Warning: This article contains spoilers. Proceed with caution.
The entire Danganronpa series has been an incredible experience and the anime, Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School, felt like the perfect ending. I had no idea what to expect from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, but perhaps this could introduce potential future plot lines or new members of the Future Foundation and Remnants of Despair. Either way, this game had to connect to the story that seemingly just ended somehow, right? Well… Sort of.
Danganronoa V3 largely capitalizes on what worked in the first two games as far as gameplay, mystery, and murder trials. Although there are a few shortcomings along the way, V3 could stand squarely against any of the other games as a very enjoyable entry in the series. As in previous games, the player receives small clues and hints at the true nature of the deadly situation in which a group of high school kids find themselves, but the important revelations are saved for the end of the game. But considering those revelations and the actual game leading up to them, was V3 a satisfying experience in the end? Bear with me,
anime-niacs—there are going to be big spoilers ahead.
Danganronpa V3 follows the same formula as the first two games—high school students awaken with nearly no memories and are then informed that they must participate in a killing game in order to hopefully survive. There are murders, mysteries, trials, endearing characters, hateable characters, and Monokuma. This time, however, Monokuma is joined by his five children, the Monokubs, to add levity to the game (the developers gave us more than the bear necessities). I was initially unsure if I would like them, but ultimately, I think the Monokubs worked to add some additional personality to the game. But the cubs are not the only difference from previous games.
The Tamagotchi that rewarded the player for choosing to walk rather than quick-travel is gone (lazy millennials…). Although this may seem like a small point, I am ultimately happy that the developers removed the feature for this game. The ability to quick travel to certain designated spots allows the player to forego some monotony without being penalized. However, the developers were creative to a degree with some of the settings in and around the school.
Although this game largely takes place in an abandoned school, there is an entire floor that is apparently haunted, a virtual world within the game, an expansive weapons hangar, and each student has his or her own research lab based on the talent of the character. Some of these interesting locations are even used quite creatively for murders. But more than just the usual deaths and trials within the game, one difference sticks out more than others.
It was immediately wonderful to see another female protagonist—the player begins the game as Kaede Akamatsu and she quickly befriends fellow student, Shuichi Saihara. SPOILER: However, Kaede isn’t in the game for very long—she is the first murderer and is executed after the first trial. The player, of course, doesn’t realize Kaede is guilty until nearly the end of the trial because Kaede’s actions before the murder seem innocuous until everything is pieced together. This was very surprising and tragic, but I’ll forego spoiling all the details surrounding the case (but you should be mad she died). The player then spends the rest of the game as Shuichi, who is a great character, but it would have been nice to play as another young woman. However, one of the reasons that Kaede’s death was so tragic is because of the time spent on building relationships in V3.
The first two games allow the player free time to speak to and develop bonds with different characters, but such bonds are mostly optional. By design, Kyoko most certainly acts as a partner in the first game, but she never seems too deeply connected to the Makoto. The students don’t have many lighthearted conversations with each other that reveal personable vulnerabilities and the same is true of Danganronpa 2. In my opinion, personal conversations with often funny moments are not found in the other games as much as in V3. Shuichi becomes very close with Kaede in the first chapter, which makes the rest of the game that much sadder since she is gone. But in addition, Shuichi befriends two other characters and this leads to some very endearing moments and excellent character development. Other characters even become close to each other outside of Shuichi and his companions.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony ultimately continues the traditional gameplay, has a few neat additions, but focuses more on certain characters and relationships, which ultimately works to the game’s benefit. However, the final revelation had me feeling very conflicted. So here’s the big SPOILER: V3 means 53, as in the 53rd season of Danganronpa, a reality show. The game’s in-game fan-base has demanded more killing games, so participants willingly agree to join and have their memories rewritten before participating. People all over the world are obsessed and watch from their devices. But finally, the remaining “students” in V3 convince all of the viewers to tune out and stop the killing games permanently (this whole cancel culture is getting out of hand…).
Others have already written about the meaning of this metanarrative and I’m not going to add to it here. I’ve certainly found deeper meaning within the media I consume, but after falling in love with this series and experiencing the amazing conclusion of Danganronpa 3, I struggled with how I have felt about V3’s conclusion. To be honest, it has been most interesting for me to think about the future of the series, or lack of it. The series’ development team, Spike Chunsoft, doesn’t seem to have indicated that another game will happen. Some employees have moved on to form a different company and the franchise creator has been creating other games. At this point, it is reasonable to believe that V3 is the final entry in the series, but realistically, where could Danganronpa even go next?
A proper sequel to V3 is certainly a possibility. However, something would have to cause renewed demand from viewers to watch or participate in the killing games again after the immediate and universal cancellation. How else would a 54th season of Danganronpa begin, and what could possibly be the surprise twist at the end? (reveal that everyone has been a Monokuma the entire time!) Even an involuntary killing game within this world, meaning people who never agreed to participate, has already been done to some degree in the first two games. Still, with enough time and creativity, this idea may have potential.
Conversely, the developers could create another game as though V3 either did not happen or was not real and continue the story that sees the resurgence of the Remnants of Despair or entirely new antagonists. Maybe the killing game starts in a completely different universe and it is adults that are the targets and not high school students. This idea is full of potential and would work in many different settings, whether within a family, an office, or even random strangers in a mall. But maybe nothing happens and V3 was the final game.
Sure, V3 didn’t have the most traditionally satisfying conclusion, but the journey through the game was wonderful. The connections, relationships, and vulnerabilities of the characters caused some really emotional moments. At least if Danganronpa ends here, it ends on a very interesting statement – stop tuning in to watch people kill each other (so… Stop watching the news?). So even though I hope this series isn’t truly finished and I didn’t get the same warm, fuzzy feeling that I did from the end of Danganronpa 3, I think I’m ultimately content with the way V3 ended.
If you’re reading this, I hope you’ve played through these games. If you haven’t played Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony yet, I’d recommend that, if you’ve liked the series so far, this one is definitely worth the time. There’s much more that goes into the game and the ending than what I’ve already spoiled. You may love the ending, you may not, but this may be the end of Danganronpa—forever.