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Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Zero Escape: Virtue

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is one of those games that rarely comes along in Western territories; visual novel style affairs are simply not seen to draw in the same magnitude of players as in Japan. However, Aksys Games took a risk, just as it had done previously with the Jake Hunter adventures, and it paid off tremendously. Such a unique way of storytelling proved gripping and the multitude of different endings on offer meant that players were drawn back in again and again to find out the 'real' ending to it all, overcoming a smattering of intriguing puzzles along the way. So good was the game that numerous publications, Cubed3 included, rated it as one of the best DS games, full stop. Chunsoft Spike, developer of the original, is back with Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, a sequel of sorts, this time on Nintendo 3DS. Can it live up to its predecessor?

50 hours, or thereabouts. That is the answer to anyone wondering how long it took to get through every single story thread, achieve all endings, and unlock every tiny secret in Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. Sure, people will complete it in less as they skip through some of the filler content, but Virtue's Last Reward is like a good book in that every last drop should be savoured before parting company with it. From the opening scenes that leave players in the dark about the majority of what is going on, through to scouring all potential avenues to uncover every last secret and all the additional data to flesh out the mind-bending storyline, Chunsoft Spike's tale is woven in a majestic manner that will draw in anyone with a penchant for the obscure and anything off the beaten track.

To go into too much detail would undoubtedly spoil far too much, so intricate tangled the web is, and even some feel the fact that knowing there is a definite link between this and 999 is too much of a giveaway. However, inevitable information slips aside, details pertaining to the premise can be revealed whilst maintaining an air of mystery. Upon waking in locked lift (elevator to US readers!), the lead character, Sigma, finds he is not alone, stuck in the small space with a young girl by the name of Phi. Somehow she instinctively knows his name, but when quizzed on why, the answer eludes her. Looking around their current prison it becomes apparent that there are puzzles to solve and a safe that needs to be opened. Thus begins the first of many circumstances where escaping from a seemingly impossible situation ensues.

Screenshot for Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Morbid, twisted, devious, tumultuous - all words that can be banded around when talking about what unfolds, with the eventual escape from the first location leading to a meeting with several other characters all unsure about why they have all been locked within a large, apparently abandoned facility, and what the strange watch-like contraptions around their wrists are. It quickly transpires that everyone has been enlisted in the Nonary Game that was the basis of 999, but this time there is a twist in that it has a subtitle; Ambidex Edition. Each person has a different coloured number on their bracelets, some with the word 'Pair' and others 'Solo' to indicate if they are to work in tandem with a particular person or alone. Only certain combinations of people can progress through various coloured doors around the facility and this is where the story splitting commences, with the player's choices causing certain paths to be taken and others to be left until the next play-through. The ultimate objective is to increase everyone's Bracelet Points (BP) to '9' and escape through the corresponding final door.

How to get a higher number is the key here, though, and it comes at a price. The Ambidex Game involves people working together or against each other. Groups head off into different 'AB Rooms' and must choose to Ally or Betray. If everyone does the latter, zero points are awarded, whilst if all choose to stay true to the bonds built up in the short space of time, then two additional points are accrued all round. Should someone choose Ally and another opposing team select Betray, the first lot lose points, whilst the others gain more, and if that means the number on the watches falls to nought or below, death comes a-knocking at the door and resultantly it is game over as a lethal poison is injected into the system via the underside of the wristbands. It can quickly deteriorate into a case of someone betraying constantly to escape first but then suffering the consequences of others losing trust and also betraying with no gain for anyone, leading to a vicious cycle. That then begs the question of morality - would someone resort to force in order to prevent someone else not choosing Ally, since anyone not voting or already deceased automatically defaults to the positive option?

