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Let's start on an up note. The original Danganronpa (or at least, the Vita remake) was a pretty great self-contained story that ended perfectly but still left plenty of mystery and concepts for sequels to explore. It had well-written characters, some of whom were exactly who they appeared, some of whom were imposters, plants, or otherwise had ulterior motives, and some of whom were good people who snapped under the pressure of the situation and did terrible things. While some characters got cut down too soon, a few additional game modes, while grindy, gave the player the chance to see them fully explored. Even the most unlikable characters were interesting enough to carry engagement. And, of course, the trials were fun logic puzzles that dripped with style, a few clunky minigames and the usual quirks of the genre aside.
But, unfortunately, that's not what made it famous and popular. Lots of unexpectedly brutal and gritty violence and a series of whacked-out, surreal twists that often forced the player to completely rethink earlier events did.
The sequels have mostly refined the gameplay of that first installment to make the trials and adventure game elements more fun, and while some have doubled-down on making the cast more-ridiculous and silly, they at least usually manage to get some actual emotion out of the reader.
But, unfortunately, they have *also* chosen to take those final twists further and further, more and more surreal, and, well... Inevitably, putting in twists for twists' sake and trying to shock the audience rather than tell them a good story leads to an audience that feels cheated and lied to rather than excited by a good surprise.
Plus, they pushed the setting, stories, and characters into darker and darker places, turning more and more background characters and setting elements monstrous and corrupt, until, even after a reboot in the most recent title, almost literally the whole world, except for a very small number of victims, is decadent and rotten through. Worse, they sometimes try to one-up the on-screen violence and depravity with uncomfortable results that are not only bad storytelling but just plain bad taste.
In addition, while the first game's themes weren't exactly the most complex thing in the world, they were well-presented and well-linked to the narrative. Subsequent games have gotten... weird with it. Things like trying to equate hope to being just as bad as despair, that sort of thing. It doesn't work, and it reeks of trying to add thematic depth and heft without really knowing how to.
I won't say the series has gotten bad, but it's certainly failed to evolve in a way that causes it to improve, and the reason is clearly trying to one-up previous titles' content rather than making theirs interesting on its own terms.
Didn\'t really change much, per se, but still an extensive enough edit that I feel compelled to mention it.
Spoilers for Super Dangan Ronpa 2 and V3
I disagree with your assessment that this applies to Super Dangan Ronpa 2. The game would be bad if went for something like \"this is all a dream\" sort of thing but the simulation had a purpose. It helped create a backstory that shared similarities but was much different from the original.The narrative was able to focal point around its general mechanics, include a new cast, connect with the old cast, and avoid being redundant. The game left the player guessing but by the end it fully explained itself and ingrained its plot into Dangan Ronpa canon with little difficulty. I always saw Super Dangan Ronpa 2 as a great example of how to write a sequel to a narrative heavy game. I also disagree with the \"violence and depravity\" part. The violence in the murders always had a purpose, and I felt like Leon and Mondo\'s deaths in the first game was far more gruesome than most executions in the second game.
In V3\'s case I wanted it to be alternate universe but I wanted completely disconnected from the original source material. Instead they connect it in the most bizarre way imaginable. The whole \"hope vs despair\" was always kind of corny, but rather than analyze other aspects of human nature, the writers seem more content to shake the definitions around in a shoebox and see what comes pouring out. The meta of the plot felt too outrageous and the general setting and foreshadowing didn\'t do enough to build the world they were trying to create.
I liked Super Dangan Ronpa but V3 really felt like it was trying too hard to squeeze substance from already used resources rather than go in a different direction.
I don\'t think Super Danganronpa 2 is as bad as V3 on either count, but the biggest problems of V3 are just extensions of problems within 2. That awful character whose whole plot revolves around creepy serial killing and incest, for instance, is just an attempt to redo the some of the more-disgusting sexual content from 2, only moreso, and front-and-center rather than in implication. The \"false identity\" plot is just trying to redo the \"lost memories\" plots from the first two titles, but bigger, and seemingly ignorant to how it undermines the rest of the story.
And, of course, both 2 and V3 try to take the characters in a less-grounded, more over-the-top direction I\'m not sure I really appreciated.
I will say that I liked 2, and did not like V3, but I personally view it as a step down from the first game on multiple points. We can probably agree to disagree on that, but even you seem to admit that V3 is, unfortunately, a logical endpoint rather than a statistical outlier by a number of different metrics.
...And now I\'ve been flagged. Whelp.
That's what happens when you do something as vile and unforgivable as providing your opinion.
I can only tolerate this series' excessiveness because of the country of Japan it originates from, the self-awareness it clearly professes itself to acquire, and because of the fact that it does NOT work how Five Nights at Freddy's does by obscuring certain spectacles of the story and instead revealing nigh every twist included and causing the real need for extra sequels (The officialised number for Danganronpa's extras is only three, counting the sequel, Komaru's extra time as a Player Character, and the separate game) to be mitigated. It was also written by someone 30-years-old and so its professionalism is rather surprising.
Does it though? I never really feel like it does become truly self-aware. And its attempts to comment on itself in V3 are rightly the most panned and unpopular part of the game.
Then I guess it's just my conception...
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