Virtue’s Last Reward is the sequel to the hit Nintendo DS game 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, developed by Chunsoft. This series always appealed to me and when it popped up on PlayStation Plus in Europe recently I couldn’t wait to give it a try on my Vita. Soon I discovered I couldn’t put it down and I enjoyed it so much that when it arrived on Plus for the USA I thought why not review it?
The game combines the play styles of a classic choose your own adventure book and a fiendish “Saw” like puzzle game. You play the part of Sigma, a college student who is kidnapped and wakes to find himself in a room with a strange women called Phi. You quickly realize that there is no way out and after a brief introduction to your evil (and hilarious) captor Zero you set about solving the puzzle and escaping. In doing so however you are faced with the true scope of Zero’s evil plan as you encounter the other contestants (and I use the term loosely!!) who have been selected to take part in the twisted Nonary Game, Ambidex Edition!
The aim of the game is simple but brilliant, each of the characters has a bracelet sealed around their wrist which displays the number 3 (the number of bracelet points you start with), and the word pair or solo, the text is highlighted in a specific color. Each of the contestants have to work together with the others in the same color group to solve a puzzle room, once the puzzle is solved they are able to vote in the Ambidex room.
I won’t go into too much detail so as not to spoil things but this is where the game comes to life, the choices you make here influence your path through the game. The two in the pair must vote with/against the solo player and enter into separate rooms to vote, either voting “ally” or “betray”. Once the voting is complete points are awarded dependent on how the votes are cast and players gain or lose bracelet points depending on the result of the vote. The first person to reach 9 bracelet points (BP) can open the door and escape but only those with 9BP or more can actually leave the facility, once the door is open it only stays open for 9 seconds and once closed it can never be opened again.. . .
This type of game was made for the Vita, the touch screen is slick and fluid and playing in this manner really adds to the storybook feel. The game is perfectly balanced so you never find yourself skimming through too much text before you get to solve the next puzzle, the puzzles themselves can be quite complex but there is the option of solving it on easy mode if you are struggling.
Once you have played through a particular story line you can use the games unique FLOW feature to jump back to specific points in time when you made key decisions and make a different choice. By utilizing this feature you can piece together the whole puzzle, the clever thing about this however is that when you go back to an earlier point you are semi aware of the other choices you have taken and this creates a wonderful ripple effect on all of your decisions as you progress.
As an adventure novel there is little real animation to speak of with the experience of playing the game coming in storybook fashion. With the exception of the cut scenes used to expand the story you never vary from this format. We are now treated to properly rendered 3D models as opposed to the 2D sprites used in 999 and this only adds to the depth of the characters. Overall the graphics are crisp, clear and colourful, it really does look gorgeous on the OLED display.
Whilst there isn’t really much to write home about here the game does contain full voice acting unlike 999 and whilst the European version is limited to Japanese audio only the North American version does have both English and Japanese options. Personally I didn’t really miss the English option as you are following the text so closely you don’t pay too much attention to the audio. The sound effects and music are minimal but this only helps to build the atmosphere and help you to concentrate on the story.
Virtue’s Last Reward is all about the story and as you can tell I loved this game, so much so in fact that I finished the whole thing with the platinum trophy to boot. Be warned though it will take a long time to uncover all of the endings, my advice is to take your time, the game can be unforgiving at first particularly if you haven’t played this type of game before. Play for a good few hours before judging and it will have you hooked.
Personally I didn’t play 999 before picking this up and I would say you definitely don’t need to play 999 first as VLR is a standalone title but there are a few references in the game to the original title so if you can play 999 first I would do so but it is not essential.
Publisher: Aksys Games/Rising Star Games
Release Date: November 23, 2012 EU, October 23 2012 NA
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Playstation VITA
Price: $39.86 VITA $39.99 3DS (Amazon)
£17.95 VITA £19.33 3DS (Amazon)
Rating: ESRB: M
Offline Players: Single Player only
This review was written by Karl Palmer A.K.A. Strathem