- Genre: Mystery, psycho cool, adult-like(?)
- Playtime: Long (30 – 50 hours)
- Developer: Spike Chunsoft & Spike
The world is a strange place, filled with inexplicable mysteries, especially when you can’t seem to remember who you are and how you got there. But everything is going to be just fine, right? After all, you know that you are a supremely gifted youth, a paragon of your kind, recognized and celebrated by all. You happen to be surrounded by equally talented young people, all masters in their fields and treasures in their own rights. So what if you seem to be in s creepy run down school straight out of a horror movie set? So what if giant robots are patrolling the halls? With so much potential overflowing, such expertise all gathered in one place, everything is bound to work out. What could possibly go wrong?
I’m not sure any of you know this, but I recently finished all the Danganronpa Visual Novels. I’ve been almost as discreet about this franchise as I have about Natsume’s Book of Friends. Honestly, it was over too quickly. I’m holding onto the fact that I still have the animations to look forward to in order to placate that hollow emptiness at the pit of my stomach. Don’t you hate it when you have to bid adieu to a beloved franchise? For all the death I’ve seen throughout these games, I was ill prepared to deal with it ending.
For now, please allow me to give you a tour of the Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles! I’ll try to be good but let’s face it – this will have some spoilers. Nothing huge but as the narrative basically trips over twists to fall into reveals (there’s two in the title), discussing this game without giving away anything at all may prove to be a challenge beyond my skills.
If you’ve played the two first games, the mechanics will be familiar. Again, the bulk of the game is still an interactive novel which in practice means your “play” consists of reading what’s on screen and pressing a button when you’re done. During investigations you also have a point and click feature, adding the challenging layer of moving your cursor around.
The game play mechanics really only occur during trials. Once again you have logic puzzles to solve in the form of pointing out fallacies by choosing the correct option (truth bullet) to refute a particular statement. This mechanic has been enhanced in a number of ways, which will either be pleasantly challenging or really annoying depending on your patience with these sorts of things. Aside the established mechanics of having white noise statements to block the way and choosing between countering or agreeing with statements – you now have Mass Panic Debate debates which split the screen in three, forcing you to try to follow three different conversations at once. It can be a bit overwhelming at first and I would have to go through debates more than once to pick up everything that has been said but it’s honestly much easier than it appears.
On the logic side, you know have the very interesting option to perjure yourself. By holding a button (triangle on the ps4) down for a few seconds you can make any truth bullet say the opposite. I have to admit the addition of this feature threw me for a loop a few times (mostly because I forgot it was even an option). As this in effect doubles your response options to any argument it really complicates the game, in a good way!
Aside from that you have three minigames, which you can practice and play anytime in the new casino feature. An easier version of the hangman game from Goodbye Despair has the explosions replaced by having the letters not visible except during temporary flashes of light. The only difficulty with this game is finding the word, otherwise it was very easy which I was grateful for. The skateboarding game has also been replaced by a car driving game. Once again, it is mechanically much easier, but I found the Logic Dive game more fun to play. I wish that would have been available as a casino game. Finally, there’s a minesweeper like game which is also fine.
The final Argument Armament rhythm game rewards you with a fanservicy pic of your opponent in strategically ripped clothing when you win and there’s an added head to head Debate Scrum, which is a bit like a one to one debate but a the students participate. It’s tough to explain. Let me just say I found it pretty easy but also oddly fun and looked forward to them.
As I mentioned, there is a completely optional casino feature which allows you to play the trial minigames, or a basic slot machine simulator for special coins which you can trade in for casino only rewards. Most of these are gifts (yes the gift giving mechanic is still present and still occasionally baffling) but it also gives you access to the Key of Love reward. This is in fact another optional event, although I wouldn’t skip it. Buying the key of love at the casino (it is rather expensive and is single use only. Be prepared to spend quite some time grinding minigames if you want to see all available events) will trigger the opportunity to see an event the next night (unless a scripted event is already set for that particular night – in which case it will simply go to the next free night). If you take it, it will transport you to the love hotel where you get to share a fantasy with a random cast member.
