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Danganronpa V3 Full Series Spoiler Discussion and Impressions

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I've finally finished Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (DRV3) on my PS4 today and boy, do I want to talk about it with some other random people on the internet. That being said, I'd rather keep it relatively civil and try to avoid unnecessary spoilers in the description, so you can see the actual discussion after the drop. That being said, I'm gonna do things a little different. Instead of just rambling on about the game, there's a few topics I wanna hit, not totally a review, but maybe just how I felt it stacked up to not only the other games, but the franchise and world building accomplished by the other five pieces of the Danganronpa story. For those of you that are unaware what I'm speaking of, I'll break it down like this:

I wanna talk about every facet of Danganronpa in this discussion,  leaving no stone uncovered when it comes to conversation and really digging down into the nitty gritty. That being said, this discussion will have spoilers for Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, Super Danganronpa: Goodbye Despair, Ultra Despair Girls, and both the Danganronpa 3 anime, Future and Despair Arcs (Hope Arc Included, but I'll lump that in Future Arc) as well as the newly released Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. I actually did something like this a while back for Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma on Reddit, but I figured why not spread some love here this time?


Be sure to hit that spoiler button and join in the discussion! Lots of Word Vomit below!

I'm gonna do something a little odd to try and keep this discussion organized, or at least organize my own thoughts and divide my opinions into small topics and blurb about them there. That way, if people wanna respond to a specific section, it'll be easier to find later!


The Ultimate Students: In some regards, DRV3 had the best and worst ultimate students. Right off the bat we're exposed to a wide variety of interesting characters of different backgrounds, shapes, sizes, and so on, while keeping the majority of their abilities grounded in reality as opposed to some from the past. This is honestly some of my favorite talents as the large majority of the cast actually ended up using their talents at some point or another, where in some of the other games it felt more so they just tacked on an Ultimate title without thinking what their character actually acted like. (I think Akane Owari being the Ultimate Gymnast is one of the best examples of a wasted talent.) Apart from Rantaro and Ryoma, both for mostly story reasons, we were almost constantly reminded why each character was special, unique, and this kept it easier to distinguish them from one another, or at least for me. In the same light though, it also made it easier for me to decide which Ultimate students I enjoyed the most and which ones I not-so-secretly wanted to be the next victim. This is probably where I get so annoyed at DRV3 because, while the top tier characters are really that, showing a lot of character growth, development, or having incredibly interesting reveals, the lower tiered characters felt more like plot triggers, or worse-- Comic relief. Angie Yonaga is probably my prime example of this, actually making the majority of my encounters with her nigh unbearable. I quite honestly hated that she'd managed to brain wash several characters. Even though I wasn't too fond of them, it still felt like a waste of time in a game that already felt a little dragged out at a lot of different moments. As a side note, I wasn't terribly fond of Monokuma this time around, his motives feeling forced and a lot more cruel than any other killing game. The Monokubs, while downright hilarious at first, quickly fell on my nerves to the point where I found myself skipping through their dialogue and dreading hearing, "--of a once powerful yokai.~♫"


To keep this simple I actually made a tier list I had for each character when they were first introduced as opposed to my final impression of them, not including the big reveal at the end. A tier for the characters I found incredibly interesting and seemingly holding a lot of potential from the get go, minor flaws if any. B tier for characters that seemed interesting, but had some easily noticed flaws. C tier was average or having potential to grow in either direction. D tier for the characters I felt were boring or uninteresting from the get go due to bad tropes or stale humor. And finally F tier, for the truly terrible first impressions.  

First Impressions:

(A Tier: Kaede, Rantaro, Shuichi, ) (B Tier: Kaito, Kirumi, Kiyo, Kokichi) (C Tier: Maki, Miu, Ryoma, Tsumugi) (D Tier: Gonta, Himiko, K1-B0, Tenko) (F Tier: Angie)

Last Impressions: 

(A Tier: Kokichi, Shuichi) (B Tier: Kaede, Kaito, Kirumi, Maki, Rantaro) (C Tier: Himiko, Kiyo, Miu, Ryoma) (D Tier: Gonta, K1-B0, Tenko, Tsumugi) (F Tier: Angie)

I'd rather not go into each character explanation, but the ones that I feel matter are Maki, Himiko, and Shuichi as I feel they demonstrated the most growth throughout the game, the prior two getting bumped up a single tier because of it. These are definitely all biased on my feelings towards characters and their effect on the story. I'll be glad to explain any character in depth if someone cares enough, but for now on to The Ultimate School.


