The Zero Escape trilogy is regarded as one of the best visual novels series by fans of the genre. Its dark premise combined with tension and subtle humor creates a world that captivates players and immerses them in the world. The final entry of the trilogy, Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, was released on PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS and PC in June of 2016, DualShockers reviewed the 3DS version of the game and gave it a 9.5 out of 10.
Now, Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma comes to PlayStation 4 with a few added graphical features. It’s interesting to wonder why these features were left out of the PC version of the game, a platform that usually boasts graphic improvement options. However, it is possible that the PC version was merely a port of the Vita version, which is what we saw in the recent PS4 and PC release of another one of Spike Chunsoft’s IP’s Danganronpa: Another Episode. As for Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, this was more than just a port and it made a huge difference on my playing experience.
The thought of Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma causes me anxiety, in the best way possible. The game has the ability to control my emotions through the musical cues, dialogue, and, most of all, the puzzles. Right from the beginning, I am as confused as the rest of the characters who find themselves trapped behind bars while a man in plague doctor’s mask explains to them that they must participate in a death game.
Interestingly, this game might be the final entry of the trilogy, but it takes place after the events of the first game, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, with a few of the characters making a return. Because of this, I seem to express a bias towards characters I admired from 999 (such as Junpei) as I tried my hardest to keep him alive. Yes, this is a death game and the rules are simple: if six of the nine characters die then the remaining three are free to go.
Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma abandons much of what you’d expect from a visual novel and instead displays full cinematics during every interaction (versus the usual text accompanied by a static image). This might put true visual novel fans off, but I feel this approach opened the series up for new fans who might be put off by the lengthy text of a typical visual novel.
I’d like to add that I enjoy playing visual novels with English dubs. It allows me to watch the character’s facial movements without having to read subtitles all the time and accidentally miss something on screen. As for Zero Escape: Zerp Time Dilemma’s voice acting: I think Aksys did a decent job at casting. However, some of the dialogue comes off as choppy during a handfull of cinematic scenes. More specifically, there are scenes that just don’t flow as an actual conversation between a group of people should. This is not an issue with all of the scenes, but it does happen quite a few times throughout the game.
During gameplay, some puzzles are introduced that requires the player to make a choice. These choices are completely random, for example: choosing a side a flipped coin which a 50% chance that it could be either one. With that said, your odds won’t be as simple throughout the entire game. Additionally, there are puzzles that require the player to use their wits and race against the clock to save one of the character’s lives.
The timeline of the game can be visited at any point. This allows the player to travel to branching paths in the story and attempt to save a life of someone they might have just killed or retry a failed puzzle. This is also a way to clearly see the endings that you’ve acquired, as there are multiple.
When it comes to the PlayStation 4 version of the game, it’s clear that Spike Chunsoft didn’t simply port the PlayStation Vita version over to the PS4 and call it a day. There are many shadow and color improvements that simply look fantastic. However, this game isn’t so much about the graphics as it is about the story, so I’m not sure if fans who have already played the game will return to it solely based on the improved visuals. Even so, it is definitely the definitive way to experience Zero Time Dilemma.
The PlayStation 4 release doesn’t change the story, systems, puzzles, or fix any plot holes that have been brought up by fans over the years, but it does complete the entire series on modern consoles, joining The Nonary Games released earlier this year. If you didn’t like the game before, then you probably won’t like it now; but for console gamers who found the series through The Nonary Games on PS4 and enjoyed it, this is your chance to complete the trilogy that you started.
Playing through Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma again brought back all of the excitement and stress that I felt when playing the game on the PlayStation Vita. I found myself racing against the clock and making split second decisions to save the lives characters that I cared about. Having that strong of an affect on the player can only be accomplished through great storytelling and that’s exactly what Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma provides.