Visual Novel / Zero Time Dilemma

http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ztd_small.jpg
The characters in ZTD note 

"Life is simply unfair, don't you think? There are moments when a single snail can make a world go extinct."
Zero

Zero Time Dilemma is a Visual Novel for the Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, and PC, the sequel to Virtue's Last Reward and the third and final chapter of the Zero Escape series. After a viral marketing campaign involving a website made by English localization company Aksys Games, it was officially announced at Anime Expo 2015 for a Summer 2016 release, with the release date confirmed at GDC 2016 to be June 28, 2016 in North America and Europe, and June 30, 2016 in Japan.

On New Year's Eve 2028, nine people awaken trapped inside a strange facility and are forced to take part in something called the "Decision Game". The only path to escape is locked by six passwords, and each password will only be revealed when one of the nine dies. What's more, the nine prisoners are equipped with watches that will erase their memories every ninety minutes.

Split into teams of three, the nine characters must work together and against each other if they hope to see freedom. But this is no mere death game: human civilization is destined to fall at the hands of an oncoming disaster, and an elaborate Time Travel gambit has been set in motion to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. The "Decision" made within the facility will not only determine the future of the nine captives, but six billion inhabitants of Earth.

Like any other game in this series, this game is filled to the brim with spoilers, especially since its plot continues from where the end of Virtue's Last Reward left off. As such, the probability that you will be spoiled by reading on any further is high. Consider yourself warned.


SEEK A WAY OUT!

  • 100% Adoration Rating: Nobody, nobody is cruel to Gab. Ever. Sean returns to the shelter after escaping because he can't stand leaving Gab (or Delta) behind. When Sigma and Diana are trapped and on the verge of starving to death, Diana's first worry is "What about Gab?" And then we figure out Sigma already factored him into the equation. It makes Delta murdering him all the more monstrous.
  • 100% Completion: Obtaining all the achievements basically boils down to finishing all the "Escape the Room" segments, and unlocking ALL the endings (including the Game Over sequences) by replaying the decision points until you've exhausted every possible outcome. This also includes getting the "Perceptive End." Of course, the only hints you get are error messages, which look like they could be mistranslations or oversights.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • Some bits of info are explained in the game's files about certain terms brought up by the characters, often revealing more than what the characters know. For example, a major explanation about Dcom is how it is not owned by a large corporation but a small company researching space development largely associated with Free The Soul, which doesn't mean Zero II hijacked the experiment.
    • Junpei's jacket seen in his artwork is nowhere to be seen in the game.
  • Altum Videtur: A total of 5 Latin phrases are uttered by Zero, either during bad ends or just before the executions. The game is also generous enough to translate them all in-game.
    • "Destine fata deum flecti sperare precando": Fate, and the dooming gods, are deaf to tears.
    • "Mors certa, hora incerta": Death is certain; its hour is uncertain.
    • "Plaudite, acta est fabula": Applaud, the play is over. The game notes that this was mentioned a few times in Virtue's Last Reward.
    • "Stabat mater dolorosa": The sorrowful mother stood.
    • "Audentem Forsque Venusque iuvat": Both love and luck help the bold.
    • Phi's brooch returns during one segment, including the inscription on it.
    • One final phrase is mentioned: "Vive hodie", or Live for today. It's the password to open the Force Quit box offered by the Moon ending."
  • Ambiguous Ending: At the very end of the Golden Ending, Delta gives Carlos a gun and the choice to either kill him or let him walk away. Carlos aims at him... and then the game ends. Did he shoot Delta or not? You are the judge.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Q is this game's token amnesiac, and is one of the playable characters. He's really a subversion, as Sean is a robot tied to a supercomputer with no memories prior to the start of the Decision Game.
  • Anachronic Order: Because the participants' bracelets are designed to wipe their memories every 90 minutes, the story is told in "fragments" consisting of these 90-minute intervals. These fragments are not always in chronological order, and their place on the overall timeline is only revealed at the end of each fragment. And then the timeline itself changes towards the end of the game, to more precisely reflect the actual chronology.
  • Anti-Climax: Virtue's Last Reward portrayed the Radical-6 outbreak as inevitable, regardless of whatever reality it took place in, so Akane and Sigma's AB Game was necessary training to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. In this game we find out that Radical-6 is only released because Zero II tried to kill an omnicidal religious fanatic with it who will cause a death toll of 8 billion (more than the Radical-6 epidemic). At the end of the game this is no longer necessary due to Zero II's Decision Game, so Radical-6's threat is removed as a plot element.
    • Arguably, the other virus was more than likely a red herring, too, given that Fanatic Bio R is an anagram of fabrication. Zero just lied to get Q team to play his Decision Game.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The player can jump to any part of a memory fragment they've already seen including choices, thereby making Save Scumming much easier. Also, as in 999 and VLR, you can fast-forward through dialogue you've already seen.
  • Anyone Can Die:
    • The demo shown during GDC showcased the new moral dilemma mechanics, which forces the player to make decisions that risk the lives of the participants. According to the developers, the outcome of some of these scenarios are randomized, meaning any of the characters could die regardless of their status in Virtue's Last Reward. Case in point, Sigma has a 50% chance of dying in the Russian Roulette decision. Indeed, this is enforced, since Someone Has to Die in order to get one of the necessary passwords. The developers turned out not to be lying this instance as literally every cast member shown can die, even Zero and Gab.
  • Apocalypse How: As seen in the ending of Virtue's Last Reward, the events of this game will lead to the Radical-6 outbreak, resulting in a Class 2 apocalypse unless Sigma and company finds a way to stop it. The truth of the situation is a bit more complex. Delta planned to release Radical-6 in order to stop an unknown religious fanatic from instigating a Class 3 apocalypse, rationalizing the death of 6 billion people with the survival of 2 billion.
  • Arc Number:
    • 6. The Deadly Game began on the 6th day of the experiment, 6 passwords are required to open the exit door (meaning that six people have to die) and, should the outbreak of Radical-6 occur, 6 billion people will die. The X Door's hexadecimal value has a digital root of 6, which is the number of passwords needed to open it.
      • This is also the total number of people eventually killed in Zero's story about the snail. Eric's mother, both of Akane's parents, a taxi driver, a top surgeon, and Sean.
    • Most of the game implies the Arc Number is 9, but near the end of the game you find out the Arc Number this time around is 10. The most obvious use is that there is no Nonary Game this time around. Instead, it's the Decision Game... deci being the prefix meaning 10.
  • Arc Words: "Life is simply unfair." This turns out to be one of the motivations of Zero for setting up the Decision Game in the first place.
  • Art Shifted Sequel: The promotional artstyle goes for a more "realistic" look this time compared to the more stylized look from prior games, while the game itself uses only 3D models with no character portraits.
  • The Artifact: Each puzzle room opens with the iconic "SEEK A WAY OUT!", despite the objective of some of them not being to escape the room.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • Many of the ludicrously violent injuries featured in the game are biologically questionable. For instance, at once point, Akane can die of a Slashed Throat... which causes her to spout a truly impressive geyser from her neck, after which she stays alive long enough to get out some Last Words. Such a display is actually theoretically possible... but only if a carotid artery was severed, which would have killed her far too quickly for her to say anything afterwards.
    • Similarly, at one point Carlos can die from a slashed jugular, producing an identical display... but the jugular is a vein, not an artery, and thus should not produce High-Pressure Blood spurts.
    • In the D-End 2 timeline, Sigma says they have just barely enough food to survive 10 months... followed by Diana becoming pregnant with twins, and managing to deliver them to term without any complications. If they were running out of food to start with, there's no way there was enough for Diana to support two fetuses, at least not without dying in childbirth. The game tries to justify this by saying Sigma gave up his rations to support her, but that just means he should have starved to death long before the birth.
    • In one timeline, Sigma reveals that he was completely alone on Rhizome 9 for twenty-five years before Luna was built. In Real Life, that level of isolation drives people so insane they'll start to hallucinate just after a few months, or even less... yet he's completely fine and well-adjusted. He does say that Akane visited him from time to time, but he makes it sound like her visits were infrequent, so he still should have felt the effects of isolation.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry:
    • Hydrofluoric acid does not corrode human flesh instantly and inhaling just a little bit of its vapors is still too dangerous.
