If You Like Time Travel Then You Need to Play The Zero Escape Trilogy
Hello everyone and welcome to our shelter.
First of all… Yes, I’m still on a break! However, with the time I got off due to not posting regular content, watch Anime, and all of that, I was able to spend some more time playing videogames, which led me to finish this awesome trilogy two days ago. The moment I finished it, I knew I had to talk about it!
This will be a full, spoiler-less, review of the 3 games consisting in the Zero Escape Trilogy – Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors; Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma. The three games were originally released for Nintendo DS. However, at the moment, new versions have been released both for PlayStation 4 and PC.
Before I start, just one last remark, I will start addressing the trilogy as an all (as also answer some frequent questions) and then I’ll dive into a more detailed review of each game. I will try to make this as short as possible but take into mind that I do have a lot of content to speak of.
Do You Need To Play Every Game In Order?
I want to start with this question because I believe it’s an important one. I found many people asking if to play Zero Time Dilemma they should play the two games before. The same happened to the VLR (Virtue’s Last Reward). So, right from the bat, I want to tell you, yes, you should play every each game in the order they came out.
As the title says, Zero Escape is a trilogy. This means that the three games tell one story. So, of course, if you pass one of the games, you won’t get the full picture. Truth enough though, the first game is not as deeply connected as the VLR and Zero Time Dilemma. However, since characters from the first game appear in both the second game and the third game, it gives that special feeling.
However, VLR and Zero Time Dilemma are deeply connected since the third installment is, at the same time, a sequel and a prequel of VLR. You gotta love time travel! Of course, if you don’t play Zero Time Dilemma, then you also won’t understand Akane’s and Junpei’s relationship in Zero Time Dilemma.
If you are an OG follower of this blogger, you know that I love Steins;Gate and it’s one of my Top 5 Anime shows of all time. If you have been following me for some months you know that I love Steins;Gate because of my collab with Irina about Steins;Gate 0. If you are new here… Hey there! I’m Arthifis and I love Steins;Gate 😉
Let me tell you something, I don’t have a major in physics, quite the contrary actually since my background in management/marketing. However, I always loved to dwell upon paradoxes, physic quantics, and what not – yes, I’m a nerd! But, I think you already knew that!
So, of course, when I saw an ad or something like that for Zero Time Dilemma, I knew I had to play it. (Though I thought it was more of an Until Dawn type of game, not a time travel one). But, anyways, I made some research, found that there are 2 other games and, well, I started playing them (duh Arthifis).
Oh god! I wasn’t expecting, in the slightest, to go for such a ride. Look, the story is… Better than Steins;Gate. There, I said it! I can’t take it back… I mean I could press the delete button, but you get the point. The main reason for this is that, while Steins;Gate, in my opinion, completely screw up by doing Steins;Gate 0, the Zero Escape sequels actually make the story more, and more compelling.
It’s hard for me to speak about any part of the story without spoiling and this is really one of those games you want to get in completely dark, so I won’t. Just know the game tackles many different paradoxes and tries to answer them, you will also get some nice conspiracy theories such as Ice-9, the Titanic among others and, of course, time travel. Or in this case, how quantic physics and the fourth dimension could explain time traveling.
The BootStrap Paradox
I do have to point one thing out though. All the 3 games have one paradox present, The Bootstrap Paradox, also known as causal loop. This paradox is something that also happens in Steins;Gate 0. For this paradox you have two events where chronologically Event A leads to Event B. However Event B goes back in time and leads to Event A. Can you see the problem? We have entered in a loop where it doesn’t have an origin. If Event A leads to Event B first, but Event A only happens because Event B went to the past, leading to Event A, how did Event A happened in the first place?
Here’s the example from Steins;Gate 0 (but with other words so I don’t fully spoil an episode). Let’s say your mother teaches you a song. Later, you go back in time and teach that song to a friend of yours. That friend ends up teaching your mother the song which will then, later, teach you the same song. The question we need to ask is, how did the mother learned the song in the first place?
Now, for a song, you can easily argue that the mother could have learned that song in some place. It’s not really that complex, it’s just a song. But what if those events lead to someone to be born? Then, things get a little more complicated. Let’s say you learn that, for you to be born, you need to get back in time and make sure your mother and father meet. You do just that, your parents meet each other and, years later, here you are, coming out to the world as a baby. However, how were you born in the first place? Know, where I’m getting?
Well, the 3 games have this paradox. Something that I don’t love, to be honest. However, Uchikoshi, the creator, already came out and explained is reasoning. He doesn’t think that the BootStrap Paradox is, in fact, a paradox. In his idea time, like the World, does not have a beginning and an end per sais, which means that these kinds of events can occur. Well, to be honest, I’m not smart enough to grasp such an abstract theory. However, it’s nice to see that there was a lot of thought put into this and is just not a plot hole for the sake of a better/emotional story.
