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?