This game has been out for like a year and I've finally gotten around to finishing the game. The main reason: a lack of motivation. With the conclusion of Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak Academy, the main story of the game was done and over with and V3 shits on the legacy left by the Hope's Peak arc.
The premise of the game is simple. Sixteen high schoolers are locked together in a school like area in order to participate in a killing game. Only the one who survives in the end (or discovers the mastermind and has them put to death instead, as per tradition now) is allowed to live. If the kids guess the wrong killer, the killer goes free and everyone else dies. Throughout the game, you have to work together with the other kids to find out who the mastermind is before the incentives provided kills everyone else.
As the students refuse to kill one another, Monokuma tells everyone that if no one dies in two days (should be three, but translation error), he will kill them all. As a result, the first killing begins. This sets of all of the other events in the story.
The same, signature flat character style is back. Each character still has their unique look and characteristics though the cast this time does not look or feel as diverse as the others. They still use the static images for most backgrounds with the only 3D areas being the ones you are free to walk around in, which are very limited. The same visual style is also back for the killings. In short, if you liked the way the other Danganronpa games looked, you will be fine with this one too.
The gameplay is like that of an adventure game with minor visual novel elements. You spend a lot of time going around, checking out areas and talking to people between the killings. As you befriend people, you learn more about them and unlock skills to help you out during the trials to discover the killer. Rewards from trials can earn you items that you can then spend to unlock gifts for people to improve the relationships more quickly.
Transitions in the game go between daily life, investigation, and class trial. Daily life is what happens between killings where you get to learn more about the people and even spend some time with a character of your choice to learn about them and gain new skills. As the game progresses, new areas are also unlocked during the daily life period. The investigation occurs right when someone is killed and a body is discovered. At that point, you have to explore the school to look for evidence and collect testimonies from the other players in order to build a case to figure out who you think is the killer.
Once that is done, you get into the class trial, where each of the kids present their evidence and try to figure out who the killer is. Once more, they bring back a lot of the old features, but revamped them in a different way. It is now possible to tell lies and it gives you more than one way out for some trial sections, which is a nice touch. The only problem is because of these changes, the controls have suddenly become a lot more complex and can make it difficult to time things. For example, if you hold down the button to fire the truth bullet, it turns into a lie after a few seconds. They also have new things like group vs group arguments and people just flat out shouting things at one another in a free for all. These new things are a nice touch, but revamping the old ones creates a lot of inconsistencies in control, especially if you were trying to play them all consecutively like I did. The controls makes it harder by forcing you to consume your focus bar or have to waste time such as how all the Hangman letters are hidden unless you consume focus to reveal them or wait for a scan.
The humor is back with a lot of referential humor that you will not understand unless you are a big fan of anime. The Monokubs and Monokuma provide a lot of raunchy humor and there is a lot more swearing in this game than compared to the previous ones. I found it offputting as it only worked for maybe two of the characters present yet it was done a lot more than necessary.
Now that the good stuff is out of the way, it's time to get into the bad and this game suffers a lot from it. The main reason for this is that Danganronpa V3 is essentially a reboot to the series and ultimately a weak finish. The reason is that it tries to separate itself from the previous entries only to dig its heels in at the end even harder than the previous entries in the game by referencing every single character from previous games and even engaging in fourth wall breaking implying that the players are to blame for this.
The first comes with the plot of V3. If you have looked at my other reviews, one of the things that I focus a lot on is the plot because it drives my reason for continuing the game. This is the biggest problem. From the very first killing, the entire game is premised on lies to the player. You start playing the game as Kaede, the Ultimate Pianist, who is then actually killed as the first killer and replaced by Shuichi, who you play as for the rest of the game. But, a few chapters later, you discover that she was not the killer. So, she was wrongfully killed by Monokuma who in turn not only allowed a mistrial to occur, but also directly killed her, violating the rules he had set up. Tsumugi never invoked her right of first blood, thus making her the blackened and also everyone else should have died by voting for the wrong person. By going through with the killing, Monokuma directly interfered in the results, which should have punished Monokuma for it. In the second game, Monokuma went so far as to turn Nekomaru into a cyborg to prevent that from happening. Even though this does become a major point in the final trial, it does not change what Monokuma did. The Monokubs even directly intervene in the final trial to make this violation even worse.
The second issue with the plot comes with the final antagonist being Tsumugi, who dresses up as Junko and pretty much every person from Danganronpa 1 and 2 despite her "allergy" to cosplaying real people, implying that everything that happened in the entire Hope's Peak Arc to be false realities constructed by implanting memories into them for the purpose of a reality show (another plot point recycled again). It implies that none of it happened and it was the "all just a dream" type of ending because they shit on all the characters in the final chapter by saying all the characters we have gotten to know over the game are not real people, just implanted personalities. This is on top of it retconning everything despite supposedly being a separate story. It also means that there are still 50 other Danganronpa sites that we have not seen.
Final Score: 5/10
The gameplay of the game holds up fine, but the story absolutely drags this game down. Not only does it not function as a new story, it completely retcons itself and the previous games as reality shows that people have been watching for a long time because they wanted to see people kill each other. Many elements of the previous games are recycled, including providing motives. But, the fact remains that Monokuma directly intervened to affect the trial outcomes and is still allowed to carry out the final class trial completely despite breaking so many rules that he created is just ridiculous. The only thing that stands out is the class trials, but even then, the free for alls are just everyone shouting into a mess of noise rather than something carefully crafted. The debates during the trials have become more complex, which can be good in a way, but it also means that focus is being exchanged for time in most cases making your greatest enemy time and making it harder to focus on solving the actual problem at hand.
Ultimately, V3 feels like a failed soft reboot of the series and leaves those who loved the previous games and followed the story closely with a sour aftertaste by bringing the characters back in the worst way possible, having them literally talk down to the player by breaking the fourth wall. It is not Ghostbusters (2016) bad, but definitely feels like it falls in a similar category.