999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
So I've been on a bit of a "visual novel" kick lately, what with finishing the entire Danganronpa series not too long ago. I figured it was time to dive into the other beloved series in the genre, the Zero Escape games.
If Danganronpa is about emotions, bonds between those stuck in the killing game, and constant paranoia, then Zero Escape (at least the first) is about scientific theory, conspiracy, and a lottttt of math. Potentially a wee bit too much math. While the Ronpa focuses on murdering people in some really unique ways, Zero Escape seems content with going into detail about real life experiments and unexplained phenomenon. Things like morphogenetic resonance and the Ganzfeld experiment were things I knew nothing about going into this game but I find them extremely fascinating - which apparently the writer of this game did too.
The characters in this one are real well thought out and don't fit into cliche one-dimension stereotypes. It's nice not to have a character that always talks about food or one that always make jokes - they feel much more fleshed out and nearly all of them go through a wide range of emotions throughout the story, making me like every single character. Most puzzles aren't too difficult either - they supply you with enough information in the environment to figure out what you need to do, plus the characters themselves will give you hints to lead you in the right direction. It's only when you find yourself going for the true ending of the game does the game bop you over the head with a lot of math puzzles that aren't super fun.
Speaking of, I loved the choice given to the player and how you can obtain different endings, most of them not being desirable outcomes. They provide you with a flowchart so you can easily move back to various decisions without having to replay everything and you can easily skip over repeated dialogue. Strangely, it's only while pursuing the "true" ending of the game that I started finding things I dislike. Firstly, without the use of a spoiler-free chart online, I don't think I would have ever figured out the correct path to get that ending and the pace of the story just drags. You have to end up replaying most of the more annoying puzzles and for a game that was well thought out, the ending just feels.... nonsensical in a lot of ways. Games having bad endings is pretty standard but it's surprising to me how quickly this one fizzles out.
Either way, there was enough good in the game to keep me interested and ready to immediately jump into Virtue's Last Reward!