What is a Zero Escape Game?
- A well-written story full of intrigue.
- An anthology of well-constructed puzzles.
- A dynamic cast of characters that break away from typical stereotypes.
- It’s also a miracle.
The first game, 999 (or Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors) released on the DS in 2009, finding cult success here in the west due to its immaculate translation and its mature temperament. The mature tones and outstanding storytelling was astonishingly refreshing so late into the handhelds life. Surprisingly, 999 didn’t fare well in Japan and its sequel’s production was hinged mostly on the fact that it had reached astonishing success in English-speaking areas. Maybe it was those who had grown up accustomed to their Nintendo handheld whom we should be thanking for this creative and extraordinary series, or maybe it was the niche American audience starved for a well-adapted visual-novel. Either way, Zero Time Dilemma marks the conclusion of the Zero Escape games; a series that has been treasured by almost all of those that have taken a chance on it.
Virtues Last Reward (Volume 2 of the Zero Escape chronology) ended with a cliffhanger; a cliffhanger that for all who experienced it didn’t know for sure if it was to be concluded. After four painstakingly ambiguous years, we finally have Zero Time Dilemma putting a decisive cap on the series. While Uchikoshi (the series’ director) had stated previously that he would address all the mysteries set up in the previous game and specifically stated that he would “make the story enjoyable for first time players“.
I warn you right now, if you haven’t played the first 2 games in the series DO NOT listen to Uchikoshi-san. I have immense respect for the man, (this series’ soul is attributed to him) but while he objectively is right, you’re doing yourself a disservice playing volume 3 before volumes 1 and 2. The difference between playing this game before the others and jumping into this final cap of the series will gauge your enjoyment of both the originals and the most recent in the trilogy. The story will make sense to you and following along will be easy, but enjoying the game will be immeasurably hindered by not following the previous 2 in the series. So make sure you pick up both 999 and Virtues Last Reward and complete them before diving in.
The Zero Escape games are visual novel stories told through great voice-acting (a welcome return of Virtues Last Reward) sprinkled with cerebral puzzles that take the player through deep and convoluted “escape rooms”. I’ve had to mentally and physically prepare myself for each escape room. Notebooks and audio-logs I’ve involuntarily created scatter my desks and hard-drives. The puzzles are still rewarding and immaculately designed. The third Zero Escape game does not take any steps back in terms of game-play.
As for the story, my expectations which transpired from the previous entries were met if not exceeded with every aspect of writing, characters, theme, and drama incorporated in Zero Time Dilemma. The aesthetic (save for some hokey animation) has accentuated the disheveled world in which the Zero Escape games unfold. And while without spoiling anything, there is the possibility of a fourth game juxtaposed with its exhaustively decisive ending. The writing is as impressive as ever, juggling multiple endings while accommodating a systematic narrative. As for the characters, each one–whether familiar or a complete newcomer is incredible due to the astonishingly appealing character designs and well-produced voice acting. There’s also a tension which, while never absent from the series, is heightened in this latest entry due to turbulent acts of violence that frequently riddle the narrative.
In conclusion, Zero Time Dilemma is perfect. From its presentation to its onerous gameplay, this game flawlessly ends this seven year saga. So please take my advice, buy Zero Time Dilemma, 999, and Virtues Last Reward for about $60.00 altogether (you can get Zero Time Dilemma for 32 dollars via Amazon Prime). Encounter the creepy, rewarding, and provocative story; one that’s been the most flawlessly executed to ever grace video games.
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– PSI Team.