Black Friday has come and gone, but it’s not too late to set your friends up (or simply treat yourself) with a fantastic handheld game to keep you occupied throughout your holiday travel this year. Check out CGMagazine’s Derek Heemsbergen’s recommendations for the most immersive, addictive, and flat-out gripping handheld titles available now on a portable console near you!
Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth
A massive dungeon-crawling adventure, Etrian Odyssey V blends Dungeons & Dragons-style character-building with distinctly Japanese RPG sensibilities.
Why They’ll Love It: They’ll spend hours upon hours creating a party of super-powered custom adventurers…and then tens of hours more braving the treacherous Yggdrasil labyrinth! Etrian Odyssey V is one seriously dense game, with tons to see and do. Its signature map-making gameplay should appease old-school gamers looking for a meaty experience with a slightly analogue sensibility.
Pokémon Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon
Like Pokémon Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, and their other “third version” counterparts before them, Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are the latest and greatest way to experience the addictive Pokémon phenomenon.
Why They’ll Love It: It’s Pokémon, but bigger and better than ever. Chances are, if your would-be recipient has even a passing interest in Pokémon, they’ve probably already checked out 2016’s Sun and Moon. Why not get them this year’s updated version so that they don’t have to drop the cash? Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon‘s myriad tweaks and additions are welcome, though perhaps not substantial enough to justify buying the game yet again, making it an excellent stocking stuffer for the financially conservative Pokémon fanatic.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
The latest entry in the Ys series is a blazing-fast action RPG perfectly suited to the pick-up-and-play nature of the PlayStation Vita.
Why They’ll Love It: With its origins squarely back in the 1980s, Ys is a storied game series with some serious street cred. Lacrimosa of Dana continues in the proud tradition of its predecessors with swords, spells, and mystery aplenty. Because most every Ys game is a self-contained adventure, Lacrimosa of Dana stands on its own as a fast and frenetic adventure that should make any RPG fan happy. As a bonus, NIS America is currently at work on a revamped localization for the game, which should give it a renewed lease on life sometime next year. Did somebody say New Game+?
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
The thrilling conclusion to the Danganronpa series brings another bizarre tale of high school murder to the small screen on PlayStation Vita.
Why They’ll Love It: There are few series out there more morbidly compelling than Danganronpa. With a grim, high-stakes story and excellent music to keep their blood pumping, your lucky recipient will be drawn into Danganronpa‘s bloody world in no time flat. Despite being a new entry in the series, V3‘s connection to previous Danganronpa games is a little more subtle, making it a fine entry point for newcomers. Chances are, though, they’ll want to go back for more.
Tobu Tobu Girl
A hyper-retro blast from the 8-bit past, Tobu Tobu Girl is an adorable, arcade-style Game Boy platformer freshly released at the tail end of 2017.
Why They’ll Love It: Whimsical and challenging, Tobu Tobu Girl hearkens back to classic Game Boy titles that were bursting with imagination. Plus, because Tobu Tobu Girl‘s physical edition is a limited, independent release, it’s sure to become a rare collector’s item. You’ll be giving a fun game and the gift of a financial investment! How’s that for a one-two punch?
Still unsure about what to get that special someone this Holiday season? For more suggestions, check out the CGMagazine Buyers Guide – Best of 2017 Edition, available for pre-order now, in print and digital formats. Get yours here.
EDITORS NOTE: A retail versions of some of these games were provided by the publisher. You can find additional information about CGMagazine’s ethics and review policies and procedureshere.
Danganronpa is a series that has largely existed on its own terms. When the murder mystery series’ story expanded beyond the confines of its format, its creators looked to other genres and mediums to spin its tale, ending its original story in anime form with Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School. While the latest game in the series, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, was positioned as a new beginning for the series, one that dropped the original game’s setting in favour of something brand new, I ended up coming away from the game feeling that it was actually more of an extended goodbye. Technically Danganronpa V3 is a new story, but it doesn’t seem to exist as a way to start the series anew, but rather a thinly veiled look at the series, consumerism, and how market demand can push something beyond its original intent.
Using an elaborate meta-commentary Danganronpa V3 gets the final word on whether or not the franchise should continue. This ending, coupled with developer Spike Chunsoft’s treatment of the series in its seven years and creator Kazutaka Kodaka’s own statements, seems indicative of Danganronpa attempting to, for better or worse, die just as it lived: on its own terms.
