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Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma

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Zero Time Dilemma
Developer Spike Chunsoft
Publishers JP Spike Chunsoft
NA Aksys Games
EU Aksys Games
Release dates 3DS and PS Vita
NA June 28th, 2016
EU June 28th, 2016
JP June 30th, 2016
PC (Windows Steam)
WW June 29, 2016
Platforms Nintendo 3DS
PlayStation Vita / PS TV

Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma 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 game is digital download only for Europeans. All versions of the game feature English and Japanese dual audio.

The game's genre is a mix of psychological horror, mystery, suspense and thriller. The gameplay is a mix of escape-the-room and puzzle.

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.


"Six of us are... dead. Counting myself, there are only three left. They were killed... I... I guess you could say I killed them... No... no, that's not quite right. Not just them. Not just these six... All of them... All six billion... Soon, I will have killed six billion people."
— Diana to the Operator, about the dire situation in the facility

Millions of graves for the deceased, full of millions of mountains of dead, rotting corpses everywhere.

Brother, a misanthrope who despises the human race and wants every single human on the planet to die, has decided that humanity has long overstayed its selfish, greedy existence on planet Earth. Brother has received a mission from "God": to purify humanity via its death and extinction and create a utopia in which every single human is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed man named Left with the exact same face and everyone has the same beliefs, thoughts, opinions and values with no sense of individuality, since that only leads to conflict.

In order to kill every human on the planet, his organization of over a million followers, Free the Soul, have developed and prepared a suicide virus known as Radical-6 to be unleashed to the entire world in 2028. This will determine the ultimate fate of humanity and all life on the planet.

ZTD cast transparent

The players of the Decision Game.

In December 2028, nine people have been sent to the Mars Mission Test Site, also known as "Dcom", in Nevada to simulate a manned mission to Mars, and experiment if life is suitable there. However, it turns out that the test site is full of booby traps.


Zero wants to play a game.

Six days into the project, on December 31st, the nine participants wake up together in a room and find unremovable black bracelets on their wrists. A masked man dressed as a plague doctor, Zero, then appears and announces the start of the Decision Game. He says that the survival of him, the people, and all of humanity hinges on this game. The participants are then moved to an underground shelter, split into three teams called C, Q, and D, and are forced to play a series of miserable games.


The X-Door to escape.

In order to escape, they must collect 6 X-Passes to open the X-Door that blocks a central elevator hall. However, a password is only revealed when a person dies. They cannot escape without sacrificing six of their people.

It is up to the Espers of Crash Keys to stop Radical-6 from escaping. Who will live and die? Will humanity survive the 21st century? The fate of 8 billion people lies in the hands of the player and the 9 players of the Decision Game.

Full plot summary (SPOILERS)


As the Decision Game begins, the players are locked in cells. Zero appears and tells them life is unfair, and says that all it takes is one snail for the world to be destroyed. He forces them to play a game - a game which will determine the lives of them, him, and the rest of humanity. He flips a coin with red on one side and blue on the other and hides it under his cloak. He asks the players which colored side is facing up, but they will only be able to guess once. If they guess correctly, Zero will release them and set them free. However, if they guess incorrectly, they will be forced to play a game in which 6 of them will die. Zero leaves the decision to Carlos, and tells him that he is a snail.


Zero Time Dilemma features seven named endings and a number of unnamed bad endings where the story hits a dead end without it being a true ending.[1]

List of endings:

  • CQD-END: 1 - Achieved by correctly answering the coin flip in the beginning of the game. Everyone escapes.
  • C-END: 1 - Continuation of D-END 1
  • Q-END: 1 - Team D executed by vote; Carlos commits suicide; Shoot Eric in 3-way standoff
  • Q-END: 2.
  • D-END: 1 - This ending is the one that causes VLR to happen.
  • D-END: 2.
  • CQD-END: 2 - Continuation of CQD-END 1, True ending.
  • Perceptive End - Choosing to shoot Delta in the 3-way standoff for Team Q


The leader of Team C and one of three protagonists. A hot-blooded man with a strong sense of justice. He cares deeply for his younger sister, who is suffering from an incurable disease.
A member of Team Q. A young man working at an ice cream shop who is in a relationship with Mira.
A member of Team D. A curt young woman who joined the DCOM experiment to save the world.
The leader of Team Q and one of three protagonists. A young boy who has lost his memories and who is wearing a mysterious spherical helmet.
Junpei Tenmyouji
A member of Team C. After the events of 999, he joined a detective agency to track down Akane, who had vanished completely. Currently technically "ran away from home".
Akane Kurashiki
A member of Team C. Though she appears to be a proper young woman, her true personality is Machiavellian.
The leader of Team D and one of three protagonists. A pacifistic young woman who hates fighting. Works as a nurse.
A member of Team Q. A young woman who is in a relationship with Eric.
Sigma Klim
A member of Team D. Although only 22 years old, he seems to have led a long and complicated life. Occasionally called "old man" by Phi.
Zero An unknown person hiding their identity behind a mask and disguise, who seems to be controlling the deadly games. Their goal is unknown.
Gab An old dog able to fit through air vents too small for humans, making him able to travel between sections of the facility. Participants attach messages to his collar to try and communicate with other Teams.



