Zero Escape series creator Kotaro Uchikoshi has recently answered some questions on Twitter relating to the identity of “?” and the ending of Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. He also touches on the recently released Zero Time Dilemma.
The conversation began when a Twitter user openly asked Uchikoshi about the identity of “?”. He responded by saying it was necessary to clarify some things about Kyle and “Another Time End”. Apparently, the ending was written as a bonus, and it was not intended to be taken as canon.
Uchikoshi explains in his tweets, which have been collected and quoted as follows, “First of all, it seems necessary to clear up the misunderstanding about Kyle and ‘?’. So-called ‘? END/Another Time End’ was added as anomalistic irregular bonus. That was a kind of ‘afterword’ written in a conversational format. In that scenario there was no meaning to supplement main story. That was a story in higher realities/dimensions and metafiction. That is not connected to main story time-sequentially. Therefore that is not canon.”
The explanation may lead some fans to wonder what the canon ending of Virtue’s Last Reward truly is. Uchikoshi confirms, “Main story of VLR ends in the hiding place of Crash Keys on April 13 in 2029. When young Sigma saw the explosion through the window. That’s the ending as canon of VLR.”
The reason for the added ending was due to the Tohoku earthquake that occurred in 2011. As Uchikoshi recalls, “When we were recording the voices of VLR, a big earthquake (2011 Tohoku earthquake) occurred in Japan. Nearly 20,000 people died due to that disaster. We saw the horrible devastation and thought this. ‘I wonder if the ending of VLR should keep it this way. Isn’t it necessary to add a story which gives dream and hope to people?’ As a result ‘Another Time End’ was added.”
“I think I made two mistakes in VLR. 1: I added the voices in ‘Another Time End’ in the international version. 2: In the flowchart, I put ‘Another Time End’ on the place after/below Phi End. For these reasons, many players misunderstood as if ‘Another Time End’ is canon. I really regret that.”
However, just because “Another Time End” is not canon does not mean the story holds no meaning in the series. Uchikoshi continues his explanation with a caveat that his theory is on equal footing with those of the fans due to their support of the series. “Was ‘Another Time End’ all nonsense? Was it meaningless? Of course that’s not true. I’ll explain. (However what I write from now is not necessarily the correct answer. Id like you to interpret this as one of the tentative theory. Because Zero Escape series has already been out of my hands, and now it’s owned by the players. If there is a theory that makes more feasible or convincing than mine, you can adopt it as your canon.)”
“It goes without saying that what is the identity of ‘?’. It’s as many players are presuming. At least, I wrote ‘Another Time End’ in VLR with the intention of it. Also there is no doubt that ‘?’ intervened in ZTD. In order to imply that, the ability of Mind Hack by Delta was set to resemble the things that ‘?’ can do. You can choose one you like from the following 3 theories. The character did it or Delta did it or ‘?’ did it. The choice is yours.”
How does all of this relate to the story in Zero Time Dilemma? Uchikoshi explains his perspective when writing the narrative of the game. “When creating ZTD, I wasn’t based on ‘Another Time End’. Because not every players of VLR saw ‘Another Time End’. There are a lot of players who didn’t get all Gold Files. I wanted to make ZTD so that even they can enjoy the story.”
Bringing the discussion full circle, he concludes by delivering his thoughts on Kyle. “In passing, I’d tell you about Kyle. I said that ‘Another Time End’ was metafiction. Therefore I’d like you to interpret Old Akane’s words in ‘Another Time End’ as metafiction. This means that she was talking toward the player in this REAL WORLD. She said ‘He (Kyle) has arrived at December 25th, 2028.’ And now is 2016. This year isn’t 2028. This is my plan.”
“I’m often asked like ‘Where is Kyle?’ The short answer is this. ‘He will be in 2028.’ I hope this is useful for you. Thank you!”