These little vignettes are non-canon and have zero bearing on the story. In fact, it’s clearly stated that they are lucid dreams rather than actual interactions, and range from innocently sweet to quite naughty indeed. My first one was Kiyo and…well there’s a reason I made sure to play through all of them. Gonta’s was expectedly gentle but it genuinely made me smile, in fact it’s making me smile again. I don’t want to give anything away, so I won’t be discussing my favorites but just know that I thought they were all surprisingly enjoyable. These are entirely text based, no CGs are associated with them.
Story wise you know the drill. If not, feel free to refer back to my reviews of Trigger Happy Havoc or Goodbye Despair. Basically, dark fun dripping with Pepto bismol blood and sheer insanity. V3 is the most meta of the three. I think it may have been my favorite overall storyline, the second game being a very close competitor. However, like all the predecessors, it is a character driven narrative that relies heavily on the strength of it’s cast so let’s meet them now!
As usual – I’m adding in first impressions….
Oh nice a lady MC. The outfit is a little boring, but she seems pretty cool. Laid back and has her wits about her. This could work out.
Kaede has to be my favorite Danganronpa MC and really in the top Visual Novel MCs in general. She starts off a bit pollyanna but quickly proves herself to be a force to be reckoned with. I truly enjoyed my time embodying her and would love to be a bit more like her in the future. The endgame allows you to get to know her better and I strongly suggest you do so. Alongside Sonia, Sakura and Peko she is a strong contender for Danganronpa best girl.
Wow this guy’s meek! Why does he have a death the kid cosplay hat? I wanna death the kid cosplay hat. I’m not getting much off this guy but he’s not annoying so far so big plus. Something about him reminds me of a shy Ishimaru. He might snap under pressure and go postal!
He did not! But he did sort of grow on me to the point where I was pretty happy to have him there. One thing I cannot take away from Suichi is that he is one of the best Ultimates. As an ultimate detective his talent makes perfect sense for the game as is put to good use throughout. I liked that they let Suichi figure out things for himself, it made the mysteries more interesting to me.
Overaccessorized green haired pretty boy. We are going to be friends! There’s just something about this kid. He seems a little too cool and relaxed. He probably knows more than he is letting on. He is friendlier than Byakuya. Also I just like him, which means he’ll probably try to kill us before the intro ends….
Well my first impressions were pretty much 100% on point. Can’t say I changed my mind about anything on there. There’s no proof he didn’t try to kill us. Rantaro serves that all important role of being the character you want to trust but just can’t. Once again, I would suggest getting to know him better if you can!
Noice…Voluptuous Megane fantasy chick with a great outfit and a soft voice. She seems like what I wanted Toko to be. I wonder if she’ll go all yandere on us? Actually she looks absolutely purrrhhhfekt for a little shoujo-ai teasing…Yeah, I’m thinking it’s about time we get a bit of a Yuri storyline considering we finally get to play a girl.
Tsugumi is pure magic! As you can see I really liked her design and our initial meeting and, yet I somehow kept forgetting she even existed. Even to write the review, she is the only character who’s name I had to look up. But you should understand that this almost supernatural lack of presence is sheer brilliance. She’s not boring at all, she just somehow melts away when you’re not talking to her. I’m not sure if it was on purpose. There’s no clear reason why she kept slipping out of my mind as soon as she was out of sight, but the fact that she did is a tour de force in the grand scheme. I tip my hat.
Well the last quiet red eyed girl we met was absolutely lovely but this one seems a bit redundant. Also a zettai ryouiki rank S, Dangan isn’t usually so cliché. I think I’ve grown tired of the super hot stoic tsundere archetype. Yawn…
Ok, so that impression stuck with me for about half the game but man did Maki ever grown on me. Actually, Maki just grew. Her character development is heartwarming and I was really happy to get a chance to witness it. Maki you rock. She’s still just a touch to *familiar* a character to surpass my favorites but she gets a solid bestie spot in my heart.
Ok just a little too much. I’m sure it will be fine. All the Danganronpa fanservice babes so far have always been much more interesting and complex than they appear. I’m curious to see where this goes.
I have a feeling Miu is probably going to be a love it or hate it character for most fans. Although even as I write this, I have to admit I neither loved nor hated her. She had her moments and the character itself isn’t bad but she was just a bit too caricatural at times for my tastes. Still, this different portrayal of insecurity was really great to see and I liked her relationship with Keebo. I just got a bit tired of her being the butt of all jokes.
