It's time to play The Nonary Gaaaaaaaaaame! ... Agaaaaain!
Bet you didn't think you'd find yourself back in these circumstances, did ya? Well, let me tell you, this Nonary Game is a little different and altogether a tighter experience than its sister title, 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors.
There is no way that I can give this aspect of the game justice, but here's a taste of what you're in for once you boot the game up: You are Sigma, an average college student who has been gassed, kidnapped, thrown into a room and forced to play a twisted survival game with a handful of other players. Oh, and the host of this game is a sadistic rabbit known as Zero III.
Where's a Holy Hand Grenade when you need one?
Throughout the story, dependent on the choices you make, Sigma will get to know particular characters a little better. Sigma will work alongside these characters to solve the many devious puzzles that are strewn throughout the game. The puzzles are great, but the fun part is what happens AFTER each puzzle. You see, when you have completed a puzzle room, you are forced to play a simple game against the characters with whom you had recently cooperated. This “game” allows one to either earn points or lose points by making a choice: Whether to ALLY with your opponents or to BETRAY them. This is where the funky bracelets that have become a trademark of the series show their importance. These particular bracelets show how many “Bracelet Points” (BP) each character is currently holding onto.
I JUST told you!
The concept is simple, if Sigma chooses to ally with another team or person, both groups earn two BP. If both betray, no groups earn BP, but if one party betrays and the other allies, the betrayer will earn three BP while the ally team loses two. If anybody's points reach zero, he or she will die from a lethal injection that is conveniently hidden within his or her bracelet. Alternately, if somebody's bracelet points reach nine, he or she can open a special door marked with the number nine, and escape the facility.
I already told you, it's BEHIND THE NUMBER NINE DOOR. Are you listening to me?
Like 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999) before it, the story goes in many interesting directions and there is no way for the player to guess all the twists that will be thrown into the mix. Rest assured, if you 100% complete this game, you will be thinking about it for a while afterwards. It is a well-crafted tale that is just unpredictable enough to keep you guessing. I won't lie: I had a few dreams about this game and some were just plain creepy. This is a total testament to the story, which is totally crazy!
The rag-tag cast is what makes the story shine. The characters each have their own unique personalities as well as their own reasons for being part of the game. You will find yourself second-guessing people's motives, getting genuinely angry at some and totally loving others. The cast in Virtue's Last Reward certainly earns its right to stand alongside the great characters introduced in 999.
Just a disclaimer: You do not have to have finished 999 in order to understand the story in Virtue's Last Reward, but I suggest that you do. The story will be all the better!
Man, that person's a jerk. No, not the rabbit, that person RIGHT THERE!
Much like 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors, tapping the bottom screen or the A button to advance the text is 90 percent of the gameplay. Don't discount this though, because the story is very, very intriguing and extremely well-crafted. As I have already mentioned, you will get to know the characters, love some of them, hate others and really feel involved with their own personal stories. If you are replaying a section, you will have the option to warp-speed through the text you have already read. This is similar to 999, but you will not have to skip through nearly as much. You can also hit the button/tap the screen to speed through new text at your leisure. This will cut off some of the great voice acting, but if you're in a hurry, Virtue's Last Reward has you covered!
The other ten percent of the game has you tapping around various rooms and completing puzzles to unlock a safe that contains a key to help you escape said room. The puzzles vary in difficulty, and are reminiscent of adventure games of past. The puzzle rooms also have a difficulty setting option. You can choose either HARD or EASY. On the easy setting, NPC characters will give the player hints if he or she is having trouble with the puzzles. Each room also has an alternate solution that wins the player a “gold file” (or silver file, if you are playing on easy). The gold file holds supplemental materials that are super-interesting. The materials range from additional story elements not found in the main game to behind the scenes making-of information. Oh yeah, also, most of the gold files are HILARIOUS to read. The main game is mostly pretty heavy-handed (minus a few great jokes), so the supplemental materials are a nice breath away from the doom and gloom. Please, go for the gold files and have a healthy laugh. Particularly funny is Sigma's cat story. Man oh man oh man, ridiculous!
Like 999 before it, Virtue's Last Reward is presented as a visual novel. Unlike 999, the character portraits are now animated polygonal characters and all of the lengthy novel sections are completely voice acted. Not just voice acted, mind you, but COMPETENTLY voice acted! There was only one character's voice that sort of bothered me, but I warmed to it in time.
