PS Vita Review – Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward

By: Louis Edwards

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Aksys Games had a surprise hit on their hands in 2010 when they localized their Nintendo DS title 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Will it’s successor fare just as well?

Read our review to find out.

 

Imagine you and a friend committed a terrible crime together. As is protocol in most interrogations, you are both separated into different rooms. The lead detective comes to you with two possibilities. You can stick to your innocence and face a possibility of death if convicted or you can confess and rat out your friend and face only twenty years. But here’s the rub, your friend is facing the same decision at the exact same time and if he also confesses you’ll both get 30 years. If your friend decides to stick to his innocence and only you confess, you’re looking at only ten years while your buddy is still facing death. If he rats you out, while you maintain your innocence, you’ll be facing death. Do you stay allied with your friend or do you betray him? What will his decision be? What would you decide?

Welcome to the world of Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.

You play as Sigma. He has been kidnapped and awakens in an elevator with a girl named Phi, who seems to know him. Zero III, a talking rabbit, appears on a computer monitor in front of them and tells them they must escape the elevator; the pair find themselves in an abandoned warehouse alongside seven other people.Their goal is to escape the building. However, they find themselves enrolled in a game known as the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition, which relies on a system called Bracelet Points (BP), which are won by cooperating with or betraying other players. A player is allowed to leave the warehouse if only they possess nine or more BP; however, if a player’s BP reach zero, they are killed by a lethal injection.

Gameplay is separated into two main parts. There’s a visual novel type aspect that is completely story driven. In this area you interact with non-playable characters. The game is always evolving and has many different paths you can take. You’ll be asked who to pair up with or which path to take, and the game will then have the story evolve from there.Your decisions create your story path.

In the Nonary Game, you’ll be given a choice to either betray or ally with a friend. You are separated out and have no way of knowing for sure what they will choose. If you both decide to ally with each other, you each gain two points. If you both decide to betray then both of you get nothing. If one betrays while the other allies, the betrayer gets three points while the betrayed loses two. If someone’s bracelet hits zero, needles that are built into it will inject a lethal dose of an unknown chemical into them and they will die. On the other hand, if someone’s bracelet reaches nine points, they will be free to leave while all others will be stuck in this crazy place forever.

NPC voice acting in the game is on par with the best games on the market. If you want to hear the original audio, a Japanese audio track is an available option. All of the spoken text is also displayed on the screen. Your character has no voice in the game and, in a way, gives the game a more immersible feel. We didn’t really understand it at first, but after several hours of playing you’ll realize that Sigma’s voice becomes yours. All other characters are done well. You can hear the tension in their voices when discussing the next upcoming Nonary vote and you can hear the frustration and disappointment when someone has been betrayed.

The other area of gameplay is based on observation and puzzles. You’ll enter into rooms that will lock a door behind you. It is up to you to find clues and solve puzzles in order to exit the room and enter back into the main area of the warehouse. Each room contains a safe that will hold the key to the door that will allow your exit, but the safe also holds a secret flip side that holds bonus information. If you are playing on the Hard difficulty, this secret item will be gold. Playing on Easy will net you a silver file. The safe is opened by symbols that act as a password. Figuring out what those passwords are is where the puzzles come in. Puzzles range from simplistic, to down right mind boggling. The game really excels in this area.

Available to you during gameplay is a handy timeline feature that you can use to jump backwards in time to a major decision point and choose differently. In this way, you’ll be able to play through the game using every possible scenario. Anywhere there is multiple answers, there’s also multiple branches. Each character has their own special ending, and there’s a few bad endings as well. We were left behind more than once and did our share of betraying as well. You can expect thirty or more hours of gameplay.

The graphics for the game are almost entirely rendered in 3d. This wasn’t the case in its predecessor, and that caused a stir with some critics. Level design is well thought out. Maps can be found by searching rooms and by solving puzzles. Level detail is done nicely. Characters are detailed well, and one busty lady even has a little bounce up top during dialogue scenes. The graphics are top notch.

Visual novel style games have always been a great seller in places like Japan and Korea, but have been a hard sell here in the states in the past. Askys Games took a calculated risk bringing the first title over and the gamble paid off. Building on that same style of play, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward adds yet another platform to the fray, and brings a great title to the PlayStation Vita.

If you are looking for a great story driven game, with an interactive visual novel feel, this game belongs in your library.

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