Video Game Review: Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

Details: Played the Nintendo 3DS version. Beat it in about thirty hours. More information can be found at http://thenonarygames.com

Score: 7.4/10

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is leaps and bounds better than Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (at least the Nintendo DS version) the prior and first game in this franchise. Virtue’s Last Reward improves on voice acting, visuals, game mechanics and overall presentation. No spoilers ahead.

I don’t want to say anything about the story because that is the primary point of enjoyment of a visual novel. I’ll just give the premise. You play a character who is kidnapped and forced to play something called the Nonary Game, a game that risks the lives of all its participants.

The story is great and really encouraged me to play the through the puzzles. I don’t love puzzles, but my desire to see what happened next kept me going.

It is clear after playing through every ounce of this game that the creator’s intent was for the player to play to one hundred percent completion. There are multiple endings, branching story lines, and secret endings. It’s a monumental task that asks a big time commitment from players, but the narrative rewards are worth it. If you don’t intend to spend the around thirty hours (or more) needed to get through this game, then I don’t recommend you play this game.

The other thing about this game that is great and also lousy is that you really shouldn’t play this game unless you’ve played the prior game, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. The story from that game is integral to understanding the endings of this game.

Gameplay is divided into two categories, novels and escape. Novels are just story parts where you eventually have to make choice that lead to branching plot lines. There’s no real gameplay in these parts. The escape portions are essentially Escape the Room games. You are confined to a room and must solve a series of puzzles in order to get out. Random items are strewn about the room and you must discover them and how they interact with other aspects of the room in order to escape.

I didn’t love the puzzles, but I don’t love puzzles in general. Many of these are fairly tough. There is an easy mode and a hard mode. The easy mode gives you hints as to how to escape the room. Unfortunately, you have to play in hard mode if you want to unlock some story pathways later in the game.

One thing I love about this game is the flow chart and the ability to skip scenes you’ve already scene. This was something sorely lacking from the prior game. Now, all the branching plot lines are neatly ordered on a flow chart so that it is easy for the player to follow. Further, because many moments and puzzles may be repeated during your playthrough, the game allows players to skip through any dialogue they’ve already seen and records a password to skip puzzles they’ve already done. It’s a welcome, convenient addition.

Visually, the game looks great. Unlike in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors which used static art, Virtue’s Last Reward uses 3D models and looks better for it. It’s still a 3DS game so it’s not going to be amazing, but it’s an improvement.

The voice acting in this game is great. I looked through the English cast list and saw some familiar names. The music is also great. It’s funny because they place this fast paced, electro-dubstep music while you’re solving puzzles. While I hate the puzzles, the energetic music did help make it a less boring experience.

Overall, I really enjoyed this game. I enjoyed it so much I am definitely going to the play the next and last game in this franchise, Zero Time Dilemma. If you like visual novels, it rarely gets better than this.

In regards to which version of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors you should play since it is necessary before playing this game, I recommend you try a PC version because the Nintendo DS version I played was shit.

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