Ally or Betray, whichever you choose, do not overlook this game.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors came out of nowhere. A dark visual novel with great puzzles and an even better story. When Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward (VLR) was announced, I was instantly onboard. I was mad at that game when I finished. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been angry at a game as much as I’ve been with VLR. The game does end on a big cliffhanger, but mainly I was mad that there was nothing left to do in it, and that my time with it came to an end. Virtue’s Last Reward is a brilliant game, with great puzzles, an amazing set of characters, and a story that will stay with you long after you finish.
There are two main parts to the game, Puzzle and Novel. The puzzles in the game all revolve around getting a combination for a safe. Inside the safe is a key to escape the room you’re in. There are two main solutions for the safe, one gets you the key, and the other gets you a file with extra information about the game, detailing references made and adding fun information about some of the characters. Each room is a specific location in the facility, such as an infirmary or a lounge. The puzzles range from getting the right score on a dartboard to routing the correct amount of power to a machine. Each is pretty clever, and every solution is right there for you to find. If you get something wrong, it’s never the game’s fault. The only downside is that there don’t seem to be enough puzzles compared to the rest of the game. The puzzles are spaced out quite a bit. In fact, you’ll solve the last puzzle about two hours before the game ends.
Any story is only as good as the characters, and unlike in 999, all of the characters in VLR are an important part of the story. There are the nine players in the game, each with their own lives and motivation to get out alive. Because of the way the Nonary Game is set up, naturally everyone is skeptical against each other, and are forced to work together to solve the puzzles. The dialogue between the characters is great, it’s always exciting to see certain characters interact with each other. Each character is deep, with full backstory that explains their actions and why they do what they do. It becomes easy to care about a lot of the characters after getting to know them. And it’s heartbreaking when someone you’ve grown attached to turns their back on you. There are a ton of reveals throughout the game, going up to the last moment. Right when you think you have someone figured out, things shift. It never feels forced or contrived. The game’s master Zero III is one of my favorite characters, an AI rabbit who explains the rules while mocking the people involved. The voice acting in the game is great, but Zero’s is on a different level.
The story is the main attraction. You play as Sigma, college student abducted to take part in the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition along with 8 others. The goal is to get 9 points to open the Number 9 door and escape. This leads to people forming alliances and betraying others. It is brilliant because of the alternate timelines they use, and how they connect with one another. The game will lead you to a point and just throw out a “To be continued...” Honestly, the first time this happened to me I was confused. I thought I accidentally pushed the wrong button and restarted the story. I was really invested into the storyline. I gave up and went down the other path of the storyline I was playing. The game gives you a great flowchart which lets you jump anywhere in the branching story. There is a fast-forward option, so you can skip through sections of the game you’ve already seen. It only skips through parts you’ve watched, so there’s no chance of you missing something new.
The part where the story really jumped to another level was that other path. To sum up the Ambidex game, you can either vote to ally or betray your opponent. Since you don’t know what they are going to do it makes the decision hard. I betrayed my opponent in the first storyline, while they picked ally, giving me points and taking theirs away. You start with 3 points, and if you get to 9 you escape. If you hit zero, you die. Same applies to everyone else. I felt bad because I didn’t think they were going to pick ally, so when I jumped back in the story, I picked ally assuming they were going to vote the same way. They didn’t. Naturally I thought, video games. Things change based on what you do. But the greatest part about it? The main character acknowledges the same thing. “What the hell, she didn’t vote that way last time.” At that point all doubts about the story went out the window. The story is fantastic, turning from this small story about escaping to much bigger story. Things get insane fairly quickly. While playing 999 isn’t required to enjoy Virtue’s Last Reward, you’ll miss out on a couple of big reveals, but nothing major to the overall story. Even when replaying parts of the game from another angle, the game hits you when you least expect it. Word of warning though, VLR ends on a huge cliffhanger setting up the next game. There are various endings for each character, and the game ties up most of loose ends nicely, but the game ends pretty abruptly.
As far as differences between versions, the 3DS has better controls than the Vita, and the stylus makes note taking a lot easier. But the Vita version’s graphics and sound are slightly better, plus trophies if you’re into that. The platinum trophy is extremely easy, requiring you to just finish the full story. It is a fantastic game for either system and it’s one of the best to come out this year.
Other reviews for Kyokugen Dasshutsu ADV: Zennin Shibou Desu (PlayStation Vita)
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