Upon each boot up, the game also gives you the choice to use either the English or the Japanese voice tracks.
It should be noted that the main character of Sigma is not voice acted. All of his speech is only shown in text which is a little jarring at first but I got acclimated to it pretty quickly.
Virtue's Last Reward's predecessor 999 had some shortcomings, such as slow-moving text, being forced to repeat large chunks of novel sections and repeating of puzzle rooms. All of these issues were fine-tuned with Virtue's Last Reward. Puzzle rooms never need repeating, pressing a button will speed through text (yes, even new text), and the in-game flowchart allows one to jump right to the hard choices.
The game looks great, sounds great and maintains a wonderful art style. As for the writing, all I have to say is thank you, Aksys, your localization is top-notch as always!
3DS or Vita? What is the Right Hoption? Err, Option? Did I mention that Zero III likes puns?
I had the chance to play both the Vita and the 3DS versions of this game, and when choosing what version is superior the choice is not cut and dry. The Vita version has beautiful, clean and crisp graphics while the 3DS version tosses in some not-so-spectacular 3D. The Vita version also allows the player to snap screenshots throughout the game. Pretty nifty indeed! A positive for the 3DS is its stylus which makes jotting down in-game notes a breeze. Additionally, the second screen allows for a not-so-cluttered gaming experience, with all the menus and options appearing on the bottom screen, while the rooms and character portraits appear on the top screen.
One more thing: The 3DS version only allows one save file to be played at a time while the Vita version contains three separate save spots, so more people can share the same game and play at their own pace.
Though the Vita version has some great pluses, I personally leaned toward the 3DS version for the stylus and dual-screen reasons. The stylus alone makes the experience much more streamlined since jotting notes with your finger can be a heck of a feat (ever play “Draw Something” on an iPhone? Yeah, it feels like that).
3DS buyers beware though: The 3DS version has a few game-breaking bugs. I actually encountered a couple of the infamous issues myself.
On the 3DS, the game tends to freeze up in a room called the “PEC Room.” This is a heads-up for future purchasers: If you find yourself entering this room, be sure to save before the puzzle section begins. Saving the game while attempting to solve the puzzles in this room can corrupt your save file, thus destroying your progress altogether. I was lucky to know about this issue ahead of time but I still had the game crash on me during this section a total of three times. I did not experience any other crashes throughout the fifty-plus hours I played the game.
I did however encounter a strange bug in another puzzle room that, upon completing a particular puzzle, didn't allow me to access the menu screen. I had to reset the game and start back at the last place I saved. A very annoying thing indeed. Zero III would be proud of the 3DS version and its ability to make people want to do awful things.
With these points in mind, the choice is yours! You really can't go wrong with either version of the game (Especially if you keep the PEC room in mind).
Fine then, you can choose the Vita version. Geeze Louise!
According to the box, the game boasts a whopping 24 endings, but is that really the truth? In a sense this is true, but, like 999 before it, there is really only one real ending. The true ending actually requires that you find the other endings first, so it really plays as a lengthy game with one ending.
Luckily, finding the various “endings” in this game is much easier than in 999. A handy in-game flowchart is now available to the player so he or she can jump from one plot-point to the next. Of particular interest are the big decision plot points (for example, whether Sigma chooses to betray or to ally with somebody). The flowchart streamlines the game much better than 999, allowing for a lot less repetition. Oh, and another thing: The game is LONGER than you think it will be. It really is, and that's a good thing.
If you enjoyed 999, this game is a no-brainer. Please get it now! If you were one of the zany people who did not enjoy 999 due to any of the issues mentioned in this review, Virtue's Last Reward is still worth a shot.
Man, I hope writing this review doesn't bring back the creepy dreams...
Those events where you have to make a choice to go with someone or go against them (where you both CAN benefit, but might not) are always tough. I'm sure Anand is the type of guy who will always betray, in the interest of one possible extra point, while I am a person who will always ally with two points in mind. What is so hard about honesty and loyalty, friends?
So, how does the game really work? It says that it is a story, but I'm getting a The Mole-like vibe from this thing in which there are games/challenges (where someone dies or maybe gets out), and everything else. After someone reaches 9, is that it? If someone dies, is that it? I feel like there is whittling from both ends. Whats the scoop?