Saturday, January 28, 2017

New Classmate of the Dead

「自分を信じるな!俺を信じろ!お前を信じる俺を信じろ!!」
 「グレンラガン」

"Don't believe in yourself! Believe in me! Believe in me who believes in you!!"
"Gurren Lagann"

I just realized this third entry in the Danganronpa series took ages to release. For people playing the English releases, the wait has not been that long, but for people who play the original Japanese releases, it's been a wait of almost 5 years since the last game...

Sixteen high school students awake to find themselves inside an abandoned school building. They have no recollection of how where they are, how they got there, why they're there, or even of each other. The only thing they remember that each of them is considered to be the "Ultimate" of their respective fields of interests, resulting in a diverse group consisting of people like the Ultimate Cosplayer, the Ultimate Inventor and the Ultimate Detective. Outside, they see that a gigantic dome surrounds the school ground, making it impossible for anyone to make their way to the outside world. A group of cute-looking, but highly dangerous robotic bears led by the black-and-white Monokuma explains to the group of sixteen that they are students at the Gifted Prisoners Academy and that the only way to escape from the school is to murder someone, and get away with it. A class trial is held after each murder, where the surviving students have to debate about the identity of the murderer. If the final majority vote on the identity of the murderer turns out to be correct, the murderer will be executed and the game goes on, but if the murderer manages to fool the rest of the students and lead them to a false conclusion, all the other students will be executed while the murderer will be granted freedom. While at first, none of the students show any intention of participating in such a mad game, it doesn't take long for Monokuma's hints about the outside world and the lost memories of the group to break their will and then the first murder occurs... Can the students of the Gifted Prisoners Academy survive these deadly class trials and find out why there are held captive in the PlayStation 4 / PlayStation Vita game New Danganronpa V3 - Minna no Koroshiai Shingakki (New Danganronpa V3 - A New Semester of Mutual Killings for All, 2017)?


New Danganronpa V3 is the third installment in the Danganronpa series developed by Spike-Chunsoft. The psychodelic presentation and the script filled with pop culture references of the original Danganronpa (2010) gave the quirky courtroom mystery game about a group of sixteen Ultimate high school students of Hope's Peak Academy forced to kill each other a unique vibe and it became a surprisingly big hit. Danganronpa was followed by Super Danganronpa 2 in 2012, where a new group of sixteen students were forced to participate in the mutal killing game, while the fictional universe was explored in spin-off games and novel series like Danganronpa/Zero and Danganronpa Kirigiri. The 2016 TV series Danganronpa 3 formed the end of the storyline that started with the first game.

The 2017 videogame New Danganronpa V3 on the other hand is, as the title suggests, a new start for the series, moving away from the previous storylines and introducing us to a brand new cast and setting. It's actually something only a game series can pull off, now I think about it. Even with a new cast and setting, the player will without a doubt recognize V3 as part of Danganronpa series, because the framework is still the same: it's still a mystery game, the game mechanics are mostly the same as previous games, the art and writing style is the same and there's even plenty of reused music. Only the contents (story) is different. It is nonetheless a different game, even it is also clearly Danganronpa. It's something you can't do effectively with a book for example, as there is no true iconic 'framework' in which to present a novel (save for book design/cover, but that can only convey the 'series' feeling in a limited manner, in my opinion).


Anyway, New Danganronpa V3 is supposed to be a sort of soft 'reset' of the Danganronpa franchise, but at the core nothing has changed. Once again the player is presented with a closed circle situation with sixteen students, with them having to solve the murders they commit among themselves in a courtroom setting, whilst also trying to figure out why they are being held captured at the school by Monokuma. Between the murders, you'll wander around the school (in a 3D map) to solve some simple puzzles, but also spend quite some time nurturing friendships with your fellow students. And yes, it really sucks when a student you befriended is killed in the next chapter, or turns out to be the murderer, though that is what makes Danganronpa what it is: you never know who might turn out to be the murderer, and the person who is always cheering you up might actually also be busy planning an elaborate murder plan to escape from the school. This closed circle atmosphere, where you never know who might get killed and who might kill, is something you can't really find in other (passive) mediums like novels and one of the things that make Danganronpa such an unique experience.

