Update: I played VLR (the second game in the trilogy) for about 6 hours so far. This is a mini review / retrospective with some of my thoughts in how the games differ while keeping any story elements out of it.
As of yet, VLR hasn't sucked me in quite as deeply, but I have only seen two endings anyways. Knowing how layered these games get, I don't think it should quite suck me in yet anyways. I think I know part of the reason why the second game has grabbed me a bit less, but unfortunately I can't quite find non-spoilery images to explain it, so a textual description will have to do.
The Zero Escape things have a section called the flow
. This is a flow chart of the game and all your decisions in it, read from the top all the way to the bottom. It shows you story sections, escape room sections, branching paths and allows you to reply a particular section by clicking it.
In 999, the flow chart has about five decisions total. This doesn't sound much, but many of the branching decisions actually end up converging again. So, even though subsequent playthroughs take you through the same bit of game, you can mostly fastforward through them to the next decision. And more importantly: it reinforced my immersion into the game. I was able to try and explain away the different paths that would take me to different areas of the ship, and how the experiences of the other characters that I wasn't privvy to would play out based on prior experiences exploring other paths. In essence, the converging paths reinforced my understanding of the situation and what was going on at the various parts of the story. In addition, based on the flow chart you see at the start of the game, there are only 5 different endings to the story. And my first time reaching an ending probably took me around 9, maybe 10 hours: the story sections and numerous multiple escape rooms per choice really added depth.
In VLR, the flow chart appears to be a mathematical tree with no convergences. (Note that there are likely secret endings that only unlock later and as such it is possible this could change later on without me being aware of it.) The first choice you get is three choices worth, the next choice on every branch gives you two choices, and the third layer of choice gives you another two choices. So 3*2*2=12 different branching outcomes already, none of which intersect. Additionally, it only took me about 5-6 hours to get to my first ending, and so far I have only seen a single escape room per choice. At its essence, this story now feels very structured and repetitive, and while I typically love repetition, I feel that in this case it might contribute to the simultaneous feeling of shallowness and confusion as I continue to play more branches. This game is more overt than 999 about cultivating relationships of trust, and the multitude of choices and simultaneous similarity makes me feel like I won't be able to keep them apart all that easily... and I fear this is what gets in my way of wanting to be truly sucked in.
Maybe there are still some supporting features that I am not aware of in this regard, but I think I need to start keeping more manual notes while playing VLR than I did while playing 999. I love the complexity of this series.. but here it gets in the way of me actually reasoning about the story itself.Edit:
Despite this post, I am definitely enjoying VLR, and I still think it is still very much worth the money. I do really enjoy it. But with around 1/6th of the game completed, I feel it is not quite at the high level of enjoyability I had for 999. Your mileage may vary, because tastes vary.