Zero Zero Zero: 999 And Virtue’s Last Reward On PC

Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma is “a fitting end to the trilogy’s story arc and – animation aside – it’s an excellent way to spend a few evenings,” is Wot Kate Gray Thought of the gruesome escape room visual novel. Which made it jolly weird that this is actually the first game of the trilogy to receive a PC release, and this is very much a game best enjoyed at the end of a series. You big sillies, Spike Chunsoft.

Well, after a wee hint, the developers have announced that yes, the original Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is coming to PC together with sequel Virtue’s Last Reward.

The Zero Escape games, to briefly recap, are a smooshing-together of visual novel and murderlicious escape rooms. Nine people find themselves kidnapped and held in a strange facility, solving deadly puzzles to try and survive. Oh me oh my, many folks die.

999 was released for the Nintendo DS handheld in 2009 so yes, Spike Chunsoft are fancying it up a bit for this new release. They say it boasts “hi-res graphics and a variety of new features including both Japanese and English voice acting!” It sounds like Virtue’s Last Reward, released on 3DS and Vita in 2012, will basically be the same.

The two will be released together as Zero Escape: The Nonary Games, hitting Steam in 2017 by the end of March. It will launch simultaneously with the PlayThing release. If you’ve been interested in the series, do hold out and resist playing Virtue’s Last Reward until after these.


  1. Eight Rooks says:

    Hmm, that’s a surprisingly decent gesture. I could barely stand either – VLR is slightly better than 999, though it’s still rubbish… but, still, serious observation. It’s nice they’re bundling them together rather than trying to squeeze a bit more money out of fans, when you see some of the prices for visual novels on Steam.

    (Seriously, though, the first two games are so bad, like a Japanese Dan Brown decided to write visual novels rather than chase Hollywood millions – I’m honestly curious how many people who praised VLR are laughing at Angels & Demons, The DaVinci Code, Inferno et al.)

    • trashbarge says:

      i’m usually p impatient with bad games writing, but i really enjoyed 999. it’s nonsense but it’s fun. big part of it is that the cast is mostly likable and it’s got a super interesting setting/atmosphere, i think

      edit: also, comparing niche japanese VNs to a bunch of super popular (if bad) western conspiracy novels seems kind of weird + unfair

    • Deano2099 says:

      They’re similar to Dan Brown in that the stories are pure plot. The characters are all pretty much cliches with no development, but they put the emphasis entirely on the central plot conciet, and explore every possible detail of it. It’s a very different sort of writing but I find them to be tremendous stories, even if the writing and characterisation is poor.

      They’re also stories that can only be told via the videogame medium.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        No, they’re similar to Dan Brown in that the plotting hinges on ridiculous technobabble which is demonstrably utter nonsense (the glycerin story, all the Gaia theory claptrap, the Titanic stories etc.), as well as comically pretentious pseudo-philosophy devoid of any depth or meaning (like Zero Sr.’s idiot speech about the termite mound in VLR). I finished 999 on iOS and saw all the routes, and cleared everything in VLR, only using a walkthrough a couple of times (mostly for the last room and its godawful lazy design). VLR was better than 999, but they’re both bad, bad, comically bad pieces of writing and there are countless better VNs people could – nay, should – be playing instead. :P

        • malkav11 says:

          Not that I agree with you on Zero Escape’s merits or lack thereof (and comparing it to Dan Brown, one of the most undeservedly successful writers in the English language today, is surely a low blow), but when you say things like that you really ought to actually recommend some of those other VNs.

  2. ZedClampet says:

    Glad to hear this. Played the first one on emulator and bought the last one, but have been waiting on them to release the second one before playing it. Now I can have them all on PC.

  3. Ksempac says:

    Awesome news ! 999 is “middling” at best, with some good bits that are hidden among the bad ones, but Virtue’s Last Reward is one of my favorite game ever :) I highly recommend it (and 999 happens before VLR, so you might want to try to trudge through it…)

    I actually finished Zero Time Dilemma a week ago, and was happy that they didn’t fuck it up. It’s not good as VLR, but at least it’s a decent ending to the trilogy.

  4. Risingson says:

    Great for you lovers of endless badly written exposition.

    • twaitsfan says:

      spot on. So… much…. exposition. Sometimes I wonder if it’s a translation thing rather than a writing thing because I find it so common Japanese games.

      • TheLetterM says:

        I suspect platform had something to do with this as well. 999 was originally a DS game, so the creators were expecting you to only play in small chunks. So all the repetition was likely to reinforce things you may have forgotten. I played it over several weeks on my commute to work, and didn’t notice a lot of repetition, but that’s likely due to my playing it as intended.