To understand why Danganronpa V3 ends the way it does, it’s important to take a look at the life of the Danganronpa franchise.
The first game in the series, 2010’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, focused on students of Hope’s Peak Academy. This prestigious school was a prison for a group of elite students who were forced into a killing game by Monokuma, a devious teddy bear with a fetish for despair. In order to escape the confines of Hope’s Peak, a student must murder a classmate without being caught by the survivors in a mock trial. This murder mystery was framed as a philosophical battle between hope and despair, and this theme was a throughline from the first game to its eventual conclusion in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School. Among the many mysteries Trigger Happy Havoc provided, its reveal that the world outside Hope’s Peak Academy had been decimated by a cult of Monokuma’s followers set the series on a difficult path to maintaining its integrity while also giving fans what they wanted out of it.
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair recreates this killing game on an island, but doing so within the realm of the series’ current fiction proved elaborate, as it had to use a virtual reality simulation and escape the truth of its world to make it fit. It worked, but it bent the story just beyond its breaking point to create what the fans expected.
The following game, Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls, dismissed the notion of the killing game, opting instead to focus on the outside world in a third-person shooter. The premise felt more honest to the grander story of the series, even if it didn’t draw the same praise the murder mystery entries did.
Ultimately, the story of Hope’s Peak Academy was concluded in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School, an animated series that forgoes gameplay entirely. The switch in medium allowed Danganronpa to create a story not restricted by mechanics as well as wrap up loose ends outside the format of the murder mystery that brought it prestige in the first place.
From 2012 to 2016, Spike Chunsoft went to great lengths to maintain the integrity of Danganronpa’s story. When it became clear that it would be a struggle to include the format of the killing game in the world of Hope’s Peak Academy a third time, Spike Chunsoft looked for other ways to continue and complete the story, even if it went against what people may have expected or wanted from Danganronpa.
Even as the series grew in popularity and notoriety, it went against market demand and kept its story intact. This idea of ownership and integrity plays a big part in Danganronpa V3’s conclusion and what it has to say about not giving into market demand. This is done by breaking the fourth wall allowing Danganronpa V3 to have an open and honest conversation with the audience.
In its final chapter Danganronpa V3 presents itself as the 53rd entry of the Danganronpa franchise. This caricature of Danganronpa is a long-running series that has been coming up with new gimmicks to keep the audience entertained, adding new mascot characters with no tangible purpose to the narrative other than to sell more merchandise, and creating new stories and mysteries to feed the audience’s yearning for the killing game.
There’s a separation from the series’ original story in this world by presenting Danganronpa 1-3 as exactly what they were: a fictional story. In V3’s world, the Danganronpa franchise was so popular it went on for 53 iterations, escalating and moving beyond the medium of video games and anime to eventually become a reality show that fans audition for and participate in. Akin to something like Digimon Tamers, which treated previous seasons of the show as a television show the characters were fans of, Danganronpa V3’s story ostensibly has no bearing on the story of Hope’s Peak Academy as it puts the two on different planes of existence. However, while Digimon used this idea to get a fresh start without the baggage of its previous canon, Danganronpa V3 does that as well as making a series of bold statements about supply, demand, artistic integrity, and when viewed through a certain lens, turning a judgmental eye on its fan base in the process. With this, Danganronpa V3 edges toward flying too close to the sun with its commentary, as it puts those who supported it on blast.
Not unlike the Danganronpa franchise, the audience, viewing the killing game through the eyes of one of the participants, is portrayed as an exaggeration of itself: obsessed, demanding, and indifferent to the suffering of the participants. Danganronpa V3 goes as far as to cast the fans as the mastermind of the death and despair of the series, with villain Tsumugi Shirogane saying, “As long as the world wants killing games, Danganronpa will not end.” This apparent animosity toward the viewers takes center stage of the final trial, as monitors showing their excited expressions surround the trial room, their comments float around as they cheer on the killing game in hopes of seeing another conflict between hope and despair play out.
For what it’s worth, much of the portrayal of the audience felt directed at a particular type of fan: one who treats the series, characters, and creators with a sort of crass entitlement. Comments from the audience seem to target a specific mindset, such as ones from near the end of the trial like, “This isn’t my Danganronpa. I’m a long-time fan,” and, “I’m not here for a damn lecture.” As such, I was able to distance myself from it all and see it for what it had to say, but it’s still hard to fault someone for feeling betrayed by this sort of portrayal.