Ohhh a little cutie pie with a potty mouth. I hate to admit it but now that he asked I’m a little curious about robot anatomy too. Just like Saionji I really like him on first impression but I’m afraid there’s nothing more to the schtick. I hope he’s not a crybaby too.
Ouma….I freakin loved Ouma. His character is one of the more layered and baffling. The type you can never really trust and in the end you still have no clue what to believe. Ouma fascinated me and I keep trying to imagine him in conversation with characters from the other two games. This cartoon is the best way I can define him:
Dayum that’s a nice character design. Creepy soft voice too. Well this guy is obviously going to murder me in my sleep but I might just let him. The mostly hidden face usually means a twist. Huge scar or deformity. I hope not cause …dayum…
Like I mentioned above, Kiyo is the first random character I got in the love motel events and that did not help cool my interest in him. Throughout the game he is surprisingly even tempered and insightful, even a little comforting. I found chatting with him about anthropology to be honestly compelling and would have loved to read more even outside the context of the game (and even without the character design to stare at…)
He’s a nervous robot with confidence issues? I have to admit that’s a pretty unusual combo but I’m not really feeling it for some reason. His hair looks like Makoto. Wait and see for this guy.
It took me a very long time to warm up to Keebo. There wasn’t anything wrong with him really, it’s not that I found him annoying or unpleasant, but he was just too bland for a Danganronpa cast and I soon found myself hoping he would be the next victim, just so I wouldn’t lose one of the characters I did like. He ends up being quite important to the plot though. I still think there was a little something missing.
Whelp here’s my best friend 4evah of the game. I always like the genki, positive sidekick jock charas but it’s getting a little repetitive. I hope they don’t mind break this one as well…
You know how sometimes you can be exactly right and totally wrong at the same time. Maybe it’s just a tribute to how well Danganronpa does characters but that’s exactly what happened with Kaito. Kaito is the ultra-positive, super determined, bring everyone together best friend type that we always get in character driven RPGs and I have never seen a character like him before. The subtle subversion, the little added touches and the way his influence changed people around him made him unforgettable and unique. He is utterly unbreakable. It should be noted that Kaito is no one’s sidekick – he’s a hero through and through.
As a side note, despite being a little ambivalent about him at first, I went on a free time event with him right off the bat, in the first chapter, and the way he treated Kaede at the time was very charming. I realized right away that there was way more than meets the eye here.
Please please don’t be a lolicon. This game is super twisted but we had mostly avoided that particular questionable fetish so far. Oh no, she’s obviously tsundere. I am staying far away from her, don’t want to go to jail.
You know, maybe I just have an issue with this particular archetype. Much like Saionji in Goodbye Despair, I just never truly got attached to Himiko. There was a nice little bit of character growth after a particular trial, but it felt a little bit forced and shallow. I still did all her free time events, but I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember them all. They didn’t have a huge connection to the plot.
Hmmm, a valley girl. This could go either way. Her hair kinda looks like mine, maybe I should cut some bangs (ED – I did. It looks decent but it’s super annoying. I now live my life covered in hair clips…) The outfit confuses me. Either her arms are way too warm or her belly is freezing.
I realized something after the fact. Angie is a great character. You see, I didn’t really like her while I was playing, and I avoided her mostly and wished death upon her. And then her character took on a prominent role and it just worked so well. I suddenly realized that I was probably not meant to like her. The fact that I had avoided her and had a mild dislike for her on a personal level, without the story instructing me to like they tried with Komaeda (look I know he turned out nuts but for a short while he was really friendly and people were super mean to him for no reason…) made the actual storyline so much more visceral hen her time came.
I love these games so I’m just going to assume this was on purpose and oh boy was it masterful!
There are a lot of K names. Well hello best girl. We are going to have a fall wedding. It’s much better than spring really. The leaves are so pretty and the crisp air. I’ll let her pick the venue, I’m just happy to be there.