  • Artistic License – Physics: At one point, a character can potentially die by fire. This reduces them to ash, but Phi's brooch is still in perfect condition. If the heat was enough to destroy her glasses, it definitely should have at least warped the brooch. Thank goodness for the bizarre effects of the Bootstrap Paradox.
  • Ax-Crazy: Eric due to the stress of the Decision Game, Mira just in general and Akane when she believes that Carlos killed Junpei.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Big time. With the Golden Ending, Zero ends up getting everything he wants, having successfully manipulated the protagonists into ensuring his existence and setting them on the path to eliminating a dangerous fanatic, even though he also engineered an alternate history wherein he took care of the fanatic by killing 6 billion people with a viral outbreak. Any punishment he may get is left up to the player in a Gainax Ending, where he offers a gun to Carlos, allowing him to decide if Zero deserves to die for what he's done.
  • Badass Family: D-Team forms one, consisting of Diana and Sigma, who can marry in certain timelines, and their Kid from the Future Phi. In addition, Diana and Sigma's son Delta is the Big Bad Zero.
  • Balancing Death's Books: Every time someone uses SHIFT to escape death, another version of himself/herself dies in his place.
  • Behind the Black: Inverted. The real "Q," a.k.a. Brother/Delta/Zero the Second, has been with Q-Team the entire time, but his presence is concealed by camera angles and ambiguous dialog. To the player, it seems like he suddenly appeared out of nowhere, but as far as the characters are concerned, he's been there all along.
  • Beneath Notice: How Zero avoids detection by both the characters and the player.
  • Big Bad: The role is taken by Zero once again. And this time, it doesn't look like he's one of the players. His true identity is Delta, Diana and Sigma's time-displaced son, who wishes to close the Stable Time Loop resulting in his birth and train the group to prevent a nuclear war without resorting to Radical-6. He was actually the "leader" of Q team and the only character known as "Q" (the boy with the helmet was actually known as "Sean" and was not once called "Q" throughout the game), but was intentionally hidden from view until the dramatic reveal.
  • Big Red Button: There's a big blue button at the end of the Healing Room. It blows up the entire facility.
  • Blessed with Suck: It's revealed that being a SHIFTer would actually be awful. Sure, you can travel across timelines to escape death, but every time you do that, you're actually swapping consciousnesses with your alternate timeline counterpart. From their perspective, they were just chilling when all of a sudden they've been transported in a deadly situation for seemingly no reason. It's only a matter of time before one of your alternate selves swaps with you. Knowing this, it's impossible for a SHIFTer to ever feel safe.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: There are many instances where characters get covered in blood, lose body parts, get shot, blown up, melted by acid, choked, or squirt geysers of blood.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Q never bleeds. Initially, this appears justified by the reveal that he's a robot... but later, we learn he has a white blood-like substance like the robots in VLR that he should have been splattering instead. This may be related to Infant Immortality.
  • Book Ends: Carlos plays the very first Decision Game with Zero directly presiding it, as well as the very last where Delta gives him the chance to kill him, both times representing all nine players.
  • Bootstrap Paradox: Several times.
    • Radical-6: Who carried Radical-6 out of the facility the first time, before Sigma and Phi were sent back to infiltrate it?
    • Delta: How was Delta born in the facility the first time, when he wasn't born to set the facility up? - and, even worse, when his father was only there because he traveled back to prevent the release of Radical-6 which Delta caused?
    • Phi: She has the brooch because Diana took it from her and sent it back. When was it manufactured? If it was manufactured in 1904, then where did the idea for both the brooch and the inscription on it come from?
  • But Thou Must!: When deciding who killed Junpei, the game won't allow you to enter "Zero" on the grounds that you don't know who he is, even though he is still the most obvious suspect and postponing things to figure out who he is seems a much better choice than Akane and Carlos killing each other.
  • Call-Forward:
    • As in Virtue's Last Reward, during one segment where you play an AB game, Junpei Tenmyouji once again (yet for the first time) inexplicably changes his vote depending on what you choose. Choosing "Ally" results in Junpei betraying you and quoting a Japanese proverb about assuming every stranger you meet is a thief. Choosing "Betray" will cause Junpei to vote ally, with Carlos frantically justifying himself by pointing out that Junpei picked "Betray" last time, and then wondering why there even is a "last time", just like Sigma did in Virtue's Last Reward.
    • One of Junpei's X-Passes is "Quark". Quark is a character from Virtue's Last Reward who's born a good few decades after the events of this game.
    • Although it isn't in VLR's timeline, during the D-2 ending, Diana and Sigma discuss Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird over Diana's music box, which heavily echoes a similar conversation between Luna and Sigma over the same music box in VLR. Notably, it's Sigma (the 67 year old conscious) being the one that talks about the original ending to the novel (where the blue bird flies away), whom puts it in a more pessimistic light in contrast to Luna's more optimistic interpretation.
  • Canine Companion: Gab, a dog who is able to go between the three teams through the air ducts.
  • Cassandra Truth: Sigma tried to warn everyone what was going to happen, but no-one believed him until it was too late.
  • Cat Girl: A puzzle in the game has a doll of Akane as a cat girl. This is also how she is represented in the status screen.
  • Chainsaw Good: Akane grabs a chainsaw after she believes Carlos killed Junpei in one fragment. Carlos can either accuse her instead, leading to a brutal fight that results in her death, or he can begin to believe the possibility that he is in fact the killer, and commit suicide.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Phi announces her deepest, darkest secret... she's actually a redhead and dyes her hair white because she hates her natural hair! Sigma jokes about how she's offending Diana, who's also a redhead. It's later revealed Diana shares her hair colour because she is Phi's mother.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The stun gun in Manufacturing, in both endings along its route. Diana uses it to start up the robots while solving the puzzle, then gives it a meaningful look as they move a bomb later. If Diana decides not to run away, she stuns Sigma and Phi in the prep room, leading to their deaths when the bomb goes off. If Diana runs away, Phi ends up infected with Radical-6. Rather than leave them behind, Diana uses the stun gun on a Phi begging for death and heads to the surface, condemning 6 billion people to death in the process.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Oddly played with. The previous game was all about training Sigma and Phi to be able to jump timelines using their psychic abilities. However Team D never really uses this ability aside from remembering all the events of other timelines near the end. In actuality, it's Team C that actively jumps between timelines using their powers.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Sadly, no. An ordinary wooden bar counter is not going to stand up to concentrated fire from four miniguns, as C-Team can find out the hard way. Played straight later in the game, when Junpei and Carlos successfully shield Akane from said minigun fire with their own bodies.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Like before, Junpei is Participant 5 and Akane is Participant 6. Better yet, their X-Codes from dying can explicitly reference this. And best yet, these codes change entirely dependent on the vote results of that timeline. This results in quite a few surprisingly laser-targeted references.
    • In terms of their X-Codes, Junpei's can be FIVE, RING, JUMP, DOLL, and QUARK. FIVE and JUMP refer to 999 (his position and nickname, respectively), while QUARK refers to his adoptive grandson in VLR. DOLL refers to JUMPYDOLL, which was a reference again from VLR. Akane's are CRASH, KEY, HEX, JUNE, and SIX. Literally all of them are 999 references; CRASH KEYS is a pun on KURASHIKI, and is the group Akane formed to cause the events of 999. JUNE and SIX refer to her place in the game. HEX is also the same, since it's 6. Bonus points go out for quite a few of Sigma and Phi's which are like this, too: Sigma's got ARM, OLD, DAD, FATE, and MILK. Phi has two that are relevant, FUTURE and TIME. Sigma's ARMs were blown off in the VLR timeline, and since this is the Sigma who came back when Sigma in VLR was drawn forward, this Sigma is OLD. He's the DAD of Kyle (also the DAD of Phi and Delta), and it's FATE he came here. MILK is a double reference to his cat loving and the fact that his last name is Klim, or MILK backwards. Phi, on the other hand, is simply that she came back in TIME from the FUTURE. Pretty simple.
    • In one segment, you find a voodoo doll shaped like Junpei. Junpei accidentally gave Akane a voodoo doll on her last day of school.
    • Phi tries to claim her cup size is D. Sigma calls her out, saying that the last time they were together, she claimed a C (see A-Cup Angst in Virtue's Last Reward.)