  5. mewse says:

    These games are “Big Idea” games, in the same way that (for example) “The Talos Principle” and “The Swapper” were “Big Idea” games; their game mechanics are there purely as a vessel for transporting their Big Idea. They’re not fantastic in terms of those game mechanics (which, across the whole series, is basically alternating room-escape with visual novel chapters), or in terms of their writing, or characters, or any of the other things that people usually go to games looking for, but that’s okay; fundamentally, you play these games to get those Big Ideas.

    999 is based around a single puzzle. Like its sequels, its story and themes are all built around exploring different facets of its central puzzle. In the case of 999, this central puzzle is “the nonary game” (the game of nines), which I believe is a puzzle unique to this game. It also plays a lot with the tropes of branching-path visual novels, and the whole “one true ending” idea becomes part of the narrative in a really interesting way.

    Unfortunately, 999 suffers from a major problem; to reach the ‘true’ ending, you’ll probably need to do between 4 and 6 play-throughs of the game. And the game doesn’t let you skip ahead or back, which means you’re going to be playing through the opening section, including all its room-escape segments, *at least* 4 to 6 times. As a result, it’s very difficult to recommend.

    There’s an iOS version of 999 as well, which removed the ‘room escape’ segments, leaving only the visual novel components. I haven’t played that version, but it’s mostly been panned by people, to my understanding. So.. I don’t know if that’s a realistic alternative to wrestling with those room escape segments over and over again.

    Virtue’s Last Reward isn’t precisely a sequel to 999, but it happens in the same universe as the “true” ending of 999, and I’m going to say no more about its plot than that, to avoid spoilers. Like 999, it’s based upon exploring variations on a single puzzle, which in this case is an elaboration of the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma puzzle (which they, to my immense surprise and relief, managed to make far more interesting than Prisoner’s Dilemma ever was before, by wrapping a neat meta-game around it).

    VLR mostly stands separate from 999, in that you could play it without having played 999, without missing much at all. It adds the ability to freely skip around within the narrative (and narratively justifies giving the player this ability), thus neatly escaping the major “you mean I have to do that room escape puzzle *again*??” flaw from 999. My only major complaint about VLR is that it ends on a very unsatisfying cliff-hanger, and for quite a while it looked like the series was never going to be completed, and so VLR also was very difficult to recommend.

    Zero-Time Dilemma picks up more or less exactly where VLR left off. Like the others, Zero-Time Dilemma is based on exploring variations of a single puzzle. This time, it’s all about the Sleeping Beauty paradox, although it also plays around with a few other classic philosophical puzzles. Like VLR, it lets the player jump around the timeline as they choose. Unlike VLR, it doesn’t show you how the whole timeline connects together, and you’re left to try to figure out the causality between scenes for yourself.

    Zero-Time Dilemma is probably the strongest and smartest of all three games in my opinion, but suffers from the problem that it pretty much requires you to have played BOTH the previous two games to have any hope of knowing what the hell is going on, since it ties everything together and completes the series, and doesn’t really stop to explain what’s going on, when it’s touching on topics from the previous games. This makes Zero-Time Dilemma (all together now)… very difficult to recommend.

    I will say that Zero-Time Dilemma has the smartest ending of any video game I’ve ever played, by a fairly comfortable margin. I’d really like to be able to recommend it to people. But I mostly can’t, because it’s so difficult to recommend 999, and 999 is required to understand ZTD, and ZTD is required to be satisfied with VLR.

    So I’m crossing my fingers and hoping that 999’s game structure gets some love, to make it less absurdly painful to work your way to that ‘true’ ending. Because once those extra play-throughs of 999 are a pleasant experience, VLR and ZTD are easy to recommend.

    • Deano2099 says:

      999 on IOS had a VLR-style flow chart (and an additional ending) so I’d fully expect that to be ported over to these versions.

      I loved the first two games, but ZTD moved away from text descriptions and static images to really bad 3D rendered animation which utterly killed it for me. That plus I didn’t find it to even have a ‘big idea’ – that the Sleeping Beauty dilemma was meant to be it never even occured to me. It just felt like a hodge-podge of leftover ideas all thrown togehter: or put another way, the final Nonary Game didn’t have a ruleset. Or at least not one revealed to the player. Which meant it couldn’t play with the limits of those rules in the same way.

