The Let's Play Archive

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

by Fedule

Part 219: # ssh

The scenes that we're about to see were added to the game very late in development - so late, in fact, that there was no time to record the Japanese VO. But it wasn't too late for Aksys! Accordingly, the voiceover links from here on out are in English only. Sorry, people who were listening in Japanese.

You should probably listen to these.

They've got Troy Baker in them.

Listen in: [English]

VLR OST: [Eeriness]

I see you've finally woken up, Kyle.


Ah, yes. Of course.

You've only just woken up in this timeline. It's only natural for some of your memories to be missing.

I lurched upright, jumped off the bed, and ran around to the other side of the partition.

The mirror over the sink was covered with a film of dirt.

There was no mistake.

The reflection belonged to...

So I'm Doctor Klim—Zero Sr.'s clone?

Shouldn't you still be suffering from amnesia?

He hadn't just worn the armor in that history, though... Apparently he'd worn it all his life.
Kyle had been born and raised in this lunar installation, which seemed to be called "Rhizome 9."
Rather late in his life Akane had appeared as a mother figure, and he had consequently grown very attached to her.
I knew everything about him.
But even though I knew it, I didn't feel it.

Was I really Kyle Klim?
Every time I looked in the mirror, I saw his face...
The spitting image of Sigma Klim in his younger days.
I looked down.

I turned back around to Luna.

Listen in: [English]

January 27th, 2074.

Then today is the last day of the AB Project.

Then she drew a knife and attacked Phi.

About five hours in real time.
For them it would have seemed like a little more than two hours.

So they still haven't been treated for their Radical-6?

No, they've all been given the anti-viral.
It just takes a while to have an effect...

Ah, I see.

It should have happened right after Akane attacked Phi, right?


The doctor carried you back here. You were in the pod in the garden.

So the person you call "the doctor" is Sigma Klim, as inhabited by his age-appropriate consciousness?

Y-Yes, but... How do you know that?


Yes. I've been administering Soporil whenever he...gets restless.

[Music fades out]

They've all gone off to different areas.
Tenmyouji and Quark, for instance...

Listen in: [English]

Right! Mr. Klim!

So the sleepyhead's finally up, huh?

What are you two doing here?

You don't know where we are?

This is the upper floor of the pressure exchange chamber. The real one...


VLR OST: [Confession]

You plan to return then? To Earth, I mean.


Sigma told us where we could find the shuttle that brought us here.

Well, guess he's not really the Sigma I knew anymore. He's Doctor Klim now—or Zero Sr., depending on how you look at it.


What do you mean, "why"?

Um, well...
I'm just curious why you would choose to return to a devastated planet when you could stay here.

You aren't gonna say something idiotic about how we should wait here until Sigma changes the past, are you?


You can't "wait" for something that's already happened.
Grammar doesn't work that way.
Hell, nature doesn't work that way.

You following me?
We've already lived through history.
Sigma failed to keep the virus from getting out.

Whatever Sigma does in the past, history's not gonna change.
In fact, it's because of what he did, or didn't do, in the past that we've got this past and present.

Let me give you an example.

Eventually they hit a junction. The road splits in two.
One freeway continues off northwest, and the other stretches out to the northeast.
So one guy, we'll call him S, pipes up.

So they take the northwestern road, but about a mile past the intersection something horrible happens.
A semi driving the other way veers into their lane, and plows through the bikers.

They don't stop, though.
They keep riding down that highway, and eventually they'd gone 10,000 miles.

Then, suddenly, something happens that they couldn't have predicted.
S, who had survived, suddenly has his consciousness thrown back in time.

He ends up back in his own body, just before they reach the junction.
He remembers everything.

So what does S do? What anybody would do.

"Let's got northeast!"
That means all one hundred of the bikers survive to reach their destination happy and healthy.
And they all live happily ever after.

It's a great outcome for the hundred bikers that went northeast.

But what about the ten that went northwest and survived the accident?

Ah, right. Okay, nine people then.