    • In D-team's opening cut scene being locked in the bomb shelter, Sigma calls out Tenmyouji instead of Junpei, the name he knew him as during the second game.
    • Diana's pose when unconscious and/or dead looks very similar to Luna's pose in VLR when she's found 'dead'.
    • During one scene, Junpei will discuss the fate of most of the surviving characters from the first Nonary Game.
    • This incarnation of Zero has both of the previous Zeroes' motivations. Like Akane from 999, he wants to close a Stable Time Loop to ensure his own existence, and like Sigma from VLR, he wants to train the heroes so they can stop a calamity from happening in the future.
    • Once again, the most verbally abrasive member of the cast offers the amnesiac a drink, completely forgetting that they have a mask locked to their head that prevents them from consuming food.
    • Sigma's cat-tic flares up while examining one of the lockers in the Locker Room.
    • In the rec room, Junpei will comment that one of the decorations looks like a funyarinpa.
    • Also in the rec room is a slot machine that references the first game related to the characters and their number.
      • Clover is a pink four leaf clover.
      • Junpei is a V using the plaid patterns on his clothes.
      • Lotus is an eight styled after the snake found on her shoes.
      • Ninth man is a bomb.
    • Akane once again wears a gas mask, though this one is not to hide her identity (this one is see-through), but to prevent her from suffocating in the control room.
    • One that's lost in translation is when Phi wants Sigma to call her Boss Phi. In the Japanese version of VLR, Zero Sr. was called Zero-Boss.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Zero. Trying to get out by dying in another timeline and collecting X-passes before jumping? Nope, he already anticipated that.
  • Cruel Twist Ending: In Q-End 2, Delta mind hacks Eric into killing Sigma, Sean and Eric just when there's a little hope of opening the X-Door. Diana is left behind with their killer among pools of blood.
  • Curse That Cures: Q-Team encounters an infectious disease called FBR that has a 100% fatality chance. However, it can be cured with no chance of death with an emergency injection of Radical-6.
  • Darker and Edgier: This Deadly Game is so dark that Uchikoshi initially speculated it would receive a rating of CERO-Znote , the highest possible rating a Japanese game can get. note . It got a D-rating instead.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Due to a Stable Time Loop, Phi was born in a timeline where an older version of herself had previously died, and was subsequently named after herself.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • There is special dialogue for inputting certain passwords or solving certain puzzles before you should have been able to solve them. Additionally, when Eric asks Q who killed Mira and again when he asks who Zero is, it is possible to say a variety of things, including Eric himself, or the dog Gab.
    • During any situation where you must input someone's name, the game accepts multiple names for the same character (for example, inputting "Akane" gets you the same result as inputting "Kurashiki").
    • Invoked in-game as well. Team C literally tries to play off the "I've already played through this so I should know the answer" ruse by forcing themselves to jump through timelines by getting killed (Carlos and Junpei) and having Akane gather the passwords before jumping herself (which she gets pissed about). Unfortunately, Zero saw through this and somehow made it so they couldn't use passwords from different timelines. Talk about meticulous planning.
    • On the path to the D-2 ending, Phi and Delta both die. Opening up the status screen after they've been born to Sigma and Diana will change their listing from [DEAD] to [ALIVE].
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Delta suddenly kills everyone (including his own father) but Diana in Q-End 2 because he doesn't have more use of that reality. Just before they can get out of the shelter. His mind hacking powers hadn't been revealed to the player yet, but he always had them and in fact used them to control what the characters choose in each timeline.
  • Disaster Dominoes: Zero frequently tells the story about how a snail caused the death of six people, and by extension the death of 6 billion people. Every time he tells it, more of the truth comes to light. Eric's mother was jogging in a park when a snail crossing her path led her to take a route she didn't normally go down. Because she went down this route, she was murdered by Mira, causing Eric's father to spiral into an alcohol-fuelled depression. Akane's father was arrested for the murder, and eventually executed for it, causing his wife to commit suicide out of grief. A taxi Akane's father had hailed instead picked up a top surgeon on his way to operate on Sean, but the taxi got into an accident, killing both the driver and the surgeon, and by extension causing the death of Sean, who had befriended Delta while they were both in the hospital. That one snail is responsible for the entire Zero Escape series happening as it did. Hoo boy. Life is simply unfair.
  • Doomed by Canon: The recording of the Mars Test Mission in Virtue's Last Reward states that six people will die there. Though taking into account the people who VLR confirmed were alive after the events of this game (Akane, Junpei, Sigma, Phi and Diana), one wonders how that's possible. It's revealed that Sigma, Phi, and Akane are at the Dcom facility in the first place because something went wrong there. Had the Timey-Wimey Ball not been involved, then some other people would've been in the Decision Game and murdered in their place. Due to using a spacetime 3-D printer to copy themselves over to a timeline where they perished, Junpei and Akane manage to live through the game to the VLR timeline. Akane also blanks Junpei's memory, explaining why he doesn't remember the events of ZTD.
  • Downer Ending: As with Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward, pretty much any ending outside of the Omega Ending is guaranteed to be this. Special mention goes to:
    • "Reality." After injecting herself with Radical-6, Mira kills Eric and D-Team, then escapes. With C-Team dead, the only people left behind are Zero and Sean. Zero lets Sean give himself a happy virtual life, but the Sean left behind loses his head, which seems to fall into a pit in the Quantum Computer Dome.
    • D-END: 1 (Circle of Fate) and C-END: 1 (Apocalypse/Circle of Fate 2). The Virtue's Last Reward timeline. Mira injects Phi with Radical-6, making her Patient Zero of the virus. Diana stuns Phi and drags everyone to the surface. As a result, 6 billion people die and the world becomes nearly uninhabitable. The only glimmer of hope is the AB Project in this timeline's future.
    • The "Ambidex" fragment endings are all universally terrible for the six players alive during it. If Carlos chooses Ally, Junpei hits Betray, killing Carlos, Diana, and Sigma. Junpei and Akane escape alone. If Carlos chooses Betray, Junpei chooses Ally, leading to the deaths of himself, Akane, and Phi. Akane beats Carlos to death before collapsing, causing the deaths of Diana and Sigma. Even the Golden Ending to this segment, "Time to SHIFT," results in the facility exploding and killing all occupants.
    • "Anthropic Principle." Either everyone on C-Team dies, leaving Phi to escape alone; Junpei and Carlos die, leaving Akane to escape and abandon Phi to die; or Junpei and Akane transport before an explosion kills everyone on C-Team, leaving Phi to escape alone.
    • D-END: 2 (The Hope of Two). Diana and Sigma, trapped in the shelter for eleven months after Akane escapes by herself, have twins. After naming them, Diana and Sigma transport the twins to the past, hoping that they survive. The four of them in that reality, however, will starve to death alone with Gab. Made worse by the revelations in a later timeline: there's a pantry full of food that they could use to survive, but they don't know that it's accessible from their location. What's more, the grenade launcher in the study might be capable of breaking them out of the facility. But since neither Sigma nor Diana knows that, they're condemned to starve.
    • Q-END: 1. After Eric is shot with a crossbow, Mira shoots him in the head and carves out his heart. Afterwards, she escapes with Q. And there's no implication that she'll ever face justice for her crimes.
    • Q-END: 2. After naming Zero, Sean proposes that he can open the X-Door by interfacing with the Quantum Computer. When he attempts to do so, Delta Mind Hacks Eric to kill Sigma, Sean, and himself, followed up with a quiet "mom.". He does this while explicitly stating he has no further use of this reality.
    • Don't SHIFT. The nine players decide not to sacrifice their other selves and die as the facility explodes.
    • And don't forget, in any timeline other than the VLR timeline and the Golden Ending, humanity inevitably goes extinct after a terrorist attack triggers a nuclear war.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: In both Poison and Monty Hall, Akane loses consciousness halfway through explaining how to solve the segments' final puzzles, leaving Carlos (and the player) to make the Decision.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Inverted. All of the characters know that "Q" is an old man in a wheelchair, and that the Q the player knows is actually named Sean, but the player never learns this until near the end of the game.
    • Played with in the case of the "Radical-6" fragment. Unlike Mira and Eric, a player who has played Virtue's Last Reward knows how dangerous Radical-6 is, and is unlikely to choose to inject it. However, if they choose not to inject, the timeline chosen leads to the Radical-6 outbreak of VLR.