Screenshot for Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Anyone intimidated by plenty of reading should walk away right now, since the whole point of Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is to be utterly enraptured with the prose at hand, with the brain-teasing element making up only a relatively small section of the 'game.' In terms of the challenges included, though, they all play out in a manner akin to point-and-click adventures, with the stylus used to move around and interact with numerous items and objects in the surroundings. Anyone that has played Myst will be aware of the approach used, with each tap on the screen rotating the view to focus on another still image or zooming into something for a closer look. The mechanic works far smoother than the oft-clunky Myst, though, and investigating the rooms in which specific teams are temporarily trapped is as effortless as could be expected, albeit with some extremely taxing conundrums at times.

As touched upon in the hands-on preview of the eShop demo, the aim is to pick up clues dotted around, most of which seem amazingly obscure at times, but with use of the in-game memo notes can be written down and referred to when trekking around. Pick up items, find ways to join objects together, work on deciphering codes, work out various calculations, make use of the environment in whatever way possible, and slowly the jigsaw pieces all start to come together. Puzzles can be tackled in both Normal and Hard mode, and there are always two solutions to work towards. In each room there is a safe that can be opened using two combination codes, the first providing the escape key and the second giving access to a file filled with extra information that expands the story further, coming in silver or gold form dependent on which mode the room was completed in.

Screenshot for Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Working along a particular pathway will always lead to a conclusion, yet perhaps not the one expected. After all, with the numerous opportunities to change the way the game progresses thanks to the user-choices of groups to join up with to head through certain doors in the facility and the whole Ally-Betray aspect that causes all sorts of intriguing twists and turns, there are plenty of combinations to play around with. Reach a 'Game Over' point? Never fear as the player is then transported to a save screen (only one save allowed, however) and backing out of there brings up a branching tree on the 'Flow' screen showing which route had just been taken. There is then the chance to 'jump' back to any other point in the tale and make alternate decisions to view different outcomes, and this proves imperative for breaking through roadblocks further into the adventure. Flow can also be accessed at any time for jumping hither and thither whenever desired.

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is a remarkable adventure that has such a captivating premise, unfolding piece by piece, encouraging the player to delve deeper and deeper to discover more facets. Sadly there is an annoying bug featured in one of the puzzle rooms that must be mentioned. Upon reaching a place called the 'Rec Room,' unfortunately completing the stages of the puzzle itself in the logical way does not work and at some point the game will freeze and kick you out completely right to the 3DS main menu - even in the eShop download version, ruling out a 3DS card issue - and there have been some reports of people's save files being corrupted and all progress lost. However, Cubed3 repeatedly tested this and thankfully never lost any data. How? 'Cheating' by using the Internet to get the solution to part of the puzzle that would normally only be solved later on helps bypass whatever glitch is within the game code. Doing everything in the correct order is problematic, so be careful! Normally something like this would drag the score down considerably, but it is just too good of a game outside of that one flaw.

Screenshot for Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward on Nintendo 3DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The complexity of certain puzzles may put some people off, but the mix of easy-going and tough-as-nails conundrums keeps players on their toes and works extremely well as a way to tie all the narrative sections together. With intuitive touch screen controls throughout, a smart navigation menu for accessing all branches of the story, and a plentiful supply of brain food along the way, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is a magical ride from start to finish.

Graphics

Whilst not as visually appealing as the 2D DS game, the 3D character models and visuals in general still work superbly well to build up the atmosphere and deliver an impressive style throughout, with some great cut-scenes helping to progress the story.

Sound

The majority of the soundtrack is macabre to say the least, which suits the tone of the setting in general, and the voice work (Japanese only in the UK release) is very impressive indeed, with some quite emotive acting at times.

Value

With so many permutations to work through, plenty of locks that can only be overcome by completing other endings first, nine main endings to find, as well as the secret files that open up more details of the already intriguing storyline, plus some special hidden aspects that will shock most players, days will fly by without realising, as would be the case with any great novel.

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
Rated 9 out of 10

Following on from a true masterpiece is never easy, and 999: : Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was just that, yet Chunsoft Spike has come up with the goods once more. Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward may lack the initial punch delivered by its predecessor, but still brings an engrossing tale to the table, with a story that players will have to explore completely before finally putting the game back on the shelf. With a smattering of smart puzzles tying everything together, it will take something truly special to trump this superb visual novel experience.