The Ultimate School: This is actually a pretty easy topic for me to cover. I already really liked the idea of uncovering more of the school as time passed, the items usually giving me, 'ahah' moments as I suddenly realized exactly where an exploration item came into play. This felt a lot more fulfilling than any other game, honestly, each new section making guess and gasp at the discovery of a new Ultimate Research Lab as opposed to a random section of an actual school or a new island with random buildings. Not to mention the physical changes it underwent with each trial, the overgrowth of plants, vines being completely removed by the end of it felt like such an important nod to detail that I picked up on right away.  I don't think there's much else to say aside from me feeling this was the most well handled school environment in the series.


The Trials, Murders, and Punishments: This is where things get a bit type happy again, and I apologize in advance. 

Trial 1, I am of firm belief, was the best first trial the series has had to offer yet, the sudden twist that Kaede was the 'culprit' and suddenly the main character shifts to Shuichi-- I'm still completely shocked I didn't have this spoiled for me as well as a little sad to not see Kaede get a chance to grow and develop as a character. Gushing aside, I think it was incredibly well handled and shocking that all the clues for the setup were right in front of you the entire time. Despite two of my higher ranked characters dying first, I was hyped up and ready for another DR ride. They say the best intentions are what pave the road to hell, or something...However, this about where I stop gushing and get a bit more frustrated.

Trial 2 is probably my least favorite trial thus far in any DR game to date, and that's saying something. The point where you're supposed to be debating on who the killer is with barely any evidence to go on felt too much a wild goose chase and left too much to assumptions. Like, I understand the logic behind picking Kirumi as the killer since she was in the gym to set it all up, but when everyone's alibis were thrown out, it felt kind of stupid to immediately know that it was her. This may have been me feeling angry that, at least for me, in total, 2 A Tier, 1 B Tier, and 1 C Tier character had died by this point and all my least favorite people were around, but I digress. The discussions themselves felt long winded and boring for the most part, Himiko's refusal to agree more a hindrance than being cute, and Tenko's annoying defense cementing her position in the lower half of my tiers. She can only call a man a degenerate so many times before I'm fed up and skipping her dialogue. I will say though, Ryoma being drowned in his bathroom was a super disappointment and honestly made me feel like he was just a throw away, even with the motivation videos. The piranhas were an interesting touch, but a tad over the top and cartoonish for what I'd come to expect from the murders themselves.

Trial 3 was both interesting and slow for me. After how miserable I was with the second trial, being subjected to all the Atua cult crap with the student council was down right terrible. It wasn't fun, it brought nothing to the plot, it completely stalled it, and lost my interest in doing anything save finding the next body, and thank goodness it was Angie's. Kiyo being the killer here of both Angie and Tenko was...weird, feeling more rushed than anything, or maybe even like it was mistranslated. With the revelation of Kiyo's alter ego, I was ready for the sudden reveal of his 'sister' being the one that killed Angie, since right after deducing Tenko's murder, he openly admitted it and swore he hadn't killed Angie. I was actually excited at the dynamic of having someone crazy like Kiyo around and not be the blackened, but alas it didn't come. Again, this trial felt slow, characters in game repeating themselves and going over events several times. It even made Kiyo's reveal less exciting since we had about another 30-40 minutes of trial time when we'd already determined that he'd killed Tenko. The murders themselves were interesting enough though, significantly more convoluted than I would have expected as well.

Trial 4 had a bit of a curve ball, but didn't leave me terribly satisfied in the end. The murder and investigation, while interesting because of the virtual world felt almost empty because of the lack of real motive behind the killing. Obviously Gonta saw the outside world and such, but it just seemed out of place and a weird time for a murder to happen, and especially for Miu to be the one to plan it. I honestly figured Himiko would have planned such a thing before the resident mechanic. In the end the trial made sense, it sucked to find the truth like in Sakura's trial in the first game, but ultimate just felt like a time sink. Even with Gonta's revelation of the outside world stuff, it just didn't add enough to the main plot to feel worth killing over. Especially since what was important happened after all of this was over! At least the didn't go around in circles with the same argument or explanation like the last trial. I feel it worth mentioning that I loved the in-between interactions here, specifically Kokichi taking control of the Exisals.

