Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Review (Vita)

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward PS Vita Cover
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is a direct sequel to 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors visual novel game which appeared on the Nintendo DS. Does the sequel stand up to the reputation of the first game? Is this game right for you? Find out more in our detailed review!

Visual novel games are obviously played for the plot, and therefore where we will start. In Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, you play the role of a young man named Sigma and the game's setting starts off inside an elevator. Not too long after you wake up, you'll come to meet with Phi, a mysterious girl who will have a big role in the plot. After a few  exchange of words, a mysterious bunny will appear on a screen telling that you're inside some sort of game and that you need to hurry and try to escape.

As soon you've taken control of the character, you will feel the same sense of urgency to break out of the place you're in. Thankfully, you will realize fairly soon that there is no time limit for looking for clues and solving puzzles in this game (minor spoilers there, but you'll be fine). You can navigate around using the touchscreen in a 3D environment, or simply use the analog sticks and other physical controls if you feel more comfortable with that.

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Gameplay

The puzzles are interactive, mind-twisting and not for the feeble-minded. You'll be challenged in different areas which mostly involve logic such as how well you look for clues and solving mathematical problems. However, since the game defaults on hard mode, instead of relying on walkthroughs or FAQs, you can just set the game on easy mode and you'd feel a bit less guilty. This way, your allies will give you more hints on how to solve the puzzle.

After walking out with a swollen brain from one of the puzzles, you'll be required to take part in the plot where you can minimally control the flow of the story. Depending on the choices that you make in the game, you may have to replay several conversations several times. It's a good thing that the game provides a "forward" or fast play mechanism.

On your first few attempts to finish the game, you'll probably get a lot of game overs, or "to be continued". This is totally expected and fine since there's probably some parts of the plot that you haven't dealt with.

There isn't much to expect graphics-wise. In fact, we suggest you totally skip this game if that's the only thing you're after because you'll be disappointed. However, you might appreciate the animated models during conversation as that is something not commonly seen in these type of games. At least the characters don't look stiff.

From time to time, the game would show some fully animated custscenes that last only a few seconds. They're fun to watch, and after seeing them your mind just wants to scream for more, but there isn't.

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward's character design must be one of its best selling points. Each character looks different and have their own unique personalities. For example, some of the female characters are quite revealing in both appearance and personality but there are also some serious, conservative type.

The characters have been designed by character designer Kinu Nishimura, the same person who worked on 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors character design.
It mixes a lot of scientific, literary, mathematical, and social things together that combines into a perfect formula.

We find the controls in Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward for the Vita both a boon and a bane. It integrates nicely to the Vita touchscreen, but some functions such as taking notes is a bit awkward to use by just using your finger. Perhaps it's an unfair comparison, but the environment doesn't rotate as smooth as it would in a First Person Shooting game when you try to look around. Instead, there seems to be some sort of delay before the camera view gets turned.

Selecting items are just as hard as you always have to go back to the item selection screen which takes about 3 to 5 seconds but something that you'll have to do a lot. Imagine if you have 10 items in one puzzle on average, that could take you close to a minute on item selection alone. Some shortcuts could have been useful here, or maybe they've just run out of buttons to assign.

The music is set to the mood of the game and makes you feel intense worried. The voice overs are perfect and fitted each character. However, if you still feel like the Japanese voice overs are better, you can always switch to that as it's also provided in the game.

The sound effects like the footsteps make you feel like you're in the scene. The weight of the characters' voices makes you feel involved and being spoken to.

The Verdict

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is bound to give you a chill for its plot, and weeks of headache for its hard puzzles. The game has a very good character development as you unfold more of the dark secrets and find out the answer why you are trapped. It mixes a lot of scientific, literary, mathematical, and social things together that combines into a perfect formula.

While it's a visual novel, you can't expect  yourself to just watch in this game. This game is hard and so intense, it's definitely not for relaxation. But if you enjoy a good narrative and you like to exercise your brain, then this game is for you.

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward has been developed by Chunsoft and published by Aksys Games in North America.

Rating for Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
Fun Factor:
Game Info:Platform: PS Vita
Developer: ChunSoft
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release Date: 10/23/12
Price: $39.99 (Buy It)
Rating: M (Mature)
No. of players: 1
Online: No
Retail: Yes
PSN (digital): Yes
The Good
  • Overwhelming plot
  • Semi-animated character models (not common in visual novels)
  • Fully voiced narrative
  • English and Japanese voice acting options
  • Fast forward controls
  • Lots of challenging puzzles
The Bad
  • Stiff controls
  • A lot of repetitions are involved and necessary to complete the game
  • Some puzzles are extremely hard, even on easy mode
  • Very likely to take you several weeks to finish, not for the impatient
This review was based on the North American digital version and played on the PlayStation Vita.

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