Friday, October 27, 2017

Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony (PS4) Review

Danganronpa is back, and I was excited to play it!  The first was a great game with a immensely interesting story.  The second was good too, but the trial mini-games lowered enjoyment.  So, let's dive in and see what's good and bad about Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.

The game is still split into chapters, each consisting of three components: Daily Life, where you talk to your fellow students until someone is killed; Deadly Life, when you investigate the crime; and the Class Trial, where you use your evidence and prove who the killer only they will be punished.  By being murdered, of course.  This flow is the same as the first two games, and it still works well.  The only Daily Life additions are new gift items that can give an extra scene, and the items that unlock new areas of the school.  The first is a nice addition, but always made me afraid I was going to miss these scenes (I did miss one of them).  The second was a clever way to lock off parts of the school, which has been in all three games.  Honestly, they aren't necessary, but I liked them.

The biggest game changes are of course in the trial sections.  Just like last time, some are okay, others are terrible, and a few are pretty good.  I'll start with the debate-like things, and then transition to the dreaded mini-games.  Non-stop Debates are still the basic trial aspect, and remain largely unchanged.  You cycle to whichever Truth Bullet you need, aim, and shoot it at the offending part of someone's statement.  Newly added are the Panic Debates.  These are basically Non-stop Debates with three people talking over each other.  Sometimes one yells, and you have to shoot their words down.  This is actually a logical addition to the trials, but it's not necessarily fun, especially the last one of the game.

If you played the first two games, and you should, you may remember capturing an opponents statement to use as a temporary truth bullet.  It never quite clicked with me.  Now it has been replaced with lying.  No, really.  Now when you hold the firing button on a truth bullet, it changes it into a lie bullet.  It's still only used once a trial, and feels strange.  I like the idea behind it, but it just seems weird that in an effort to find out the truth, you lie.

Another new addition is the Scrum, where you break into two sides, and have to match the opposing side's argument with your facts.  Like most of the changes, it doesn't feel necessary.  However, since it's not hard at all, I like it.  The last new debate mechanic is the back route.  This allows you to skip some parts, or...uh...actually, I don't know.  I never figured out where to do these, or even how, so I have no idea what happens.  I'm pretty sure they exist, though!

Now for the mini-games.  Remember the out-of-place snowboarding one in Danganronpa 2?  Well, that's gone and replaced with Psyche Taxi.  It's a little better, but takes longer.  So I guess that's a lateral move- not really better or worse overall.  Hangman's Gambit is back, because of course it is.  Thankfully no longer "improved", this one is just V3.  It's also bad.  This time letters float across the screen, but you can't see them.  Every few seconds a light quickly passes by to illuminate the letters.  You can hold the X Button to slowly expand a light in the center, but it costs concentration.  While you think this cost might be the bad part, I think it's worse that it's stuck in the center.  Either way, it's not fun to try and remember what each letter is while figuring out what word(s) they want.

So are there any new mini-games I do like?  Surprisingly, yes.  Imagination Excavation hides objects under a layer of colored tiles.  Hitting a group of tiles that are the same color makes them disappear.  Any tile touching them changes to the next color in the line (3 or 4 total depending on difficulty level).  The idea is to keep up that cycle until you uncover the item you want.  I actually like this game and play it in the casino to get medals for unlocks.  Unfortunately there, you can't sacrifice time to get rid of non-linked blocks like you can during the trial.

The strange rhythm mini-games near the end of the trials is also present.  Called Argument Armament, these have unfortunately taken after the Hatsune Miku games, and has the key buttons all over the screen, making it harder.  There's a new 'hold' type that wasn't explained, and took me many misses to get the timing down on them.  These are more annoying than previous times, but I really like the artwork of who you are arguing with in the background.  It even changes as you 'damage' them.

The closing argument comic panels are also back, and they are near perfect.  Placing the cursor over the missing panel gives a clue, and placing it over the possibilities tells you what it's about.  That second part is needed because the panels you have to place are tiny.  You also know instantly if something is wrong, and it waits until the whole thing is correct before going through it.  I really like these, and am glad to see them done so well.

The first Danganronpa set up a story so good, there really wasn't much room to expand.  The second installment did its best, but didn't quite live up to its predecessor, despite having stronger characters.  V3 doesn't do any better.  Half of the twists I like, but the other half are just bad.  Either they don't make sense, are unexplained, or have characters act completely out of character.  Speaking of characters, this game has an even higher number of characters that I can't stand.  I thought it would be hard to beat Hiyoko, but they proved me wrong with Kokichi.  Yes, a prominently featured know-it-all troll is a great idea (sarcasm).  It's easily one of the most annoying and horrible character types.

Past that, the bad twists make it harder to actually figure out the trials.  In the first two games, I had reasonable ideas about what happened, and who had done it.  I got all of them right (except the one I fully disagree with) well before the actual reveals.  Personally, I loved that.  It makes you feel smart, and having enough clues beforehand makes it seem like the story and game were well crafted.  The sheer randomness of some of the twists takes that away, and replaces it with the urge to bash your head into a wall.  I should have seen this coming, when the first trial went a new direction that just felt there to swerve players.  I thought that soured me on it, but we still had not reached the bottom.  That honor belongs to the final twist, which I will not spoil.  I really want to, because I don't like it and I don't think it's any good, but I'm a nice guy.

There are of course unlockable things once you get through the story, but they are different from previous offerings.  First is a wannabe dating sim, which is pretty much there to get you the rest of the friendship events, and the associated skills.  This used to be half of the collecting resource/time management sim games in previous entries.  Now, that half is just by itself, but the other part (which I enjoyed) is gone.  Replacing it is two separate, but heavily linked, games.

First is a board game (chara world?), where you pick a character card and take them through three 'years' of school to raise their stats and teach them skills.  A lot of this is up to random chance.  If you know me, that's a huge minus in my book.  The game is also pretty mean.  If you don't get to the goal within 12 turns or so, you can't take the final exam.  Then, you get sent to the despair route, which is filled with despair panels that drop your stats.  Sounds fun, huh?  You pretty much have to blaze through as fast as you can to ensure you hit the goal first.  Oh, and the final exam is way too hard.

Second, those built up characters are then used in a dungeon crawling RPG called Monokuma's Test.  It looks like the original Dragon Quest games.  It's also pretty fun.  However, you won't gain experience in this mode because they need to force you to do the Talent Plan board game.  You do gain enemy drops and money.  Enemy drops help you make equipment for your characters, and the money is used to buy new character cards from the vending machine.  Sadly, it's random, but at least I quickly got the two characters I most wanted.  Hello nurse and Peko Peko!  Then you take the new characters through the board game, and repeat the cycle anew.  I haven't put a lot of time into these yet (only a few hours), but I can easily see myself coming back to them.  Even if half of it is mean, it's kind of fun, and I want to get the rare versions of my favorite characters.

Even after sinking so much time into Danganronpa V3, I'm on the fence if I like it or not.  The flow of the game is still intact, and there are aspects that I enjoy.  Many new additions felt either unnecessary or outright bad, and the twists felt too random to enjoy.  The new post-game stuff is pretty enjoyable, though.  I'm sure fans of the first two games will play V3, but I get the suspicion that a large portion won't enjoy it.

The Good:
Flow is still the same from the first two games, some good new characters, and a few of the trial aspects have been refined.

The Bad:
The story, the rest of the characters, and of course, most of the trial mini-games.

The SaHD:
Keep the machine gun skill on for the final chapter!

(Review code for Danganronpa V3 was provided by the publisher)

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