August 2017 is a big month for the Zero Escape series. This marks the first time that every entry in the trilogy is available on the PlayStation 4. Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma has made its way to the console for the first time. Which means it is a perfect time for someone to begin playing these thrillers. But where are can someone find them and how do they get started?
What is “Zero Escape” anyway?
Zero Escape is basically Kotaro Uchikoshi’s baby. He is the director and writer of the series, though you may also know him from his work on the Memories Off series, the Infinity series and of course Pepsiman’s 3D modeller.
Every Zero Escape game is an adventure game filled with visual novel and puzzle elements. Nine people are held captive by a mastermind named Zero and forced to play a game in which doing anything but actually participating can lead to certain death. Each installment has multiple endings, though since they are all connected, they each have one “true” ending.
This means escaping a series of rooms so you can eventually leave a larger location in which all of these rooms are housed. It is a virtual escape room, if you will, with dire consequences if you can’t make it out alive in time.
It is recommended that someone plays the games in order. Picking up Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, then going on to Zero Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is not the best idea. The storyline gets confusing enough, due to various supernatural elements. Best not to make things even harder for yourself.
Escape the room?
That’s what the Zero Escape series essentially is. It is a series of escape rooms with an elaborate storyline set around them. As you go through the adventure, you go from one challenge to another. Each game has multiple rooms to clear. This means if you end up trying this game, you can look into participating in real-world escape rooms. There are a number of companies across the country that offer them. In fact, in 2016 Real Zero Escape: Trust on Trial was offered by SCRAP. There have also been The Legend of Zelda and Resident Evil escape rooms. These are far less extensive than the series of rooms offered in a Zero Escape game, instead tasking people with escaping a single room within an hour.
So how do I get into these games?
Fortunately, it is now a near-effortless process! Even though the Zero Escape series began as a Nintendo DS-exclusive, these are now multiplatform properties. If you have a Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, or PC, you can start dealing with these puzzling and thrilling mysteries.
Zero Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (Nintendo DS, 2009)
Everything starts with Zero Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors. Nine people have been abducted and placed on a sinking ship to play The Nonary Game. The goal is to escape within nine hours. The catch is that each person has a wristband with a number on it, meaning you will have to use the total digital root of the bracelets to open certain doors. People who go through doors willy-nilly will die, as a bomb has been planted in each participant’s stomach. Players follow a college student named Junpei and attempt to solve the mystery behind the game.
So, how do you play it if you don’t have the original Nintendo DS release? Well, those with iOS devices who only want the visual novel part of the game can get it on their iPhone or iPad. People who want a remastered version with voice acting and the second game in the same bundle can get Zero Escape: The Nonary Games for their PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita or PC. That’s considered the “best” version of the game at this point, as well as the easiest one to acquire.
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward (Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, 2012)
The Nonary Games begin again, only this time we’re playing the Ambidex Edition. Sigma Klim and eight other people find themselves trapped in a Rhizome 9 facility. Each person wears a bracelet that displays their current Bracelet Points. These are earned by participating in an AB Game where they vote to Ally or Betray another player. The only way to escape the facility is through a Number 9 door, which requires 9 BP. However, getting 0 BP causes the bracelet to inject someone with a lethal chemical and the Number 9 door can only open once.
As I mentioned a moment ago, the Zero Escape: The Nonary Games collection is perhaps the easiest way to experience the first two Zero Escape games now. You get both games in one fell swoop. Since it features Japanese and English voice acting and multiple save slots, it is the optimal version of the two PlayStation Vita options.
Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma (Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita and PC, 2016)
Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma is simultaneously the first and second Zero Escape game. While it is the third one released, chronologically it is set before Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. The game has the fewest puzzles and most visual novel elements and protagonists. Nine characters have been captured and placed into a Mars Mission Test Site facility, divided into groups of three. Players’ perspective shifts between Carlos, Diana and Q on Teams C, D and Q. This time, they are playing the Decision Game to determine who gets the X-Passes to open an X-Door that leads to an elevator out of the facility. Six of the nine people playing have to die, as passwords are only provided when someone dies, and participants vote to determine which team they want to kill. (Should they abstain from voting, there are lethal consequences.) To further complicate things, every 90 minutes the bracelets each player wears will inject them with a liquid that makes them lose their memories.
With Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, it is easy to grasp just how popular the series had become. Instead of having to wait years for ports, it received a near simultaneous release on the Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita and PC in all regions. It did take about a year for it to arrive on the PlayStation 4, though the versions are all nearly identical.