  • Dungeon Bypass: In the D-Team route, after realizing that the door that was welded shut in the Decontamination Room leads directly to the elevator shaft to the surface, Phi gets the idea to blow up the door using the bomb from the Manufacturing Room and escape. Zero sees through this "unauthorized escape" and warns them that Q-Team is on the other side of the door, then starts the acid shower in the room to prevent them from removing the bomb. Ultimately, Sigma decides to take the only acid-proof suit and try to remove the bomb to save Q-Team, but it explodes before he can do so, which results in both his arms being blown clean off and a glass shard getting embedded in his eye. The door is still broken and they can still escape, but Q and Eric are found dead, and when Phi goes to check on Mira, she injects her with a Radical-6 sample she smuggled earlier. Diana refuses to kill Phi and burn her body to prevent it from spreading, which directly kicks off the events of Virtue's Last Reward. Carlos then doubles this problem by going back using the transporter to save Junpei and Akane... but to ensure the transporter is available for them to use, he goes back 10 months and then waits. If he hadn't waited, but had disrupted the game at the start, he'd have saved 6 billion people.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Doing so requires a lot of hardship and sacrifices - the Decision Game must be played for Carlos to train his SHIFTing abilities, Diana to give birth to Phi and Delta, and for Sean to learn of his true nature and get his passwords. This all pays off, however, as not a single person dies, and the deaths of 6 billion people are on the way to being averted.
    • Well, not fully happy. To survive, the 9 characters that know everything have to trade places with 9 of them that escaped the bunker without having to play the game at all, knowing full well that those 9 will die without ever knowing why. So even in the final ending, 9 (well 10 plus a dog) people still die. And in the timeline they jump to, Delta will potentially be a Karma Houdini as in this timeline he erased all the evidence that a game ever was going to take place and the police won't be able to charge him with anything since he didn't actually kill anyone. He does give Carlos the chance to kill him. However the game ends before Carlos makes his decision.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Turns out Free The Soul released Radical-6 to stop a religious fanatic from destroying the whole humanity.
  • Evolving Credits: Downplayed. Although all endings have mostly the same credits, D.C. Douglas as Zero is not credited until the Golden Ending. In a more minor example, the credits are always skippable until the Golden Ending where it plays for the last time.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: If you lose the coin toss at the beginning of the game, 6+ people will die. There is no question about this. In fact, even if the teams are spared by the voting, the path they take by activating the Force-Quit Box causes the shelter to explode. The only way to get the Golden Ending wherein everyone lives and remembers what happened in the Decision Game is to SHIFT into the timeline where they won the coin toss and switch with their amnesiac counterparts as a result.
  • Flanderization: Phi is way more paranoid here than she was in VLR, and is also a lot dumber about it, not only looking gift horses in the mouth, but often voicing her paranoia right in front of the people she distrusts.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Thanks to the epilogue of VLR, we know about at least some of the events that will happen here, such as Sigma losing his arms and eye in an accident. In this case, the timeline that leads to VLR has Sigma lose his arms and eye in a bomb explosion.
  • Foreshadowing: There are tons of hints to future reveals:
    • At the very beginning of the game, when Eric wonders where Q came from, Mira offers the possibility that he's the result of a one night stand, and suggests he's Diana's child. She wasn't exactly wrong about the whole idea.
    • Sigma, the most muscular of the group, can't even budge the force quit box. Q lifts it with ease, hinting at his true form.
    • Phi's darkest secret is revealed: she's a redhead, and she dyes her hair. Now who else here has red hair...? Also note that her hair has a red tinge, as well as her red eyebrows.
    • The X-Passes are full of these. Every X-Pass has something to do with the character it has been assigned. For example, one of Phi's X-Passes is "twin", foreshadowing that she has a twin.
    • The groups occasionally find a wall that slides aside to reveal a locked secret door, and when exploring the Healing Room D-team find that it contains a projector which can change the designs on the walls and furniture to suit the patient. All of these are hinting at the fact that there's actually only one ward.
    • In the Biolab, Mira was able to make a clean cut on the pig with ease, which Eric comments on, implying that she has experience with slashing things open.
    • Following the Biolab, Q-Team ends up discussing about the Radical-6 virus, which eventually brings up the topic of genetic switches and inheritance of parental characteristics, which can change depending on if the parents' lives are in danger. Mira then brings up the idea if she and Eric had a child under conditions such as being trapped in a shelter with death traps, the child could end up being an esper.
    • During one of Q-Team's fragments, they discuss how the whole Decision Game might be some kind of experiment. Q mentions that there has to be an element of danger in an experiment like that, like putting a piranha into a fish tank. Eric asks if Zero might have put a serial murderer together with them in the game for the same reason, causing Mira to go, "......."
    • There is a ludicrous, but extremely subtle amount of foreshadowing in regards to one single plot twist: that Q team has a fourth member.
      • During the Payoff ending, no one recognizes the boy with the helmet. However, no one questions who Q is.
      • In the Study, we can see a wall of the contestants, dramatized as different figures: Akane is a moe Nendoroid-like figure, Sigma is a nutcracker, etc. Pressing the "STATUS" button on the menu will bring up a list of who's alive and who is dead using these figures. Note that the "Q" icon in STATUS is not the same as the Q icon on the wall.
      • During the Mexican Standoff in the same room, you're given the choice of who to kill. If you put in "me" or "myself", it tells you that you can't commit suicide. If you put in Q's name, it tells you to input Q's real name. But wait, didn't it say you couldn't commit suicide? And it won't accept "Sean" ...
      • When Eric accuses Q of killing Mira, you have the option of flat out saying Q was responsible. If you do, however, Eric says "That's clearly impossible!" since Eric is referring to a different Q than the player is.
      • In First Come First Saved-Q, you can clearly see a shadow of a fourth person in certain angles. Eric also talks about an old man in a chair, which is referring to the real Q.
      • Note the overall use of angles in the game's cinematic cutscenes, and how they never, ever show a certain angle in each scene. That's where Delta is sitting.
      • In one route, Eric bends down to ask Gab a question. Except the angle is too high. Eric is actually asking Delta, hence why he uses the term "old man".
      • In several timelines, C and D team will muse about how horrible it is that Q is dead. Multiple characters lament over the realization that Q probably didn't know what was going on, due to his handicaps ("he couldn't see or hear"). As well, in the D-1 ending, Diana calls Q "this child", and doesn't recognize him.
      • Note that whenever Q dies, there is always, always a second instance of whatever killed him. For example, in the ending you get for shooting Mira in "Triangle", Mira audibly shoots twice- once for Sean and once for Delta. The only exception is when Eric kills Sean with a grenade, which could have easily killed Delta as well.
      • In "Coincide", Eric audibly calls out that Q is suspicious, and in general really distrusts him. This is because Sean isn't on the X-Pass board at all, which suddenly gives a lot more justification to Eric being suspicious of Sean.
      • The X-Passes relate to each character's past or identity. So why are Q's passwords completely different and don't match him at all? Things like "AGE" and "EYE" make no sense for a little boy, especially when juxtaposed against the realization that, even mentally, Sean is a boy. All of those things do, however, link up with Q/Delta.
      • A more minor example is during "Suspicion" when the game asks you "Who killed Junpei?", if you input "Q" the game will tell you that it's "Unlikely to have been Q team"... If you input in Q's actual name, however, you get "He is not here" instead.
      • In "Shoot Mira" the announcement mentions that Q is already dead, but Sean is still alive long enough after that to get out some dying words.
      • After Phi and Delta are born, Q's status in the status menu changes from "Dead" to "Alive", foreshadowing that Sean isn't really Q.
      • When C-Team is voting and wants to try to contact the other teams, Carlos only calls to Eric and Mira. After all, the deaf guy couldn't hear him anyway, and he doesn't know about Sean.
      • In the Radical-6 Fragment, if you choose to inject Radical-6, Mira will stab both Eric and Q. If you go into the status screen at this time, you'll see that Q isn't marked as dead, foreshadowing that he's only wounded.
      • At the beginning of the game, when Q is announced to be the leader of his team, Eric is more than a little ticked-off. Because what kind of sick joke is putting the blind and deaf old man in charge?