As always, the plot can be roughly split in two: the overall story, about why the sixteen students are being held at the Gifted Prisoners Academy, and the seperate murders that happen among the students (in essence a connected short story collection). The individual cases in New Danganronpa V3 were quite enjoyable. As always, they're all impossible crimes (usually a locked room mystery). While in terms of difficulty, I'd say they're just slightly more complex than the (too simple) ones from the first game, the murder plots in V3 were more innovative and original, and therefore fun, even if it was often easy to deduce what had happened even before the class trials started. Apparently mystery writer Kitayama Takekuni (who also writes the Danganronpa Kirigiri spinoff novels) cooperated on the mystery plots for this game. Kitayama is known as a master of impossible situations with a physical trick behind them and you and you can definitely sense his hand in some of the cases. Some of the cases also make fantastic use of the rules and tropes of Danganronpa's unique fictional universe and even the videogame medium itself. These murder cases are really only possible in this game and nowhere else, and thus offer some truly unique ideas. The fourth episode for example features an original setting for a murder plot, somewhat reminiscent of Komori Kentarou's Lowell-jou no Misshitsu. The seperate cases here show that a mystery plot does not need to be utterly complex to be amusing and rewarding. The overall storyline though has, as always, its share of problems. The overall idea behind the SURPRISE (it's never really a surprise) finale is okay (in a Kyomu he no Kumotsu manner), but the execution is longwinded, boring and simultaneously too ambitious and lazy. It's quite a disappointment in comparison with the smaller cases. The parts of V3 are better than the whole.

 
As always, the mystery solving gameplay is inspired by the Ace Attorney games, and has the player mainly pointing out contradictions in the utterances of fellow students with the help of evidence and testimony found during the class trial debates (though unlike the Ace Attorney games, there is an action-element involved in Danganronpa, where you need to act quick and have precise control). By pointing out contradictions, you come to new insights, which drives the plot and class trials forward. New in V3 is the ability to lie: occasionally the debate comes to a standstill, but you can lie to force a breakthrough in the debate. It's used only used sparingly though (but adds some replay value as there are some alternative debate routes you can explore through lying). There are also some other minigame-esque segments that also come in play during these mystery-solving debates, but to be honest: they were horrible. Most of them were 'reimagined' versions of game mechanics of the earlier two games, but for some reason all of them have made a turn for the worse. Seriously. I finished V3 and I still don't get how that one rhythm game works, even though I had no problems with its variations in the previous two games.

New Danganronpa V3 is a surprisingly difficult game to explain. At times, it feels like nothing but a somewhat uninspired remake of the first game, and with some game mechanics changed for the worse and (once again) a somewhat chaotic ending, it's easy to look at V3 as a very large step backwards compared to Super Danganronpa 2 or even the original game. Yet if you look at the seperate cases and the things they do there, I have to say I really enjoyed those cases. V3 really has some of the most interesting cases of the whole franchise (from a mystery-plot point of view). So yeah, I'm quite torn by this game. Perfect, it is certainly not and on the whole, it isn't a step forward for the series either. But there are some brilliant moments in here that do make this game worth the time if you're a fan of the series. The game will be released for English markets later in 2017 with the title Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony.

Original Japanese title(s): 『ニューダンガンロンパV3』

12 comments :

  1. since it's a reboot, does this mean that in this game Monokuma wasn't created by you-know-who ?

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    1. If you really want to know (ROT13):

      GungVfPbeerpg

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  2. I had a version of this comment typed up, but then my browser ate it. Darn...

    Anyway, nice review as always, Ash! Told you chapter 4 was a good setup.

    I'm in a weird place with the overall plot/ending of this one because I think the plot is terrible but I kind of had a really good time with the last investigation/trial? (Give or take the portions just before and after the big twist.) I certainly liked it better than SDR2's final trial.

    Overall though I think I was a little disappointed in the overall cases as some cool setups felt squandered by overly long or predictable trial segments. Chapters 3 and 4 were definitely the worst about this, which was particularly disappointing given 4's really fantastic setup.

    Still, if nothing else, you can't say DR isn't aware it's got storytelling options as a videogame it wouldn't have in other mediums.

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    1. Long/predictable trial segments is something they really have trouble with in this series. Unlike Ace Attorney, it all happens in one turn, so you find all the evidence beforehand, which allows the player to deduce most of what is going to happen in the trial. And unlike Ace Attorney, most of the time you won't be really discovering new facts in the trial, but just be defending a position, so there are few surprises. I remember SDR2 did better with the information flow, sometimes coming up with new testimonies, but I felt that NV3 was a lot more like the first game in that respect, with everything given to you from the start, leaving little room for any surprises. Splitting things up in several trial segments could help, but doesn't really work storywise.

      Personally, I think the concept behind the overall plot is really neat, as it is something I think very, very few series could (potentially) pull off, and Danganronpa is definitely of those very few because of the tone it has had since the very first one. In a way, it's also a logical evolution on the theme of SDR2. Only it didn't really work out here in the end.