You guys can come but only one guest a piece. We want to keep it cozy. Ahhh Kirumi, she is very attractive and has that efficient, smart strong personality that I tend to really love. She remains true to herself and is a fantastic character, but I would have liked to see her loosen up a little. Because she starts off fairly accomplished there’s not as much opportunity for growth. Still a fantastic character and you know…a good design…
This is embarrassing, both my fiancées in the same room together like this. Oh and he’s a smiley cutey pie. Folks here’s a little bit of wisdom no one asked for. If your greatest ambition in life is to be a decent person, you’re probably a decent person.
Gonta is a simple but super lovable character. Everyone loves Gonta and I mean everyone! There’s not tons to say about him. I sort of got attached to him as you would to a big puppy dog. You know what happens when the dog dies don’t you. Just saying I needed to put the game down for a couple of days.
Well that’s a little aggressive. I get it, I get it, you’re gay. Maybe she’s our Yuri chara. That’s too bad I was feeling the Tsugumi x Kaede connection. Well I guess Tenko would be ok too.
Tenko had her ups and downs, because of her particular personal inclinations, getting to know her proved to be a challenge but she did come through big time in the end. Taking the time to explore her personal backstory is well worth it if you ask me as it puts her more extreme behavior into context. I ended up liking her a lot.
That’s a great voice! I don’t know if the English voice actor is just as good but man I could listen to this guy narrate the whole game. He reminds me of Ren.
I’ll be honest, I really didn’t get to know Ryoma that much in the main story. He’s not a bad character but somehow there was just always someone else I wanted to talk to first. This said he has a few nice tidbits in his backstory if you take the time to hear him out. One of those weird epics certain Danganronpa charas have that make you wish they would do a few standalone character spinoffs.
Oh…the bear…great…aww man does that mean we’re stuck with Junko as the big bad again. C’mon…
I would say this iteration of Monokuma was my least favorite. I had actually begun to appreciate him in Goodbye Despair but they really turned up the obnoxious factor here. This said, I still appreciated the nostalgia and he was leagues above the kubs.
Wait, let’s see where this goes. I have been pleasantly surprised in the past and this may add some interesting variety.
It did not. Easily the worst part of the game.
I think it was Ahogegirl who mentioned in the comments of my Goodbye Despair post that the cast of the 2 was her favorite but the mechanics and trials of the 3 were more fun. I’m not sure. I have been thinking about it a lot and yes, the cast of the 2 might slightly edge out the other games (but let me make it clear, all these casts are phenomenal! I want to make a Danganronpa dream class with students from all 3 games), however I clearly preferred the mechanics of game 2. These ones aren’t bad but felt much less challenging and gimmickier. There was also so many of them that the concept of actually solving the mystery during the trial became sort of secondary.
This said the trials were fantastic. Both the twists and reveals as well as the executions stepped up the visceral gut punch this time around. On several occasions I found myself thorn between having to take a moment to recover and not being able to put the game down.
This time around, the main character is the one that is effectively holding the hand of the player. Although several NPCs do serve as companions during investigations, we do not have some outside character spelling things out for us. This slight shift did wonders to motivate me to solve the case for myself.
In the end, these three games are extremely similar. If you liked one, you will like the others. If you didn’t, even though they do get more polished and add additional features, I will assume that you will not suddenly discover a love for the series.
I will say this, I have been writing this post on and off for a couple of days. It was always my plan to let you know which game was my favorite now that I’ve played them all, and I just can’t. There are elements I prefer in each and characters I adore in all. These are wacky, exaggerated and irreverent games. They aren’t meant to be taken seriously. They are also brilliant lessons in how to craft wonderful complex characters that feel complete and tangible while being ridiculous.
TL:DR I don’t blame you…
I love Danganronpa. I think you should play them. There’s a loose link and tongue in cheek references that encourage you to play all three in order but it’s not a must. If you have or do play them, please let me know what you thought!
Favorite chara: Of course Kokichi…Kaito is a close second, and Kurumi, Gonta, Korekiyo…
What this VN taught me: Always reach for the stars
Suggested drink: Hope Cocktail
- Every time Ouma shines rainbows – take a sip
- Every time Kaito gives a stirring speech – clap
- Every time Maki asks if you want to die – sake your head
- Every time Miu is inappropriate – take a sip
- Every time Gonta says gentleman – take a sip
- Every time the monokubs appear – boo
- Every time you don’t know who did it – take a sip
- Every time someone explains their motives – try not to cry
- Every time you remember it’s the last game – drink