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Review

Review: Virtue’s Last Reward

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Will you ally … or betray? The choice is your’s in Virtue’s Last Reward for the Play­Sta­ti­on Vita.

Virtue’s Last Reward, the sequel to the cult import-only DS game 999: Nine Hours, Nine Per­sons, Nine Doors, is a the sort of game you don’t see very often in the West. Visu­al Novels are a gen­re that has most­ly been con­fi­ned to Japan, but Virtue’s Last Reward shows that intri­ca­te sto­ries such as its own should be enjoy­ed by all.

Overview

You take the role of Sig­ma, a young man who wakes up to find him­s­elf stuck in a small room, with a mys­te­rious girl being its only other inha­bi­tant. He will soon find that he is far from home and has been forced to play a dan­ge­rous game; the Nona­ry Game. Along with eight others, he must find a way out of the com­plex he is impri­son­ed in, all while figu­ring out who is behind it all.

Gameplay

Virtue’s Last Reward is split into two dis­tinct part: Novel sec­tions, which is whe­re most of the sto­ry is told like most visu­al novels, and puz­zle seg­ments. The­se puz­zle seg­ments are a gre­at addi­ti­on to the novel sec­tions, sin­ce they allow play­ers to do more than just read though lots of text. Each puz­zle rooms con­tains inge­nious chal­len­ges that will test even the brai­niest of gamers.

The aim of each room is to escape through the locked door con­tai­ned wit­hin it. Each one is ope­ned by a key that is found in a safe. Natu­ral­ly, each safe is also locked, with the pass­word nee­ded being hid­den wit­hin the room.

To find the pass­word, and in turn the key, you have to sol­ve a num­ber of dif­fe­rent puz­zles throughout each room. This is usual­ly done by fin­ding items or hints, then using what you have found to com­ple­te dif­fe­rent miniga­mes. Some miniga­mes use the Vita’s gyro­scope, usual­ly to sli­de boxed around. Thank­ful­ly you are able to use the D-pad for the­se which ends up being a lot fas­ter.

While each safe con­tains a key along with sto­ry rela­ted items, the­re is also ano­t­her com­part­ment that you can unlock by fin­ding a second pass­word. This usual­ly requi­res you to com­ple­te har­der puz­zles wit­hout hints from the game. The­se extra puz­zles allow you to unlock files, which flesh out the sto­ry fur­ther. With the reward for com­ple­ting each room being more of the game’s ama­zing sto­ry, you will want to per­se­ve­re even when some of the later puz­zles feel like you can’t com­ple­te them.

Story

The game’s sto­ry main­ly hin­ges on the prisoner’s dilem­ma, whe­re betray­ing someo­ne who trusts you is more bene­fi­ci­al than mutu­al coope­ra­ti­on. This takes its form in the game as the Ambi­dex rooms. To escape, the nine par­ti­ci­pants of the Nona­ry Game are requi­red to collect nine points. To do so, they are grou­ped tog­e­ther and made to vote against each other in the afo­re­men­tio­ned Ambi­dex room. The­re they can make one of two choices: Ally or betray. If both par­ties choo­se ally, then they both get two points. Howe­ver, if one choo­ses betray, then the betray­er gets three points and the betray­ed loses two. The­se points are recor­ded on the brace­lets that each par­ti­ci­pant is wea­ring. The­se brace­lets also show the groups for each found of the Nona­ry Game. The brace­lets also have ano­t­her fea­ture that is a lot more sinis­ter. If a play­er has zero points or refu­ses to fol­low the rules, they are injec­ted with a dead­ly sub­s­tan­ce and kil­led. This cau­ses some play­ers to betray others to make sure that they sur­vi­ve, which adds ano­t­her ele­ment to the sto­ry. The choices that you make during each vote will deter­mi­ne how the sto­ry pans out, and which of the 25 endings you will get.

Luck­i­ly, each choice you make is not per­ma­nent, with the game allo­wing you to go back to dif­fe­rent points in the sto­ry to make dif­fe­rent decisi­ons. This crea­tes a bran­ching sto­ry that can some­ti­mes feel con­fu­sing until you’ve made your way through each branch of the sto­ry and pie­ced ever­ything tog­e­ther. Also, as you go fur­ther into the sto­ry, Sig­ma will start to remem­ber things that hap­pen­ed in other time­li­nes which adds ano­t­her inte­res­ting ele­ment to the sto­ry. Each branch that you fol­low all adds up to crea­te a sto­ry that, as a who­le, is uni­que and refres­hing in an indus­try fil­led will with FPSs and forced mul­ti­play­er fea­tures.

