Rambling about 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors; and Virtue’s Last Reward

“Wait a minute Riyoga, this isn’t about anime!”

I know, I know, but I just finished Virtue’s Last Reward and I have to talk about how fucking awesome the Zero Escape series is. Because I have nothing better to do with my life.

Also, to somewhat save my ass, here’s the promotional OVA that was animated by Studio Gonzo for the game.

English dub version because the cast did a FUCKING AWESOME job on the game.

First of all, 999 is for the DS, and Virtue’s Last Reward is for the 3DS (and PS Vita, but screw the PS Vita). Just letting you know so you guys can buy the games and play them the second you’re done reading this.

So here’s the deal, a few years ago, some fans of the Umineko visual/sound novel were on the Aksys forum trying to get them to localize it. It went for a few months, but seemed as though it wasn’t going to happen. Suddenly, one of the staff at Aksys posted that they were going to release another visual novel called 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

This was pretty ballsy, considering the very limited visual novel audience here in America. But that’s why I’ve always liked Aksys. They have balls. Massive balls.

The people in the forum decided Umineko had a better chance of being localized if another visual novel did well, so nearly everyone decided on buying it. I was one of those people. I figured I’d give it a go, and if I didn’t like it, I’d just be content knowing I helped the cause.

I played the game for three days straight.

Okay so maybe I slept for a few hours each day, but often I’d play from the point of waking up, until the sun was rising again. I was just that engrossed, which is what happens when you have a great story.

I’m listening to various Pokémon songs while writing this, like Viridian City and Double Trouble. They’re so damn catchy.

Uh, anyways, the plot is that you’re one of nine people kidnapped by someone in a gas mask named “Zero”, and are placed on a ship out in the ocean, where you have to play the “Nonary Game”. You have nine hours to escape, or the ship will sink into the water, killing you all. You need to work together to find a door marked with a “9”, which is the door to freedom.

There’s also puzzles in addition to the actual novel section, but it doesn’t really matter because the story is where it’s at. As you go through the game, you decide which door to go through three different times, which decides which of the characters you learn more about, and also what ending you get. There’s six or so endings, and most of them are bad ends. There’s the true route, and what I like to call the “secondary” route. I call it that because you have to go down that route FIRST, otherwise the true route ends in a “To Be Continued…”

The reason for why you have to do this is the biggest plot twist in the game which there’s no way in hell I’d spoil. Yes, the reason for it is actually a plot point in the game, and makes perfect sense given all the information you see over the course of playing.

That’s not all though. The reason for that is also in perfect unison with why you’re all playing the Nonary Game in the first place. It’s one of those stories where all the small pieces of information that you thought were interesting, but not very important all come into play at the end and completely mindfuck you. The good kind of mindfuck, mind you.

The final scene that the game built up to is one of the most emotionally provocative scenes ever, and the puzzle you do for it is just something that most people play on a daily basis for fun. It didn’t even matter, the game had my fucking heart in a vice as I did my best not to fuck up. I’ve never been more invested in a plot and characters in my life, and I regularly tell people if there was a way I could erase my memories of the game’s plot so I could experience the true route again, I’d do whatever it was in a heartbeat.

Now, on to Virtue’s Last Reward.

Well actually, almost all the reasons the first game was awesome is the same for this one, so I guess I’ll point out the few faults I saw, along with some good differences.

So since the first game had the big twist regarding the different routes, the sequel couldn’t exactly pull the same trick, so it’s just incorporated into the gameplay/story from the get-go. It does get expanded upon though. Also, since this one’s a 3DS game, it has a pretty nice 3D effect should you choose to play with that. The characters also aren’t static drawings this time around, they’re 3D blobby people. Though they look a lot better than that description implies. The story is also more character-centric in this one. Each character has their own route you’ll need to do, with one of the character’s routes being the true route.
Also, one of the character’s routes had me bawling manly tears. Goddamnit, Chunsoft and Aksys, STOP GIVING ME SO MANY FEELS.

As for some faults, the story isn’t as tightly-knit as the first one, so it doesn’t have quite the same emotional impact as the first one did at the end (but they’re also setting the game up for a third game to act as a part 2 for Virtue, so it’s somewhat understandable). The animations for the characters are also kind of limited, which isn’t bad in and of itself, but sometimes you’ll have characters looking at you quizzically with a smile on their face while talking about someone who just got horribly murdered. The jokes also suffer from this. While usually amusing, they can be pretty misplaced. “Someone just died! Better make a pun.” I understand wanting to lighten the mood, but it didn’t really fit sometimes.

Despite that joke problem in Virtue, Aksys did an amazing job with translating and such. Massive kudos, guys.

So yeah, this series is fucking awesome and the wait for the third (and probably final) one will be extremely painful. But if you haven’t played either, go buy them right now and play them.


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