What happens to the reality they were living?
Does it just disappear when S changes the past?
It's not as if it was only bad things that happened during that 10,000 mile trip.

Maybe one of them fell in love with a woman working at a gas station they stopped at, and had a child.
Maybe one of them picked up a homeless kid, who joined them on their adventure.
That 10,000 mile journey would be full of stories.

Friendships, farewells, romances...
The loss of those ninety lives is horrible and unfortunate...

The nine who survived lived full lives.
How can it be right to just erase all that?

The survivors overcame their own misery and loss, and made the best they could of the hand they'd been dealt.
Isn't that worth something? Isn't that the best thing that humans can aspire to?
Is there really any point to a world were everything is happy? Are people who struggle for a better life just idiots?

Being human is about fighting even when it seems hopeless, and finding happiness even in a world that hates it.
Are you saying that's worthless?

If you're saying re-writing the past will erase all these other timelines...
Then whatever god wrote those rules can fu—... Look, I'm just not gonna accept that, all right?
You get it?

If Sigma changes the past...
Then you and Quark will never meet.

No. It's not gonna happen.
We're here, right now. This is reality.
Even if Sigma does change the past, we're not just gonna...disappear or something.

Oh... Then that means we get to stay together?

Thanks, kid...

You have lives there, I imagine.
There are likely people waiting for you.



Phi, Luna, Alice, and Clover all saw us off.
We told them we'd see them again someday, and then came here.

They were the only people you want to say goodbye to?

No point saying anything to Dio.

Besides, he's asleep.
You were asleep too...

Sorry, but we didn't really know much about you.

You have a point. Akane was in the armor in this timeline, after all...
What about Sigma?

Of course.
He is Doctor Klim now that his consciousness has returned.

Yeah, but more importantly he's the guy who brought us all here. Not a lot of warm feelings there, you know.



She's just like him. Not the Akane I knew.

She must have seen some pretty awful things over the years.
Hell, she might not even be human anymore.

[Music fades out]

She's not anywhere...

Listen in: [English]

Pawns to be used and then gotten rid of.

Still, it's not like we're completely resentful.
We had to be here to help change the past.
That part's easy to understand.


It kinda sucks, though.

999 OST: [Imaginary]

They get to go back to December 25th in 2028.
They'll stop the Radical-6 and save the world, and then they'll have a nice, normal future to look forward to.
In other words, they get to go back to point E and just enjoy history like it was supposed to happen.

But we don't.
We're stuck with point C as our starting point.

It would be like if Alice and I were kidnapped right before the intersection.
Then whoever grabbed us takes us to wherever the bikers are going, 10,000 miles to the northwest.

Don't get us wrong: We know why we had to be here.
Without us, S's consciousness wouldn't have been able to go back to right before the intersection...

If that couldn't happen, then the fate of those ninety dead bikers would be sealed.

We're stuck in the reality where the ninety bikers died.

And what about our friends and families? We left a whole world behind forty-five years ago.

Even if it is for the greater good...

It just doesn't seem fair, does it?

Yeah, it's a little bit much.

She told us that there is one way...

One way we could get back to the past...

Let's say you do go back to the past...
Wouldn't that cause your minds to get thrown back here?
That seemed to be how Sigma and Phi's jumps worked, at least...

Yes, you're right.

But this is different.

Different? How so?

That's ridiculous! It would create a paradox!
How could you have two Clovers and two Alices at the same time?

But that wouldn't happen.

Akane says there's a way around that.

How on Earth does she plan to do that?

[Music fades out]

Listen in: [English]

Where's Doctor Klim?
Luna said you were with him...

He said he was tired, so he's off resting right now.
There's a bedroom at the end of the hallway.
He's in there, if you're curious.


Oh, right. He told me to turn on this hologram projector thing when you showed up.
Want me to start it?


999 OST: [Eternitybox]

However, I imagine there are a great number of things weighing on your mind.
I'd love to answer all your questions, but unfortunately my circumstances make that an impossibility.
I hope you can forgive me.
Everything I know, Phi should also know.
I have instructed her to answer any questions anyone might have.
Anyone other than Kyle, that is.

