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Thread: Zero Escape Franchise

  1. #161
    They put em in Smash Bros! Conekiller's Avatar
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    Aug 2005

    Default Re: Zero Escape Franchise

    Oooh! Gotta check this one out! Thanks for the heads up.
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  2. #162

    Default Re: Zero Escape Franchise

    So AI: The Somnium Files is finally out and I've been playing it whenever I've had a chance these past few days and as someone who thought that Zero Time Dilemma was a rather sloppy ending to that trilogy I'm enjoying this fresh start quite a bit. The presentation jump going from that game to this one alone is insane - or at least the art direction is good enough to trick you into thinking it. AI makes things easier on itself by using the standard first-person/text box approach standard for most adventure games and visual novels and while there are some third-person segments they're generally pretty short, and of course Yusuke Kozaki's designs have always translated well to 3D and this game's no exception. There are definitely moments where you can catch a glimpse of the duct tape and wire that's holding everything together (it does pull ZTD's trick of having the camera cut away from actions they don't want to animate every now and then, though not often so far) but the more detailed, expressive character models and art direction manage to overcome that.

    Most of the gameplay is standard adventure game stuff but the Somnium sections where you investigate dreamscapes is the closest thing the game has to Zero Escape's puzzles. They're more based on cause-and-effect trial-and-error than the kind of puzzle-solving that trilogy had which can be a positive or negative depending on what you thought of those. I've only encountered three so far outside of the tutorial one at the game's start and the second one of those was actually kinda tense for me because you're on a strict time limit and have to manage it accordingly (as moving and taking certain actions eats up more time than others). You have to replay each one at least twice too since the Somnium sessions are where the story branching takes place. The most involved bit of gameplay I've encountered outside of those so far was a QTE sequence that was uh, something else...

    Story-wise a lot of it's familiar territory for Zero Escape players: there's a flowchart, snarky banter between the lead and his female companion and/or not-daughter, lots of bad puns, and sex jokes. YMMV on that last one as the main character Date is kinda like if young Sigma was more vocal about being horny and there are times where I want to shout at the game, "Can you people stop taking about breasts and penises for just one second?!" But on the whole I'd say this game is closest to 999 in terms of the overall package, and that's a good thing with the stakes being more grounded (instead of trying to save the world you're trying to capture a serial killer) and there being a more solid emotion heft and backbone to the proceedings. I've explored maybe a little less than a third of the flowchart and have yet to reach an ending or for shit to well and truly hit the fan but I can see it looming on the horizon and I'm really intrigued to see where this mystery's going and how all the puzzle pieces are going to fit together. And of course I'm gonna give a shout-out to the dub - not only has it been pretty strong so far but the delivery for all the silly jokes and puns is spot-on and often hysterical.

    So yeah, I'm having a blast with AI so far and I'd heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoyed the Zero Escape series even if (maybe even especially if?) they felt burned by Zero Time Dilemma.
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  3. #163

    Default Re: Zero Escape Franchise

    All right, exams season now but I'll pick it up solely because of your post.
    I hope it doesn't let me down like ZTD which is the trashiest piece of shit I've ever read.
    Okay maybe not the worst but close enough.

  4. #164

    Default Re: Zero Escape Franchise

    I've completed two endings now, Mizuki's and Ota's, and while neither of them do much more than scratch the surface of the game's Big Picture (though the latter one does indicate that things will start to get much crazier from here on out) I will say that both of them got me genuinely teary-eyed. The only time I really got to the point of waterworks with Zero Escape was during Luna's ending in Virtue's Last Reward so already I can say that AI is doing something right to go two-for-two. AI's central theme seems to be the many different forms that love can take, with parental love being the specific focus of these two routes (spoilerific impressions to follow):

    The main theme of Mizuki's route is that family doesn't have to be who you're born to but who you choose. It's a common enough theme, but it's one that's effectively told as she and Date go from snarking and sniping at one another to gradually opening up to each other (and thus the player) during the course of the investigation through flashbacks and heart-to-hearts. Struggling to try to be a father figure was a great way to humanize Date as I'd much rather see that side of him than the lecherous womanizer you're stuck with whenever the story's not demanding 100% of his attention. By the end of it the unspoken message of the route is that Date is a far better parent for Mizuki than her actual parents, and this comes to a head during the final Somnium session of the route where you control Mizuki instead of Aiba in a recreation of Date's apartment, relying on your knowledge of their interactions and environmental flavor text to recreate scenes from their domestic life, some funny, some heartwarming, and others sad before finally having her choose Date over her asshole parents (putting aside the fact that they're dead in reality...).
    It's a simple but effective way to get the player more emotionally involved in these two characters and tug on the heartstrings and at the end I didn't really care that almost none of the Big Picture was answered; the emotional component of the finale alone was so satisfying that that could've been the actual end of the game and I wouldn't've minded. I'm sure there's going to be an ending or route in the future that'll involve Mizuki getting killed or mutilated or something equally horrible will happen and it's gonna hurt. This routeseemsto be the one that the game guides you towards first, and it's certainly a memorable way to end a first playthrough.

