Zero Time Dilemma
, the second sequel to 999
, releases tomorrow. I've taken only the most cursory of glances at the promo material, but here's a guess about the plot: [Spoiler (click to open)]There are a couple players that look physically like they could be Ace's son, and given that he ran a pharmaceutical company, and Zero is dressed like a plague doctor, he'd be a good suspect for letting the Radical-6 Happening virus out.
But I don't really care about that. The direction with which the creators chose to go with 999
's unnecessary sequel, Virtue's Last Reward
, left me very cold: a story that threw in fully with a Saw
aesthetic & worldview, that reveled in sadism and a nasty reality-TV glee in seeing how its unlikeable, bloodthirsty cast could be induced to betray and murder each other, even when it was stupidly counter to their own self-interest. Add to that Virtue
's brain-dead plot twists - every one gives "my bionic arm is powered by my dead wife's brain" a run for its money - plus its completely misplaced pretentions to moral significance and its deification of a character from the original game who, in this dark future, has become a homicidal ghoul, and the enterprise represented an insult to its precedessor's smaller, more heartfelt story. 999
included just enough horror to maintain an air of tension; it instead rode on a sense of mystery and the player's investment in its characters, a bunch of strangers forced to work together to figure out the riddle of their own abduction. When one member of the group, out of freaked-out desperation, suggests treachery, the act is treated with appropriate weight, as huge and horrible - group survival, not eating each other alive, was the objective. The game treated its characters as people to get to know, not fleshbags to dismember.
But Virtue's Last Reward
had a golden-child publisher and a voluminous script, and it's easy in the video game world to mistake lots
of writing for good
writing, so the title was heaped with praise upon release and even got on some year's-end best-of lists. The latest and supposedly final sequel, Zero Time Dilemma
, follows fully in Virtue
's footsteps, this time largely abandoning VLR's "death games" premise in favor of baldly instructing the characters to murder one other in order to escape their prison. It's almost comical, in fact, how the game dispenses with any more elaborate mechanism for encouraging the characters to kill each other in its hunger for carnage: "just have 'em take a gun and fuckin' shoot each other; I dunno."
It'd all be much easier to ignore if there weren't incarnations of characters about whom I care wrapped up in this garbage. I've been reading 999 Alterna
, the novelization of the...er...visual novel, and it's hit me that Clover & Snake's doting brother-sister relationship is perhaps the element of the story in which I'm most deeply invested. Clover was indeed a participant in the Virtue's Last Reward
fiasco, but her appearance there was so far removed from the Clover of 999
- the refreshingly genuine & kiddish but sharp, steely, & loving teenager of the original title vs. the two-dimensional ditzy secret agent who dressed like Pebbles Flintstone into whom Virtue
claimed she developed over the course of a single year - that it was easy to separate the two mentally. The absence in Virtue
of her defining relationship with her brother greatly helped in that regard. Now, it's been promised (or, rather, threatened) that we'll learn what supposedly happened to Snake in the dystopian future of the sequels - and pulling him in would make the sequels seem more "real" for the characters, so to speak.
Due to their strong relationship, Clover & Snake are frequently taken as a unit, and since Snake is absent from Virtue
, nearly everything you see of Clover (and, of course, Snake) is grounded in 999
. Now that both will have appeared in the sequels (and considering what they did to Clover, I'm really not looking forward to the hack job in store for her brother), their depictions there will probably take over their popular images. It's the Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
problem: everything that will henceforth be produced featuring these characters is going to be touched by their representation in a far inferior product.
It'd be another thing if the sequels were popularly panned and dismissed, but everyone else has gone all-in on their direction being incontrovertibly brilliant - which means, in a way, that both Clover and Snake are going to be replaced soon by these weird copies that don't act like the originals. I'll perhaps be called nuts for saying this, but it makes me feel weirdly sad and, to exacerbate matters, kinda alone in my sadness - like I'll be losing a couple old friends in a couple days. Yeah, I know it's melodramatic, but...well, you do get attached to some of the folks you meet in these games, what can I say.
At least Seven and Lotus are safe. The director doesn't care about them.