Top positive review
56 people found this helpful
Highly intelligent thriller interactive story, almost perfect
on November 8, 2012
The real appeal here is that I haven't played a game this intellectual since the original Chrono Cross in '99. Like that title, which was almost too intellectual for its own good, this game takes real concepts from the real world, such as Schrodinger's Cat, the nature of choice, the Prisoner's Dilemma, multi-Universes, and why people act the way they do depending on the situation, both consciously and unconsciously.
If you want cheap thrills Resident Evil-style, forget it. This isn't about that. This is about wrapping your head around a plot that can easily confuse you if you're not paying attention, and the way it unfolds only gradually begins to make sense--even given the way the concept of time and the future is treated. Don't be fooled by the somewhat generic intro, which, while entertaining, has nothing to do with the real meat of the game.
Once the game starts getting into what is real and not real and why we believe what we believe about others, and then what that means in the long run, and also why anyone's there to begin with, it's practically impossible to get away from it because you just have to see what happens next. I actually stayed up until 6 AM in the hopes that I'd reach the ending...But I never did, and I have yet to fully complete it, even though I know what I have to do.
That's why every character playing the Nonary Game has their own individual ending. Generally, if you reach their "correct" ending (everyone also seems to have an instant Game Over ending), you gain a piece of information you *will* need to solve the later mysteries. If you fail to make note of these particular things, (e.g., a particular string of numbers or something that happened in a past "history" you were a part of), you'll be at a disadvantage as the game goes on.
Naturally, the story has some seriously major *WHAMS* near the end. What starts as a pretty simple "Whodunit" gradually progresses into something way, way bigger, encompassing the fate of the entire Earth population. Some of the things that are revealed about certain characters will blow you away, and you'll be wondering how you didn't notice in the first place.
Worth noting, in addition to the story, is the excellent voice acting. Phi in particular has a spectacularly versatile emotional range. All the while, you're facing impossible questions about everyone else, but the more you play, the more that's revealed, and all of it is voiced surprisingly convincingly. Whether it's Dio, K, Alice, Clover, Tenmyouji, Quark, or anyone else talking to you, their personalities come out in full as the game goes on as they can't help but start feeling desperate. All of the VAs are fantastic and are convincing, but the real VA hero here is Phi, someone who clearly knows far more than she lets on. She's exceptionally convincing in both the way she words things and why she seems to know you right from the start, as well as her extraordinarily knowledge and ability to reason, and it's almost intimidating. Let's just say you'll be guessing until the end whether or not she's an ally or an opponent--or both, depending on how you look at it.
There are no "filler" characters to speak of, and no one is simply ignored for the "important" characters--they're all necessary to fit into the story so it makes any sense. Clover, in particular, has an ending of her own that I still have difficulty reaching any conclusions on, but I will say that it will *shock the freaking hell out of you* if you follow her all the way to her ending.
Anyway, I won't skirt by trying not to spoil anything anymore, but let's just affirm that this is one complicated-as-hell story, but mercifully not in a way that makes no sense. In fact, everything makes perfect sense, which is why it's so engrossing. You never know who's lying or telling the truth--not even the most trustworthy-seeming people turn out to be trustworthy, but they always have a reason for it that makes sense. Further, questions continue to arise as to why they're there to begin with, and what their individual purposes are. It's all complicated, and it's all addictive beyond belief to know what happens next.
If I have one thing in particular to complain about, it's the sometimes-insensible puzzles that you may read one way correctly, but the game expects you to read it a different way, leaving you stuck. Of particular note are the Infirmary and Archive rooms, each with a notoriously difficult puzzle if you want both the password to the safe and the password to the secret documents also contained. The hints you're given, assuming you're playing on the default difficulty level, don't seem to make any sense no matter how much you look at what you have and the instruments around the room. Most of the rooms are fairly straightforward and their solutions can be figured out easily enough, but it's easy to get caught in a trap of logic in which you know you're right, but the game simply doesn't tell you it wants your solution to the problem done *another* way. Obviously, this is frustrating, and you could spend hours on a single puzzle before giving up and just looking it up. For the past rooms mentioned, you get a pass for this, because the evidence they give you is just inadequate to make that kind of solution they expect. They're such far stretches from an answer you'd think would be relatively simple, but the game fails to give many hints.
