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The games' genres are psychological horror, mystery, suspense, thriller, and science fiction, with slight elements of humor and comedy to fill in the gaps when the atmosphere isn't so dark. The gameplay is a mix of visual novel, escape-the-room and puzzle.
Each game in the series follows groups of nine individuals, who are kidnapped and locked up by a mysterious person who goes by the name "Zero", and are forced to play a game of life and death in order to escape, while trying to figure out who Zero is and the truth behind the game. In all games, each player is equipped with a bracelet on their left wrist. Much of the plot development is through the interactions and drama between the game players, making critical decisions to survive through each game, etc.
The gameplay is divided into two types of sections: narrative sections, where the games' stories are presented, and escape-the-room adventure game sections where the player solves puzzles. In the first two games, the narrative sections are presented in a visual novel format, while the third game instead uses animated cutscenes. The stories are affected by player choices, such as the survival of the players, and each game include multiple endings.
The trilogy consists of:
- Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (2010 - DS, 2014 - iOS, 2017 - PC/PS4/Vita)
- Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (2012 - 3DS/Vita, 2017 - PC/PS4/Vita)
- Zero Escape: The Nonary Games (2017 - PC/PS4/Vita) - A bundle containing:
- A remaster of 999 with voice acting
- A port of Virtue's Last Reward
- Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma (2016 - PC/3DS/Vita, 2017 - PS4)
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is often abbreviated as 999.
Virtue's Last Reward is often abbreviated as VLR.
Zero Time Dilemma is often abbreviated as ZTD.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
- Main article: Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, also simply known as 999, is the first installment.
On May 29, 2013, the game was ported to iOS for iPhone and iPad and released in Japan. The port was named 9 Hours 9 People 9 Doors HD Smart Sound Novel, as it was released as part of the Smart Sound Novel series. The escape room puzzles were removed in favor of more focus on the visual novel aspects. The English version, titled Zero Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors: The Novel, or simply 999: The Novel, was released on March 17, 2014 worldwide.
On March 24, 2017, Zero Escape: The Nonary Games, a bundle pack containing a remastered version of 999 with voice acting and a port of Virtue's Last Reward was released for the PlayStation Vita / PlayStation TV, PlayStation 4 and PC. More details on this port is on The Nonary Games article.
The story follows Junpei who is abducted and placed aboard an empty, sinking cruise liner along with eight other people. The cruise liner resembles the RMS Titanic, a ship which killed over 1500 in the early 20th century. The nine people are forced to participate in the "Nonary Game", a deadly game which involves numerical bracelets, small bombs in each player's stomach that will detonate and kill them if they disobey, exploring the ship and solving escape-the-room puzzles in order to survive and escape before they drown in 9 hours. The players also attempt to find out why they were kidnapped.
Virtue's Last Reward
- Main article: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, known in Japan as Extreme Escape Adventure: Good People Die, is the sequel to 999.
The first versions of the game for Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita / PlayStation TV were published in Japan by Spike on February 16, 2012. It was published in North America by Aksys Games on October 23, 2012, and on the Nintendo eShop on August 22, 2013. It was published in Europe by Rising Star Games on November 23, 2012.
On March 24, 2017, Virtue's Last Reward was ported alongside a remaster of 999 into Zero Escape: The Nonary Games for PS4, Vita and PC. More details on this port is on The Nonary Games article.
The story follows Sigma Klim, who is abducted and placed in an empty facility along with eight others. They are forced to participate in the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition, a deadly game which involves needled bracelets filled with lethal poison, allying and betraying players, exploring the facility and solving escape-the-room puzzles in order to survive and escape, as well as figuring out why they were kidnapped and who Zero is.
Zero Time Dilemma
- Main article: Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma
Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, often abbreviated as ZTD, is the third and final installment of the Zero Escape trilogy and sequel to Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. It is developed by Spike Chunsoft and published by Aksys Games in North America and Europe.