      • In the timeline where C team takes the antidote, Junpei gets angry when hearing about Q's death. Not because he's a kid, but because he couldn't see or hear. "Q" clearly isn't blind or deaf, despite the helmet...
  • For Want of a Nail: Zero loves discussing this and telling stories about it. He also claims that this is his motivation, and his catchphrase, "Life is simply Unfair" is always said after he talks about it. As it turns out, this is his motivation for the Decision Game and his whole life philosophy. Because of a single snail on one trail: Eric's mother died, Akane's dad was wrongly convicted and her mother committed suicide, leading to the events of 999, and Sean lost his life when his surgeon died in a car accident. All of this led to Brother having to deal with the grief of losing his friend, and set up the events of both VLR and this game. Because of this, Brother hates SHIFTers, and considers the fact that they can jump to alternate timelines where life is better for them to be unfair.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • The three team leaders seem to have been chosen specifically for this reason. Carlos, Q, and Diana head teams C, Q, and D respectively. CQD is an old-fashioned distress signal that predates SOS.
    • C, Q, and D are also the initials for the Quantum Computer Dome room where Sean's brain is kept.
    • The Mental Time Travel ability some characters have is referred to as Spacetime Human Internal Fluctuating Transfer, or SHIFT.
  • Gainax Ending: If the participants win the opening coin toss, Zero erases their memories and releases them without initiating his deadly game. (In fact, whichever guess the player makes the first time turns out to be right.) This becomes a plot point during the endgame, as the final decision hinges on whether or not you believe it's okay to overwrite the fates of the amnesiac characters so that the characters from your current history can make it out alive.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Exaggerated Trope, even for Zero Escape standards. Zero prefers to kill 6 billion people (75% of the world's population) to prevent an even worse scenario: a religious fanatic about to wipe out 100% of humanity by nuclear means. Akane is not too happy when she discovers that's what Radical-6 was released for.
  • Going Critical: The underground shelter's reactor is so unstable that pressing a single button is all that's needed to instantly detonate it.
  • Golden Ending: The Omega Ending, as below. Also, two Non Standard Game Overs are shown in yellow on the flowchart, one of which is labelled as the "Happy End". Is it? Well... .
    • Beyond that, the game doesn't exactly have one like previous installments. Like previous installments, there IS an ending where all 9 players escape the bunker. However in the final ending, 9 people still die. All 9 characters find themselves locked in the bunker which will explode shortly, and the only way they can escape with everything they know is to trade places with 9 of them that made the correct call on the coinflip at the start, and thus were freed from the bunker without ever having to play. So while the party that had been through the game survives, the party that was just enjoying their newfound freedom without being subjected to the game finds themselves in a bunker that is about to explode with no hope for survival. And to make things worse, the surviving group gets taunted by Delta about how he basically got everything he wanted and legally they can't do anything to him in this timeline since he didn't actually DO anything provable regardless of the atrocities he committed in other timelines. Nobody died in this timeline so there was no crime. He does give you the option of killing him however, and the game ends with Carlos deciding whether to pull the trigger.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: In the timeline where Diana and Sigma are stranded in the shelter after using the transporter, Diana nearly suffers this several times after living in the shelter for nearly two months with the realization that Akane is not coming back to help them, if not for Sigma being there to comfort her.
  • Go Out with a Smile: Everyone except Eric, should they chose not to SHIFT after force-quit is activated.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Despite claims to the contrary, this game isn't explicitly more gory than the previous two titles, though the number of violent deaths is greater.
  • Gratuitous Latin: The first teaser has plenty of Latin expressions interspersed in the scenes.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Brother orchestrated the release of Radical-6 into the world and causes the deaths of 6 billion people, as was explained in Virtue's Last Reward. He did this in the hopes that Radical-6 would kill a religious fanatic who wanted to cause nuclear war to kill every single human on earth, 8 billion people. Similar to the FBR/Radical-6 crisis that Q-Team experiences, he believes that it is better to have a chance to allow 2 billion to survive than none at all. By the end of the game the fanatic is still at large, their identity is never revealed (as not even Zero knows who he or she is) and Akane and Junpei dedicate their lives to hunting them down.
  • Group Hug: D-team does it in their "force Quit" segment after Diana realises that Phi is her daughter.
  • Guide Dang It!: Some of the decisions in this game have really counter-intuitive solutions:
    • The Rec Room gatling-gun trap seems impossible, as you need to roll three die to get all 1's, which as Akane explains only has a 0.46% chance of happening. Fortunately, the game is kinder than it may seem: play this scene all the way through 3 times, and on the 3rd time, you will automatically get all 1's. However, this includes a potentially nasty Interface Screw, since if you don't allow the scene to play through a second time, but instead (quite reasonably) quit and reload when you see the bad ending starting up, the game does not record the failure and you will have practically no chance of passing the trap.
    • The Russian Roulette Decision Game. Assuming you do not Take a Third Option there is a fifty-fifty chance of getting one of the two cutscenes. If you did the dice roll puzzle before this one you might think there is a trick to getting both cutscenes, but there isn't; it's pure luck every time you play the Decision Game.
    • Almost every answer to Eric asking Q at shotgun-point who killed Mira will turn out to be incorrect. Only two solutions will work, neither of which the player is likely to guess right away: either enter that you don't know (which is not helped by the fact the game won't mind you write that without an apostrophe), or don't answer the question and let the timer run out.
  • Heads or Tails?: The premise of the first decision game. Zero promises to end the decision game and release the participants if they guess right on a coin flip. He really will let the cast go if they choose right.
  • Holding Hands: D-team in Force Quit segment if they don't SHIFT
  • Hypocritical Humor: One of the C-Team segments (The Decontamination Room Voting) has Junpei remark that Carlos has a sister complex, and Akane calls him out on it. In the Pantry, Akane cracks the same joke.
  • Hug and Comment: Akane's reaction to Junpei proposing to her. Hug is reaction to fact itself, comment is made on the fact that Junpei put the ring on the wrong hand
  • I Have Many Names: Zero II = Q = Brother = Delta.
  • Infant Immortality: Hahahaha no. Q meets horrible deaths just like everyone else can. In addition, one ending has two infants facing almost-certain death by starvation, with the only consolation being that clones of them were sent through time to survive.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • When the teams are given an opportunity to press a yellow button and douse everyone else in hydrofluoric acid, pressing the button gives D-Team and Q-Team a Game Over... but not C-Team. Carlos has to do this so that another Carlos can use this timeline to rescue Akane and Junpei in the VLR timeline, though this isn't necessary on a meta-level. In addition, the flowchart for this section shows the true chronology of the "kill button" scenes.
    • When Q-Team gets into a Mexican Standoff, the flowchart shows four branches from this situation when only three options are apparent. If you Take A Fourth Option, shoot Delta, and then look at the log, you can get an early glimpse of Zero's true appearance.
    • Usually, if making a decision involves inputting words or numbers, there is no time limit. However, when Eric asks Q who killed Mira, you do have a timer; letting it run out will get you to the correct path.
    • The input console for the X-Passes has a five-character limit. In some timelines, you get six-character passes. You can be sure you won't be entering any in these cases.
    • One specific spoiler is actually averted: until you actually find out that the three teams are never awake at the same time, the flowchart represents the fragments in parallel, or one immediately following another. After you find out the spoiler, the flowchart changes to reflect the gained knowledge.
  • It Amused Me: One of Delta's motivations for creating the Decision Game: he can't SHIFT himself, but can read the minds of those who experienced other timelines, and was interested in learning about them. Given that Delta is technically the Player Character, this is probably a meta-narrative commentary on player curiosity.
  • Kaizo Trap:
    • The Rec Room puzzle, as solving the rec room puzzle immediately puts you into a decision game with an extremely low chance of winning: if you don't roll all 1's on three dice, your characters will be killed by Gatling guns.
    • One room that C-Team visits ends with a fire being started, only to be extinguished by carbon dioxide gas. The gas then keeps going, and going, and going...
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Delta commits all manner of atrocities against the players and mankind. The Golden Ending takes place in a timeline where none of this occurs, but the players are all aware of his crimes in the other timelines and confront him about them outside Dcom. Unfortunately for them, while they were asleep he disposed of all the evidence of the shelter and the Decision Game traps, and since nobody died in the current timeline, he can't be made to stand trial for things that never happened. He hammers it home that this ought to be a happy ending: Everyone Lives, and they are given the knowledge needed to avert the complete extermination of humanity by a religious extremist. Yet the players are understandably outraged that Delta believes The End Justifies The Means, so he gives Carlos the final Decision Game: to shoot him if he thinks he deserves justice anyway. We never see his decision, making the answer to this quandary an exercise left to the player.