    So out of all the characters that I've been able to spend a decent amount of time with, Ota is my least favorite. He's an obstinate, obnoxious fuckup but then his backstory and emotional conflict ended up being very grounded and relatable, shockingly so. Concern about aging parents and being afraid that you're not doing enough for them or that you're wasting your life are the kind of thoughts that occasionally drift into the back of my mind now that I'm older and making ends meet but not necessarily thriving in the professional world while my own parents are starting to get up there with neither of them facing the prospect of the nice, cushy retirement that they deserve. Mayumi's Somnium at the end is very similar to the one at the end of Mizuki's route now that I think about it; you're recreating memories both happy, bittersweet, and tragic to assure a parental figure that they are indeed loved.

    There are some quibbles I have with the game's sense of humor (two porno mag shootouts is two too many) and there's still like, 60% of the flowchart to go through so for all I know these two routes could be the high point of the game's writing once the train of WTF reveals really pulls in to the station, but at this point the game's going to have to crash and burn in truly spectacular fashion for me to turn on it.
    Last edited by Crossword; October 19th, 2019 at 10:38 AM. Reason: I don't know what the hell is breaking the formatting...
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  5. #165
    Arf. (ᵔᴥᵔ) FelRes's Avatar
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    Default Re: Zero Escape Franchise

    I plan on getting AI whenever it goes on sale for a decent price on steam, but ZTD gets way too much unwarranted hate. It just went in a different direction from what everyone expected. It's still very well thought out and has some great twists and concepts.
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  6. #166

    Default Re: Zero Escape Franchise

    Finished the game. Took me roughly 37.5 hours but that was with me talking to and examining every last person and object whenever I could and replaying the Somniums multiple times so that I could unlock all of the concept art so that's probably a high-end outlier. Thirty/thirty-five hours seems to be closer to average, and that's about what Virtue's Last Reward was IIRC. I'll drop some quick thoughts on Iris's route, the last of the three default ones, before moving on to some thoughts on the game's main story:

    I did not light Iris's route nearly as much as I did Mizuki's and Ota's; in fact I'd go so far to say that it was the low point of the game. Part of it's due to Iris being a much more saccharine character than either Mizuki or Ota (after the one time he looks in the mirror at least), even before the reveal that she's genuinely ill in the head, and the overall tone of it is much more melodramatic than anything else in the game with Date drinking the kool-aid and deluding himself into thinking he's some kind of superhero figure. And it has the longest "porno mag shootout" sequence in the game that just had me rolling my eyes out of my skull. That said, I really enjoyed the two Somniums on that route with them leaning in to the absurdity by being Minecraft parodies complete with voxel Aiba and catchy chiptune music. Plus with the game finally introducing #89 in the flesh (given my route order at least) and the reveal of the second Psync machine at the end it gives the player almost all the tools they need to start piecing the game's big picture together.

    The final two routes of the game bring back the route-locking mechanic from Zero Escape and the jumps between the two were pretty riveting as the dominoes fell one after the other after the other. The big twist of the game and the scifi lynchpin that everything revolves around is pretty "WTF" on the surface, but it's thoroughly justified and foreshadowed by the narrative and so many pieces of the puzzle neatly fall into place. There's no "snails" or "complex motives" here, and the run up to the final, true ending was nothing short of satisfying for me.

    I'll say that I was a little let down by the true villain though. While the road to unmasking Saito and all the backstory surrounding that was wild, once he's staring you in the face he's pretty much just your garden-variety crazy-eyed, sneering psychopath whose motives boil down to little more than killing people simply because he gets off to it. Plus in all three routes where he's confronted he has a tendency to get punked fairly easily, even in the Annihilation route where his plan's gone off as intended, he's got his old body back, killed off almost the entire main cast, and has otherwise won. On that note, Pewter felt under-cooked as a character given that he essentially ends up the tertiary antagonist on Iris's and the Resolution routes. It was nice to see a gay character in a piece of Japanese media not being treated like a walking stereotype, though.

