2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Virtue's Last Reward, 25 Mar. 2014
Let me start off by giving you a brief insight into what the game will be like. The vast majority of the game is a visual novel (i.e. reading dialogue and a lot of it). Seriously, for some parts of the game, you can spend two to three hours just reading text so if you don't like reading, this game is not for you. There is more to this game however, the escape sections provide a welcome relief and make you feel that you are actually influencing the plot in a meaningful way.
So then, now that you understand the basic idea of the game, let me tell you more about some of the details. Firstly, the escape sections. These are a very good difficultly as the puzzles are hard and can take a while, and a fair bit of frustration, to solve. However, they are not impossibly hard as if you get stuck, you can switch to an easy mode where the characters give you hints about difficult puzzles and guidance as to what to do so that you don't end up as you do in all too many point and click adventure games where you just click, use and try to combine everything. The hints aren't too obvious at the start so you can still feel that you were involved in getting the solution but eventually pretty much spell out the answer if you can't get it as there is nothing worse than spending a hour on one impossible puzzle. A bonus is also provided in each escape room which is great as it feels like a real sense of achievement to finally find it on your own. The difficulty curve is also good with the first puzzle being fairly straightforward (but still harder than the difficult puzzles from some games). The puzzle get increasingly hard quite quickly so that even people more used to puzzle games have to think for a bit and eventually reaches a stage where you're pretty much forced to get some kind of hint.
The other main part of the game of course is the story. Now, I don't want to ruin anything so I'll try and keep this spoiler free. In summary, there is only one real word that describes the story. Wow. The characters are meticulously sculpted and work off each other very well (fans of the series will know that Uchikoshi tries to have each of the nine characters represent the nine different types of people in society so I guess this is hardly surprising). Unlike many games and films, where characters are clearly split into 'good guys' and 'bad guys', this can really not be said of Virtue's Last Reward. All of the characters, including the protagonist, are flawed heroes, each with their own good features but all of them willing to betray everyone and commit terrible acts, justified of course by questionable beliefs. This makes the characters incredibly complex and leaves you wondering who you can trust and who is responsible for all of the goings on.
Having a great set of characters allows this game to have a great story to it. There are so many unexpected twists and turns that it is almost impossible to predict what is going to happen and who is responsible for whatever tragedy has struck. The plot can sometimes get a little complicated with ideas such as Quantum Physics, the Multiverse theory and a whole host of philosophical arguments discussed (which when all discussed at the same time can make your brain hurt a little). Therefore, I think it is fair to say the story is fairly straightforward to follow but at times, the reasons why can be a little confusing and that this is definitely a thinking man’s (or woman’s) game.
Many other reviews have mentioned a bug which, from my experience, has not been a problem. It is a good idea to be aware of it and therefore save often (but I do that with all games with a manual save). My game did crash during the infamous Prep Room but aware of a potential issue, I had saved before entering the room and was therefore able to quickly get back to where I was, losing at most 5 minutes, and experienced no other issues.
So then, who would I recommend the game to? Well, as I have already mentioned, you have to be okay with reading quite a bit of text but the soundtrack and voice over makes this less monotonous and the quality of the story really builds tension making you want to keep on reading regardless. The voice over is only in Japanese for the EU release of the game (an English option is available if you import it from America) which I know will not be to everyone's tastes, although I personally prefer it, it is, after all, a Japanese game. All of the text and images are in English but be aware that the translations for the dialogue may be a little off as sometimes the character speaks for ages and only a few words come up on screen and sometimes the opposite is true. This can make it a little difficult to read all of the text in time if in auto mode or conversely make it seem that the story is advancing very slowly. However, a log allows you to see any missed text and the translation is faultless grammatically and still seems to explain everything in adequate detail (although I can't really comment as I cannot understand the spoken Japanese). Although rated 16, the violence is not too graphic but I think that 16 probably is an appropriate rating as there is still images of blood, death and people being stabbed (just not people getting blown up like in the first game, 999). Sometimes, the content can be a little disturbing and frightening. As a 16-year-old myself, I did sometimes feel that the content was a little difficult and intense. For people that are worried about such things, there is also quite a lot of swearing. Otherwise, there is no sex/nudity (which is a welcome relief for fans of visual novels) or anything else that would be explicit. In terms of playing the first game in the series, I would highly recommend it before playing this as there are a lot of references to it made in this game which will make a lot more sense if you have some contextual knowledge of the series (also the first game is equally amazing so you should play it anyway). Personally, I watched a play through as there is not an EU release of the game but a mobile version of just the story parts of the game has been released for iPhone and iPad (called '999: The Novel') quite cheaply recently so I suggest playing through either the original game or the novel first. The story does make sense on its own (although, again, I can't really comment as I did see the first game) but it is a good idea to at least know a bit about the plot and characters before playing this, even if only from reading a summary.
To conclude then, this is an amazing game that I cannot recommend highly enough. However, not everyone will enjoy this (i.e. if you can't subscribe to the idea of 'reading' a game, if you really cannot put up with the Japanese voices or if you are still a child). If you are not in any of these groups, then I suggest playing 999 (or at least getting some background knowledge on it) and then picking up a copy. It'll certainly be worth your time.
Oh, it took me about 35.5 hours over a very intense 6 days (I just couldn't put it down) to complete the game by the way if you want to know about game length.
Game play: 9/10
Graphics: 7/10 (but this is really not the sort of game that you play for amazing graphics)