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About the product
- Follow-up to 2010's award-winning puzzle adventure Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.
- Old friends from 999 return to join a new cast.
- Novel sections fully-voiced in English and Japanese.
- Plenty of replayability, with twenty-four different endings.
- New mysteries to solve.
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Regional Office of the International Disease Organization, Washington D.C. – IDO agents working in California report that preliminary findings indicate the exceedingly dangerous Japanese adventure game known as “Zennin Shiboudesu” has somehow crossed the Pacific. Attempts were made to contain it, but some carriers seem to have escaped the quarantine and are now at large.
You thought you’d defeated the Nonary Game, but now it’s back, and more deadly than ever. It’ll take cunning, skill, and more than a little luck to escape alive, but do you really have a choice?
IDO agents working in California report that preliminary findings indicate the exceedingly dangerous Japanese adventure game known as “Zennin Shiboudesu” has somehow crossed the Pacific. Attempts were made to contain it, but some carriers seem to have escaped the quarantine and are now at large.
Brings Back Old Ones
This game is extremely virulent and can be transmitted through physical contact (via the dual “Nintendo 3DS and “PlayStation Vita retail vectors) as well as through the air (via the “PSN” vector), which has prompted the IDO to declare this a level 6 pandemic. All uninfected persons are advised to remain indoors and avoid contact with others. If you suspect you have been infected, or suspect a friend or family member of being infected, report, or have them report, to the nearest IDO quarantine facility.
Similarity to an earlier strain known as “Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors” has lead to a reclassification: Both strains will now be considered members of the “Zero Escape” game series.Exposure to North America also seems to have caused Zennin Shiboudesu to mutate, and after much deliberation it has been determined that it will be referred to in all future literature as “Virtue’s Last Reward” (see forthcoming department memo re: choice of strain name).
Virtue’s Last Reward—or, alternatively, “VLR”—has been known to exhibit the following symptoms. If you begin to display any of these, distance yourself from friends and loved ones immediately, and proceed at once to the nearest IDO center.
- Dual Language Support – Early cases show that VLR allows communication in both English and Japanese, with dialog playable in both languages. Whether or not this indicates damage to the languages centers of the brain is under investigation.
- Puzzles and Story – Preliminary investigations show that this game progresses rapidly through a repeating cycle of two distinct stages, which have been termed the “Novel” and “Escape” stages. During the Novel stage, subjects find themselves engaged by a complex and mysterious story. During the Escape stage, subjects have been observed solving numerous puzzles.
- Fully-Voiced Novel Sections – One of the indicators of the Novel stage is reportedly fully-voiced dialog: All characters except for the protagonist can be heard speaking during this stage.
- Numerous Endings – VLR has been shown to exhibit numerous paths of infection, most of which are lethal. At press time, 24 different “endings” have been observed, each unique.
- Immersive Three-Dimensional Environment – Many infected patients have reported a feeling of increased immersion in their surroundings, often manifested in the ability to rotate the camera around a 3D room rendered in-game and select and manipulate objects in three-dimensional space.
- Introduces New Characters, Brings Back Old Ones – Our files on 999 indicate that a number of the characters featured there appear again in VLR, although in what capacity is still unclear. This strain also introduces several new characters, all of whom merit additional investigation.
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Without giving anything away about the plot of VLR, I will say that it is an incredibly deep story with a lot of surprise twists and relentless intrigue. Often I had my theories reduced to ashes by one bombshell after another, and very rarely did I call something before it happened (and boy does it feel good to predict something in this game). The game is not all visual novel, though. Half of the game is about escaping a room by solving the puzzles contained within. Every room features unique puzzles covering a broad range of subjects from math to riddles, to three-dimensional puzzles and code-cracking. There were a number of rooms that had me scratching my head, but often all I needed was to take a break and come back to the game later.