The gameplay of the Zero Escape games involves two parts – visual novel and puzzles. I think that are the puzzles that made me like Zero Escape more when compared to Steins;Gate game. Though we have to take into account that I already knew the story of Steins;Gate before playing the game, so there’s that.
When it comes to the visual novel, in 999, the first installment, you have around 6 endings. In VTR you have around 10 endings and in the last installment, Zero Time Dilemma you have around 20 endings. Yeah, it’s a lot. However, for you to get to the true ending, you will always have to come back and forward in the visual novel and complete all endings to get all the information you will need to finish that true ending. Something that I love.
Basically, depending on your decisions throughout the game, you will enter in different routes of the story. In those different routes, you will get precious information that you will need to finish the game 100%. And no, the game does not help you at all. Let’s say that you are the end of the game and a password appears. You will need to input that password. However, the problem is, you will only know that password if you finish that horrible ending where everyone dies.
When it comes to the puzzle side, it’s basically what you can call an escape room. You will be inside a closed room and you need to find the key to open the closed door. For the puzzles, you will need not only to play various types of mini-games but also have a great view of your surroundings and logic to understand what is the objective for the items you just found.
Animation and Audio
I’m going to start with the audio because it’s the best part of these two. The soundtrack is perfect for the type of game you are playing! It really gives you that vibe of a dark mystery while at the same time the urge of moving quickly (Normally the characters are fighting against time as well).
The voice acting is also great. Of course, the game with the best voice acting is the third one, but that’s because the visual novel part is all made in a cutscene style. This means that you won’t have those long pauses between the characters in their conversations, something that happens in all the visual novels I’ve played so far. However, even with that slight problem, the first two games also have excellent voice acting, period.
Now, the animation has some problems. My favorite has to be the first installment which follows the classical visual novel animation. On the second installment, we can see that the game came out just around the time games were going for 3D (remember that the game is for the Nintendo DS too) which makes the characters to move in some strange and quirky ways.
However, that’s not an excuse I can give to Zero Time Dilemma. The overall animation is better, yes, but for a game that came out in 2016, I was expecting a little more. The characters continue to move in a very strict way, their faces also do not really give you the vibes of real emotion, but, the worst, without a doubt, is their mouths. For you to understand how bad it is, I changed the game to English audio to see if it was because the mouths were created for the English voice acting. But not, it’s 100% an animation problem.
Favorite Game of The Bunch
Taking everything into mind, my favorite installment is the Virtual Last Reward. The story is just freaking good, interesting and will blow your mind in the end. In fact, during the game, you can find a file with the 10 amendments to write a good mystery story. They follow each one of them! You will have enough entail for you to get there, but still, you will probably get blown away when everything unfolds, especially if you have played the first game.
Moreover, the second game is the only one to have the possibility to play the puzzles in hard. This means that you won’t get help. Something that really makes me mad in 999 and Zero Time Dilemma. I mean, just because I’m clicking for the 5th time in the same thing doesn’t mean I want the other characters basically giving me the solution!
My second favorite is 999. Probably because it was the first one I played. But, I loved the main characters, all the conspiracy theories (which are all based on true facts) and was overall interesting to know more about. Of course, this was the first time I played a Nonary game, which gives you the novelty vibe.
My least favorite was Zero Time Dilemma. I do have some problems with it. First, it’s the only game where you are not playing just a main character. You have 3 teams, and you play with the 3 of them. Then, you also have the problem that everyone is injected with a memory loss every 90 minutes. So, what you have to play is their memory fragments, which means you will be playing, for a looong time, random events that are difficult to put together. I understand the idea of making the player feel the same as the characters. However, it just drags for way too long.
Of course, in the end, you will be able to understand it all. But, even so, there is one reveal that I just feel it’s overreaching. I actually went to the Internet and saw what clues existed during the game so we could get to that realization. Well, there are clues, but they are just way too faint for you to get it. I mean, you probably are smarter than me, but even so, it’s just way too hidden for a normal person to get it. Last, but not least, I also felt this was the game that presented the easiest puzzles. You know, the kind that you don’t even feel happy about yourself for concluding them.
If you are into Time Travel or any other physics’ theory you can think of, I highly recommend you to play the Zero Escape Trilogy. The game is great and will always be able to surprise you. For example, I thought I knew what was going to happen in Virtual’s Last Reward, and everything that I thought, I was right. I even got Zero right! However, there was so much more than that which I was not expecting.
What about you? Have you played the game? What did you think about it? If not, are you thinking about playing it? Tell me all in the comments! ^.^