Trial 5 might be one of my favorite trials across the game, but I think that's the case with the other two games as well. The unlikely duo of Kaito and Kokichi made it all the more surprising what had actually transpired, not to mention just how everything happened and just how many different moving pieces were involved, especially with how Maki was used. This trial felt especially important as it reminded the players of the still present danger and drove the remaining characters towards what the truth would be. With that though, I'll leave the last trial for the big reveal!  Not to mention the whole, who is actually in the Exisal mystery 

The Punishments however, my goodness. These were all ridiculously over the top in not typical Danganronpa fashion, and it kinda bothered me. Most of the time they're funny, quirky, stupid in their relation to someone's talent or some such, but these? These were bloody, violent, abusive, and downright cruel compared to what we'd seen in both DR1 and DR2. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but the game's overall tone just felt different from the others from the get go. Though, Kaito's punishment not going through AND it being a throwback to DR1 was such a treat.

Phew, with all that out of the way, let's talk about gameplay...


The Gameplay, Mechanics, and Minigames: This section might be a little long winded too, but either way, let's talk about it. DRV3 felt like it had some of the most polish in terms of its trial, uh, games. I don't really know what to call them-- Either way, the refined aspects shined through with the V Counter mechanic, perjury,  the debate scrum, and a not-terrible Hangman's Gambit. With the addition of the escape tunnel thing being shown at the beginning of the game and the casino, this entry in the series had the most variety yet. This isn't always a good thing though, or at least for me it wasn't. I'm unsure if it was just me, but I felt like Truth Bullets had a smaller hitbox, consistently missing when it seemed like it should have hit with no problem, and then being forced to waste time to get back to the statement, just to realize it was wrong anyway. The Psyche Taxi felt completely pointless, in all honesty as I don't think it was ever even remotely confusing or hard to infer what had happened, usually only used as a brief mid trial recap. The Mind Mine was pretty meh as well, but it wasn't terrible. The rebuttal showdown though, oh god, what the heck went wrong? It just felt terrible to cut through words, angles hard and frustrating to hit and arguments that seemingly came out of nowhere the majority of the time. Even with less polish and features, DR2 still felt the best with it's trials and such. Quality over quantity in this case, sadly.


The Music: Here's another easy one that I think most people will agree on, save maybe a song or two. DRV3 had the best music across the franchise, masterfully remixing a large number of series favorites while adding in a few others for flair. I will say I grew incredibly tired of the Monokubs music rather fast with how often them chimed in in the beginning sections of the game, especially when compared to Monomi's music from DR2. As a side note, for those of you that played with English Voice acting, feel free to chime in here. I felt the voice acting to be some of the strongest the franchise has seen thus far, especially convincing roles from Gonta while crying after his conviction and then an almost entire reprisal in roles of characters from other DR games. The only weird thing I noticed was how for maybe the first half of the game, Monokuma's voice sounded significantly higher pitched than his other iterations, despite being the same actor. Oh well, maybe I'm crazy.