In short, good luck with the near-impossible fabric number puzzle in the Infirmary and the equally difficult Blue Ink puzzle in the Archives. You'll swear to God that the solution that you end up with *must* be correct, but the machine will always tell you you're wrong. Yeah, it can get frustrating, but that's why walkthroughs exist for puzzles that are stupidly illogical.
Anyway, once the ball really starts rolling in the story and a massive variety of seemingly random deaths and reveals happen, get ready for one of the most mind-blowing stories told in video games in a long, long time. The atmosphere always makes you feel unsafe, so to even walk around the building you're stuck in is nerve-wracking. It kind of reminds me of Resident Evil, except instead of zombies killing you, it's just other people waiting for you to turn your back. Depending on the paths you choose in the 24 different endings (!), you can end up with all kinds of outcomes. However, if you want the "True Ending", you're going to have to work to get it. It's not so much that what you have to do is particularly difficult--you just have to gather every scrap paper of evidence you can find and fill up your archive to the brim to help you later--but it is time-consuming.
Luckily, if you screw up so badly that you cause your own game over, your "consciousness" will immediately shift to any point in time you choose via a flow chart. The chart labels every event on every path you can take, and you can immediately jump back to one if you realize you don't have enough information to continue down a certain path without more information. You'll know you've reached this point if the end says "TO BE CONTINUED..." which is very different from "GAME OVER..." The latter means you can't go any further no matter what. The former means you're lacking enough knowledge and information to prevent the disaster that's happened, but can be prevented if you make different choices.
Because you can jump to and from any point in your respective timelines, you don't have to worry about starting new games every single time you mess up fatally. If you do get a game over, you're sent back to the save screen, upon which you *should* save, and then immediately backtrack on the timeline to a place where you think you screwed up.
A game of extreme intellectualism, complicated but coherent story, unpredictable characters with their own individual motivations, and you making the choices you think are right all along the way, this game wastes no time at all in allowing you to play detective. Granted, you can't act *outside* events, but you would have no reason to, anyway. Any event that is "Locked" requires information you do not have yet. And so, you try to think of where you could get the information you need, and travel down that path (most likely hitting "Skip" for all dialogue until something new happens) before trying a second time. The whole point of the game is to get the truth, and to do that, you need to earn the trust of individuals to get as much information as possible about their pasts, and then piece everything together until it makes a semblance of sense.
I think you get the idea by now. This is basically an interactive mystery novel in which there are obvious clues, not-so-obvious clues, and also misleading clues that you need to consider the importance of.
I'll tell you one thing: If you were a fan of the DS' Ace Attorney series, you should feel right at home here. There is a great deal of similarity between the two series--however, ZE has the strong advantage of making *sense*. Ace Attorney games, while entertaining, always seemed to suffer from significant plot holes or things that didn't really add up at the end. ZE, on the other hand, is actually sensible, and in a way, that makes things even creepier.
Extremely highly recommended for anyone with the slightest interest in this game, unless you're easily offended by mature content, because this game has that with no restraints. It well deserves its "M" rating for the incredible violence that happens and the frequent sexual innuendo, not to mention being so close to themes like suicide and the idea of someone smiling at you with trust just before suddenly being killed by someone for getting too close to you. The language is also pretty bad, with the F-bomb dropped on a frequent basis and a unique level of sexual innuendo used as an insult for some characters who aren't exactly dressed for the occasion. Even you, the main character, sometimes lets his sexual feelings toward some of the participants come through. Nothing is really held back here.
Really, even if you've never played the original, it doesn't matter too much. The connections are there, but they aren't critical to the story, and if they are, they're explained in plenty of detail. This, obviously, becomes important later on. It would be a crime to deny a game this well-written to not be played, especially on that beautiful 5" OLED screen on the face of the Vita.