Danganronpa is the PlayStation Vita’s best-kept secret. The high school murder mystery series combines a Hunger Games-style premise with sheer anime absurdity. Very little has changed in its third iteration, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, but its simultaneous launch on PlayStation 4, with cross-play options, makes the experience a more accessible one.
Since its arrival in Western territories in 2014, Danganronpa’s path to mainstream success hasn’t been stacked in its favor. The series falls into a particularly niche, anime-filled corner. It is extremely weird, thanks to its psychotic teddy bear villain. It’s also gruesome, even for a video game. Its beginnings as a Vita-only series provided a reductive path, especially as Sony continues to shuffle the platform to the shadows. The series’s 2016 Steam port was a step in the right direction; its arrival on PlayStation 4, however, makes it the kind of game you can try next to a friend. And given its many twists and turns, it’s a game best experienced with someone else.
Danganronpa V3 continues the series’s traditions of pitting 16 students against each other. After being locked in a school, their only option for escape is to murder each other and try to get away with it. If the surviving students can’t catch the murderer, however, they’ll all be killed in turn. It’s a contained experience, meaning you don’t have to have played the previous games to enjoy it.
There’s a social element to the game that builds these deaths into something meaningful. Players have limited time to hang out with their fellow students, which means you grow attached to — and start to fear for — specific characters. Once a murder has been committed, players must investigate the body and enter a class trial to discern the culprit.
Trials play out through a series of mini-games, where players might have to counter arguments with evidence, arrive at new conclusions through a driving game, or piece together the murder through comic book panels. Danganronpa V3 makes these murders harder to solve from the start than ever. Suspicions have a way of turning into false leads, and only by poring through clues in these mini-games can you arrive at the correct conclusion.
Danganronpa V3’s cast of characters is just weird enough to be endearing, whether you’re spending time with the self-conscious robot or a stoic babysitter. Each new day is a nail-biting experience as players wait to find out if their new best friend will be murdered next.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is available now on PlayStation 4, PS Vita, and Steam.