The game has fully animated visual novel parts, but they are in the form of more cinematic cutscenes. The usual narration is all replaced by voiced dialogue.

This is because the developer felt most modern gamers simply don't like reading much these days, and that cutscenes are much more direct and easier to keep players invested in a story, similar to a drama being watched. It would also make the game more accessible to those not interested in the text-heavy visual "novel" aspect (999 on DS, for example, contains hours and hours of clicking and reading).[2]

The text skipping function from Virtue's Last Reward that doesn't skip new text returns.

Escape rooms


Escape rooms return, but it is currently unknown how many of them there are (previous games contain 16). It seems that there are 13 escape rooms.

The escape rooms have additional objectives similar to the Secret Archives of Virtue's Last Reward known as "Quest Files" and serve the same purpose they did in Virtue's Last Reward.


Decision Game

Main article: Decision Game

The Decision Game is life-or-death.

Zero Time Dilemma does not feature a Nonary Game, but instead, a Decision Game. Each team from time to time are presented with a series of tragic, heartbreaking, sadistic, horrifying, intense and emotional mini-games. Each entails lethal risks to the participants, often resulting in one or more player's deaths. The ending results are much more gorier and extreme than in previous installments - so much so that the previous two entries have Japanese ratings of ages 15+, and Zero Time Dilemma is ages 17+. The European rating of Virtue's Last Reward is ages 16+ and Zero Time Dilemma is ages 18+.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 5.28.18 PM

Q in one of the game decision parts, with a time limit of 9 seconds with 7 seconds left.

Unlike previous games where the Nonary Games only occasionally end on a bad note, the Decision Games are filled with extreme scenarios that often do not have a singular right answer. Often, the answers come with clear options while others are simply left to fate and luck.

  • Do you choose to press a button that says "Do not push"?
  • Do you pull the trigger on a gun that contains three bullets and three blanks?
  • Do you take a mysterious vial containing what is claimed to be an antidote to a poison you were forcibly given?

Some options lead to "best" endings, others are left with not positive viable options - hence the "dilemma" in the subtitle. Moral elements are the main theme of the game and are meant to intensely shake the player's way of thinking, values and virtues. What is right? What is good? What is evil? What is wrong? For the extreme decisions, they are often accompanied by scenes where someone's life is on the line. Ultimately, all Decision Game dilemma's choices and outcomes are dictated by the Team leader's Carlos, Q, and Diana.

Randomized outcomes


Zero: "Life is simply unfair, don't you think?"


"Make your decision!"

The Decision Game has some randomized outcomes, utilizing elements of pure luck and chance instead of skill.

For example, at the beginning of the Decision Game, Zero says, "Life is simply unfair" and flips a coin - one side is blue, one side is red. Carlos can guess whether the coin will be red or blue. If the player guesses correctly, all of the players can escape, but if they guess incorrectly, the players will be forced to play the Decision Game which will kill 6 of them.

Randomness, chance, and unfairness is a core theme of the game. Life often operates on the principalities of unfairness, chance, randomness and luck. A major component of life does not rely on actual effort, talent and skill.


Diana firing a gun that has a 50% chance of killing Sigma in order to save Phi.

In terms of the game itself on how this theme will be used, for example, Sigma will be trapped in a chair. The gun next to Sigma's chair has three live rounds and three blanks which has a 50/50 chance of killing him. The game calculates the odds each time so in one playthrough, he may live, while in another, he may die.

The player may replay sections of the game to trigger alternate probabilities. The game's probability generator is also heavily weighted to outcomes that have not yet been seen. Like Virtue's Last Reward, some fragmented events are required to be seen in order for certain endings and decision choices to be available.

Floating Fragment System

Main article: Floating Fragment

Zero Time Dilemma features three main playable characters, taking control of the three Team's leader's Carlos, Diana, and Q. However, due to the nature of the Decision Game where at the end of each round, the cast is subjected to a powerful drug that erases all events that occurred during their investigations, the chronological events of the game are unclear as the player begins a new Event chain.

Using the Floating Fragment system, the player can freely jump to different event fragments for each team at their own leisure. This also allows them to revisit old Decision Games and choose other outcomes. The fragments have no set order in which they are completed. Players can choose to complete all events of a singular team at a time or jump in between team events.