    • Mira as well. Sure, she (temporarily) ends up in prison, but the son of her first victim still happily marries her, even knowing that she gleefully butchered him in one of the other histories.
  • Kick the Dog: Subverted. For seemingly no other reason then to establish himself as a jerk, Delta murders Gab, the participants' dog companion, and presents his bloody corpse to them as good news. This does turn out to be a kindness however, because it's revealed that the protagonists must abandon this timeline minutes before the entire shelter is destroyed if they want to survive, and they (as well as the player) would otherwise be responsible for Gab's death. Though given Zero's vast resources it wouldn't have been impossible for him to build a way for Gab to escape, but that would require more compassion than Zero is capable of.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Sean is killed in the middle of his explanation about opening the X-Door in Q-End 2. This results in an immediate Cruel Twist Ending.
  • Lampshade Hanging: After the Decision Game in the Rec Room, Akane mentions that the chances of winning in three tries are 1 in 72. Because of how the game is programmed, you have in fact had three tries when you see this scene — though, from your perspective as the player, the chances of winning on the third try were 100%.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: One of Mira's X-Passes is "VIRGIN". It's unlike the rest of the other passes in the sense the passes must be less than 5 letters long to fit. Similarly, Phi's "FUTURE" pass is too long.
  • Left Hanging: The Golden Ending fails to resolve some serious plot threads, such as who was that religious fanatic? Was he/she found by Crash Keys, or did they doom humanity? Did Carlos shoot Delta or not? What happened to D-Team after the Payoff confrontation with Delta? note 
  • Like Brother and Sister: Phi and Sigma; Diana even points out that they're in sync like siblings.
  • Limited Animation: With a few exceptions, characters tend to only change poses or positions between camera cuts, giving the impression of mannequins standing/sitting around talking.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: This game's remix of "Morphogenetic Sorrow" from 999 takes an already-sad piece and ups the impact by making it a piano solo.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: When Sean learns about his true nature from Zero, he is given a choice to have his consciousness duplicated into a virtual universe within the Quantum Computer where he can live the happiest possible life, in which Sean's surgery is successful, none of the events of the series ever happened, and the rest of his days are happy and carefree, completely unaware that the reality is simulated. This is marked as a Non Standard Game Over labeled "HAPPY END". The original copy, however, stays behind in the current timeline, and gets a critical Plot Coupon in the process.
  • Made of Explodium: The transporter is apparently rigged to explode if the console for it is damaged.
  • The Many Deaths of You: Zero has prepared an extremely high amount of ways to kill off the players of the Decision Game. Taking all the timelines into account, the characters are poisoned, blown up to varying degrees (including the entire facility), gunned down, axed, knifed, starved to death, mutilated, suffocated, crossbowed, incinerated, showered with acid, and beaten to death. And by the end of the game, they remember every one of these deaths.
  • Mental Time Travel: As in Virtue's Last Reward, several characters are capable of this, where it's called SHIFTing. It is normally only available to its users in life-or-death situations. Carlos' proficiency as a firefighter is due in part to him being able to see the paths that lead to death during a fire and take the one that gets him and any occupants trapped to safety. One of the purposes of the Decision Games is to develop that power, much like how the AB Games served the same purpose for Sigma and Phi.
  • Meta Twist: Unlike the past two games, this time Akane is not behind the events of Decision Game at all; she really is just as much a victim as everyone else.
  • Mexican Standoff: In one timeline, Q-Team ends up in one. Q can either shoot Eric, shoot Mira, or Take a Third Option and put down his weapon. The latter two get him killed; the correct answer is to shoot Eric. Additionally, there is a hidden fourth option: shoot Delta, who the player should not know is present at this point. For your trouble, you get some unique dialogue, a secret ending, and foreshadowing that the kid with the helmet is not Q.
  • Monty Hall Problem: C-Team has an entire segment named after this, including ending with a modified version of this dilemma. Instead of 3 doors, Carlos must find the prize out of 10 lockers, but 8 empty lockers are revealed after the initial selection. The game picks the "correct" locker at the beginning of the segment, so like the normal problem, it's possible that the right solution still won't get you the mask.
  • Multiple Endings: Adding up the seven major endings, the "Happy End", the "Perceptive End", and the numerous "Game Over"s, this game has a grand total of thirty-two endings. Unlike the other games in the series, there are numerous times when the timeline continues past an ending, usually following different characters and leading to another ending. Because of this, while there are thirty-two endings, there are far fewer actual timelines.
  • Never the Selves Shall Meet:
    • Whenever Diana, Sigma, Carlos, Junpei, or Akane use the transporter to travel to another timeline, they always arrive in one where their alternate selves were executed in the initial vote. Diana and Sigma even discover their own corpses.
    • Averted with one of the "Post Payoff" notes called "The Other Phi", which implies that the Phi who remained in 1904 actually became the adoptive mother of the Phi who emerged in 2008.
  • No Fair Cheating:
    • If you solve a puzzle without all first having the clues, the characters will comment that you just made a lucky guess. However, the game is overly stringent about this and you can easily invoke this even if you did solve it through the information provided; you have to repeatedly click on every part of the puzzle until the characters have voiced all the thoughts they have on it for the game to deem that you have received sufficient hints.
    • Invoked in-universe twice by Zero.
      • In one C-Team timeline, five people have died and Carlos learns about his ability to SHIFT. He and Junpei hatch a plan to have themselves get killed so that Akane can hear their own X-Passes and bring them with her to another timeline where they aren't killed. Unfortunately, the passwords are different in each history, as they're directly told when they try to input passwords from another. For their trouble, an enforcer in a Sean body is sent after them to batter them to death as punishment.
      • D-Team tries to bypass the X-Door entirely by blowing up the door in the Decontamination Room. Zero makes sure this doesn't work by putting the unconscious Q-Team on the other side, meaning that D-Team would kill them if they blew up the door.
  • Not Quite Saved Enough:
    • In Q-End 2, Sean tries to hack the Quantum Computer to open the X-Door, but Delta suddenly kills everyone but Diana to prevent them from escaping. Even though Delta himself gave away the instructions to open the X-Door...
    • In a certain timeline, Sigma and Phi are knifed by a mysterious hooded person. Diana inputs the X-passes, opens the door, and just before crossing it... the one who killed Sigma and Phi stabs Diana, taking her place as the escapee.
  • Off-Model: The animations are...awkward. Walking is poorly done, characters have small parts of their bodies clip through things, mouths movements for some characters are strange, and anyone interacting with something is greatly lacking in animation frames when it's shown.
  • Omega Ending: You have to get all of the teams' ordinary endingsnote  in order to obtain the information necessary to open the Force Quit Box as every team (after nobody gets executed and nobody presses the kill button) and reach this ending.
  • Ontological Mystery: As always, we have nine people in a deadly game. However, though we may know more going into this game than we did in earlier games, there's still a crap-ton of mysteries to be solved. For instance, in VLR, we were told that only three people survived the test mission. Four of the people involved in that game (45 years in the future) are involved in this event.
  • Phrase Catcher: Whenever a message from Zero starts, someone will almost invariably say "Zero..."
  • The Plague: The Radical-6 virus, introduced in the previous game.
  • Plague Doctor: Zero's mask resembles a plague doctor. Since he's responsible for the Radical-6 outbreak, it's fitting.
  • Prequel: To Virtue's Last Reward, although it takes after the events of that game for the time-traveling Sigma and Phi.
  • Press X to Not Die: A few of the segment-ending choices present this, where the decision - usually whether or not to press a Big Red Button - is timed and the player has to choose whether to press it or allow the timer to expire and proceed through inaction.
    • At the end of the healing room, you get treated to a whole minute's worth of staring at a big blue button, which the camera zooms in on every ten seconds, all while Sigma and Phi are trying to encourage/discourage Diana from pressing it.
  • Pretty Little Head Shots: In one of Q Team's endings, Mira finishes an already wounded Eric off with a shot to the head. We see the blood spatter below his head, but his model doesn't even have a bullet hole added to it afterward.
