Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third main installment in the Danganronpa series, developed by Spike Chunsoft and published by NIS America. It's the first in the series to be released for home consoles, though technically Danganronpa 1-2 Reload, a compilation of the first two games in the series, arrived first in North America and Europe.

Danganronpa V3 continues the familiar premise seen in the first two main games in which 16 high school students wake up with amnesia in a place seemingly run and governed by a mysterious robot bear named Monokuma. The game once again features a school setting, called Ultimate Academy for Gifted Juveniles, after Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair changed things up with a more vibrant tropical island setting. The school is designed to keep everyone locked up, and the only way to get out is by killing another student and successfully getting away with it.

The cast in Danganronpa V3 is perhaps the strongest yet in the series. Spike Chunsoft certainly put a lot of effort into injecting each character with fleshed-out personalities and backgrounds. Each of the 16 students is an "ultimate student," talented and accomplished in a specific field of study. Many of the students - including Miu Iruma, the Ultimate Inventor, Shuichi Saihara, the Ultimate Detective, and Himiko Yumeno, the Ultimate Magician - are easily identifiable by their behaviors and looks. The main game doesn't give you enough time to get to know most of the other characters, though. You will have to dive into the post-game content to learn more about them, especially those who bit the dust too soon in the story.

Dialogues are well-written, with a good amount of references to current events and pop culture, most likely intended to make you feel a sort of connection to the game. Voice acting is brilliant, perfectly capturing all the tension, urgency, and craziness in each chapter. There's a surprising amount of humor included as well, which contradicts the otherwise dark story. But the way the humor is placed throughout the story doesn't make it sound forced and out-of-place. Curses and vulgar words also come in buckets, one of the reasons for that M rating.

The game is divided into three phases: Daily Life, Deadly Life, and Class Trial. Daily Life is similar to the social simulation aspect in the Persona games in which you explore the school and interact and forge bonds with the other students. But the fact that one of the students will inevitably commit a crime and murder another student because the story requires it to move forward might make you feel a bit hesitant about establishing bonds. Daily Life ends when a student turns up dead, after which the game sends you to Deadly Life and tasks you with gathering enough clues and evidence to be used for the third phase. Story progression is done primarily through Daily Life and Deadly Life.

Class Trial is similar to the courtroom trials in the Ace Attorney games and is where all the action happens. During Class Trial, you debate against other students in order unmask the culprit behind the current murder case. Numerous mini-games come into play during this phase, which aims to make debates more lively and entertaining. Some mini-games are more annoying than entertaining, however, and only serve to artificially lengthen trials. The most notable addition in Class Trial is the ability to lie. It's an interesting option because it presents a moral and ethical dilemma for you to deal with. In a few cases, lying is encouraged to get the trial moving in the right direction. But you can always choose to keep your hands clean and try to solve the murder with nothing but logic, reason, and a clean conscience.

Danganronpa V3 starts off with a bang. The first case is arguably one of the best in the series and easily the most interesting in the game. But after that, the story takes a while to pick up again. The middle part can feel like a real drag, especially once you already have a good feel for the flow of the game and can sniff out the culprit from miles away, making trials feel like a chore more than anything. But the slow build-up toward the third act is certainly worth it. Just when you thought you had everything figured out, the game throws you a curveball. I'm not going to spoil the rest of the story here. You need to experience it first-hand because it's definitely one of the most thought-provoking and shocking stories you will ever come across in a video game. It does have its flaws, however, especially when it comes to the motives behind the murders.

The murder cases in Dangaronpa V3 are more grounded in reality compared to the cases in the previous games - the majority of them seem like they could really happen in real life. None of those totally unbelievable cases featured in the first two games. Most of them are easy to solve, however, with culprits so obvious you would wish there's a way to simply skip Class Trial and directly apprehend them right then and there. But that's what Danganronpa V3 (and other murder mystery games) is all about. It gives you enough hints to quickly pinpoint who committed the murder. Getting to the bottom of things and figuring out how and why the culprit did it is the rewarding part of the journey toward the truth.

Danganronpa V3 is the best Danganronpa experience yet and perhaps the best visual novel game out at the moment, regardless of platform. It has interesting characters and a tension-filled story with a jaw-dropping final act that makes the slow build-up more than worth it. It has enough mini-games to keep trials entertaining, though things can get repetitive, especially right around the middle part when the cases start to become more tedious. It has excellent writing and voice acting, and the soundtrack does a good job at keeping the tone of the game. If you're a big fan of story-driven games, Danganronpa V3 is definitely a game you shouldn't pass up on playing.