Improving on Greatness

Thank­ful­ly, Virtue’s Last Reward does not have one of the main pro­blems that its pre­de­ces­sor had: Repe­ti­ti­on. This is main­ly avoi­ded thanks to the fact that you can easi­ly make dif­fe­rent choices in the game ins­tead of having to replay ever­ything befo­re that choice. The text skip opti­on has thank­ful­ly been sped up as well, which allows you to quick­ly move through dia­lo­gue you have read befo­re, wit­hout the worry of mis­sing anything new.

Negatives

While Virtue’s Last Reward’s sto­ry and game­play are refres­hing, the­re are some pro­blems which stop the game from reaching even grea­ter heights. One of the most nota­ble is the omis­si­on of Eng­lish voice­overs in the PAL ver­si­on of the game. While this is under­stand­a­ble (licen­cing two sets of voice­overs would be expen­si­ve), it still feels like we’re mis­sing out, espe­ci­al­ly with a game that is com­pri­sed of most­ly dia­lo­gue. Thank­ful­ly, the loca­li­sa­ti­on is top notch and helps to con­vey the cha­rac­te­ris­tics and man­ne­risms of each cha­rac­ter, but the lack of Eng­lish voices is still a fea­ture that will be mis­sed.

Ano­t­her disap­poin­ting part of Virtue’s Last Reward is the gra­phics. While the cha­rac­ters models look decent, they don’t look as nice as the 2D cha­rac­ter por­traits from the pre­vious game. The 3D does allow for some smoot­her ani­ma­ti­ons though, and 2D art­work is still used occa­sio­nal­ly. Most of the envi­ron­ments also look pret­ty samey and bland, with only a few of them being visual­ly inte­rested. While this doesn’t mat­ter too much sin­ce you’ll usual­ly be focus­sed on the cur­rent sto­ry or puz­zles, it would have been nice if the­re was more varie­ty bet­ween are­as.

From a game­play stand­point, the touch­screen con­trols can occa­sio­nal­ly feel unwiel­dy, with the cur­sor not selec­ting what you want it too. Wri­ting using the touch­screen can also be a pain, which is an area that the 3DS has the advan­ta­ge over the Vita. The­re are also but­ton con­trols that can be used, but the weird delay bet­ween when you move the ana­lo­gue stick and when the cur­sor moves ren­ders this near­ly point­less.

While none of the­se detract from the over­all expe­ri­ence too much, the­re is one thing that could cau­se play­ers to be annoy­ed: Cras­hes. At two dif­fe­rent parts we’ve had free­zes. While we didn’t lose much pro­gress thanks to the fact that we saved not long befo­re them, it is still a major annoyan­ce and one that will hope­ful­ly be patched soon. We’ve also heard reports that the Nin­ten­do 3DS ver­si­on has a more serious issue with bugs, whe­re gamers’ saves have been cor­rup­ted, erasing lar­ge chunks of game­play.

Conclusion

With chal­len­ging puz­zles and a grip­ping sto­ry, Virtue’s Last Reward is a game we recom­mend that any Vita or 3DS owners should buy. The game is sur­pri­sin­gly leng­thy, with it taking around 30 hours to com­ple­te ever­ything, and the ending is mind-blo­wing. Best of all, you don’t need to have play­ed 999 to under­stand ever­ything, with most of the important events of the pre­vious games being exp­lai­ned to you throughout the sto­ry. This is defi­ni­te­ly a game not to be mis­sed, and I for one can’t wait for the next game to be released.

it/olp

We cap­tu­red all screen­shots from our PS Vita review ver­si­on.

Virtue’s Last Reward
Gen­re: Visu­al Novel
Sys­tem: PSVi­ta, 3DS
Ver­si­on tested: PSVi­ta
Pri­ce: 29 GBP /40 US-Dol­lar / 28 Euro (Retail: UK/US/DE – simi­li­ar pri­ces in PSN and eShop)
Deve­lo­per: Chun­soft
Publisher: Rising Star Games

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