[Music fades out]

Who knows.

Is there anything you want to ask?

R-Right... Well...
I guess I may as well cut to the chase.

I'm not Superman, that's for sure.
And I'm not Batman, or Spiderman, or Aquaman, or a merman, or a wolfman.

I'm not a brahman, or common, or ramen. I'm not a caiman either, so you don't really need to worry about anything.

Please don't dodge the question.


VLR OST: [Clarification]

About five hours ago, Akane attacked you with a knife.
That triggered something, which sent your mind back to the past, correct?

On that date, your body was already in Akane's custody.

You wouldn't have regained consciousness, but your mind was now inhabiting that body.
That pod was your home for forty-five years.
You slept there, frozen, until the time was right.
Then, on January 25th, 2074, you were finally thawed out.
Even though you didn't wake up.
Still unconscious, you were carried to the AB Room.
That was when your consciousness changed bodies again.
A version of you from December 25th, 2028 arrived, pushing you out...
And sending you back to December 25th, 2028.
This is when you finally woke up.
In 2028, you found and joined forces with Sigma, whose older mind was inhabiting his younger body.
Together, you attempted to infiltrate the Mars mission test facility.

The Radical-6 did escape on New Year's Eve.
That failure determined the path you followed.

Point D being April 13th of the following year.
That was the day that you made your way to Akane's hideout and asked to be put into one of the treatment pods.
Another consciousness enters your body around that time, from the future.
It is, of course, the version of you that left your body when Akane attacked you in the garden.
This caused the two versions of you to swap places...
And you moved forty-five years into the future, where you woke up on the garden floor.

So if we discount the time you spent in cold sleep...
For you, only three and a half months have passed since that happened.
"That" being when you were sent back into the past from the garden.
Have I missed anything?

What do you mean by that?

It's taken me the last three and a half months to understand it.

And I haven't understood anything in the last three and a half seconds. Could you please explain?

Strictly speaking, you can't combine velocities with (v1 + v2).
(v1 + v2) / (1 + (v1 x v2) / c^2) is the actual equation.

Of course, the sort of velocities we encounter in day-to-day life don't come close to being c^2, which is the speed of light squared.
That means that (1 + (v1 x v2) / c^2) is usually going to evaluate to something pretty close to 1.

Since that would mean dividing by 1, it's usually okay to just skip that step and use (v1 + v2).

[Music fades out]

In most situations it works, even if it isn't technically correct.
So you knew enough to get the stuff you were talking about right.

As long as you stick to that, you won't run into any problems.

I don't quite understand... In fact, I feel like you're dodging my questions.

So was that what you wanted to ask about?


You and Sigma infiltrated the Mars mission test site, didn't you?


What happened there?
How did Sigma lose his eye and both his arms?
And why was Radical-6 in there in the first place? What could a deadly virus have to do with a simulated mission to space?


Because... It would change history.

VLR OST: [Demise]

That's the line that goes to the right of point E.
In that timeline, humanity isn't heading for annihilation, and Earth isn't red.
The future is much brighter.

You understand?

I don't. Why would all of that disappear if you told me what I want to know?

The past? Don't be silly. I can't do that...

Then where the hell did you learn all this stuff!?
I just listened to you tell me a bunch of things you shouldn't have known about!
You were sleeping in the pod in the garden. You just woke up!
So how can you know all this? You know my past! Sigma's past!


Listen in: [English]

You are not Kyle Klim.
Your body is Kyle's, but your consciousness is not.
Think about it. Do you really believe you are Kyle?
Or could you be someone else entirely?

Then...where is the real Kyle's consciousness?

He was thrown out when you entered.
Right now—in a manner of speaking—he has arrived at December 25th, 2028.
His consciousness has gone into a body from that time.


He raised him on his own.
Kyle is irreplaceable.
Do you really think he would go back to the past and leave Kyle behind here?

But that was not his only purpose.
Kyle's consciousness is integral to what we are trying to accomplish.
This new mission begins on Christmas, and ends on New Year's Eve, 2028.

