Ben Bateman, who served as an editor on the game, explains the last minute change.
For “Zero Escape” we wanted to create a branding umbrella that VLR [Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward], 999, and any future games could rest under comfortably—a little like the “Ace Attorney” brand, if you will. To do that, we thought about what it was that defined 999 and VLR and was common to both games, and eventually settled on the character of Zero and the idea that each game involves a dangerous escape. Hence, Zero Escape, which has the nice, ominous double meaning of “You have zero chance to escape.”
If this new cover art hasn't convinced you to pick up 999, maybe our review will. And if you've already embarked on that journey, keep your eyes peeled for its 3DS sequel, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, which hits store shelves next month.