999 And Virtue’s Last Reward Creator Chats About Suspenseful Visual Novels

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Now that Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is available for iOS it’s the perfect time to share the chat we had with Zero Escape series creator Kotaro Uchikoshi. We talked about Virtue’s Last Reward and a little about the third Zero Escape game. Right now, the plot is in Uchikoshi’s head and development is just getting started.

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Heads up this interview has spoilers from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue’s Last Reward.




Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors had an air of tension with a time limit and bombs strapped to the players. The feeling of fear was palpable, but in Virtue’s Last Reward the game had a different feeling. Players could take their time to explore and characters would casually talk about their back stories during puzzles.  Why did you make the change?


Kotaro Uchikoshi, Director: When we were developing Virtue’s Last Reward, we asked people in Japan who didn’t buy 999 why they didn’t buy it. Most of the answers we got was because it looks scary. One of the decisions made by the higher ups was for the next one make sure to tone it down. I made it more mellow and lessened the tension. That’s why in the first game you explore, but in the second game there was the needle. I didn’t have a choice, but to tone it down.


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What about the next Zero Escape game or the third one in the series? Will you bring it back up?


KU: In the next game, I plan to bring it up a little because I had a lot of fans on Twitter that they liked the sense of fear in 999. I haven’t decided how much, but I will up it.


What do you prefer, the tension in 999 or the feeling of exploration in Virtue’s Last Reward?


KU: Hmm… that’s a difficult question to answer. I like both aspects. For the next game, I want to have a little of both so the game has more tension and players will be allowed to explore.


The morphogenetic field concept changes from the first game where Akane and Junpei communicate through time. The way characters communicate in Virtue’s Last Reward suggests it’s being used too. Since it’s core to the Zero Escape series, how do you plan to utilize it for the third Zero Escape game?


KU: In both games, 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, the story uses the morphogenetic field. I didn’t really state it in Virtue’s Last Reward, but it’s there. For the next one, I do plan to stay on that theme of using the morphogenetic field, but with a new concept. I hope the fans look forward to that.



What can you tell us about the third game? Will see returning character like Santa, Snake, and Ace from 999?


KU: I plan on bringing someone back, but I can’t tell you who I’m going to bring back. That’s for both 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward.


Can you tell us the fate of one character that we won’t see again?


KU: The setting of the next game takes place in between the 999 timeline and Virtue’s Last Reward. I’m probably going to brush on what happens to all of the characters, like Santa and Ace.


When the first game in the Zero Escape series, 999, was in development it was designed for release in Japan while Virtue’s Last Reward was developed for a worldwide release when it was being planned. How did that change the way you developed the two games?


KU: Story-wise, it didn’t affect much. I didn’t change the story since I had that in mind already. For puzzles, I made sure not to use Japanese characters. I tried to avoid cultural references, as well, and made more global puzzles which ended up having numbers since numbers are a universal language.


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Virtue’s Last Reward utilizes the prisoner’s dilemma thought experiment. What kind of thought experiments interest you and what are you thinking about using as a base for the third game?


KU: The story has been developed in my mind, but we haven’t started proactively developing the game yet.


Why did you want to make the third game go in the middle of 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward?


KU: Because it’s interesting! It’s not conventional since you usually go in order.


Will Aksys bring the game over?


KU: I do want to ask them! Aksys is busy so if they want to work on it, I would like them to do so.


Aside from the nine character archetypes, are any characters in the game influenced by people you know in real life?


KU: I don’t think I planned any characters that way, but we were talking earlier that Seven is like Ben [Bateman, localization editor at Aksys]. But, that was after the fact. [Laughs] I am thinking about putting Ben in the game. [Laughs.]


Will he live or die?


KU: That I don’t know, but I will make him shave his beard. [Laughs].



Virtue’s Last Reward has excellent foreshadowing. Like with Sigma, Phi says haven’t you been in school for a long time or something to that effect early on. There are subtle hints like K riding the rabbit too. I think that’s the reason why Virtue’s Last Reward and 999’s stories feel so rich and well written. How do you plan these hints and weave them into the story?


KU: I usually put it in while I write, but the part where K was riding the rabbit wasn’t my idea. That was one of our staff members that brought it up. We trade ideas and bounce them off each other. Whatever I think is interesting or funny I’ll put it in the story while writing it.


What hints are in the game that people haven’t uncovered yet?


KU: [Laughs] There are some, but I can’t remember any of those subtle hints people haven’t caught on.


Ben Bateman, Editor: There’s nothing I can think of that would be a clue, but there are a couple things I can think of that would be more interestingly relevant, but I’m not going to talk about those. [Laughs]. I don’t know the full story, but I know a few things about it. In terms of hidden stuff in the game, from what I can tell most people figured out. There are even things in there that people figured out that I don’t know if even we’ve thought of it. People’s abilities to make connections are amazing. I’m not sure if it was because [Uchikoshi] was thinking of this, but when were talking about the name for Diana – Diana is a name for I think Artemis who is the goddess of the hunt and moon. People put that connection together.


KU: [Laughs] Yeah I put that connection in.


BB: I figured that was on purpose. Nobody even talks about that in the game. Her name is brought up once and people talk about it.


Noba Nakayama, Lead Translator: There was one thing we were talking about. We were asking [Uchikoshi] about Junpei’s last name, Tenmyouji. The way the kanji was written was very specific. The "ten" in Tenmyouji means heaven. The "myou" is a combination of the kanji for sun and moon. The "ji" means temple. That’s something that may not be noticed by US fans.


If you were going to give Akane life advice, what would you tell her as her creator?


KU: [Laughs] She has special abilities and it’s something I would never be able to understand because I don’t have those abilities, so I would say to her do what you think is right.


Do you think what Akane is doing is right?


KU: That’s a hard thing to answer. The way I wrote the story was for players to come up with their own conclusion so I don’t want to put my own opinion out on that. I want players to decide whether she is good or bad.

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