Plenty of ‘Rewards’ to Be Had
“Virtue’s Last Reward” is a game that demands your attention. Nine strangers have been kidnapped and forced to participate in the “Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition.” With the crux of the plot hinging on the “Prisoner’s Dilemma,” the stakes have been raised, and once again the hours will fly by as you become further and further absorbed in its twisting plot.
“Virtue’s Last Reward” is the sequel to the cult hit DS game “999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors.” Like its predecessor, “Virtue’s Last Reward” is a combination of a visual novel and escape-the-room puzzles. “Virtue’s Last Reward” dramatically improves both sections of the game, making it easier than ever to enjoy.
As the true appeal of “Virtue’s Last Reward” is discovering its overarching story and characters, I’m not going to tell you much about the plot or the game’s cast. However, it is important to note the key difference between “999’s” Nonary Game and the new game being run: the introduction of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
Upon completion of the escape-the-room puzzles, the game presents you with its version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. It’s simple on the surface, as it asks you whether you will ally or betray the person you just worked with. If both players choose ally, each player gains two points, and if both players pick betray, no points are gained or lost. If someone successfully betrays someone, the winner gets three points while the loser loses two points.
At the start of the game, everyone begins with three points and the goal is to reach nine points in order to escape. When someone’s score becomes zero, their bracelet injects them with poison, killing them off. As a result of the complicated rules that encourage betrayal, people will most certainly die in many (if not all) of the game’s 24 different endings.
Playing through all 24 endings would have been daunting if it weren’t for the new Flow system. In “999,” if you wanted to reach the true ending, you would always have to start over from the beginning and play through the same puzzles to be able to make different choices.
In “Virtue’s Last Reward,” the Flow system lets you jump back into any event or decision point, so you don’t have replay puzzles if you don’t want to.
There is a new incentive to return to puzzles in “Virtue’s Last Reward,” as each room now has a safe in it with two passwords. The first password is necessary to clear the escape, but completely solving the puzzle and gaining the second password yield hidden files.
Considering that the new puzzles are more engaging than before, searching for the second password is great for extending replay value and gaining valuable insight into the story at the same time.
The most noticeable change between “999” and “Virtue’s Last Reward” is the shift from 2D to 3D characters and environments. The game looks good (particularly with 3D maxed out on the 3DS version) and it’s great to finally be able to look around the environment at your own pace.
Along with the 3D characters, there is now voice acting in both English and the original Japanese. The strong writing, which bounces between really dark and humorous often, really comes alive with the voice acting.
For all the fantastic improvements in “Virtue’s Last Reward,” the only problem that arises is that while it could easily be played standalone, it really is best enjoyed if you’ve played through the original “999” first.
As with “999” before it, “Virtue’s Last Reward” refuses to let you quit. You’ll certainly lose sleep, but the reward is worth the investment.