    The true ending itself wraps everything up well and is mostly earned, but during the epilogue it got a bit hand-wavey in the "and everything worked out better than expected!" sort of way so that almost everyone would get an unambiguously happy ending. While I think the game has its heart in the right place insofar as not being a downer all the time it undercut itself a little bit there. Though the final credit sequence basically being a Bollywood dance number is so ridiculous it loops back around to amazing.

    I think ultimately Mizuki's route and ending remains my favorite, since it tells a more personal and, by the end, intimate story and her route (and Ota's of course) are where the game's themes of love and parenthood are at their strongest and as I said above Date's dad side was his best side. For bonus points, since Saito dies there the game's larger context doesn't cast that much of a pall over it like it does for say, Ota's ending. Sure there's the elephant in the room that that's not actually Iris in her body but since she's scheduled to drop dead from brain cancer at any moment a little patience would tie off that loose end, as callous as it is to say. And just getting to the right side of the flowchart required you to basically make Mizuki relive a memory of being beaten by her mother and it made me feel like garbage. Least she made it out of the Annihilation ending in one piece.

    So, ultimately, I enjoyed AI a lot. It's a mystery that, in spite of a sometimes juvenile sense of humor, handles some pretty heavy subject matter pretty well and everything mostly comes perfectly together at the end and that's what you want for this kind of story. After three games of people being trapped inside of facilities the more standard and grounded setting allowed the story and characters to breathe more along with the themes that Uchikoshi wanted to tackle. Apparently in the little artbook that came with the collector's edition he talks a bit about how the "AI" in the title can mean "love" and how the game was a labor of love for the whole development team and I think that reflects well in the final product. The game has its warts, but it also has its heart in the right place and while I don't necessarily need more at the moment, I don't think I'd mind another story set in the same world or even with some of the same characters. As long as the stakes don't get bloated up to apocalyptic world-saving levels that is, haha.
    Last edited by Crossword; October 19th, 2019 at 04:08 PM.
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  7. #167

    Default Re: Zero Escape Franchise

    Finished it an hour ago.
    Uchikoshi is best writing human related stories set in the backdrop of science fiction.
    That's why Ever17 is still one of his strongest work up till today.
    On the other hand, he's flawed in micromanaging story lines and can often get too over his own head as shown by the wreck that was Zero Time.
    He's very good at writing character stories but terrible at tying them up in his giant science fiction narrative.
    Anyway, I enjoyed it precisely it was a detective story that has the human heart in it(not to an overly strong extent compared to other works in this medium, no.) set in the backdrop of a futuristic A.I world.
    That means in this case his pseudo science magic takes a serious backseat to a more traditional whodunnit Agatha style mystery.
    And it worked. It wasn't overwhelming but it was a fair success and a challenge to solve.
    I don't know whether Uchikoshi decided to humble down after ZTD and go smaller scale...or this has always been his pet project but whatever it may be, this was a great read.

    I'm going to be honest and come out and say it: he hasn't grown significantly as a writer over the years. He's good at what he does but he has been recycling the same old tricks for a while now.
    Not that it is bad persay, but there's nothing new here.

    Spoiler review:

    Ota and Mizuki routes were well written because the focus was on the human aspect and once again, that's where his works always seem to succeed in. However, let's not discount that the stories were nothing especially groundbreaking as compared to his emotional stories in previous works.
    It almost came off as if he wrote it in strictly adhering the fact that because "every brilliant story needs a heart" and while emotional moments does leave a mark... science fiction stories shouldn't need that overshadow, well, science fiction.

    I can forgive the pseudo science here because the science never broke its own rules and logic(something that ZTD did multiple times). AI was the deus eye machina for ...literally everything but it's not like Uchikoshi couldn't write Date out of a situation in more believable ways but he opt to use AI as the device.
    I can see why people hate that but if you really think about it, he probably did it for the cool factor(and the porno mag comedy) and its not that much of a deus ex machina because for every situation, he could have easily written a way for Date to get out/survive the situation.

    The Porno mag thing thing was pretty bullshit but hey its fun and not meant to be taken seriously.

