the students present evidence to find the killer. If they pick the right murderer then the murderer is executed. If they guess the wrong person, then everyone but the murderer is executed and the murderer is allowed to leave. It's quite a grim situation but with the bright and colourful world painted by Dangan's art style, it's a strange story to follow.
What's the gameplay like?
As Dangan is a Visual Novel style game most of the action is through reading.
Out of Class Trails, the game takes on a point and click type approach. Class Trails themselves are made up a mix on mini-games. The main one is a nonstop debate, a staple of all three games so far. During these mini games, character statements will fly across the screen and evidence will take the form of bullets to shoot down the statements. The player has to pick the right piece of evidence to either agree, disagree or lie about a statement. The lying is a new mechanic for V3, an interesting one that feels strange to use story wise and gameplay mechanic wise. In order to activate the lie you have to hold a button down and by the time the lie is ready to shoot the statement you need is gone most of the time. You have to be ready ahead of time with it so it can be kind of awkward.
They have added other games but nothing too amazing. I prefered the minigames of Dangan 2. There's one silly taxi game that I have multiple issues with. Mainly because I feel like it's too long. You spend most of it driving down a road hitting Mario cart like blocks to reveal the question you need to answer. Then when it's time to answer, you answer by getting in the right lane to pick up the right pin-up silhouette lady by running them over....Yeah, it's a bit strange...maybe it makes more sense to Japan...
There is another that is like a brick break game. Which is very simple and pretty easy when you find the skill to basically negate damage from it.
The last is a hangman style game where you have to pick the right letters to make a word, the difference is your options are obscured and you only get flashes of what letters are available. I like this game the best, the problem is I'm just not that good at it, my brain doesn't think up the same words the game does so it's tripped me up a few times.
The art style is a big part of Dangan Ronpa. The situation these kids find themselves in is grim but the art is bright and colourful and most importantly the blood is pink. Yes, the blood is pink which might sound strange but does a lot to not only lighten the moot a bit and make deaths and bodies a little less grim.
Characters design in the game is great. I mean it always is but I found more so in this game, I kept stopping sometimes in the halls just to look the characters over and enjoying all the little details on their outfits. The Dangan artist has a specific style. They have done some character art for Fate/Grand Order and you can tell straight away which ones are his because until this game I had thought he had hit his limit on designs. I was impressed with V3 that he seems to have pushed through and found some new and fresh designs.
The music of Dangan Ronpa is pretty good. It gets the job done. It's great at getting you excited and great at slowing you down. I like most of the tracks though admittedly not many have been added for the new games and most of them are still from Dangan 1. Not a large complaint, I guess they thought that if it works don't change it but it is a little disappointing.
Sadly though, there is one particular track I hate with a passion.
Along with out main black and white teddy mascot Monokuma, we had 5 MonoKubs or whatever. I didn't enjoy their company but even worse I hated their theme song. It just felt weird, and also it had lyrics. I'm not the greatest reader at the best of times, Dangan is one of the few games I've found where I actually have to ware my glasses so it's already taking some extra effort from me to play so when I'm reading the dialogue for characters I hate and having to make an effort to ignore lyrics it's just a pain and made for the most annoying parts of the game.
A. A for story. Not A+ because honestly there was a lot I could guess. A hell of a lot that caught me off guard and some things that made me cry but just a little bit too much that I could predict. There is so much I want to say on this topic, in fact, I'm going to split this section into good and bad.
As I said before there are some things that are very predictable. There is a pattern, at least in the first few chapters that can help you predict who will die and who the killer is. This is particularly prominent in chapter 3 which is generally really disappointing trail wise, though for spoilers sake I won't say more on that.
I also had a small problem with the characters in this game. I loved them, don't get me wrong. Their designs and personalities were varied and entertaining but the problem was a lot of them were easily ruled out as killers as simply because I saw them as incapable of murder. There were a number characters I knew wouldn't be able to keep their cool and convincingly lie about it and others that were simply too dumb. It was annoying to be able to shorten my suspect list so easily but the game handled it well in a later trail at least.
I loved the dynamic's between the characters of this Dangan Ronpa. In other games, characters got along for the most part. There was always one grumpy character who took a while to warm up to the group but for the most part, they banded together pretty quickly.
Not so much for Dangan V3. Many of the characters just don't have very friendly personalities. Some have extream beliefs that make them hard to get along with. Some are dumb to the point they are hard to get along with. Some plain don't want to make friends and then there's Kokichi....Oh, Kokichi....It takes maybe five seconds of meeting this character to know exactly what I mean here.
I'd also say this Dangan has some of the best Class Trails. The first Trail starts the game off so strongly I worried that it would be able to keep going. I literally had to put the controller down for a bit after the first Trail and think what the hell the game had just done to me. I was messaging my boyfriend for ages going 'That just happened!!'. I'll admit the quality dips mid game but then we get to the last few Trails jump start it back up to slapping you across the face with plot twists.
I finished the story satisfied and happy that this Dangan lived up to the rest.
Do you recommend?
Hell yes, but only if you have, at least, played the two games before. Dangan Ronpa has been an ongoing story and without at least playing the first two games you'll be confused by some of the plot points...some pretty important ones too. My recommendation would be to play the first two games, watch the Dangan Ronpa 3 anime then play this game and as much as that sounds like a lot it's not a journey you will regret.
Dangan Ronpa is an amazing series.