Several Event Fragments require that the player have seen/completed another fragment however - these are known as Fragment locks which are similar to the locks in Virtue's Last Reward. An example of a fragment lock is not knowing who the murderer is.



Zero Time Dilemma soundtrack.

Shinji Hosoe composed the music for Zero Time Dilemma.

The game features several remixes from 999 and Virtue's Last Reward, although there are considerably more Virtue's Last Reward remixes than 999 remixes.

Early orders of the PC version come with a 12-track mini soundtrack which is 39 minutes in length. However, this is not the entire soundtrack.

  1. Zero Times - New song, plays in intro.
  2. Quondam Monitors - Plays in Control (remix of "Monitor").
  3. Ustulate Pathos - New song.
  4. Tough Decision - New song, plays during decisions.
  5. Trash Disposal - Plays in Trash Disposal Room.
  6. Glacial Solitude - New song.
  7. Transient Tranquility - New song.
  8. Unliberated Library - Plays in Study (remix of "Pantry").
  9. Nostalgic Scenery - New song.
  10. Sacrificial Demise - Remix of "Demise".
  11. Extreme Urgency - New song.
  12. Interminable Dilemma - New song.

It is unknown if a full official soundtrack will be released later.

A fan ripped music from the game and it contains 56 tracks and is 3 hours and 17 minutes in length.


Operation Bluebird

The main icon of "Operation Bluebird". Without Operation Bluebird, Zero Time Dilemma would never have been created.

Due to the low popularity of the Zero Escape series in Japan, as well as budget and financial matters, the game was put on hold "indefinitely" in 2014, meaning that there was a possibility Zero Escape 3 would never be made, greatly upsetting the series' fanbase.[3]

Soon after, a Facebook group "Operation Bluebird" was created by fans, supporting the Zero Escape series, posting images of their Zero Escape collection, often with a message supporting Zero Escape 3.[4]

Kotaro Uchikoshi posted on February 17, 2014 "That matters are now under consideration".

During a week-long stretch from June 15-22, 2015, this game was the most anticipated game in the world according to fan voting on Most Anticipated Games.[5]

Zero Escape 3 was officially announced at Anime Expo 2015 on July 3.[6] A press release revealed the title for the game, Zero Time Dilemma.[7] Uchikoshi said that without fan support after 999, both Virtue's Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma would have likely not have been made.

Both the Japanese-language and the English-language versions were developed simultaneously. All versions of the game were released June 2016.


Zero Time Dilemma has currently received a generally positive reception.

Some criticism has been directed at the game's character movement animation, with reviewers feeling that they move stiffly, awkwardly, and unnatural.

The English voice acting has received mixed reception, some feeling it is good, while others feeling it is inconsistent. The lip sync has also been a point of criticism.

Destructoid gave the game 9.5 out of 10, calling it a "hallmark of excellence" ruined only by the "abysmal presentation" of the cut scenes. [1]

3DS, Vita and PC differences

All versions of the game contain three save files.

Unlike Virtue's Last Reward, the 3DS version of the game lacks 3D support. The 3DS version has been criticized for containing some blurry textures. It uses a slightly different lighting system which gives the characters a more "yellow" or "pink" look compared to the Vita and PC versions. It also has slightly more compressed audio. Some players feel that the music is louder than some of the voice acting, and that Zero's voice can be hard to hear.

The Vita version has trophies, and it looks very similar to the PC version, essentially having the same textures and lighting system. The Vita version has one annoyance if played on a real Vita: the Vita's screen auto-dims after 1 minute of no input from the player and there's no way to disable auto-dim, meaning that it's essentially impossible to watch the game's hours of cutscenes at full Vita brightness - this doesn't apply if the Vita version is played on PlayStation TV.

The PC version also features achievements. It will also feature higher-resolution than the Vita version. The Vita's resolution is 960x544, but the PC version can go up to 1080P (it is currently unknown if the PC version can go higher than 1080P such as 4K). The PC version is also 60 FPS.

Because of this, the PC version is, arguably, the definitive version of the game from a graphical and audio standpoint, with the Vita version in second and the 3DS version the worst. However, portability is also a factor, and some players may prefer this aspect, although the PC version could be considered portable if played on a laptop. In addition, there may be some players who prefer the 3DS' lighting over the Vita's and PC's, although considering that the textures were downgraded for the 3DS version, it can be assumed that the PC or Vita version was the main platform of development and that the PC and Vita's lighting were the developer's intentions.



Sigma lost his arms and an eye trying to save a "woman".

