When 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors first came out, I ignored it for just seeming to have an odd playing style.
However after about a year I checked out the game and learned to really appreciate its text based adventure mixed with puzzles.
Now, the second episode, Virtue’s Last Reward, is out, improving on many aspects of the DS title and creating an even more captivating story.
VLR follows Sigma as he gets drugged and held hostage with eight others inside a warehouse. Each of the nine game players is given a watch with three BP each, by escaping from rooms, finding key cards and playing the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition, the players choose to either ally or betray teammates to gain nine BP to try and escape the warehouse to freedom.
For those unfamiliar with the first game, the second game players in two distinct modes: visual novel and puzzle. Most of the time you’ll be playing a visual novel. Characters will reveal more about the story and themselves, and you just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Thankfully, the story is top-notch. Character development is done expertly and the story will keep you captivated through its twist and turns. As you may guess, gamers that don’t like text-heavy stories or games with lots of dialogue will want to steer clear of this one.
Breaking up the text are escape puzzles as you try to get out from various rooms. Like escape puzzles you find online, you have to do a variety of mini-puzzles in each room to try and find a code to unlock a safe to get a key and key cards to leave the room. In addition, there are extra puzzles to solve to get a silver or gold folder that gives extra background information on the story in the game.
The type of folder you get depends on the difficulty you play on. Hard mode players, which each level starts out in, will get the gold folder if they solve the secondary puzzle. Meanwhile, easy mode players will get silver. The two modes play identical, but the difference is easy mode players get a lot more hints and an outright solution if they can’t solve a particular puzzle.
For the most part, puzzles are fairly easy to solve if you sit down and think about them, even though they do get ramped up in difficulty later on in the game. The biggest problems I sometimes had with puzzles was trying to figure out what the secondary puzzle was for a folder and then how to solve it.
In addition, puzzles are easy to maneuver around with the triggers, D-Pad or touchscreen. I found it easiest to look around with the triggers and work on puzzles with the touch screen. Either way, though, the controls work good.
The other thing you’ll do outside of the puzzles and watching the story unfold is vote in the Nonary Game. As I mentioned earlier, you’re given two choices in each round of the game: ally and betray. If both teams ally, all three players get two points (two players are on a team and the third is alone). If one group betrays and the other choose ally, the betray group gets three points and the ally group loses two. If both betray, neither gains points.
While the AI results are automatically programmed in, your results do send you down branching story paths that can bring you closer to bad endings or to good endings that give more of a storyline and possibly even a character pic on the save screen.
Thankfully, these branching story paths can be easily gone back to with the game’s flow chart. Every time you choose what door to go through or what option to choose, you start going down a different path. Wherever the split was in the game can be clicked back to and replayed to choose a different path. This makes it a lot easier to see all of the game without having to have a ton of saves or having to replay the game over and over again.
What you’ll find out during your travels is that not every story path immediately has an ending. Some paths will leave you with to be continued ending that requires a password to get by. Unfortunately, most of these paths are the ones that give major character endings.
The characters are nicely designed and levels all have distinct features that separate them from other levels in the world. The graphics weren’t made to break any boundaries, since it was on the 3DS as well, but they look great as you solve puzzles and listen to the story.
Also, I want to mention an odd glitch I had with the Vita version of the game. While trying to shut down the Vita after saving, with the game still running, the Vita would just freeze on the loading screen. I’d have to do a hard reset to get it to shut down. This happened a handful of times, but I’m not sure if it’s an isolated incident or not. Keep in mind I played the version from the PSN, so take it for what it’s worth.
- Great story.
- Good, challenging puzzles that break up the dialogue.
- Plenty of endings and story lines to explore.
- Some people may not like the text-heavy nature of the game.
- Some stories require a password before you can continue them.
- A few puzzles are a bit more problematic than others.
While Virtue’s Last Reward may not be for everyone, gamers that love a good story should definitely check this out. The writing is top-notch, puzzles are solid and the game is just a blast to play overall. If you have a 3DS or Vita, definitely check this out.