News Article

Zero Escape Director Craves Mainstream Recognition

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Ideals remain due to "very humbling" support from fans

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is one of the most unique experiences currently available on 3DS, serving a role well fulfilled by its predecessor — 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors — on DS.

Part of its appeal, as shared by many of its strongest advocates, is its strength of storytelling and willingness to counter conventional gaming tropes. The latest title not only continues to fly the flag for the graphic adventure novel, but opens up the narrative and allows gamers to jump between different points in the plot to experiment with events. As part of a lengthy article on Gamasutra the game's Director, Kotaro Uchikoshi, explained how decision making and engaging with the story are priorities in what the title tries to achieve.

There is one thing that games have that isn't present in any novel, manga, movie, anime, or drama, and that is what I call 'bi-directionality. A story that doesn't flow in a single direction — that is the essence of a game scenario.

The 'bi-directionality' I am talking about refers to the fact that there is interaction.

...In a novel or movie, the reader/audience member can be no more than an observer of events, but in a game you can take the role of the main character. In addition, having the player experience things from a first-person perspective rather than a third-person perspective gives the game a stronger impact and makes it more interesting.

...I tried my best to have all of the scenarios develop differently with different outcomes. You have to provide a certain amount of motivation to make a player want to play through all nine scenarios. That part was very challenging.

Uchikoshi goes on to discuss, in detail, the challenges of constructing a cast of characters and an engaging storyline while trusting in the "player's power of imagination". This approach and level of complexity certainly earns critical praise, as well as a dedicated and passionate following. "I feel like fans support us feverishly. It's very humbling and I appreciate it very much."

Despite this Uchikoshi doesn't feel that he can call the series or the latest release a "success". He's keen to draw in a mainstream audience, but on the terms of the narrative style that his team wants to deliver.

For example, if you look at TV dramas such as Lost, 24, and Prison Break, those are considered to be very successful. You have to be that big to consider yourself to be successful.

I know you might laugh, thinking, 'Wow, you're comparing yourself to a different scale,' but with my development staff, [publisher] Aksys' help, and our fans' continued support, I feel like it's a possibility to reach that level.

Rather than being 'a cult hit that only core players know,' we are constantly thinking how we can appeal to mainstream gamers. Therefore, if we want to make our project even bigger, we need to work on it.

If you're interested in this title's game style or want to read more about Uchikoshi's approach, then it's worth reading the full article. Have you played Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, and do you think mainstream success could be possible for this "cult" series in the future?


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User Comments (24)



kkslider5552000 said:

If they actually succeed at making something really popular without sacrificing their identity, they deserve an applause.

Or anyone else that can do the same for that matter.



C-Olimar said:

urgh. I'm still in two minds about getting this game. I want to support the developer, but I don't want to support the publisher not fixing a game-breaking bug. I probably will get the game eventually, but not at full price.



ThomasBW84 said:

@CanisWolfred Not necessarily. I reckon there are plenty of developers who'll happily do their own thing and sell to a niche audience for as long as possible. They'd love to sell millions of copies, obviously, yet they still produce a title that clearly won't because it sustains them and it's their creative preference.

Here's one "niche" game creator — which is maybe over-simplifying a bit — that has clear aspirations to find ways to take his style but achieve mainstream success. An extremely slippery slope with narrative games like this, but fascinating if they ever pull it off.



Kyloctopus said:

Its sad. Visual Novels aren't that popular on consoles. Especially in the west. The Zero Escape franchise was well thought out, and has more depth than some TV have worth in a season. I'm really happy this game won Gamespot's best handheld game of 2012 against games like Resident Evil: Revelations, and Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask.
@Hokori Good news. It is coming to the eShop.



dequesi said:

Get better distribution. I'm interested in the games -specially after playing the 3DS demo- and have ben considering getting them for a bit, but they're rather rare to see in shops or even on eBay. And no, I'm still not willing to pay 40 € for a download, thank you. It's not that they're impossible to get, my point is that in order to reach mass success, you need much bigger visibility than that. Even the demo is gone from the eShop now!



Pod said:

I like the tone of the games and their construction, but I can't get into the characters and their designs. The demo of 999 was interesting, but I do not really want to hear about any of these people.

Sorry Uchikoshi, but your game is not really for me.



Pikachupwnage said:

I heard this is pretty short...and I don't think I would play through for every ending(24 or something right?) like I would overclocked......Waiting till I see it cheaper but that may be never...



Expa0 said:

Better start copy/pasting FPSs or something if you want to get mainstream appeal.



hatehaerferage said:

You want to appeal to the masses? Better start dumbing down and shoehorning in first person shooter segments like there's no tomorrow!



