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Veteran Member - Level 13
What do you get when you create a bigger, better sequel to one of the biggest cult hits on the Nintendo DS? You get Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. A sequel to the aforementioned title, 999: Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors, Zero Escape is able to take the Nonary Game to a higher level than 999 could, and that's a great thing.
For those unfamiliar with either title, it can basically be summed up as such: nine people participate in the "Nonary Game", a game that originally, in the first game, had the participants try and find a door that was labeled with a "9", to escape through. However, the sequel puts in a twist, which is one of its defining differences from 999. After each "round" of solving puzzles, the players are given the choice of either allying or betraying their team members (puzzles are solved in groups of 3). Doing so gives the players Bracelet Points, or BP, which, if 9 are attained, allow someone to escape the facility they are trapped in. There's a catch, however-only those with 9 points may leave, and the door only opens once. Meaning, if someone gets 9,they can easily leave the other 8 trapped in the facility forever. Also, if a player reaches 0 points, they are executed by a lethal injection.
Choosing whether to betray or ally, and which doors to go through create branching paths, allowing for over 20 different endings, most resulting in the deaths of several characters. Even though this makes it seem as though it is a "choose your own adventure" game, it's not-you're required to go through nearly all of the endings to be able to achieve the true one. This is going to get you a high play time-I clocked out after about 35 hours (and I still need to go back to get some of the secret files).
The characters in Zero Escape are wonderful-although not all of them are likable, per se, they all function in the way they were put in, and also are very flexible. There were multiple times where I was angered at one for betraying me when I decided to ally, but then feeling sad for them in another branch in the story when I heard more about their backstory. And their designs are all distinct from one another, with none of them really fitting into typical stereotypes, I thought (explaining why not would involve major spoilers, however).
The gameplay is set into two parts-the novel and escape sections. Don't be put off by the fact that the novel sections compromise a large portion of the game-the newly added voice work, another major distinction from 999, is great, and it's skippable if you've heard it before, even across timelines-and the skipping will stop if there's even one piece of new dialogue, which I found helpful.
Escape sections, however, are my only real frustrations with the game. Don't get me wrong, the 3D environments are a step up from the pre-rendered ones of 999, and the puzzles are challenging and fun. The only thing is that navigation through them is sometimes frustrating-namely, moving around the rooms with the touchscreen (I played the 3DS version) can be jarring, as the framerate for some reason seems to drop. It's not a reason to not buy the game, but it was definitely noticeable to me (using the L and R buttons serves the same purpose, but I never really used them do to always having the stylus out, but when I did use them.
Despite some control issues, I can't tell you how much I loved this game. It's now one of my favorites, and surpasses its predecessor in every way possible. If you like puzzle games and confusing but genius plot lines, get this game, now.
+One of the best stories I've ever seen, anywhere (and most confusing, but it's not THAT bad)
+Great voice work allows for you to set the dialogue on auto, and just watch the story unfold
-The ending will leave you screaming for Volume Three (development has been confirmed!)
-Touch screen controls can be a little unresponsive