Danganronpa as a series is relatively niche, as the first game, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, was released all the way back in 2010 on the PlayStation Portable and PS Vita. However, fans who had never experienced it before were able do so this year via a collection of the first and second games for the PlayStation 4. Since the release of the first game there has been a number of new entries, and the game has slowly crept out of the world of handheld gaming onto the PC, PlayStation 4, and even mobile.
For those who don't know what the Danganronpa series is, each game focuses on a group of school children as they are forced into a survival situation by a sadistic bear called Monokuma. He traps these kids in a certain place, whether that be a school (like in Trigger Happy Havoc) or a tropical island (as in Goodbye Despair), and then proceeds to tell them that they can only escape by murdering a fellow student. Add to this the fact that killers can only escape if they aren't found out, and that class trials exist to determine who is a killer or not, and you've got a bubbling pot of paranoia, suspicion, and investigation.
In London we were recently given a demonstration of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the latest instalment in this bizarre and gripping series, and during our time there we were also joined by series creator Kazutaka Kodaka, who was experiencing his first time in Europe. We sat down with Kodaka to talk about what fans can expect from this latest game (with the help of a translator), as well as witnessing for ourselves what the game has to offer.
Before we started getting into the game, though, we had to ask Kodaka how he was enjoying his first visit to Europe, as he had been in Paris for the Japan Expo the week before. "Yeah, it's great," he told us. "I got here by aeroplane, so like a 12-hour plane ride and I am incredibly tired. I hate aeroplanes so that was not a lot of fun. It was a lot longer than I expected."
We then got onto the matter at hand: Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. Although we in Europe will be waiting until September 29 to get it, it has already been released in Japan as of January. When we asked about the reception to the game, Kodaka was hesitant to give too much away, as he's very guarded when it comes to spoilers, but assured us there's quite a bit to be excited about.
"Danganronpa is a game and a series where it lives and dies based upon the spoilers and the twists and turns that it has, so without spoiling anything what I can say about Danganronpa in Japan is that it is the Danganronpa that has brought the biggest reaction from the fans in terms of that twist area," he teased.
V3 will add some new gameplay elements to the mix when it returns as well. During Class Trials, for instance, which are sessions where evidence is used to discuss who's responsible following a murder, Truth Bullets could previously be used against statements if players were telling a lie, but now Lie Bullets have also been thrown into the mix as well. These allow you to break conversations with a false counter, adding a new element of deception to the game.
"So within this game in particular lying's a big thing, and as you mentioned there's something called the Lie Bullets," Kodaka said when asked about these Lie Bullets. "Up until now, you had to tell the truth in order to advance the class trials and move things along, however, in this game you're going to be required to lie at certain points to advance the game. This comes up in the class trials as well as the other parts of the game, so much so that the entire theme of the game, everything surrounding it, is about lies."
Lie Bullets aren't the only new thing to be added to the series in V3, as these Class Trials are also being spiced up in a number of other ways. Mass Panic Debates, for instance, are when multiple characters are speaking over each other, making it hard to keep track of what's going on, and there are also debate scrums where groups argue against one another. As if finding the truth wasn't hard enough, now there's a lot more to contend with in this pursuit of facts.
New mini-games have been added as well, like Excavation Imagination to reveal an illustration by removing blocks; Brain Drive is where you drive a car to collect letters for a question they must answer afterwards (something that's shown off in the gameplay video within this article); and Epiphany Anagram 3.0 where you have to pick out letters for a question using a light.
As a whole, Danganronpa V3 has been marketed as 'psycho cool' this time around, as opposed to the 'psycho pop' tag of the first game or the 'psycho tropical' of the second, and this is something we also asked about.
"So, yeah, originally the first game, we called it 'psycho pop', and it's been seven years, about seven years, since that game was first released in Japan, and the player has grown up a little bit," Kodaka explained. "So they've grown up, they've matured, they've become more cool. So we changed the theme from 'psycho pop' to and now it's 'psycho cool', and that's what that represents at least."
We were also curious about whether this game was a sequel or something entirely new, something that Kodaka wanted to clear up: "If it's come out that I said it's half new half old, I feel that's a bit of a misinterpretation. If you look in Japan at the posters and everything surrounding it, I've clearly tried to state that this game is something entirely new and so I'd like to say here, now for the record, that this is an entirely new Danganronpa."
[Note, here we phrased our question as if Kodaka had said it was both a sequel and something new, but we should have specified that it was Spike Chunsoft who has said it was both a sequel and new, not Kodaka personally.]