The Nonary Games Review – Ambidex Edition
Developer: Spike Chunsoft
Publisher: Aksys Games
ESRB Rating: M
Platforms: PS4, PSVITA, PC
“The Nonary Games” is an excellent way to jump into the Zero Escape franchise as it contains the best version of “999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors” and a good port of “Virtue’s Last Reward.” It’s thanks to the dedicated fans that the third Zero Escape entry was released, and that we received this excellent collection, all due to a renewed interest in development. This review is spoiler free and focused on the PC version.
The story of 999 takes place on a sinking ship where Zero, the main antagonist, kidnapped a group of nine people and is forcing them to play the Nonary game. The characters have watches locked to their arms with a number. The cast has to split into two groups, with the player having control of where the main character, Junpei, goes. The cast can only be in groups of three to five people and their watches have to result in a digital root matching a numbered door. After going through the numbered door there will be a puzzle room or two for the player to complete. Every puzzle room gives various hints towards future plot points, and alludes to Zero’s identity. It’s a wonderfully written story with laugh out loud dialogue and a genuine sense of mystery.
Virtue’s Last Reward features the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition. Zero III (an AI) kidnapped a group of nine people that have to vote ally or betray to get their watch number up to nine to escape the bunker they are trapped in. After every vote they have to go through various puzzle rooms behind colored doors. Virtue’s Last Reward features a heart wrenching tale that doesn’t pull any punches, and made me more motivated as time went on to get these people out of the bunker and to safety. The mystery is even more alluring this time around and seeing it to the end is satisfying.
Both games are Visual Novels, meaning that the story is the focus of the experience, but with the Zero Escape franchise the gameplay has more presence than most games in the genre. Puzzle rooms require thorough examination to be able to complete and there are a quite a few of them. In 999, one of the most annoying puzzles back on the Nintendo DS was completely changed to fit the Vita, PS4 and PC. Though in Virtue’s Last Reward nothing was altered to streamline the experience, meaning a certain puzzle room is still just as aggravating as it was for the original release.
Both 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward have multiple endings with some required to get farther their respective stories. In Virtue’s Last Reward there is a flowchart that allows players to return to a choice that was made, and experience the other option, making it so much easier to experience the full story. The original release of 999 lacked a flow chart, meaning the player would have to start from the beginning. This could lead to a very annoying experience, but thankfully in the re-release a flow chart was added to streamline the experience and it was the greatest gameplay addition offered in this collection.
Unfortunately, the visuals were not updated enough so both games look very muddy on a PC and PS4. During the review the game’s presentation was best enjoyed at a 720p, and not in fullscreen, so the pre-rendered backgrounds of 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward could look as sharp as possible without having the window size be too small. Virtue’s Last Reward is even worse because the 3D models for some of the characters look terrible and the cutscenes are worser still. It is assumed the Vita version may offer the best visual experience due to the smaller screen size. However, what were enhanced are the portraits of characters in 999, and the addition of voice acting. Character art looks so much more modern than in the original. The voice acting made the story a much better experience thanks to the added emotion; though some characters are a little bit over exaggerated when it came to the execution of their lines (Snake is a bit too pompous for my liking with every sentence he speaks.) Junpei’s voice acting does an excellent job of bringing the character’s snarky personality to life.
For the PC version, the opening movie and title screen specifically for the collection was removed in favor of a configuration menu that lets you update the graphics settings, and your prefer control method. You can use the Dualshock 4 or a generic gamepad, keyboard controls, and mouse controls. The best control scheme is using the mouse as everything in both games are just one click and it’s faster paced and simple. You can set the dialogue to automatically advance so if clicking a text box over and over is annoying then that is an easy fix.
The Nonary Games is the best way to jump into the series offering a great control scheme on PC that streamlines the experience and added features to 999, making it the best way to experience the game. Even though the presentation didn’t get the upgrade it needed, there are options to make it much more appealing to the player. Enjoy some of the most satisfying stories in the Visual Novel genre.
+Great Voice Work
-Pre-rendered backgrounds look muddy