It was released for the Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita / PlayStation TV, and PC on Steam in June 2016. The 3DS and Vita versions are digital download only for Europeans. A port to the PlayStation 4 was released on August 18, 2017 - only known changes are a new lighting engine and a few re-done textures.
All versions of the game feature English and Japanese dual audio.
The story primarily follows three people: a nurse named Diana, a firefighter named Carlos, and a boy with a spherical helmet named Q. The three protagonists are trapped in a facility along with six other participants. The nine are forced to participate in the Decision Game, a deadly game which involves bracelets that inject them with a drug every 90 minutes which induces memory loss, killing 6 out of the 9 players, exploring the facility and solving escape-the-room puzzles in order to survive and escape, and figuring out the truth behind the game and Zero's identity.
The Zero Escape series is composed of two sections. The first part are visual novel sections, which make up the majority of the gameplay expanding the story. The player makes choices during visual novel sections.
The second part are escape rooms, which have puzzles that must be solved to escape and continue the story. There are 45 escape rooms in the entire series: 16 in 999, 16 in VLR and 13 in ZTD. Which escape rooms the protagonist goes through are based on the player's actions.
- In 999, the player can directly pick which numbered door to go through.
- In VLR, it is based on the player's actions in the Ambidex Game and whether or not you choose to ally or betray the other participants. On most occasions, with the exception of the White Chromatic Doors, you can pick which Chromatic Door to go through. However, in some routes, your choice is limited. It depends on your choices in the AB Game as well as the attitudes of the other participants.
- In ZTD, it is based on which Floating Fragments the player decides to play first, as well as their choices in the Decision Game.
The player also has some features to use, depending on which installment they are playing. Some features include a FLOW Chart to select alternate paths, a calculator, and a memo function to write important information the player may need to remember later.
999 has 6 endings. (7 in the iOS version)
Virtue's Last Reward has 22 endings, including 9 "good" endings, 11 game overs, and 2 endings after the true ending, including 1 secret ending. These endings are based on the player's decisions.
Zero Time Dilemma has 7 named endings and a number of unnamed endings where the story hits a dead end without it being a true ending.
Despite the series being and debuting on Nintendo consoles (which are both marketed and often viewed as family and child friendly), every game in the trilogy is written for a mature audience and absolutely not recommended for younger children. Each game has an ESRB rating of 17+.
All three games depict strong profanity, mentions of alcohol, scantily clad women (each game has at least one major character with it), music and scenery that can be construed as disturbing and creepy, and sexual innuendo. Some of the backstory can be rather dark, often dealing with the mature theme of psychological trauma, especially in childhood.
The atmosphere can be intense and visceral, with depictions of death, murder, suicide, torture and violence. Fortunately for squeamish players when it comes to gore, the gore in the series is rather mild, usually mentioned in text only or implied off-screen.
The Zero Escape series has been generally positively received by critics. Meanwhile, the series has been a commercial failure in Japan, with both games underperforming in their respective debut years in Japan.
Several critics have praised the series' stories, plot twists, gameplay, atmosphere and music. Also praised was the game's narrative being spread through multiple timelines and having these timelines intersect, an achievement in the video game medium.
Some criticism has been directed at the series' science-fiction elements, which increases more each game.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
- DS website (English)
- DS website (Japanese)
- Novel site (English)
- Novel site (Japanese)
- 999: The Novel on iOS
- 999: The Novel (iPad) on iOS
Virtue's Last Reward
- Website (English)
- Website (Japanese)
- Virtue's Last Reward on PlayStation Store
- Virtue's Last Reward demo on PlayStation Store
- Virtue's Last Reward on Nintendo eShop
The Nonary Games
- English site
- Japanese site
- The Nonary Games on Steam (PC)
- The Nonary Games on PlayStation Store (PS4)
- The Nonary Games on PlayStation Store (Vita)
- The Nonary Games on PCGamingWiki