      Major spoilers (ROT13):
      V guvax gung jr'q unir tbar n ybat jnl vs zber pyhrf naq rzcunfvf unq orra tvira nobhg ubj negvsvpvny gur jbeyq naq gur qrirybczrag bs gur fgbel jnf, naq ubj zhpu vg erfrzoyrq gur bevtvany tnzr guebhtubhg nyy gur puncgref. Gura gur erirny gung vg'f nyy n tnzr naq gung "jr" ner gur barf jub jnag gb frr gurz xvyyvat rnpu bgure jbhyq'ir sryg zber vzcerffvir. Lrf, gurer ner gubfr fprarf jvgu Zbabxhzn znxvat nyy gubfr ersreraprf gb rneyvre tnzrf, naq zveeberq fvghngvbaf yvxr gur bcravat bs gur qbbe gb gur bhgfvqr jbeyq, naq gur er-rknzvangvba bs gur svefg zheqre va gur svany puncgre, nyy sebz gur svefg tnzr, ohg zbfg bs AI3'f erirnyf pbzr ng gur irel raq. Abj gurl whfg gryy lbh gur svefg svir puncgref jrer onfvpnyyl "n yvr" naq guebj fghss ng lbh. Nyfb, V guvax vg'q unir orra zhpu zber ybtvpny vs gur punenpgref jrer erirnyrq gb or nyy svpgvbany (ohg "erny" va gurve bja havirefr), engure guna yvxr-ubj-qvq-erny-crbcyr-cnegvpvcngr-va-guvf-ivqrbtnzr-ntnva?

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  3. do you know what this is ?

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/1945054476

    it was on asia mystery league

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    1. Nope. I mean, I know the writer, but I don't know about that book. I'd imagine Vertical will release a press release with a summary somewhere between now and release date ^_~

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  4. I heard that the ending had some parts of the Japanese fandom up in arms. How accurate is that and why? And I'm spoiled on it already. :P

    The Dark One

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    1. I think the endings of *all* the games have parts of fandom cry out in some way or another :P I am actually not at all familiar with Danganronpa fandom: I always stay away from it in fear of spoilers ^^ But I can sorta imagine why people would react like that.

      ENDING SPOILERS!! READ AT OWN RISK (ROT13):

      Pbafvqrevat gur snpg gung gur raqvat bs AI3 erirynrq vg jnf nyy whfg n tnzr, naq gung gur nhqvrapr onpx ubzr (=cynlref bs gur tnzr) ner gur "gehr" znfgrezvaq, orpnhfr *gurl* ner gur barf penivat gb frr gur cnegvpvcnagf xvyy rnpu bgure bss, V pna vzntvar fbzr crbcyr zvtug tbg hcfrg nobhg gur cerzvfr gung AI3 jnf "snxr" sebz gur ortvaavat.

      Or people were upset because the execution was (as always) too long :P

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    2. Ahh, I see.

      Bugs me a bit, because I do honestly like twists like that, but they're very hard to do right. It requires tact and skill, and needs to be brought up before the last hour or so. :P A shame, because like you and Bolt said, Dangan Ronpa is one of the few series' that could do this.

      On an unrelated note, what locked rooms do the other games have? I'm (very slowly) working on collecting info on as many locked rooms as I can find, and I'd like to know what I'm missing from this series.

      The Dark One

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    3. My memory is a bit hazy on the details, but I think all, or at least almost all, cases are of the impossible kind (or have features of that), and of those, 50~75% are locked rooms IIRC.

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  5. what's with all the negative reviews on the japanese Amazon ?! O_o

    https://www.amazon.co.jp/%E3%82%B9%E3%83%91%E3%82%A4%E3%82%AF-%E3%83%81%E3%83%A5%E3%83%B3%E3%82%BD%E3%83%95%E3%83%88-%E3%83%8B%E3%83%A5%E3%83%BC%E3%83%80%E3%83%B3%E3%82%AC%E3%83%B3%E3%83%AD%E3%83%B3%E3%83%91V3-%E3%81%BF%E3%82%93%E3%81%AA%E3%81%AE%E3%82%B3%E3%83%AD%E3%82%B7%E3%82%A2%E3%82%A4%E6%96%B0%E5%AD%A6%E6%9C%9F-PS-Vita/dp/B01LZRWANA/ref=pd_sim_63_11?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=DTQ6KPMV0H2H7ESMB3TA

    also, if a lot of people didn't like it...I'm scared it means they won't be doing anymore Danganronpa in the future T_T

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    1. In my experience, game reviewers on Amazon Japan have a tendency to overreact, though as pointed out in the comments above, it is sorta related to what the creators tried to achieve with this game.

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