    The better written characters are probably the mc himself, Aiba, and Mizuki...and.. that's about it.
    I felt like Iris could be way better handled. There's a lack of depth in his characters this time...you would think not being in a death game or trapped under the sea for once would allow him to better flesh out his characters.
    For instance, Boss is... Boss, the mature and understanding career woman you often see in this medium.
    ...and that's about it.
    There were many opportunities to flesh things out. So Sejima, the asshole politician that he is, how was he really feeling about everything? What about Wakana and Reiju?
    While it could be largely due to the length(way shorter than e17), I can't help but feel that Uchikoshi is never fair in developing his cast in his recent works.
    In his mind, his characters are largely just devices to drive his narrative but hardly ever stand out on their own say for a selected few.
    It's not entirely time constraint either.
    A quick flashback scene or monologue can open up wonders in terms of characterization but we never get that for even characters like Iris.

    Compare for instance, Kirei in Fate Stay Night, a born psychopath to the culprit in this case. In FSN, readers were able to relate to a certain extent to Kotomine Kirei but in AI, he was just this parasite that's 1980s cinema kind of evil.

    Once again, another work that has highs that could have been hit but failed to do so.

    I mentioned that Uchikoshi has become kind of stagnant but here we go:
    MC not being MC has been done to dead in his works.
    Parallel Dimension was never explained. In ZTD, at least there was a logic(flimsy as hell it might be) but here it was like,"yeah it exists because pseudo science and im too lazy to explain shouldn't you be used to this by now?"
    Which is kind of bullshit if you ask me.
    Literally every sci-fi vn from japan brought over to the west has this parallel world/timelines but at least they make the effort to justify doing it.
    The case itself did not need parallel dimension jumping to be solved or to be a well written mystery on its own.
    But the parallel dimension thing was done for a happy end? I'm not exactly sure at this point.
    Yes certain information needed to be passed on to Date for the true route to happen the way it was but was it that essential ?
    Was there a serious need to include it? Can't there be workarounds to it when the work doesn't even bother explaining why and how it works?
    His prose his gotten worst over the years too but this could be a translation thing.
    The lowest has got to be ZTD with his batshit magic science so when he goes the slightly opposite direction here, I appreciate it.
    But that's also when I realize, he's not here nor there.
    He's not a master in writing mystery nor is he a master in science fiction and landing a good finish.
    What he is good at though is being well, good at both and great at suspense.
    However, once you read his works once or twice, you kind of get the dude and you can't help but feel that he's pulling this pseudo science again?

    All in all, it's a 7/10.
    If I went in without having read his previous works or an understanding of the medium(VNs), it could be a 8-9.
    I feel like the guy can write but his putting his energy and resources towards other stuff, in this case... I enjoyed the 3d but there's some aspects that only 2d can capture.
    For instance, I did not need to see a cute anime girl getting stabbed multiple times every single time the story feel like I forget it was mentioned less than an hour ago.

    But this is way better than ZTD's 3d. So much better.
    Great utilization of 3d but my take is that, don't remove 2d completely.

    End of the date, Kaname Date is an endearing and charming detective. A ton better than the stock protagonist...and the best route?
    Atami route.

    Quote Originally Posted by Crossword View Post
    allowed the story and characters to breathe more along with the themes that Uchikoshi wanted to tackle. Apparently in the little artbook that came with the collector's edition he talks a bit about how the "AI" in the title can mean "love" and how the game was a labor of love for the whole development team and I think that reflects well in the final product. The game has its warts, but it also has its heart in the right place and while I don't necessarily need more at the moment, I don't think I'd mind another story set in the same world or even with some of the same characters. As long as the stakes don't get bloated up to apocalyptic world-saving levels that is, haha.
    While I respect the amount of effort put in and props to the work they did, I can't help but feel that whatever Uchikoshi wanted to tackle wasn't fully explored and was lackluster.
    In the end...what exactly did you walk away with?
    If you're going to mention the heartwarming writing in Mizuki and Ota's route, I'll say that a lot of other mediums in Japan does it better.
    Now, I understand not everyone is a weeb like me who enjoys japanese dramas and literature but hardly anything Uchikoshi does is groundbreaking in the emotional department.
    At least, in times of writing.
    If you are talking about how the game is designed and the camera is set up to pull your heartstrings, then yes that's props on them.
    Might I recommend you to pick up other visual novels?
    Ever17 could be a good start.

    Quote Originally Posted by FelRes View Post
    I plan on getting AI whenever it goes on sale for a decent price on steam, but ZTD gets way too much unwarranted hate. It just went in a different direction from what everyone expected. It's still very well thought out and has some great twists and concepts.
    I'm sorry but it still stand as the worst thing I've ever read in this medium.

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