With so many excellent games coming out in 2017, games that would have been a huge success in other years got swept under the rug. Danganronpa is a hugely overlooked series in general. It includes some of the greatest, surprising, and shocking narratives of all time. Danganronpa V3 keeps shocking the audience seven years after the first installment's heart-stopping twist. Unlike my review of Danganronpa V3 this highlight of the game will include spoilers. So if you haven't played it yet, I suggest you do so now.
For those who aren't fans of the series, Danganronpa games are murder mystery visual novels. In each installment, 16 students are trapped in an environment and are told that the only way out is through committing the perfect crime. Only those who can kill another classmate, and convince the remaining survivors that they are innocent will be set free. However, those who escape are committing everyone else to their doom.
Danganronpa slowly peels back its layers. In the first game, you initially learn that the students chose to live trapped inside the school. Then you learn that another student has been living in the school hiding from them. Finally, you learn the biggest twist of all: that outside an apocalypse called "the tragedy" has occurred, and the only life of safety is the one offered within the confines of the school.
When I originally played Danganronpa, I'd never been more shocked by a twist in a video game. It played with my expectations. To me it was natural that the characters would want to leave the school. Learning that it was more dangerous outside than in had me thinking for a long time after.
The twist at the end of Danganronpa 2, while shocking in its own way, came no where near the surprises of the first. When you learn the rules of a given game universe, it becomes easier to predict the outcomes. Danganronpa 2 tried to work against it, but fell a little short. By the end of this tale, we learn that the students were put inside a simulation to rehabilitate them from their evil ways in the real world. While they have now returned to their righteous selves inside the artificial world, returning to the real one would lead to those killed in the game being gone forever.
After this twist I felt Danganronpa had already showing its hand. By showing us that you can take nothing for granted, we grew to know what to expect. That's when Danganronpa V3 came along and used those expectations against the player for their shocking reveals.
Danganronpa V3 hits you in the gut from the get go. While the first investigation plays out as normal, the first murderer is in fact the only person that you knew it couldn't be. It is the protagonist, the one you have followed since the beginning. Danganronpa V3 pulls this reveal off flawlessly. Every action that the protagonist did in order to pull off the murder, you witnessed, and watched. Without hearing her inner monologue on the matter, the truth is still hidden from the player. Seasoned players of Danganronpa felt comfortable connecting with the protagonist, only to have the rug pulled out from under them.
And then there is the ending.
This is a topic that has been a source of controversy among Danganronpa players and fans. Some see it as an insult to them in return for their loyal fandom. Others like me believe it is the greatest ending to any video game they have ever played.
It's foreshadowed from the start with the aforementioned event. Nothing you know about Danganronpa and even video games can be taken for granted. The Danganronpa series is known for its ability to surprise and shock the player, and Danganronpa V3 played its final card in order to achieve this.
The main antagonist of Danganronpa V3 is you.
Not the first protagonist Kaede or the next protagonist Shuichi who you play for the majority of Danganronpa V3. It's you the player. It's you the fan.
The game points out, that it is us gamers who demand new Danganronpa games. We are the ones who demand that Spike Chunsoft create new Danganronpa characters. The fans are the ones who want to see them participate in this killing game. These characters that we know and love so much, we wanted them to be made, so they could perish all for our entertainment.
You know that it is true right from the beginning, and yet, it's the last twist that you see coming. With this twist ending it feels like Danganronpa has no where left to go in terms of surprising the player. If there ever is a Danganronpa 4, I know they would only do so if they find a new way to pull it off.