The puzzles are not the only interaction you will have in the game however, during the visual novel, you will often get opportunities to dramatically alter the course of the story through choices. The most important example of this is a 'minigame' called the 'Ambidex Game', or 'AB Game'. Unlike the previous title, the nine persons in VLR are all working towards a very important end-goal - to collect a total of nine 'bracelet points' or more. By doing this, a given person can open the number 9 door, and they and anyone else with nine or more points can leave the prison the participants are trapped in and escape. Anyone left behind is trapped forever. Because the storyline can be altered, there is naturally a lot of different endings to achieve (including a good number of 'bad ends'). If you ever feel like you made a mistake, or you simply want to try something different, the game has a built-in flow chart that you can access at any time, and use it to 'jump' to different chapters in any point in the game you've previously been through. This way, you can jump back to before a crucial decision and change your mind, or jump out of a puzzle room you're stuck on and start a new path in a different storyline.
Moving onto the participants and their goal to escape, I should briefly explain how they earn the points necessary to escape. To earn points, the participants have to play the AB Game, where the participants choose between two options: to Ally with the last person they chose to join forces and solve a puzzle room with, or to Betray them. The incentive for both options breaks down like this: If both parties choose to Ally, then both parties gain 2 points toward their bracelet point count. If one party votes Betray, however, the traitor(s) will gain 3 points, and the ally will lose 2 points. If both parties vote to Betray, then both parties are locked in stalemate and do not lose or gain points. Each of the 9 participants begin with 3 bracelet points, and if they fall to 0 or negative bracelet points, or break any of the rules imposed on them, they are instantly executed with a lethal injection from their bracelet.
This AB Game is based on the 'prisoner's dilemma', and is just one of the few concepts this game explores. Sometimes the storyline delves into intense scientific theory and investigation, but thankfully the protagonist is more of a Watson than a Sherlock, and asks almost all the immediate questions players may have when exposition kicks into high gear. So even if you have never heard of something, you can be sure you'll have a grasp on it soon enough.
I could go on and on about the cast, but to even begin would be to open the floodgates to a large reason why I love this game, and risk spoiling things for the uninitiated. Simply put, the cast is diverse and infinitely interesting. You will never figure each member of the cast out in the first meeting you have with them, and just when you think you know them, they'll reveal something about themselves that you wouldn't expect. Sometimes you will be shocked, sometimes you'll be furious, and sometimes you'll love the characters even more.
Buy this game. If you love games with a strong cast and a story that you can't help but immerse yourself in, then this is one title for you. If you've never played any of the Zero Escape games, then you should consider also playing 999.
The gameplay side - the Escape the Room type of levels - are both short and very long. It can take you quite some time to figure out their puzzles. Most clues are directly in your face from the start, others you have to search a bit for. But learning how to combine elements, and use them in the correct places is very intuitive and smart. I say the levels are short also, because once you solve a puzzle, you're very likely to never forget it, meaning you can blow through most levels again a second time very quickly. This seems to be a game that you probably wouldn't come back to once you finish - at least let it sit for a while and forget about it before you come back; let the experience become fresh again.
The only thing that keeps me from giving a full 5-star review is how the narrative is completed. You can complete the game in about 5 hours, but that's only one of the many endings. The jarring thing was, in my playthrough, was that the ending was a curveball out of nowhere, and left absolutely nothing resolved. In order to fully solve this incredible mystery is to use the FLOW system, and "go back in time" to choose different paths and wind up with a different ending. This is fine, with the one exception that you come across a lot of repeat dialogue because of this. You can skip it easily, but that kills a lot of the immersion and the experience is lessened because of this.
Since there are so many paths, I'd say it'd take a good 40-50 hours to fully complete, without skipping any repeated scenes. You get plenty for your money here. I haven't finished the game completely myself, but the mystery is written well enough that I know that I will. I just don't know if it's something that I'd be willing to play again once I've finished.
I just finished the game, and I was pretty much right on with the length. It took me right at 42 hours to complete - getting all 9 of the "good" endings and final ending. I stick by my original 4 star score. This game is not for everyone, but very enjoyable if you like a smart thriller with difficult puzzle solving. The story did address my criticisms of the non-linearity in pretty clever ways, though that didn't make the story any easier to follow. But it did wrap up pretty nice and tight. You won't believe where the story goes in the final 30 minutes or so. Very shocking events, and hints to a larger epic story to be told (hopefully) in a third game down the road.