Why Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Should Be Game Of The Year

To describe why Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward was my favourite game of 2012 is to describe why I fell in love with games in the first place.

I fell in love with games not when I first played the Nintendo Entertainment System, on which I mastered Super Mario Bros. 3 and Bionic Commando and Faxanadu and a great number of other games. But a few years later, when I was six or seven, and picked up Final Fantasy IV, then called Final Fantasy II, for the adorable Super Nintendo. Final Fantasy IV blew my mind. Here was this game, and it wasn't just a game, it was an experience. It was an interactive story with characters and villains and betrayal and a world that felt just as real to me as anything I could touch or taste or smell.

It was while playing Final Fantasy IV that something inside of my tiny six-year-old head clicked and I realised, hey, games can actually do what movies and books and TV shows can do. Games can make me feel something.

So it is for Virtue's Last Reward, the game that made me feel the most this year. Virtue's Last Reward, an adventure game that most people call a "visual novel" because it's roughly 15 per cent game and 85 per cent book, tells the story of nine people — nine fascinating, flawed people who I call "people" and not "characters" because the writing is that good — who are imprisoned in a strange facility and forced to participate in a sadistic experiment called the Nonary Game.

I won't get much more specific than that, but what's important is that as Virtue's Last Reward unfolds, you're forced to make decisions. Some are mundane — which door will you go into next? — while others are deadly serious — will you betray your partner so you can escape, even knowing that it would kill them?

As you make these decisions, you'll inevitably start to wonder what would have happened if you had done something else. This is where Virtue's Last Reward stands out. Imagine if every important decision you made in a video game was laid out on a giant flowchart, and as you progressed, you could visualise every path that you took or could have taken. Now imagine that you could leap around through time and scroll through that flowchart, hopping between branches as if you're reading a choose-your-own-adventure book and keeping fingers on every page.

That's Virtue's Last Reward. It's a linear, non-linear story that blurs the lines between what could have happened and what actually happened. To finish the game, you have to go through every branch, unlocking information that you have to remember in order to solve the mystery of where you are and who's forcing you to go through this psychological horror experiment.

Eventually, your main character starts getting flashes. He starts to realise that he's been through some of these decisions before, that maybe something bigger is going on here. That maybe the only way to save everybody is to watch them all die.

Virtue's Last Reward is my game of 2012 because it tells a story that only a video game could tell. It's chilling, heartbreaking and emotionally exhausting. There's nothing else like it.


Comments

    It's definitely great stuff, cannot wait for the 3rd installment!

    This game is totally awesome! Especially if you've played the 999 game, as they are strongly connected both plotwise and enhances the emotional aspects of Last Reward. Game mechanics also makes this more convenient to play than 999 as well; but preferred the 2d anime art in 999 instead of the 3d model.

    Personally would have liked to have played the english dub version, since this game comes with ALOT of voice acting for almost all of the dialogue.

    Its also quite a long game, 30hrs+ I think. Totally worth it to get a Vita (or 3ds) to play this.

    I really hope the success of both this and it's predecessor encourage more console and handheld VN's be released locally.

    Eagerly anticipating the third game in this series, as this was easily one of my top games of last year.

    I just finished playing it a few hours ago and my head is spinning. Want more!!!!

    Also my GOTY, beating p4g. I'd suggest playing 999 first if you can because its such an incredible story and makes this game that much more intense but it is designed to not be neccessary (however it does contain many spoilers so playing 999 second wouldn't be nearly as satisfying.)

    Bah i don't have a platform that will play this :( I loved 999 though so I'm gonna have to buy something :)

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