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25.12.2012

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Also known as

Extreme Escape Adventure: Good People Die

Developer

Spike Chunsoft

Publisher

Rising Star

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?
Rob64 (guest) 25.12.2012 16:25#1

This is on eShop??  Mine! Sounds amazing Smilie

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Yes, it's great that Rising Star Games has made this available on eShop as well to prevent the ridiculously high prices that 999 soared to when released in the US due to a limited run.

Hopefully it'll encourage long-term sales! It really is amazing and I'm interested to hear the thoughts of others that have played it Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Ryan (guest) 26.12.2012 17:29#3

3DS Game of the Year, without a doubt! Thanks for avoiding spoilers! Smilie

Jackie (guest) 26.12.2012 22:47#4

You finished everything? Smilie Wow, I'm amazed! That's some dedication for a review. I was going to go through on easy mode, but pushed myself to for all the gold folders. I didn't know it opened up extra endings. Very cool surprise.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

If you're reading this, Josh, I'd love to hear what your thoughts are!

Jackie (guest) said:
You finished everything? Smilie Wow, I'm amazed! That's some dedication for a review. I was going to go through on easy mode, but pushed myself to for all the gold folders. I didn't know it opened up extra endings. Very cool surprise.

It was definitely one of those games that I simply had to explore fully before doing the review. I did the same with 999, but by the time I completed it 100%, sadly I was too busy to write up the article...hence SuperLink did it.

Ryan (guest) said:
3DS Game of the Year, without a doubt! Thanks for avoiding spoilers! Smilie

Tough not to talk about various bits and bobs that could be deemed 'spoilerific'! Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Rob64 (guest) 05.01.2013 15:32#6

More people really need to buy this. It's amazing! Better than a good book, I reckon. Votes for it in the GotY 2012 awards.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Actually, you may have noticed that VLR had a sudden last minute surge - all thanks to a little Twitter pushing Smilie

I'm intrigued if any of the characters will be coming back for the third game, and if Zero Escape 3 will in fact be the final title or if there will be a prequel to cover more details of the

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Don't think I'd finished this before the review went up, but either way I'm ashamed I hadn't posted my thoughts til now Smilie It took me about 45 hours, all in all.

All in all, brilliant review Adam! You mostly reflect my own thoughts on the title very well, for certain, this wasn't just my 3DS GOTY2012 but my Game Of The Year altogether, and as tragic as it is to know I can never experience these for the first time again, I can't wait for the third entry! Smilie

In summary, I thought that VLR had better puzzles and characters than 999, but overall a worse plot. That's not to say the plot was bad, it was still amazing, but.. (spoilers in these tags!)


As far as I know, some characters are returning for the third game. (mega spoilers!)


My thoughts for this game are all over the place! That's what happens when you play a game that impacts you so much. Smilie

EDIT:



( Edited 06.01.2013 23:18 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I actually wondered if the third game will simply be the


I didn't like Quark, since the kid didn't really do much, other than the same thing each time due to Radical-6. Clover was a bit annoying (didn't remember her from 999...shows how much I've forgotten about that game!), but I liked Luna a lot and it would be sad to find out...


Also, here's a treat:

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Adam Riley said:
I actually wondered if the third game will simply be the


I didn't like Quark, since the kid didn't really do much, other than the same thing each time due to Radical-6.


The endings confused me just as much, still trying to process what was going on.


Clover was a bit annoying (didn't remember her from 999...shows how much I've forgotten about that game!)

I'm surprised you forgot her! Her design was one of the most memorable to me! But yeah she was a bit conniving and kinda psycho! Though, to be fair on her she's been though 3 Nonary Games now, that's some serious psychological damage and it's just not fair on the gal!

Also, here's a treat:


Cheers Chunsoft.

EDIT: Ooh I think I remembered how the ending works:



( Edited 07.01.2013 00:21 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

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