The Mastermind and Big Reveal: Let's be real. One of the main reasons we all love these games is finding out the mastermind, or rather what the huge plot twist is. This time around though, I can say all of that was disappointing or needlessly overdone. Tsumugi, all in all felt terrible as the mastermind, showing nothing up to that point that made me even remotely interested in her, even dropping in my tiers due to her lack of, well anything. I will admit that the cosplay mechanic coming in at the end and then explaining it as those people having never existed was interesting, but if that were the case, and this is where I get annoyed, then why did she get 'cospox'? When Kaede had her try to be her, the rash appeared, but by the end of the game, Tsumugi explained that none of them were even real. That's just gonna get me pissed off if I look for stuff like that, but even then, the whole last trial Tsumugi being the killer especially pissed me off. Sure, Junko 'cheated' in the first one with her sister's body and everything, but she never actually stepped in to kill someone, especially if it would have meant her game failing. That brings it back to the whole game being much more cruel than the others, literally forcing the participants to commit murder right at the beginning. Albeit, such a thing happened in DR2, but it didn't feel nearly as forced considering how late in the game it was, especially with everyone teetering on the edge of death anyway. The weird part of all this is what the ending brought us. With Tsumugi and Keebo dying, the path to the outside world open, I'm assuming the player is left to decide whether any of this is actually real based on a single phrase muttered by Tsumugi at the end despite being show literal hours of proof of the fraud of a game they were trapped in. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for 4th Wall breaking, but not at the expense of literal canon destruction. 3 games, 2 anime worth of world building to lead to essentially a limitless possibilities situation as Shuichi, Maki, and Himiko walked outwards...I dunno, something about it left a bad taste in my mouth. Like, they'd just thrown out the past almost 7 years worth of world building for a bigger, cheap thrill. I'm interesting in seeing where they go from here, but I'm not fond of the idea of throwing out everything they've built so far. If they wanted to do that, I feel like it would have been more beneficial to just tell a completely new story and not tie it to the others at all. Maybe I'm just overthinking it, but it almost feels like they went for a Bioshock Infinite style ending, the whole infinite potential idea with lighthouses, but not to the same effect in the end. Either way if that's the end, it's bittersweet to say the least, but if it's just a potential new beginning for the franchise, then maybe, just maybe we could be in store for some more kills, chills, and thrills. Also, the V3 being 53'rd season was pretty nifty, haha. 


All in all, I'd say this entry in the DR franchise is the weakest, sadly. While some of the characters and trials were definitely high points in the series, there was way too much inconsistency in story, characters, trials, and especially with how knee jerk of an ending there was, it's hard to imagine the fan outcry won't be quite boisterous. At least it wasn't Zero Time Dilemma, right? DISCUSS!


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So, there is a lot to unpack through V3. As another Danganronpa it's fun. But yeah, the pacing is all over the place and as an ending... hmm. It is the longest game in the series and doesn't really earn it with how much fluff in it (as I vaguely ranted about in a review. Writing about a game that is all spoilers after case 1 is surprisingly difficult to talk around...). 


Trial stuff: I generally liked the trials more in V3 because, pacing aside, I thought there was a smarter logic behind them compared to prior titles. They felt way more nefarious and calculated (like trial 1 on Dangan 2 was better than like almost every case in the game before it, but it still felt kind of random that it became as I complicated as it was. So I felt like there was more logical consistency with cases in V3, except the 1st one, which I learned was deliberate. Trial 5 is a standout in all games, of course)


Characters: Angie is an interesting character to me. Not so much for her in-game, but because I listened to NIS America break down some of the localization choices for her at Anime Expo before I even touched the game myself (which I can't find on youtube oddly enough. I can only find the one about voice actors which was another separate panel altogether).  She definitely comes across as a lost-in-translation sort of deal in the final game despite them breaking down all of her Hinduism/Buddhism and writing quirks via the panel regardless . But anyway, wasted potential regardless for what should've been a good design. Although, I do think they made someone like Miu more interesting in English by amping up her crude writing and lessening the tsundere-ness of her Japanese counterpart. Tsumugi was low tier with her reference game compared to Chiaki, so she was nowhere near as cool (although she did make a Xenoblade Chronicles X reference pretty early). But honestly, I felt the general writing was less sharp in general compared to the prior titles. 


Otherwise, my favorites as actual characters were obvious choices like Himiko and Maki (Kirumi I knew was going to kill someone, like Peko). Of course, in broad strokes I didn't really find anyone nearly as exciting as D2's Nagito, but I think that's an unfair standard (as he overshadowed like all characters in 1/2 because he was on a whole different level of compelling. And I was a Kyoko fanboy the game before and enjoyed D2 characters like Fuyuhiko and the obvious Chiaki). Kaito, while likable, had like a bajillion death flags and was clearly the not-Kamiya of the game making it sort of hard for me to take him seriously. Otherwise, many acted like how they appeared despite having really interesting ultimates attached to many of them. I get what they were going for Kokichi but I found him to be more "I'm Mr.Conflict in all story/trials scenes... because I can be!." than all that sympathetic towards his intended story arc, but that's just me (though, I liked Byakuya and Nagito, which can be argued to be quite similar on a super basic level as 'Mr. Conflict').


