A PlayStation 4 makeover is exactly what the series needed.
At first glance, Danganronpa is pretty weird. Each game follows a new group of high school students held captive by a robot bear forcing them to kill each other in order to escape. With each new murder comes an investigation, and eventually a trial to present evidence and prove who committed the crime. With me so far? You should be.
Danganronpa is an underrated gem in PlayStation’s library of exclusives, a subversive and sardonic adventure game that mocks anime tropes while simultaneously embracing them. Its humor is dark and its grisly crime scenes are darker still, but the series also has an unexpected heart. Its portrayal of hope versus despair is mostly tongue-in-cheek but occasionally unexpectedly profound, using exaggerated characters and situations to actually send a fairly inspiring message: even when you think there’s no hope left, there might be some.
The series started life on Vita and even with a recent PS4 port, it lacks the mainstream recognition of a lot of other Japanese games. As the first game in the series actually developed with PS4 in mind (and 4K visuals to boot), Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a major leap forward for the franchise. Everything is sharper, with gorgeous character art and completely redesigned UI. Character portraits vary depending on the angle of the camera, and the writing seems more confident, heavily leaning into meta-acknowledgements of the absurdity of the situation and the past of the franchise itself.
Danganronpa V3 feels like it could be a major evolution for the series and a perfect jumping-on point
A demo shown by NIS America at E3 won’t actually be included in the final game and may not even impact the story, but serves as an introduction to the bulk of Danganronpa V3’s characters and mechanics, and will eventually be released on PSN with the option to transfer save data to the full game. The demo’s most important introduction is Kaede Akamatsu, our new protagonist and the first female star of a mainline Danganronpa game. Every Danganronpa character needs an ultimate talent, and Kaede is the Ultimate Pianist, a music prodigy who unexpectedly finds herself waking up at a school desk with a hazy memory, a scene familiar to anyone who’s played Danganronpa in the past.
Without spoiling the specifics, it’s safe to say soon after Kaede meets the rest of her classmates, a bloodstained crime scene is discovered and a class trial is held to determine the identity of the killer. Class trials have been refined even further since the makeover they received in Danganronpa 2, with more style than ever as text flies by at odd angles and new mechanics like Lie Bullets are introduced. A new minigame called Mind Mine has you match colored tiles in order to reveal a hidden image underneath, such as revealing a murder weapon. Controls are tighter and in general everything has an extra layer of polish.
Danganronpa V3 feels like it could be a major evolution for the series and a perfect jumping-on point for anyone who’s missed out so far. Everything is bigger, better, and prettier, but most importantly the eccentric charm that made the first two games so beloved is still there, and the demo breaks the fourth wall multiple times to remind you of that. NIS America is keeping a lot of details about Danganronpa V3 under wraps for now, but based on what we’ve seen so far, it seems like the series is taking the exact steps it needed.
Andrew is IGN’s executive editor of news and can’t wait to meet Monokuma’s kids. You can find him rambling about Persona and cute animals on Twitter.