The best thing about the Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony demo is that it’s not actually part of the full game. It’s a teaser meant to introduce the concept without giving anything away, and for a game about solving murders, that’s pretty important. Its non-canonical murder trial features the new, super-weird minigames and characters we’ll see in the final game without spoiling anyone’s fate, and it’s just enough to know what to expect when the sequel comes West in September.
For the uninitiated, Danganronpa is a series of visual novels about students held captive by a malevolent robot bear–and the only way to escape is to kill a fellow student without being caught. In between murders, you can roam around whatever area you’re trapped in and talk to your fellow students; once a body is discovered, it’s your job to investigate the crime scene until the trial. Successfully finding someone guilty involves identifying contradictions and lies in their statements and playing a number of (totally bizarre) minigames to see the truth.
Danganronpa V3 is the third installment in the core series and stars a new set of “Ultimate” students with unique talents. Like the previous games, they vary from stuck-up genius types to borderline-scary yanderes. Kaede Akamatsu, the first female protagonist in the main series, is the hardworking and optimistic Ultimate Pianist. One notable student is Ultimate Tennis Pro Ryoma Hoshi, who was previously sentenced to death for using steel tennis balls to kill members of a crime syndicate. There are also students who mirror ones from previous games: Shuichi Saihara, who shares the Ultimate Detective title with the first game’s Kyoko Kirigiri, and Rantaro Amami, who can’t remember his talent, just like 2’s protagonist, Hajime Hinata. To fans, that’s very intriguing…and suspicious.
The demo only reveals bits and pieces about each character, but it does show off the new argument mechanics in trials, and one of the most exciting things is how the new features change the ways the students interact. For the first time ever, you can lie during a trial! You’re doing it to suss out the truth, of course, but it adds another dimension to the game’s debates. There’s also a new kind of debate during which multiple characters will talk over each other, their words popping up on different parts of the screen, and you’ll have to be very quick to find the contradictions in their statements.
During key parts of the trials–just after you find a contradiction or lie, for example–you’ll be launched into a minigame to reveal answers. The standout new minigame from the demo is called Brain Drive, and it’s appropriately weird: you have to drive along an ’80s-inspired track collecting letters to form a question, and then you have to pick the lane with the correct answer, such as who the main suspect should be. You “pick up” an escort at the end of the street (by running into her with your car) to select the answer. It’s pretty out there, even by Danganronpa standards.
Although the demo doesn’t actually reveal anything about the game’s story, it highlights the quirky, dark humor and colorful characters that make the series so special. And, as the first game in the series specifically developed for PS4 as opposed to PSP, it’s also gorgeous and stylish in ways the Danganronpa games haven’t yet been able to achieve. The demo will be available closer to the game’s release, and it promises to have special rewards that will carry over when the full game launches on September 26.