  • A teaser site under the name of ran from March 18th, 2015 to July 3rd, 2015. During its run, words related to the game were added once or twice a week. How these words are related is currently unknown. Some of these words were presented during the game's announcement at Anime Expo 2015 and have appeared in the the game's trailers and achievement leaks.
  • It will answer the unsolved mysteries left from the previous titles.[8] It promises to solve the mysteries of Virtue's Last Reward, but it may not solve all of the mysteries of 999.
  • Sigma will lose both his arms and his right eye trying to save a "woman" in at least one of the endings. Who she is is currently unknown, but it could be Diana, Akane, Phi or Mira.
  • What happened to Light Field, Aoi Kurashiki, Seven, Hazuki Kashiwabara, and Gentarou Hongou after the events of 999 will be revealed by Akane and Junpei.[1]
  • Sigma and Phi won't be a romantic couple. (Source: VLR Answers, 24)
  • More information about Free the Soul will be revealed. (Source: VLR Answers, 56)
  • The game will be more similar to 999 than VLR in terms of tone and will have a darker story.[9]
  • The three protagonists know nothing, so they'll learn about the past games through dialogue. This makes the game good as a standalone game or as the final game of Zero Escape.[8] However, playing the previous two games will enhance the experience, in the same way Virtue's Last Reward is enhanced by playing 999.
  • "Dio" will probably appear, but "not as the man we know".[10]
  • Moral elements "will be the main theme" of the game. "Your way of thinking, values, virtues will be intensely [shaken] during this game," Uchikoshi said. "This game is even more philosophical than the past volumes. Of course it'll be entertaining too!"[11]
  • Phi's background will be revealed. (Source: VLR secret archives)
  • Dashiell Gordain's name will not be mentioned, but by the end of the game, we will understand more about him. (Source: Uchikoshi's twitter)
  • The game will focus on choices that will force players to have to choose between gaining their freedom or maintaining their humanity. It also mentions that an age of ruin is nearby. (Source:
  • The participants will each be labeled with a number. (Source: Artwork)



Zero Escape Premium Booklet.


Diana wearing a pre-order bracelet.

  • The game's length has been said to be around 20-25 hours.[2]
  • Zero Time Dilemma is currently the only Zero Escape game which has been officially released on PC (999 on a DS emulator doesn't count).
    • When Aksys was asked if 999 and VLR could come to PC, they replied, "That's a thought. Anything is possible."[3]
  • Exclusively in the United States, there will be a limited edition pre-order bracelet watch.
    • Shortly before the game's release the watches were damaged during transit and were sent back to the factory. As a result the release of the watches was delayed by a few weeks and will be shipped separate from the game. An additional bonus will be included as compensation for the delay. [4]
  • There is a 48-page A5-size full-color art book called Zero Escape Premium Booklet. It contains illustrations from character designer Rui Tomono and background design. It also includes a Kotaro Uchikoshi-written prequel detailing the events of the participants at Dcom/Mars Mission Test Site before the Decision Game, a summary of the previous games, and a booklet-original "mystery".
    • In Japan, this is a pre-order bonus.
    • Outside Japan, this is a bonus for those who buy the PC version between launch and July 8.[5] However, this version is digital, not physical. Details on it being available for 3DS/Vita gamers are unknown.
  • The art style of the characters is a mixture of the previous two games. In 999, they were 2D anime with black outlines. In Virtue's Last Reward, they were fully 3D with no black outlines. In Zero Time Dilemma, they are fully 3D with black outlines, creating a cel-shaded look.
  • The game's plot took Uchikoshi about a year to write.
  • This is the first game in the series in which both the American and Japanese versions are being developed at the same time, the second Zero Escape game to be released in Europe, and the first Zero Escape game to be released outside of Japan first.
  • Sigma was intended to be the sole protagonist, but that was changed early in the game's development. Uchikoshi felt that putting him back in his "Virtue's Last Reward state" would be bad writing.
  • Uchikoshi had planned to ask Kinu Nishimura to return as character designer, but once he hammered out how Zero Time Dilemma would differ from the past games, he decided to ask Rui Tomono. This was also because they needed to make the backgrounds and characters more cinematic.
  • This is the first game in the Zero Escape series to have multiple playable characters.

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1
  8. 8.0 8.1 Famitsu, March edition







NOTE: For organizational purposes, please do NOT post images of characters in this gallery. Instead, please check their respective galleries.

Start a Discussion Discussions about Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma


    301 messages
    • How do I do this one? Been here for an hour now... :(
    • Figure out where to put the Sigma symbol, as there are only two possible places for it to go, then just try out various combinations...
  • Do I have terrible RNG luck? (Spoilers inside this topic)

    4 messages
    • I was confused about that at first but I just had to go back to other voting parts and keep choosing stuff until all teams had the exvecut...
    • No, it's confirmed that the 3rd try is the correct one. The same happened to me and to everyone XP

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