Do you ever have videogame dreams? Like when you've been playing a game so much that it burbles up from your subconscious while you sleep? For me, these are often interface dreams..
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Personally speaking, I think that if you've bought into the game's narrative to the extent you indicate, there's very little chance you'll be dissatisfied by the game's conclusion. (It may ultimately prompt you to go back and play 999 on the DS, in fact.)
I'm still in the middle of VLR, moving down that flowchart and encountering locks.
What you describe, Tom, happened to me in 999. It had all these dangling plot threads and mysteries, with different paths approaching different themes. I quickly became and engrossed and seeing all of that stuff progressively coming together, figuring what went where was pretty satisfying. Overall, the last few hours of the last path did a great job of answering everything and that felt rewarding. Yes, the last "novel part" of 999 probably lasts 2 hours.
I still hate 999 for throwing some stuff out of nowhere in the very last few minutes but looking back, it really delivers.
With that in mind, I'm expecting the same from VLR and my biggest fear right now is ending up disappointed.
The funny thing is that I didn't really mind the ME3 ending at all because this series was always more about the journey itself than wherever you arrived, and I'd argue all the payoffs of the ME series are during the game itself. On the other hand, I'd hate for a game like VLR to not resolve everything it sets because the point of a mystery is for it to be solved. The elegance of the Zero Escape series is that everything you do/read is a part of the solution to the arching mystery and builds towards that resolution.
Sorry for my ramblings but I've been totally engrossed by these games for a month now. :)
I have to agree with the other commenters here, Tom. One of the best things for me about VLR, especially after 999, was the faith I had in the writers/designers to bring everything together in the end, based on their success in the previous game. Unlike with Lost or BSG, where viewers could start to see the loose ends taking over the whole production as they went along, 999 proved that the makers of these games could really pull things together no matter how crazy. And as you've found, things do get exceedingly crazy in VLR.
I actually remember when I first played the vote switch portion which you mention in your post (though I think you may have the people wrong in so far as I think it is Phi who switches positions -- I'm not sure Dio ever allies with anyone), that I was supremely disappointed for a few minutes, because I thought they were playing tricks with the timelines. This was quickly assuaged when the player character wound up having a long conversation with himself about how that switch shouldn't be possible. Once I knew that the writers were willfully aware of what could have been cheap videogame narrative loopholes, I had my faith restored that they knew what they were doing.
In the end, my faith paid off and VLR brought everything together wonderfully (if even more crazily than 999). If I had any complaint it is a minor one, and that is that while they solve the immediate issues of the characters in game, they very clearly set-up the third (and final?) game of the Zero Escape series. It's not done in a haphazard way, though. And for that I was grateful.
Really glad you are enjoying the game so much, and I can't wait to hear more of your thoughts as you approach the end.
As an aside, I think the economics of television work against the coherence of the story. There's so much pressure to keep a financially successful show going that they continue well past their natural endpoint and producers feel compelled to insert loose ends that they can come back to later even if those loose ends aren't warranted. I wish execs would go in with a clear outline of where they want to go and how they want to get there, with a firm resolution to stop when they're done telling their story.
I also think audiences are to blame. Where viewers once wanted everything tied up in a neat little bow, the pendulum has swung so far to the postmodern end that they now think uncertainty and ambiguity equals quality. We need to be a little more critical. Are a show's creators leaving us in the dark to communicate a specific message or create a specific feeling? Or are they leaving us in the dark because they can't manage all the unnecessary plot points they've introduced (I'm looking at you "Lost").
Sometimes I think I'm the only person who's okay with the way Battlestar Galactica ended.
"In Virtue [sic] Last Reward, the characters periodically play a round of the prisoner’s dilemma."
Sounds like you should also play 999 as well as both Corpse Party games(cheap on PSN, Vita compatible).
Here's hoping Steins;Gate and others are eventually localized.
I don't get the Battlestar Galactica hate either. I loved the series. But if I had to pick a weak point, I'd pick somewhere in the middle, where it lagged at times.
Ok, I don't want to hijack QT3 with randomness, but in another life I wrote this (http://ricksflicks.blogspot.co... explaining my problems with the BSG ending (and note my misguided faith in Lost at the end). In short, I think they used "a wizard did it", inserting God as the wizard, far too much to make a satisfying finale. Still the show overall was still great.
That somehow got broken so here is the link - http://ricksflicks.blogspot.co...
I was obsessed with getting to the very end of all (non 'TBC') strands of Virtue's Last Reward. It's all I could think about. I'm surprised more games haven't openly based game play on the Prisoner's Dilemma. It seems like a natural fit for character heavy adventure games.
I played through 999 and was equally engrossed - but what they did here in VLR, with the flow chart, is a smart thing. 999 wasn't friendly to those who wished to get deeper into the story after reaching dead ends. Allowing easy continuation from those nodes along the chart was the magic ingredient VLR used to keeping me hooked.
Don't worry, Tom. I completed VLR two weeks ago and everything is explained plausibly once you reach the true ending... but with a big cliffhanger, because VLR is part 2 of an intended trilogy.