Response to @JDINCINERATOR regarding differences from the rest of the series and possible turn-offs for genre’s outsiders.
I put Virtue’s Last Reward above two other Zero Escape games, because it’s the most streamlined (in a good way) and it has the most captivating story (personal opinion, of course). Original release of the first entry (Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors) doesn’t have flowchart, so to reach other endings you have to restart from the beginning and redo the same puzzles. Remasters fixed that, but they had to scrap the most impactful scene, because it relied on DS’s two screens nature. Besides that, different story paths in 999 feel much more disconnected than in Virtue’s Last Reward, so you feel like a completionist while playing it. As for the third game, Zero Time Dilemma, it feels more artificial than previous two games, almost like certain new aspects were added just for the sake of having something new. Also, it changed visual style to fully animated 3D-cutscenes, but this style doesn’t look good and detracts from overall experience. Don’t get me wrong, both first and third entries are good games, and if Zero Escape series hooked you, you should play them, but only Virtue’s Last Reward is the game I can’t say anything bad about.
As for pushing some players away at the start, I don’t think that this would be an issue. As I said, I had no intention to play this game and launched it only because I briefly try everything I get for free. And at that time, I didn’t really know about visual novels, so I initially thought that it’s a puzzle game. I other words, I’ve started playing this game without paying much attention to the story or expecting it to be worth paying attention to. And it still hooked me! Yes, most characters seem uninteresting at first, but there’s aren’t the only draw. The world feels mysterious, you have no idea why you or other people are trapped here, or why some folks are paired while others are not – the list of bread crumbs to follow goes on and on. Not everything will raise your interest immediately, but something for sure will. It can even be one of the characters if their initial appearance is something you like.