  • Previous Player-Character Cameo: Both protagonists from the previous games, Junpei and Sigma, return for the finale, as do Phi and Akane.
  • Railroading: Though you are usually free to jump to any unlocked fragment you want in any order, there are a few cases where you lose that freedom and are forced to continue into a single fragment to see the consequences of your decision from the previous fragment. This usually leads to a critical reveal if not an ending, and normal story flow resumes after it concludes.
  • Random Number Generator:
    • The game has certain instances where the outcomes of specific events are determined based on chance rather than a player's direct choice. Save Scumming ahoy! Thankfully, the game makes it easy to jump back to those moments.
    • Other sections have puzzles with randomly generated puzzles, requiring the player to rely on their wits so find the solution rather than on Save Scumming.
  • Religion of Evil: Free the Soul, introduced in the previous game. The current Zero is their leader, Brother, and he has constructed the shelter as a SHIFTer training ground to stop a terrorist threat that will end the world.
  • Retcon:
    • Brother's true motivations, as revealed in this game, throw his entire characterization in Virtue's Last Reward into question. According to VLR, Brother had suffered Sanity Slippage and become an Omnicidal Maniac after his sibling, Left, was killed. Here, Brother is characterized as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who engineered the Radical 6 breakout in order to kill an actual Omnicidal Maniac who was well on his way to triggering humanity's extinction and, in the Golden Ending, he even manages to avert the Radical 6 breakout entirely. However, if we take into account that we learned everything from Dio, who had reason to lie, and Alice, who is biased, it could be that the little we knew about him was not true, other than Left being killed and Brother cloning him.
    • During his exposition about SHIFT, Sigma mentions that he's always been able to remember timeline-hopping throughout his life. However, in VLR we're told that SHIFTers can't normally remember anything from jumps, and in fact the entire point of VLR was to train him so that he could.
    • The way espers react to each other completely contradicts the previous game. Throughout the game, SHIFTers resonate with each other and become stronger in groups. This is the complete opposite of how it worked in Virtue’s Last Reward, where stronger espers absorbed the powers of weaker espers to the point where they couldn’t even use them.
  • Russian Roulette: Diana is forced to do this with Sigma in order to save Phi, who is stuck in an incinerator, but the outcome itself is randomized.
  • Sadistic Choice: The game makes the player choose between who to kill in certain situations. The aforementioned Russian roulette scene is one example.
  • Save Scumming: Due to the randomized nature of some of the Decision Games, this is actually mandatory.
  • Saved by Canon: Since this game takes place before the second game chronologically (without taking time travel into account), anyone who appeared in VLR is guaranteed to survive the events of this game, such as Sigma, Phi, Tenmyouji, and Akane. At least, in the timeline that leads to VLR. Actually subverted; the VLR timeline is the one where C team gets executed. The Junpei and Akane from that game actually came from another timeline.
  • Schmuck Bait: After completing the Healing Room, D-Team is presented with a big blue button. Phi thinks it's this trope, while Sigma disagrees and wants to press it. Phi's right. It will blow up the whole facility. In other words, it is quite literally "You made the wrong choice! Everything blows up."
  • Schrödinger's Cast: The voting box causes this effect: due to the mindwiping every 90 minutes and the timeline being vague, it's impossible to know who presses which button and condemns the other teams- even if you get everyone to go along with the plan, one team will die. Creating timelines where C, Q and D teams are wiped individually also produces a timeline where none of them die, forcing this paradox into action. It also appears that originally Q or D team was responsible for the VLR timeline, as the VLR timeline is the one where C-Team is killed by the voting.
  • Sequel Escalation: In the previous Nonary Games, even if it didn't look like it at first, there was always a way to get everyone out alive. There were two 9 doors in the first game, and it was theoretically possible for everyone to trust each other to ally so everyone could get out in the second game. This time, the only apparent way to get everyone out is getting the initial coin toss right. If this first Decision Game is lost, the very design of this game guarantees that there will be blood, as deaths are required to escape through the X-Door, and that's not even taking the threat of the deadly virus outbreak and the deaths of 75% of humanity into consideration. In the end, there really is no way to get everyone through the X-Door. The Golden Ending involves winning that one original coin toss — the only way everyone can escape alive is by not getting stuck behind the X-Door at all. And even then the consciousnesses of the version of them that won the coin toss get shifted to just before the bomb goes off. To win, at least six people will die. Life is simply unfair.
  • Sequence Breaking:
    • You can input the passwords for the Force Quit Box in the Everybody Lives Timeline if you know them, though there's no way you will until the end of the game.
    • In-universe, C-Team tries this by getting Carlos and Junpei to commit quantum-suicide via a bad timeline so Akane can get their codes for the X-Door. This fails, as Zero randomizes the X-Passes based on how they die. This almost gets C-Team killed as Zero then sends a copy of Sean after them.
  • Serial Killer: The Heart Ripper, a recent serial killer, is mentioned. It's Mira.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Along with seeking a way out, Akane, Phi, and Sigma are all looking for a way to prevent Virtue's Last Reward from happening.
  • Sexy Discretion Shot: After Diana and Sigma kiss, it cuts to a shot of them holding hands, followed by the transporter's pod closing on them.
  • Sheathe Your Sword:
    • In a very counter-intuitive example of this trope, when Eric asks who killed Mira, the only answer that will prevent a death is either not answering—you have to let the timer run out — or some variation of "i don't know". Even giving the correct answer, Delta, will get you killed, because Eric has no clue who that is.
    • During a Mexican Standoff between the members of Q-Team, Q can do this if the player inputs "no", "nope", "no one", "no way", or "nobody". Subverted when Eric takes advantage of his trust and kills him.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Junpei says this about Akane in the reactor. About an hour before he proposes to her.
  • Ship Sinking: Sigma x Phi? Not gonna happen. And for a very good reason: it's revealed in this game that Phi is his time-displaced daughter.
  • Shoot the Dog: Doing morally questionable things like sacrificing others' lives for the team's sake is a recurring theme in the Decision Game, but a major one occurs in the "Outbreak" fragment, where Phi has been infected with Radical-6 and begs Diana to kill and burn her before the virus spreads across the globe. The trope is defied here, and proving that Tropes Are Not Bad, refusing to "shoot the dog" has horrible consequences.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: A central mystery of the game is the effect of the Force Quit Boxes that each team has in their lounge. Learning the secrets to opening them requires completing every other part of the game first. When they are opened, they activate the facility's self-destruct sequence, guaranteeing the death of every member of the group and Zero. Just to rub this in, Zero actually shoots a shaggy dog - Gab - after this is revealed. The final choice essentially involves choosing between accepting this ending, or overriding an alternate Gainax Ending (dooming the amnesiac counterparts as a result) in order to make it out alive. This is slightly foreshadowed by the groups when they first discover the boxes, and wonder what it is that they force to quit. Two groups decide the answer is "the Decision game", but the remaining one says it's "maybe, our lives".
    • Word of God says that Zero is not actually Lampshade Hanging the trope, but ensuring that guilt about leaving Gab behind doesn't prevent the entire group from SHIFTing at once.
  • Shout-Out:
    • While never mentioned by name, Akane uses Back to the Future as a means to explain multiple timelines versus one timeline theory. They refer to Marty McFly only as "M".
    • C-Team also makes references to The Matrix when they find the sunglasses in the control room. They don't mention it by name, either, but refer to it as a classic old movie.
    • One of the robots in the manufacturing room speaks only in famous movie lines, such as "Nobody puts baby in a corner!" or "I am Spartacus!"
  • Significant Anagram: 4 in total:
    • Let's inhibit the virus = The Truth is invisible.
    • Let the game end where I treat two = Together with me, Delta, we are ten.
    • When a curious hate oozes calamity = What you choose can materialize us.
    • Zero Time Dilemma = Me? I'm Zero, I'm Delta. This one was not created by the author — it was added by the English publisher. Unlike the others, there is no equivalent in the Japanese version.
  • Skyward Scream: The trailer ends with this, courtesy of Carlos. In game, this is after he kills Akane.