For this to happen, Kyle is absolutely necessary.


So now that my consciousness has entered his body, the doctor has achieved his objective...
Kyle has gone back to 2028, to participate in his mission.


Kyle was created before reaching point B from point D.
That means his body did not exist on Christmas in 2028.

Have we just...switched places?

I...suppose you could put it that way, yes.

That's ridiculous!
Wh-What's going to happen to me?!
Are you telling me I have to spend the rest of my life here in this box, living in a borrowed body?!

No, not at all.

You are an...uncontrolled variable that entered our closed system.
As such, the rules of this world do not apply to you.

I-I have no idea what you—

Please don't try to play dumb. I know what you are. Surely you must know by now too.


Phi and Sigma, even with all of his future knowledge, will need your help.


Only you can right the horrible wrongs of our past.
Only you can save the world.

Th-There's no way I—

Yes there is! You have to!

Don't you want to know what happened in-between Christmas and New Year's Eve in 2028?!

Well, yes, I do, but...

Then you must believe.
Reality is shaped by what we believe reality should be.
If observation can change the motion of a particle...
Then how is it odd to think that human thought can shape reality?
Your will can change history!
The world will be reshaped into the one you imagine!

[Music fades out]

You guys, it really fucking sucked to finish this game in 2013.

I don't know why the final ending card reads "END or BEGINNING" again and not "Another Time END".

I have one, last, secret file to share;

The Mystery of Phi:

It really, incredibly, unbelievably sucked.

god damn, it was a ride though.

If you have a passing familiarity with some of Uchikoshi's other works, in particular
Ever17, you may have had an eyebrow raised for the last ten or so minutes of the game's final ending. This is largely believed to be a deliberately sought reaction. Besides all the other stated goals of Sigma and Akane's AB project, it does seem like they deliberately manipulated events to create a certain resonance of perspectives, and that they expected to ultimately involve our mystery guest in the proceedings. When asked directly, Uchikoshi was of course evasive, but remarked; "In 999, young Akane and 21 year old Junpei communicated. The developed version is to be able to move yourself[sic] entirely, so if your frequency matches, then it is even possible to jump into another person’s body."

This is as close as we'll ever get to an official confirmation that the viewpoint character of Another Time is who some people who have played
Ever17 think it is.

An alternate reading exists; the viewpoint character is Us, the Player. This is a tad trite, but fits neatly, and hey it sure does seem like the IRL human at the controls is being addressed by Akane at the end there, doesn't it?

It's sometimes said, perhaps not unreasonably, that ultimately
VLR is a retread of Uchikoshi's past work. He is, after all, now known by more than like four people to be That Guy Who Writes VNs With Perspective Twists. Suprise timeskips and player character identity fakeouts are kinda par for the course with him at this point, and time travel seems kinda pedestrian as a bold new direction for him. But I don't really agree with this line of thought, for one reason; in the context of its original development, VLR fits perfectly into a pattern of Uchikoshi experimenting with emerging trends in the visual novel genre. With Infinity, it was the genre itself, which was new at the time; could you leverage the very idea of the visual novel format on any kind of ludic level beyond just filling it with the text of a story? With 999, it was the notion that you could play one of these weird games on a console that could fit in your hands - and had two screens. And with VLR, the flavour of the year was the flowchart, rapidly becoming a standard feature in a new age of Vita and Steam-driven visual novel resurgance and mostly intended solely as a modern quality of life feature - but what if, what if...

Ultimately, I think the real unique achivement of
VLR is the various revelations that play out in an indeterminate order for each player. There are all sorts of big and little reveals throughout the branches, each one potentially colouring more and more interactions, providing more context, changing how you look at certain parts of the plot. Alice getting sick (or murdered) starts as a tragic development, and gradually turns into a farce; Again?! Maybe you start out thinking Dio might actually be alright. Maybe you start out suspecting quantum morphogenetic fuckery from the get-go. Like good little plot-twists, each of these little nuggets of knowledge and meta-knowledge shapes and refines the lens through which you view the next, and while the ultimate result may be the same, the journey is very different.

