Zero Escape – The Nonary Games combines two classic visual novel/escape room hybrids into one high value package. It’s available for PS4, Vita and Steam – we checked it out on Sony’s platforms.
The whole visual novel genre more or less passed me by until a few years ago, when I discovered gems like Steins;Gate and started playing them on the Vita. That’s how I learned about the gem that is Virtue’s Last Reward as well – a game that was later followed by Zero Time Dilemma. That game is not included with The Nonary Games, but this IS my first opportunity to play the original game in the series, since I never played it on the Nintendo DS.
The original game is titled Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – or 999 for short. Just as in its sequel, you follow no fewer than nine characters in a visual novel style of adventure – but one with the added suspense and pressure of an escape room type of situation. Both games in the Nonary Games collection follow this general pattern, and both feature strong storylines with tons of plot twists along the way. 999 has six different endings, but Virtue’s Last Rewards ups the ante with an amazing 24 different ones.
Navigating through the story can be done using an in-game flow chart that tells you where you are and where you could have taken a different turn. I was already familiar with this from playing Virtue’s Last Reward, but my understanding is that it wasn’t included in the original release of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – a change for the better since you can just rewind and take a different turn in the story. Since visual novels tend to be rather long, this saves a lot of time – no need to start over from the beginning and deduce where you could have made a different choice.
Aside from the visual novel portions of the game, both games also feature a ton of puzzles for you to solve – often related to your attempts to escape the room you’re currently in. The inclusion of these puzzles are a great way to attract gamers who normally are put off by the lack of interactivity in visual novel titles. 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward aren’t exactly like Professor Layton in how much of the game is actually about puzzles, but the puzzles are often a lot of fun to play and tie into the story very well – the escape room setting gives everything a Saw-like dynamic, minus the blood and guts. Very often, getting out of room doesn’t mean solving a single puzzle – it is often a series of puzzles that guides you along – much like the The Room games do.
Besides being ported to the PS4 (and in the case of 999, the Vita), both games have also received a few upgrades. They are mostly audiovisual in nature and most apparent in 999. This is understandable, seeing as how that game was originally released for the Nintendo DS whereas Virtue’s Last Reward was already a Vita title before and already looked great when played on a TV screen. Another big boost for 999 is the inclusion of voice acting for parts of the game. This too was already a part of Virtue’s Last Reward, but its inclusion in 999 elevates that game to a new generation of gamers.
As with a lot of these compilations and remasters, the question of whether or not you should pick them up depends largely on your previous experience with the games. If you’re new to the Zero Escape series but interested in a visual novel/escape room hybrid, then this is a must buy – there simply is no better alternative available. If you already played or own the original titles then you won’t run into too many surprises here, and might skip it or wait for a sale. In that sense, it’s too bad that 999 isn’t available by itself for Playstation owners who already have Virtue’s Last Reward. Based on their own merit, however, both these games are excellent – and this is the best version available so far.