Zero Escape: The Nonary Games is a brand new remaster of the two original Zero Escape games, Virtue’s Last Reward and Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors – also known as 999. Originally these games were released for the 3DS/PS Vita and Nintendo DS respectively and since they are part of a trilogy, it is great to see them all being playable on a single platform now, which is the PS Vita and PC. The last Zero Escape game, Zero Time Dilemma, has yet to make its way to the PS4.
If you aren’t familiar with the Zero Escape series, it is a mixture of visual novel with some tough as nail puzzles that make you think about the situation at hand. These puzzles usually involve escaping from a room and utilize clever mechanics that are as frustrating as they are fun to solve. The writing is also solid as a visual novel resulting in some memorable characters throughout the series and the sense of mystery surrounding the game should please those who are seeking out a decent thriller.
The most interesting game included in this remastered package is 999, which was originally released as an exclusive to the Nintendo DS. One of the main reason why it achieved its cult status is because of its smart utilization of the dual screens of the Nintendo DS. This also made a straight port of the game difficult for a single screen device even though the game was later ported to the Smartphones, it still lacked the charm of the DS version.
The latest remaster of 999 manages to tackle this issue in detail by trying to give the player a choice between two different gameplay modes. The first is ‘Adventure mode’ that basically works as a visual novel from the perspective of the main character. The other is ‘Novel mode’ that basically reads like a Novel detailing the background, the thoughts of the character as well as the dialogue spoken by them. It works in establishing the general story but still requires a lot of reading, more than the Adventure mode.
The visuals have been reworked to support HD resolution for 999 and the controls have been tweaked. Since I was able to test out both the PS4 and PS Vita version of the game, I could check out the difference between both versions. In the case of the PS Vita version, touch controls are fully supported which makes it much easier to navigate as well as explore the items. I didn’t really like using the Analog Stick to look around so touch controls were a welcome addition here. The Nintendo DS version of the game was unique in that sense that it presented both the gameplay modes on its two separate scenes, which is not the case here. We are stuck with either of these modes and this seems to have an impact on how a scene plays out in the end. Still, it is not a bad effort at all and the game plays as intended.
The backgrounds in 999 are now rendered in a higher resolution on the PS4 and PS Vita while the artwork looks crisp and clear and animates beautifully on the screen. This is a welcome upgrade our the Nintendo DS version of the game and together with the choice of two different reading modes, this makes The Nonary Games, the definitive way to experience 999. This is supplemented further by the addition of a Flow Chart system that makes it easier to go back to an earlier scenario to select a different outcome. This feature was originally introduced in Virtue’s Last Reward so it is nice to see the implementation here in 999 as well.
The other game included in the package is Virtue’s Last Reward, which was already available on the PS Vita. The port here appears to be mostly the same on the PS Vita although the visuals have now been tweaked to support HD resolution. It looks better than 999 since it was already running at a higher resolution than the Nintendo DS. Aesthetically, I found 999 much more pleasing to look at than Virtue’s Last Reward because of the art style and setting.
If you are on the fence over the version to get here, I recommend to pick this on the PS Vita if you prefer a handheld experience. The touch controls work well and feel like an expansion of the DS version of 999 here with the ability to swap between the two different gameplay modes. The game plays well on the PS4 but some of the UI elements feel like they are upscaled and not rendered in native HD resolution, which looks odd next to the crisp clear artwork. This is not a problem on the PS Vita since the visuals scale well there, which is why my recommendation is the PS Vita version here.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games is an exceptional remaster of two of the finest visual novels. The cast of characters that it features are great and the puzzles will make you scratch your head. I won’t be ashamed to admit that I had to look online for help in solving some of the much tougher puzzles and if I did them without help, I felt smarter. The game is honestly the perfect blend of story telling mixed with puzzle solving and offers countless hours of fun. If you are a perfectionist and try to achieve all outcomes in the story, you can spend more than 50 hours across both games easily.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games Review (PS4/Vita)
Game Reviewed on: PS4/Vita
Game description: Zero Escape: The Nonary Games is a bundle containing a remastered version of Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita / PlayStation TV and PC on Steam.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games packs two great mystery visual novels that should provide hours of content with their alternative paths, mind bending puzzles and interesting cast of characters.