MagicEmperor said:

I'm not trying to be negative or mean, but I don't think this is a series that can reach 'mainstream' level. I don't mean that as an insult, it's just that this is--I think--a niche genre, and while it does have fans, I don't think the majority of gamers would give the Zero Escape series the time of day.

Again, I'm not trying to be mean. I have a cousin who's what you could describe as an average gamer. He loves Call of Duty and is gungho about first-person shooters and popular action-adventure games. But he absolutely refuses to play adventure games, especially when they're as text-heavy as Phoenix Wright and 999.

I just don't think being a massive mainstream hit is in the cards for Zero Escape. But the fact that the series is successful and does have an audience, I think, is something to be proud of.



Rapido said:

I bet this game will never go mainstream. Like any other great game that only has its own fanbase.

And I'd say, Uchikoshi, don't let the mainstream crowd fool you. It's either mainstream cause its a not-so-good-money-gathering-game that not-so-cool-players want or is a really great game like the Final Fantasy Series ( X2 and Below. ) or Super Mario and the likes.

Stay Indie and continue doing what you do best. I for one, will continue to support the series or any other game you make of the same degree. But if it goes mainstream, Meh. It'll probably lose some value. Aight!

But then again, different strokes for different folks.



machomuu said:

@Pikachupwnage You will be. what makes 999 and Virtue's Last Reward is how radically different the story will become if you do something different. Getting a different ending is something as simple as "going along with mostly the same story until the end, where something different happens", but rather, most of the actions you do n the game will result in the story changing (not just the ending), so it won't feel like a process of "rinse, lather, repeat". And this game isn't particularly short, either. Really, if you only play to, say, one or two endings, it will be short, but that's not at all the way the game is meant to be played.

Also, regarding Devil Survivor, I'd heavily, HEAVILY recommend playing Devil Summoner 2 if you haven't already. I would recommend playing 1 or Overclocked as well (preferably before 2, given that they are the first game in the series), but if anything, you need to play 2/ It does a great job at building on what 1 does.



Grubdog said:

@MagicEmperor there are far more people who would avoid Call of Duty than an adventure game, think of the TV series watching 40 year old mother crowd. You can't only consider dudebro gamers here, the industry is much more than that.



MagicEmperor said:

@Grubdog Ah, yes. I have generalized, and I apologize. But I still think that it'll be very difficult for this series to reach mainstream status. Also, your avatar is delightfully off-putting.



Grubdog said:

Yeah, the problem is awareness. We need to smash it into peoples heads that videogames are an option for engaging stories (and the best option at that).



MagicEmperor said:

Well, I a lot of my friends are into what I'm into. For example, I got a bud hooked on 999, another interested, so I'm trying to help. lol



mozie said:

It'll certainly never reach mainstream when it's almost impossible to locate in highstreet retailers, I've searched high & low for a copy and it couldent be found anywhere, apparently its a GAME exclusive in uk/ireland & with GAME closing down here last year a physical copy cant be got anywherem, increidble as it sounds in 2013. Managed to snag a copy on Amazon for €30, a tenner cheaper than its eshop price, which is also a fiver more expensive than the ps stores version. Nintendo's pricing strategy is truely baffling at times.



MeloMan said:

I love the point about games vs. other media... it's the same argument I've had to use against people to downplay videogaming. As far as mainstreaming a game like this... most casuals don't even have the attention span to stay with it, even if all they have to do is "tap, tap, tap" through the whole adventure. Only casual people who say perhaps, love to read and love novels, would be even remotely interested. But that's the challenge of the developer, and I still respect them wanting to give it a try.



moomoo said:

@Pikachupwnage The way the story works means your way of exploring the story is by getting the different endings. Basically, there's only one real ending in the game, but you've got to play through other storylines to get to it. It's not like other games with multiple endings like Chrono Trigger. If you want to know more about it, I suggest you read the Gameasutra article.

It's basically narrative as gameplay. There's nothing like it except its predecessor.



Phle said:

No chance at all for a mainstream success where I live. But that doesn't have anything to do with the game itself, it's because this game is nowhere to be seen. You have to spend hours just to find a place to buy the game, and then you first have to know about it and already been decided that you want to buy it, because i's not something you'll find by accident.

I have tried the demo and I think I would really enjoy the game. I ordered a copy, they don't have it in stock at the moment, but it's expected in a few days, not guaranteed of course. No other store (small chance of GameStop having it, but they don't have an online shop and I don't live that close) located where I live has this game at the moment and I want the physical copy. I think many people will miss this game simply because they never saw or heard if it, at least where I live. I know it's out in Nintendo eShop, but I wont download it unless there is no other way of getting the game.



mizzy_helen said:

I also want a physical copy, but can't seem to find one. Either is isn't in stock or they haven't heard about it.

Played the demo. And I really like it, just like i loved 999.
I just have to continue my search till I find a physical copy

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