Zero Escape: Virtues Last Reward 3DS
Virtues Last Reward, a 3DS and PS Vita title, is the second game in the Zero Escape trilogy. This review will focus on the 3DS addition and compare it directly to the previous title, 9 Persons, 9 Hours, 9 Doors. Virtues Last Reward is a visual novel, a style of game in which you’re told a story and periodically asked to make a choice that will dictate what happens next. Much like in its predecessor 999 the visual novel segments are broken up by brain bending puzzles which are required unlock the story. Once you’ve made your choices and solved the requisite puzzles along the way you will receive one of the 24 potential endings that this game has. If you buy this game, strap in for a long ride because the “true ending” will require multiple replays to unlock.
This review will do its best to avoid talking about story specifics but because the story is so heavily linked to the gameplay an intro is needed. This game has you playing as Sigma, a pre-med college student who’s captured by a mysterious figure in a cloak and gas mask. When Sigma awakes, he is locked in a strange room with a woman named Phi, the two escape the room and meet the seven remaining victims. The group meets in a warehouse with one large door with the number nine on it and three smaller doors, one cyan, one violet and one yellow. You’re all wearing watches with three characteristics: a number, a color and either the word solo or pair. You’re told that in order to escape you must get the number on your watch up to nine or more, the door only opens once and closes nine seconds later. Anyone who tries to go through the door without a nine on their watch dies and everyone who doesn’t escape remains in the building. That’s as much context as I will give for this game, you’ll learn more but this is all that’s necessary before we talk about gameplay.
To get your watch to say nine, you must go into one of the colored doors with two other people, find the two keycards you need and then escape. To get through the colored doors you need to match the color of your watch with another color so that it makes the color on the door. It’s worth noting that colors don’t work the way they would with paint, instead they mix like colored lights. With light red blue and green are the primary colors and mixing blue and yellow create white light instead of green. Once you’re through the door you’ll solve puzzles that will give you the combination to a safe that will have, amongst other things, two keycards. The last step is to go back to the warehouse and reopen the room you woke up in at the beginning of the game. To get the number on your watch to nine must then choose to either ally with or betray the people with the other card you found. If you both choose to ally you both get two points, if you both choose betray then nothing happens, if someone chooses ally and the other person chooses betray the individual who chose to betray gains three and the one who chose ally loses two. If you are part of a pair then your ally receives the same points that you do. That’s the game, you talk to people, you solve puzzles and you try to figure out how they’ll vote in time for your decision. The ally/betray system is very different from anything in the first game and guarantees some great moments and hard choices. The puzzles are fun and run the gambit when it comes to difficulty; I heartily recommend having a sheet of paper nearby for some of them. Safe combinations are recorded in an easy to access archive, along with information on anything plot relevant you’ve encountered. If I had one complaint about these puzzles it would be that in the first game the heavy reliance on certain forms of math gave all the puzzles a common theme that made what you were doing seem less random, something not true in this game. All said, the puzzles are good and there are far more of them then there were in the first game so it’s easy to forgive them for lacking a common theme. After you beat the game once you can go to any point in the timeline immediately and speed up any old dialogue until something new happens. The previous game let you speed through old dialogue but leting you see exactly where on the timeline you are and where certain choices take you makes finding all the endings much easier. There are far more endings that require you to have information from other story lines, meaning that you’ll beat this game multiple times if you want the best ending. Just like its predecessor, Virtues Last Reward makes great use of the hardware, it has animated characters instead of static pictures, full voice acting and makes use of the buttons, touchscreen and gyroscope. Virtues Last Reward, if nothing else, is a very well designed game, it makes good use of the hardware, has great voice acting and even better puzzles.
Virtues Last Reward improves greatly on the story of 999, which is no small feat. The story is complex and the characters are well written enough that their individual endings are pretty desirable, especially because you can’t get the true ending without them. Character design is a bit crazier than the previous game, it consists of two women with astonishingly little clothing, a man in a top hat, two more reasonable young ladies, an old man, a small child with a crazy hat, someone wearing Iron Man armor and a fairly normal looking guy. Endings are easier to get in this game because you can enter any act of the story whenever you want as opposed to replaying the entire game and skipping over old dialogue. You can still speed up any story you’ve seen before so replaying the game is made as seamless as possible. It’s hard to guarantee anyone that they will enjoy a story but I would give this game a try if you like mysteries. The only downside to the skipping system is that it’s easy to forget when specific things happen, which can be a pain in a story driven game. Despite that flaw, I found the story to be compelling and feel like it really complements the gameplay.
This game improves a lot of the things given to us in 999 and also adds in new things like voice acting, animated characters and a crazy betrayal system. The few flaws that I could find with the game are caused by the grander scale of the title and are honestly negligible. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys puzzle games or mysteries, I really think it will be worth your time.