Beyond the Review: My Final Thoughts on DRV3
Even by Danganronpa standards, the ending is a plot twist no one expected. Its controversy and ambiguity managed to split the Danganronpa fanbase into a bundle of mixed reactions. On one hand, people are left angry and disappointed when they hear from the mastermind, Tsugumi Shirogane, that the events of Hope’s Peak Academy did not exist. The DRV3 characters that the players have come to know exist as puppets following a designated script.
However, others felt happiness towards reducing a fan base and the entirety of the Danganronpa series into nothing, enjoying the negative reactions of fans in denial when their beloved series did not even happen. Regardless, I enjoyed playing DRV3 despite myself being a part of the angry mob of disappointed and let down fans. Intellectually, it was a brilliant and brave move on Kodaka’s part and I’m excited to see where the Danganronpa series is heading in the future.
Alongside my thoughts, fellow writer Anthony shares his perspective on DRV3’s ending:
ATGN writer and casual Danganronpa fan Anthony here. Just wanted to throw in my two cents.
The ending to DRV3 will be described many ways by fans on a scale from “I loved it” to “I hate this, how could they do this to me”. The short version of the ending is that the characters are told by the antagonist that the events of the previous Danganronpa games were fictional and that they’re participating in a reality television show which is up to its 53rd season. This will be rage inducing for some and rightfully so. Just imagine your favourite TV series unfolding a new plot that made all of the story before it just a video game.
Despite this, I believe this makes the ending successful – the creators achieved what they set out to do.
It felt haphazard to simply throw away the premise of the entire storyline until now, just to create a big ‘reveal’ at the end. However, the game also acknowledges this reaction. As the characters resolve to break the cycle of death by declining to make any choice, ending the killing game, the viewers express their objection and dismay (especially in the final mini-game).
It feels like this reaction is also an acknowledgement of you, the player, who might also be reacting similarly to the events unfolding as a fan of the series in the real world. The fictional viewers demand an ending which is in line with their expectations, much like you – the player – generally wants an ending which is within their “Horizons of Expectation.” This was really smart – it takes the angle that each victory is doomed to only provide a reason for the next Danganronpa to happen and Shuichi discovers a way to end it, objecting to the expectation which has been placed on them by the audience, including you.
Perhaps the best thing Danganronpa V3’s ending does is involve the audience. It addresses you, and makes you a participant in its story.
Kodaka, the creator, has said that V3 should be considered seperate from the rest of the games and the ending described above is a reason for it. Consider for example, a movie referencing “Lord of the Rings” as a fictional novel. In the context of that movie, Lord of the Rings is a work of fiction.
However, when you as a person read Lord of the Rings, you don’t view the world as a novel written by Tolkien – you view it as the adventure of Frodo Baggins.
It just so happens that it is Danganronpa V3 which is referencing Danganronpa 1 and 2 in this case. At the end of V3, I felt that the game acknowledges that Danganronpa 1 and 2 may be fictional, but should be considered on their own with dialogue referring to the real impact a fictional world can have.
If you are still not satisfied, at the very least the ending is made to be ambiguous. In the final moments, Shuichi and the surviving ensemble question Tsumugi’s explanation of what is ocurring and wonder if Hope’s Peak Academy is real or not (questioning whether it is correct to say the previous games are fictional in their universe). I would have been happy enough if the game finished at the credits roll, but the ambiguity and the extra scene at the end provide some much needed closure to the player.