  • Smash to Black: How the game ends, just before Carlos decides whether to shoot Delta or not.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Diana's resemblance to Luna is obvious since the latter was an android based on her. Mira takes obvious visual cues from Lotus and Alice, and Q appears to be a combination of K and Quark (another masked amnesiac, but a child this time). Carlos looks a bit like Dio, as well, which is worrying given that the latter was a Left clone in the employ of Free the Soul (mercifully, this doesn't amount to anything). In terms of personality, Eric takes many cues from Clover (devoted to another participant, goes crazy when said participant is killed, has an ending where they go on a killing spree).
  • Switching P.O.V.: You switch between Carlos, Q, and Diana (and Phi for part of one room).
  • Take a Third Option: If Q ends up in a Mexican Standoff with his teammates, he can shoot one or the other, or put down his weapon. Subverted since it gets him killed; shooting Eric is the correct choice. Double subverted since there is one more person you can shoot, although the player may reasonably not know they are there when they first see the scene.
  • Take Your Time: Though time limits are brought up frequently given the nature of the games, you aren't actually on a timer unless there's one on screen.
  • Taking the Bullet: When Carlos, Junpei and Akane return to the Rec Room, Junpei and Carlos shield Akane with their bodies so that she can retrieve seven X-Passes and reunite with them in a history where they are still alive.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: For the same reason as Take Your Time above. One notable exception is when Diana must choose to press a Big Blue Button with a clear warning not to push it. Sigma and Phi make cases for both decisions as the clock runs down.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The characters' plan to avert the events of Virtue's Last Reward involves them knowingly dying multiple times.
  • Tomato Surprise: The fact that the kid's name is Sean and not "Q" and that the real "Q" is an old man in a wheelchair who's been with Q-Team the entire time is not news to the characters, but it's a big surprise to the player.
  • Two Scenes, One Dialogue: After "Coincide", the camera alternates between the three teams as all of them receive the game rules by Zero. However, each team is getting information at completely different times, with each exposition separated by two hours. The scene the player sees is the conjunction of every scattered exposition in the form of a quick summary, effectively fooling the player into believing that all three teams are listening to Zero at the same time when actually they're not.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee:
    • In the Force Quit Box-C timeline, Carlos manages to get the box open and regains his memories of all other timelines. He realizes that the cards from the Transporter Room can be used to prevent the drug injections every 90 minutes. In order to do this in the current time, he suddenly attempts to rape Akane, gets into a fight with Junpei in the Power Room, tries to make up over drinks and makes a mess at the bar, which he has the other two help clean up. In reality he did all of this to dodge the constant surveillance from Zero. He actually whispers into Akane's ear the plan and tells her to get the cards, flees into the Power Room and fights with Junpei to distract Zero while Akane is in the Transporter Room, and spills his drink and has Akane and Junpei get under the bar so the cameras don't see them slip the cards under their bracelets and break the needles. He didn't tell any of this to Junpei (or the player) at the time because he didn't think Junpei could believably play along if he knew.
    • Subverted when Delta reveals that he knew all what they were doing all along, having read their minds.
  • Unto Us a Son and Daughter Are Born: Sigma and Diana's twins are a boy (Delta) and a girl (Phi).
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The snail that pretty much set off the entire plot of the franchise. On a slightly lesser extent, Mira when she killed Eric's mom after the latter took another path away from the snail in the way.
  • Up to Eleven: The series' Multiple Endings. In the first game, getting to one particular ending was a prerequisite for the true ending. In the second, several of the various endings provided Sigma and/or the player with information that was required to unlock other endings. In this game, winning the coin flip at the very beginning leads to "Payoff", an ending complete with credits that is displayed on your save file, after which you can go back and pick the other option. You are, in fact, guaranteed to win the coin flip on the first try no matter what you pick. Thus, you must reach this ending (which takes about 10 minutes of play time) in order to unlock the entire rest of the game.
  • Visual Novel: Downplayed to appeal to a wider audience. ZTD no longer features the prose of 999 or VLR, instead opting for dialogue-based exposition. The developers compared the new style to The Walking Dead, which many see as a more western version of a visual novel. This change to cinematic camera angles is also to hide the existence of Delta.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Continuing the trend of the Zeroes being well-intentioned extremists, Delta is one. He created the Decision Game for two main reasons: To create a Stable Time Loop so that he and his sister, Phi, can be born, and to give the players the knowledge and determination to help stop a religious fanatic who plans to create a nuclear war and make all of humanity go extinct.
  • Wham Episode: The fragment simply called "Q" has a huge amount of reveals in a short amount of time.
  • Wham Line: Par for the course - this is a Zero Escape game, after all:
    Q: Zero is... YOU, Delta!
    Eric: Would you stop yapping, Sean? That old man's name is Q!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Despite being the last installment, several characters from 999 and VLR are only briefly mentioned or are totally ignored. Lotus, Seven, and Aoi are mentioned, while Light, Clover, and Alice are not, just to name a few.
    • And for some reason, Sigma, Phi, and Diana aren't given epilogue files unlike the other two teams. Nothing is said about what happened to them after the credits roll, even though two of them were the main characters of the previous game.
  • Where It All Began:
    • Both in regards to Virtue's Last Reward, being a prequel to it, and internally.
    • The Payoff ending is unlocked by the player at the very beginning of the game, where all the players wake up outside Dcom with no clue why they're there. It's not until their other consciousnesses, having played through every other timeline, SHIFT into those bodies, does this ending continue and the denouement begins. The Golden Ending therefore consists of overwriting the events of the beginning of the story and the players having (technically) never played a single Decision Game, just like in the normal version of the Payoff ending.
  • Wild Card: Team Q as a whole. A young couple and an amnesiac who have no connection to the previous two games and no supernatural powers. And the mastermind with them at all times, carefully hidden off-camera.
  • With a Friend and a Stranger: All three teams are this, with each group having a "couple" and one other member, who is assigned as the team leader.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Eric threatens and chokes Q at one point. He tends to be responsible for most of Q's deaths. In another situation, Mira holds him at gunpoint and shoots him if he tries to kill her.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Carlos says that a lock requiring a four-digit numerical code has "hundreds of thousands" of possible combinations. As anyone should realize after a moment of thinking, there are in fact only exactly ten thousand possible combinations.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Zero's plan to kill the unknown fanatic. In the ending that leads to VLR, he's won because Radical-6 will kill them; in the Omega Ending, he's won because now Crash Keys will hunt them down. In the ending in which Sigma and Diana attempt to use the transporter, he's born with his powers, and many of the other endings are necessary for the creation of the Omega Ending. Not once do his plans go awry, at least according to him.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Invoked in the ending leading to Virtue's Last Reward; the final cutscenes are named "Circle of Fate".
  • You Didn't Ask: Why did no one point out Delta's existence? Well, they have, several times, you just didn't pick up on it.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Most notably, both Akane and Junpei went from brown in 999 to light purple here.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Everyone except Diana gets killed in Q-end 2 because Delta has no more use for this timeline
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already:
    • Done In-Universe. C-Team attempts to commit quantum suicide so they can use the passwords to escape without killing six people, but Zero is having none of it. The passwords are locked in upon death.
    • Averted pretty much everywhere else - as long as you know the other passwords, the game won't ask where you got them from; which makes people confused if they sequence break before they learn where the information comes from.
    • When Carlos is questioning himself who killed Junpei. The game will only advance if you choose Carlos or Akane, preventing sequence breaking, but you can input anyone's name. Q, Mira, and Eric, are unlikely to be involved since they are from Q-team, he doesnt know the identity of Zero, and the dead cant kill anyone either, as Carlos himself states. However, you can also input Sean or Delta. Entering Sean triggers the same response as entering Q, Mira, or Eric, and entering Delta had Carlos say "He is not here", as opposed to saying he is on Q-team.
    • If the player chooses to shoot Delta during team Q's Mexican Standoff, the game offers a partial spoiler with the Perceptive End.
  • Your Head A-Splode: If, in the first Decision Game, one of the teams gets two execution votes, this is how that team gets executed: they wake up with collars around their necks, and the collars have been rigged to explode, blowing their heads off. In fact, very late in the game, it becomes a plot point when one team finds the headless bodies of their alternate selves.
  • Your Other Left: Junpei accidentally puts his ring on Akane's right hand instead of her left when he proposes. When Akane points it out, he says it looked like the left from his side.

Alternative Title(s): Zero Escape 3

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/VisualNovel/ZeroTimeDilemma