      • mewse says:

        …an additional ending? Geez, you’re going to make me go play it, now. xD

        I agree; there was really no nonary game in ZTD. But it definitely was using the Sleeping Beauty paradox in the same way that the previous games were using the nonary game and Prisoner’s Dilemma, as the framing device for the rest of the narrative, and as a key example of its Big Ideas.

        Granted, it’s less “in your face” about it than the Prisoner’s Dilemma was in VLR, where they had dialogue discussing it. In ZTD, they do explain the Sleeping Beauty paradox at one point, but never actually mention how it’s precisely what’s happening in the story. They just kind of trust the player to notice.

        (This also is why the game’s ending is my favourite ending of any game ever; it doesn’t explain its own ending, or why the story is ending at the moment where it’s ending; just trusts that the player will understand the point they’re making, even if they don’t point it out explicitly.)

        • Deano2099 says:

          The extra 999 ending was just a bonus bad end, nothing special!

          I don’t even really remember the ZTD ending so maybe I just didn’t get it. I got that the whole game was the sleeping beauty thing, it’s referenced a few times, but that just seemed like a hand-wave to explain the structure, they didn’t really do anything interesting with it, except maybe the one in a million chance bit.

      • malkav11 says:

        It’s worth remembering that the series was not a particular success financially, and was at one point not going to be continued at all despite the cliffhanger ending in VLR. I am not 100% clear on the chain of events that led to Zero Time Dilemma being made but I wouldn’t be surprised if the fan demand for it got it greenlit at all. But that doesn’t mean it was given much of a budget, and I think that probably played a meaningful role in the game’s obvious shortcomings in presentation and somewhat odd pacing. I ended up enjoying it in much the same ways as I had the previous games (VLR especially), but I wish we could have seen a version of it with all the production values and development time it deserved.

        • Deano2099 says:

          True, but I think some things could have been improved with a smaller budget – less voice acting and 3D animation, more text and 2D stills.

    • Nouser says:

      Difference being Talos and The Swapper were quite decent puzzle games, philosophical message aside.

  6. Deano2099 says:

    VLR has my favourite story in gaming and one of my favourites in any medium.

    The core of VLR is playing the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, but with lethal stakes. You can Ally with or Betray the other player – both Ally and you both get 2 points, both Betray you each get 0 points. If one Betrays and the other Allies, the Betrayer gets 3 points and the other loses 3 points. First to 9 points escapes, leaving the rest trapped. If you ever hit 0, you die.

    The core game mechanic is that what you select each time creates a branch in the story, and there is a flow chart representing the story in game, so you can literally see each branch, and jump aroud and try the alternate option each time. Follow enough trails and you’ll have the information you need to get through the ‘best’ path and win the game.

    What I’m going to post below is a SPOILER, and if you have any intention of playing these games, please don’t read it. You’ll ruin one of the best moments in gaming. But if you don’t get the appeal of these games, or what I mean when I say it’s a story that can only be told via videogames, this will explain it:

    So I’m playing a round of the game, and I don’t really trust the character I am paired with. So I decide to choose Betray. The results come out and they have picked Ally. They’re furious with me, and promise that I’ll pay for that. Damn, I made the wrong choice, I should have trusted them after all. I hit a story dead-end and decide to go back and make the other choice, and trust them like I should have to start with. I pick Ally. The results come out and… they’ve picked Betray: “I told you I’d make you pay for last time”.

  7. Eight Rooks says:

    Also, also: VLR has an absolutely ridiculous implementation of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, to the point I have to wonder if people were really playing the same game. Like, seriously, there’s one gaping flaw in it a mile wide no character even addresses for a second (the game even lampshades it in gameplay and no-one notices!), not to mention a pathetically obvious twist which is glaringly apparent a mile off (EDIT: No, wait, two, arguably, though I didn’t guess every detail of the second). Jesus, I wish this comment system had spoilers, I’m seriously not trying to troll – well, okay, I am doing the “I demand you stop having fun!” thing, but only because these problems are so nakedly apparent I can’t understand how people can play through the damn game without collapsing in hysterics every few seconds. If you put together a book that worked this way I’m pretty sure you’d be laughed out of the door of every decent literary agent going.

    • mewse says:

      Okay, but “state of the art” in video game narratives is stuck in 1960s genre fiction across the board. If “must not make decent literary agents laugh” is your standard, there aren’t many games which are going to pass that bar right now.

    • Deano2099 says:

      I think the big twist is hinted at enough that you’re meant to figure it out. I’m less sure on the flaw in the game though. Pop a thread in the forums if you want to discuss with spoilers!

  8. Chillicothe says:

    Now we get good ZE games on PC.