What is This?
Let’s get this out of the way: no, you can’t play Zero Time Dilemma without having first played the first two games in the series, 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward. Well, you can if you really want to, but a lot of the references and character appearances will be lost on you. If you want to get the true Zero Escape experience, play the first two games. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Zero Time Dilemma is a puzzle game that will put you in control of different characters as you work your way through a series of locked room puzzles. If the first two games were any indication, the puzzles in this one will be pretty challenging, and will require you to make connections between clues and figure out the method to opening up that locked door. In these puzzle sequences, you’ll have to point and click at objects of interest and see if you can turn up any new clues. There are usually multiple steps you have to take in order to open the door, and the clues you get might not always be the right ones you need at that point in time. It’s up to you to make sense of these clues and make use of them at the right puzzles.
When you’re not solving puzzles, Zero Time Dilemma will play out like a regular visual novel. You’ll be treated to fully voiced cutscenes as the story unfolds, and sometimes, you’ll even get to make decisions that can change the course of the story. Similar to Virtue’s Last Reward, this game will feature a flowchart showing you exactly where the different events fit in, making it easier to make sense of the story.
What’s new in Zero Time Dilemma is that you’ll be randomly dropped into seemingly disconnected stories in the game. You might witness the conclusion of one group’s story, not understand what the heck’s going on, and then dropped into the beginning of that same story a few chapters later. This is where the flowchart comes in handy, as it’ll help you piece together the timeline of the story. According to series creator Kotaro Uchikoshi, the outcomes for certain decisions you make in the story will be randomized as well. In some released footage of the game, there is a scenario where a character has to fire a gun at an ally. The gun contains three blanks and three live rounds, meaning there’s a 50% chance of killing the ally. However, if you choose to shoot, the outcome will be random, so there’s really no way of knowing which is the correct decision to make, since you never know what’s going to happen next.
Also, there’s a lot of crazy time travel/quantum physics/Schrodinger’s Cat/superposition/morphogenetic field stuff going on.