This post contains full SPOILERS through the end of Chapter 1 of Danganronpa v3: Killing Harmony. Also, endgame spoilers for 2010’s PS3 exclusive Heavy Rain, just to be fair.
The prologue and opening chapter of Danganronpa v3 do a very poor job of hooking the player to continue on a journey that appears to be dozens of hours in length. We were asked not to record video past Chapter 1, and the game itself blocks the recording function on PS4 at that point. This is in the name of spoilers, but Chapter 1 itself soured me on this game before it really got underway.
The game kicks off with the line “My name is Kaede Akamatsu, and I’m the protagonist of this story.” You then assume control of Kaede, until you don’t. You see, the character you are controlling, the character explicitly named as the protagonist, is the culprit of the first murder and is promptly executed. Danganronpa v3 pulls a Heavy Rain in the worst possible way. Here the gameplay is all about figuring out who committed a murder, and it turns out it was your character, whose side you never left. In order to pull off its cheap twist chapter ending, the game just doesn’t show you committing the murder.
It’s just as stupid here as it is when one of the player controlled characters in Heavy Rain turned out to be the killer all along. A good mystery game, novel, movie, whatever, has to give the player or viewer enough information to figure out the mystery. Even if you don’t figure it out, you should be able to go back and see the clues were there all along. Danganronpa v3 lies to the player from the very first lines of the game, and then thinks it has a clever twist by deliberately hiding information and lying to the player.
It takes hours to get to this point and probably at least 10 different tutorials. You have to work your way through tedious exposition, and constant interruptions by the Monokubs, a bunch of bargain bin Koopa Kids. The story moves at a snails pace until you get close to the murder. The investigation opens gives hope that the game is salvageable, the trial is actually fun, but then something is off. The evidence now points to Kaede as the culprit, but that doesn’t make sense because I, the player, controlled Kaede, and I certainly didn’t kill anybody. Nope. Wrong. A frustratingly unearned plot twist says I did it.
The true protagonist is Shuichi Saihara, and Danganronpa v3 would be far better off not being deceptive about that. Kaede could still have quickly become a friend, and you’d still feel lost and betrayed when you discover she was the first murderer. The clues would make more sense, because Kaede would have been a character outside of your control, so when she hangs back just before the murder to grab her belongings, that short period of time could be seen as a practical opportunity. Instead, you are led to believe it’s innocuous because, after all, you’re watching Kaede. You’re watching her from the room the murder was committed, at the time it was committed, and the game simply just doesn’t show it happen. It’s bad writing that made for a very unenjoyable start to Danganronpa v3.
You can check out my review in progress, which contains no spoilers, and hear about the other reasons I’m not having a good time with this game.