Voice stuff: I actually played V3 with the English dub as well (review sort of forced me on Vita because the Japanese dub wasn't available at the start, just like Ultra Despair Girls.). And despite it bugging me for quite a while I actually went back and listened to the Japanese dub and.... surprisingly, I think the English dub is better (although, I don't like Shuichi's voice in either language, tbh. I don't think he was well-acted in English, despite being easily the most compelling Dangan MC imo, and had the squeaky goku-syndrone voice in Japanese.) Yeah, I swear Monokuma's voice got worse, but I literally only have Ultra Despair Girls as an English dub comparison (Japanese Monokuma is super consistent). I know I would've played in Japanese w/o a second thought if I could (because the Japanese dub was way better in previous games, minus a select few dub), but I am secretly glad I played in English... however jarring it was for me early in.


ENDING: The ending, of course, is super controversial. Because one very easy way to interpret it is the video game equivalent of it was all a dream. And boy, nobody really liked that in Star Ocean 3, and it feels super insulting in V3 after so many narrative loose ends and established surviving characters of previous games as a first impression. But.... there is more to break down in V3, especially since Danganronpa 2 technically did it too but to a smaller degree. Now, I will preface this by saying I didn't bother watching the Dangan 3 anime since it really does not sound like they actually did much with it by the end. Also because I watched the 1st ep and felt bleh towards it (I am told that the one plot thread that sort of nagged on me out of Ultra Despair, which was Monaco returning, didn't matter at all. Plus I heard V3 was kind of its own thing by the end way beforehand, and Ultra Despair ties surprisingly matter little, and they were right. I heard they committed to like no returning cast members from 1 & 2 deaths, and even fake killed Kyoko.). But man is it ever easy to interpret "It is all a video game!" as hand waving all prior lingering story threads up until this point. 


Because they go super meta and execute it to such a degree it is a bit deeper than that. They point out the clear story tropes of previous games (the oppressive despair and then the feel-good Hope payoff) and decide to take a different angle altogether by not really satisfying either hope or despair. They get to the point where the game quite literally depicts the whole "the only way to win the game is to not play" idea, even down to mini game execution. Which is really interesting thematically. I'll be honest, I think I would've liked V3's whole crazy meta concept a lot more if it wasn't tied to a series where they aggressively built up so loose ends, characters, and the many mysteries associated with their futures. Like, V3 invalidates both 1 & 2 almost entirely which is both super bold but also a total writing cop out. And, if there is one thing I've learned about Japanese killing game stories, they LOVE cop out writing stuff with random twists that were clearly not made any clever forethought in previous entries. So V3 really rubbed me the wrong way right when the mastermind was revealed (but seriously, I am glad they were able to poke fun at Junko returning. Because tbh, THAT would've made me more angry than anything else. Yes, even compared the ending we did get. Junko was compelling for one game, people! I would've snapped the Vita in half right there if they told me some sort of dead limb of Junko was processing Tsumugi like Liquid Snake did to Ocelot and she was carrying out Junko's will).


But thinking deeper on the meta stuff, it is pretty intriguing in how it is executed. Because it super calls out the audience and their fickle expectations, including people like us who are even talking about our likely disappointment in it. It also goes rather crazy with the whole concept of both fiction and reality mixing (which becomes more food for thought if you treat V3 as a reality show, like the game does, and it is why Tsumugi can not cosplay fellow participants in V3 despite being able to dress up as people in 1 & 2, even though they are all supposed to be fictional). They even have the gall to leave the final moments after the credits super ambiguous, which is also rather meta and really playing upon the concept of reality and fiction even more as basically one last jab with the theme. So V3 in my mind can be interpreted as like the most definite end ever and burns all the bridges for any and all follow-ups, or...well, MAYBE WE WILL GET 53 GAMES! (I mostly interpret it as the "WE DONE WITH DANGANRONPA, YA'LL. YOUR EXPECTATIONS WERE TOO HIGH, SO WE CAN AT LEAST POINT OUT THE META REASONING BEHIND THE SCENARIOS WE THOUGHT TO PLAY WITH".)


But yeah, I would get into things that should've been more interesting than they were handled like the possible chance to rez a former classmate, or how Kaede's sister went nowhere, but I've already typed too much....



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