Virtue’s Last Reward is a unique Visual Novel game, and a non-direct sequel to Chunsoft’s 999. Nine people have been abducted and bought together to play the ‘Nonary Game’ – where a mix of escape puzzles, betrayal and co-operation will decide the final outcome. With 26 endings to discover – that outcome will change a lot.
The player awakens trapped in an elevator style room with a random stranger, her name turns out to be Phi and she is your current Nonary partner. After what seems like a lifetime of explanation and a handful of rabbit-themed puns from an adorable little rabbit, known as Zero III, you’re thrown into your first room escape scenario.
As far as gameplay goes, escaping rooms is all you really need to do, the novel portions of the game are done for you with very little choice involved other than which door will you go through or whether to ally or betray the people you’re working with. Whilst the novel sections start off slow and boring, the player soon finds themselves willing the room escapes to be over so they can get back to the issue at hand – what is the Nonary game?
To find out, the player must navigate a large flow chart worth of gameplay, exploring each option and path for hints, passwords and answers hidden in other routes. Thankfully, this game has included ways to get back and forth from each without having to repeat entire portions of the game and, on the off chance you do have to see something again, you can use the skip function which automatically stops when you reach parts you haven’t seen before – every game should have this feature, it should be a gaming law!
One of the most interesting parts of Virtue’s Last Reward is the Ambidex game, it’s a simple game in which the player must choose to ally or betray the person they’ve been working with. The reasoning behind the AB game is to gain points needed to leave the facility you’re being held in – only a person with nine points can leave.
The AB game is based on the real life ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’ (google it!) and the players are rewarded or punished depending on their choices. This can be an annoying mini-game – as it turns out the players hardly ever choose what you’re expecting them to… Grrr!
Graphically, this game isn’t overly special. Whilst the art is very detailed and nice to look at, there is very little in the way of animation, other than mouth movements and blinking, throughout most of the game. The soundtrack is made up of a mix of atmospheric music and sounds that, for the most part, tend to go unnoticed. The one noise I noticed every time was the heavy breathing… talk about creepy.
My biggest bug for this game is the lack of English dubbing on the EU version of the game. Whilst I love the Japanese language and think it sounds beautiful, the fact that the NA version included a fully dubbed game with options of Japanese or English really annoys me. Especially as the NA voice cast was built up of some of my all time favourite voice actors.
So, whilst the game starts off a little slow, it soon picks up and develops into an interesting read with a mix of comedy, mystery and drama making it worth the time and effort. The room escape puzzles start off as a nice change of pace but eventually become a pain, getting in the way of discovering plot points and advancing the story, which is where the game’s main appeal lies. The game itself offers around 30 hours of gameplay and with no real replayability factors, can be a bit of a stretch at full price, however, if you can find it for a bargain (which isn’t too difficult now) then grab it – it’s well worth a play!
Virtue’s Last Reward is available on PS Vita and 3DS, right now.