In 2016, a puzzle game called
The Witness launched to almost universal praise. In The Witness, you explore an island and solve a lot of nifty puzzles, which rely on an assortment of gimmicks you have to learn and possibly can encounter out of order. You'd poke around, find a puzzle you couldn't solve, poke around more, eventually learn the trick involved, come back and finally solve it. The Witness quickly began to be described, mostly ironically (but at least 20% seriously) as "the Dark Souls of puzzle games". The joke wore off pretty fast though, and eventually some people settled on a somewhat more fascinating notion; The Witness was a Metroidvania of knowledge, where instead of gradually accumulating double jumps and grappling hooks you learned how to read the puzzles. I liked this idea. It stuck with me. It didn't exactly turn the world of game crit on its head, but in this new era of very slightly increased self-awareness you could build a lot of "really makes u think" takes off of the idea of reconsidering how many ways there are to power up and explore a space.

So, in that vein, my
thesis; VLR is a Metroidvania of plot. Sometimes, this metaphor works on an almost literal level; VLR happily throws up barriers it calls locks, and requires plot information it calls keys to pass them. But even beyond that, it sets the player exploring this weird little possiblity space of a branching plotline about some people playing the Prisoner's Dilemma, and then gradually starts expanding your capabilities - not of platforming, but of, like, knowing what the fuck is going on.

Look, I know it's easy for analysis to disappear thoroughly up its own ass if left unchecked, but I honestly think that most people who play
VLR appreciate this idea on some level. I doubt anyone learned about the neostigmine injection gun and thought "wow this is exactly like getting the Wave Beam!" but for all the pretenses of VLR's introduction and the potential twists of the first route taken, the real lasting appeal develops at roughly the point where the player realizes that they're not so much playing a branching visual novel as exploring the flowchart, and that appeal is cemented as it starts becoming apparent that Sigma is experiencing much the same sensation. So much the better if you take the Cyan door first.

I also happen to think
VLR is in some ways lacking compared to 999. I think it is absent a certain emotional core that held 999 together. The progression of 999 as a videogame was clunky at times, but it very definitely built to an emotional climax - a terrified little girl screaming across time - and proceeded to absolutely stick the landing on that, in addition and yet also seemingly completely independently of the combination of various other twists and reveals working together to make that sequence as fondly remembered as it was. VLR, in comparison, seems... kinda dull, when you think about it on that level. The stakes have gone from intensely, intimately personal straight to literally apocalyptic; mankind is great and all, but also kinda boring, really. Some characters are or become emotionally involved - Clover with Alice, Tenmyouji with Quark, Luna with Sigma - but frequently we no sooner experience these sometimes fine moments than immediately unhappen them. The reveals are fascinating, the experience is intriguing, and they sure did foreshadow Sigma being old a lot, didn't they? - but from this one perspective, it's also empty. And then we go out on that sequel hook. I wonder if the sense of dissociation one can get from all these timelines is part of the reason we got the Another Time sequence, and in particular why Tenmyouji spent so long lecturing us about how all of that stuff still happened, and all of it is real, and somewhere, somewhen, somehow, for example, Sigma and Phi are still stuck in the facility with the bodies of everyone who died over Dio's bullshit, trying to figure out what the fuck is going on.

In conclusion... in conclusion...

In conclusion, I am in awe of Kotaru Uchikoshi's ability to invent a nine-player number-based death game with branching paths, then imagine a single moment from the end, and work backwards to figure out every possible move of every player, how they're all justified in context, what dice-rolls need to be contrived for the right people to get teamed up, and figuratively and literally make all of these numbers add up. God damn.

If you still have any questions about the plot, there's a good chance they're one of the 93 that were posed to Uchikoshi (and Ben Bateman, the localisation editor) in an interactive Q&A session following the game's English release. There's a lot of great, interesting and funny stuff in there, and some of it may have even not been completely forgotten about in the years it took them to make the sequel happen.

Thank you all for reading.