Spoiler-Free Review: Virtue's Last Reward [8.5/10]

So it was a little over a year ago when they announced their would be a sequel to the 999 game for the DS. Being one of the best titles for the DS imo, I was ecstatic to hear this. It was funny, as back then, you walk into a game shop and no one knew what the hell 999 was. 1 year later, and it is sold out as well as one of the biggest games for the 3DS. The mixture of a mystery story and puzzles hits the perfect spot. I guess I should actually review the game instead of rambling on? ( I can continue my rambling later)

This game followed the 999 style; It swapped between story and puzzle rooms. Though you might feel this is a spoiler, you should find out pretty early playing there is a total of 15 rooms. Compared to the 9 rooms in 999, this is a big upgrade. One huge benefit is you don't need to "redo" parts as you did in the original game. They give you a nifty flow chart that lets you hop around the story line. They explain why this is possible at the end of the game. The content stays pretty fresh as you never redo a puzzle which is a huge benefit for your fingers.

The puzzles vary quite throughout the game with my favourite being a minesweeper like game making an appearance. Btw, minesweeper is the best classic game to play! Thinking back, I believe I had a much more difficult time with 999 compared to this game. I had no trouble going through all the puzzles on hard, though some left me stumped for a while. So either the game got easier, or I just got smarter, I will vote for the later. On average, a room takes about 30 mins to clear. Overall, the nice variety of puzzles combined with having to think for a while for a few of the puzzles is exactly right difficulty. You don't want something impossible, just enough to make you feel rewarded when figuring it out.

One of the bread and butters for gaming in general, especially with this genre of games. I mentioned this earlier, but it has a flow chart that allows you to hop around timelines. This way you can try decision and see the changes in results. I disliked that the characters were not fully consistent on some of the timelines, it felt like the characters did some things just to give you a "dead end" because they could. Though they do explain this at the end, the explanation seems flimsy and was less enjoyable while playing.

The overall story did leave you wondering how things fit together, though roughly 50% through you will already have enough pieces to put everything together. You are still forced to go through the rhythm to "unlock" fine details before you can progress into other another timelines. Maybe I just pieced everything together too quickly...

As the final story plays out, I can't help but feel it was sloppily patched together. Though it does explain everything, it does not feel satisfying. It feels more like they used a deus ex machina to ultimate explain why everything happened as it did. I guess I am just extremely touchy with these types of stories being written correctly. I will eleborate in more detail later to leave this spoiler free. It did however leave me quite engaged throughout the story and that alone did achieve what it set out to do.

For a 3DS game, it did not use the power of this system to it's extent. When compared to some of the other titles like Revelations, this just looks terrible. With nearly nothing to animate, they could have done a  better job with the cut scenes for a short spotlight. Graphics might not why you would be playing a game like this, but it couldn't hurt to have done a better job here.

I almost always keep sound off for portable titles, but this was an exception. The music added to the atmosphere quite well, combined with full voice acting. Allowing the choice between English and Jap voices was genius as well. No one wants to hear terrible dub quality voice acting, maybe when English voice actors actually did a better job... Overall, I was quite impressed, this is very rare as I usually don't care about sound being slightly tone deaf and all.

Just to be clear, I don't consider going through a different timeline another playthrough as doing all the timelines is essential for reaching the true end. It is impossible to create replayability in a puzzle based game, this is no exception. I feel the one playthrough is long enough so I don't feel this is an issue. It took me about 28 hours to beat the game, with most slower readers and solvers averaging around 35 hours. This is a decent length for visual novels.

Personal Satisfaction
I guess this is where I throw in all my grief about the small things that bugged me. Spoilers abound!

My biggest gripe was the fact that the main character was Zero. My first route was the golem room where I believed the main character among a few others were most likely robots. Hence why he can jump around timelines since it is just transferring his mind from robot to robot. Each timeline was a separate instance of the game being played, at least I thought.

Less then 1 hour in, I was dead set that this was the case, but then, one of the gold files mentions that any good mystery novel will never have the main character as the end villain. After that, I was confused and shifted my sights on Luna, which was partially true. As I progressed through the game, I became increasingly sure. This was especially true the second I went through Tenmyouji's route which confirmed quite quickly that time was offset from what they believed and hinted that he was Junpei. The only real mystery that eluded me until it was smack in my face was how K fit into all this, also, I only realizing the old lady was Akane after seeing her badge. I guess I should have made the connection the second I noticed the time gap. It just ruffled my feathers to find out Zero was the main character,especially since they stated it was bad to do this for mystery stories.

They technically explain how everything relates together, but common sense would clearly dictate that Sigma would realize he was not 20 years old. I mean, it is nearly impossible not to touch yourself and notice your eye is missing. Another gapping problem was the bombs. It was obvious that they played this whole game in slow motion and the clocks on their wrists were adjusted for this slowdown, but what of the bombs? Technically, the bombs were rigged for 30 mins and should have all blown up prematurely.

The use of schrodinger's cat to explain why different choices were made does make sense, but it still feels very deus ex. It was used to force bad ends  and anxiety among the players which would not normally happen. One of my biggest gripes about all the endings is none of them could stop each other from leaving the 9 door. In a few of the endings, you get stopped down immediately if you try to leave, but all the other characters can just waltz through the door like it is a-okay. I mean, it is okay for them to betray each other and leave, but you can't? Way to force those bad ends. I could understand no one being able to stop K from leaving being twice the size and in armor, but the rest of the cast could easily be stopped from leaving even if they managed to pull the leaver.

I still haven't tackled the biggest issue, the ridiculous explanation of time jumping Sigma does. I mean, way to make it extremely convoluted adding a billion extra dimensions that had no relevance to the main story thus far. I understand it was mainly to setup for the sequel to this, but it was much too large for the end of the game. At the end of a mystery story, the goal is to string everything together, not create 10 new items that you have never heard of before. Still, the mystery around K hit my like a ton of bricks. I did not see any of it coming. I think the story of his past was just twisted so perfectly with reality that when it clicks, you just go ZOMG. At least they didn't break up the OTP from 999.

Oh ya, Clover end is still best end.

As much complaining as I have done in this section, I just like to nit pick at fine details even if I found the overall experience quite enjoyable. I guess I enjoy looking for these inconsistencies way too much.

I think the game is quite good, I think I just created unrealistic expectations due to how great 999 was. It was an engaging game that lead to many sleepless nights which have been rare lately. They quite clearly hinted at a sequel to this game, oh ya, they already announced the 3rd installment is being worked on. I know it will never live up to 999, but I can't help but get hopes up with this great series. I definitely recommend playing this game, provided you play 999 first since it is riddled with spoilers.

Final Score: [8.5/10]