In an interview with MyNavi , Kodaka states that, “That world’s viewers aren’t players,” but it’s difficult to wrap my head around such a plot point is created inside a vacuum. It’s an exaggerated version of reality, but it’s hard to believe it could be written without an awareness as to what it would imply: that Danganronpa fans are supporting it into sellout status. Tsumugi goes on to quote the audience’s demanding nature in the trial, saying, “Don’t just end Danganronpa! We supported you! You owe us!” echoed by lamenting from the audience about how much they’ve given to the series and want to see it continue.
At the behest of the fans, the remaining survivors of Danganronpa V3 are given a choice similar to the one at the end of the first game: vote to execute Tsumugi, a representative of despair, or K1-B0, a symbol of hope. The audience’s comments kick into overdrive, with support for either decision coming in seemingly equal measure. This is what every Danganronpa leads to, so of course they’re amped and ready to see how it all plays out.
But it’s protagonist Shuichi Saihara who decides that in order to end the game and not feed into the audience’s desire to see hope and despair clash, each of them must refuse to vote. Neither side will be the victor, and, per the rules, will be executed for not participating.
It’s here that the intent of Danganronpa V3’s meta-commentary ends all hints at subtlety, as Shuichi repeatedly says this is to end Danganronpa, even if it means giving up their lives. The remaining survivors agree to Shuichi’s plan, and the audience, through K1-B0, follows through on it as well. Neither hope nor despair is deemed the victor, and the 53rd iteration of Danganronpa ends, taking the franchise with it. K1-B0 destroys the school, killing Tsumugi in the process, and the audience tunes out of the show en masse.
Danganronpa V3’s commentary feels too on the nose to not be indicative of a desire to end the franchise. Statements since the game’s launch in Japan from Kodaka seem to indicate this as well, having gone on record as saying he would like to take a break after having worked on the series for seven years. All-in-all, he appears happy with what he’s accomplished, saying everything he wanted to do was in V3.
In the games industry, we seldom get dignified goodbyes and endings. Series go on long enough to get cancelled or put on indefinite hiatus, but for others, a series will go on for decades aimlessly fulfilling a demand. Danganronpa V3 feels like a franchise using a final game to satirize itself and refuse to overstay its welcome. It presents a worst case scenario of what the series could become if it continues to exist just to satisfy the market.
Danganronpa could have easily ended when it finished its first story and Spike Chunsoft simply moved onto something new, but Danganronpa V3 is in a privileged position where it doesn’t have to bring closure and can utilize a new setting to make a statement. I would have been more than happy with Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School being the end, and I think if you’re satisfied with that ending, playing V3 feels more like a complimentary message from the developers than it does an essential piece of this puzzle. But despite its consumer-hostile leanings, Danganronpa V3 has a lot to say about market demand and artistic integrity, and how one informs the other. It’s incredibly bold with a message that extends far beyond the death and despair of Danganronpa, as it is applicable to several franchises across any medium.
There’s a powerful, if incredibly divisive, declaration being made here, and it’s one that could spark debate about market saturation and our willingness to let the media we consume go. Spike Chunsoft just has to deliver upon the solution it proposes. For all of this to matter—the setup, the message, and the fans who will likely be hurt by how it’s all delivered—Danganronpa has to die. Otherwise, it was all for nothing.
Derek Heemsbergen takes you through the chilling introduction of Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, the latest game in the Danganronpa murder mystery series, that once again delivers thrills and bloody chills on PS4 and Vita.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony will have streaming restrictions upon launch on PlayStation 4, preventing players from streaming and creating videos of the game beyond the first chapter.
These restrictions are in the interest of preventing spoilers, a representative of publisher NIS America told CGM, and have been imposed directly by developer Spike Chunsoft.
What this means is that both streaming through the PlayStation 4’s share features to stream the game, as well as screenshots, will be blocked beyond the first chapter. Streaming is blocked once the player reaches the first class trial, which is roughly four to five hours into Danganronpa V3’s story. According to NIS America, Spike Chunsoft will be taking down any videos with content beyond the first chapter.
NIS America said in a statement it will be releasing updates about relieving these restrictions in the future, implying streamers and content creators will be able to stream and take screenshots beyond the first chapter at some point.
Spike Chunsoft did not respond when reached for comment.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita on September 26th. The game is the first to feature a new setting for the series, after Danganronpa’s original story concluded in the animated series Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School last year.