While I didn't play all the major games that released in 2017, I did get to finish every single one that I had been anticipating since announcement. Gigantic franchises such as Persona, The Legend of Zelda, and Resident Evil received new installments this year. However, a smaller title told a story of sixteen high school students and a demonic teddy bear in 2017, and it was the most captivating experience I've had with video games all year.
If you haven't played any of the Danganronpa games, you've probably heard people talk about the horrifying executions, the likeable cast of characters, the horrible anime adaptation, or the adorable Monokuma. No matter what you've heard about Danganronpa, I will be talking about minor story elements from the series. I will do my best to provide a spoiler-free view of the game so that you may try Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony for yourself.
The premise of any Danganronpa game is simple: take a bunch of high school students, trap them into a school together after wiping their memories, then force them to kill each other to earn their right to escape. Throwing so many teenagers into a situation like this is bound to immediately cause problems. Some keep a level head and try to assess the situation, while others start thinking of the best ways to murder a person without being caught.
There are several simple rules to go along with this Killing Game. Whenever a murder takes place, a Class Trial will be held. During the trial, students will try to figure out "whodunnit" by debating known facts about the murder. If the class comes to the right conclusion, the killer will be executed. However, if the class chooses wrongfully, the headmaster will execute everybody except for the perpetrator.
Speaking of the headmaster, the school is run by a black and white teddy bear named Monokuma. His existence is a mystery to the students, and his behavior is even more confusing. Monokuma is well-known for being a cheerful bear who can crack jokes all the time and make references to all your favorite games and anime. But he's also very threatening, often displaying just how powerful he is to the students if they ever try to defy the rules he has set up for the Killing Game.
This is all pretty standard fare for a Danganronpa game so far, but what makes Killing Harmony so special? The third main installment in this franchise changes up the central theme of its storytelling by focusing on the many different faces of truths and lies. I've already talked about the first chapter of this game in a previous article and how Spike Chunsoft pulled off the greatest lie of all time in its marketing, but there's much more to this than the first chapter.
Every single interview about the game features some sort of lie. After playing the game, I recommend that you check out the news articles leading up to the release. Some of the answers will shock you. This isn't an oversight from the developers, but it's instead a clever ploy from the marketing team to tie into the lies of Danganronpa V3.
Much like the employees of Spike Chunsoft, the characters in Killing Harmony lie to each other all the time. This isn't surprising from a murder mystery game, but it's not just about the culprit hiding some evidence. Characters often lie for motives that aren't always so clear. Some of the students lie about how they're feeling to each other so they won't worry about their well-being. Others might lie and try to make themselves look like the worst kind of person just to give the group a common enemy so they'll work more cooperatively.
There are many different ways these teens will lie to each other and to you throughout the story, but as the main character, it's your job to cut through the lies to uncover the truth. But even though the truth might sound better than telling a lie, you may not want to know the horrible truth. Certain events and motives will make themselves clear toward the end of a class trial, and these reasons are often heart-wrenching. Almost every murderer in Danganronpa V3 is genuine and was never out to fulfill a selfish agenda.
This goes against what Spike Chunsoft taught us in other titles. Most of the kids in Danganronpa are driven by a selfish motive that leads to a murder. However in V3, the kids never kill each other for their own selfish reasons. They always have their version of the greater good in mind. Uncovering the real truth behind each case is like finding out your parent was forced to murder either you or your sibling and then chose your sibling. Would you rather have the murder of your sibling stay unsolved if you knew the culprit was your parent? That's the sick reality with every case in Danganronpa V3.
These crazy and twisted motives that cause the characters to consistently lie to each other sticks around until the very end of the game. Monokuma and the mastermind tell the biggest lies of all, and that becomes apparent in the game's finale when the most confusing twist in the series' history is revealed. After this final case, the last unsettling truth is revealed to us, and we can now understand why Kazutaka Kodaka put his heart and soul into what might be his final installment in the franchise.
I apologize for being so vague about the game's story in an article about how great it is, but I really want you guys to try it for yourself. If you haven't played the series before, give it a shot and start from Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. You can grab the first two games as well as the spinoff Ultra Despair Girls for just under $40 on Steam right now. Danganronpa V3 is also on sale for $44.99. If you don't have a working PC for gaming, all of these titles are on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita as well. There's no better time to play Danganronpa than right after the greatest installment in the franchise has been released.