Last week, the first trailer for Zero Time Dilemma was released. As impossibly hyped as I am for the game itself, I have to admit that this trailer leaves me with mixed feelings at best.
Take a look for yourself (Language and Blood warning):
(PLAY 999 AND VIRTUE’S LAST REWARD. I DON’T REALLY SPOIL THEM HERE, BUT THEY’RE REAL GOOD.)
Before anything else, the thing that sticks out to me most about this trailer is the voice acting, which for the most part is… unfortunate. Of course, hearing lines out of context in a trailer is not really representative – especially of a game with an atmosphere leaning towards horror.
I’d be less inclined to give the benefit of the doubt were it not for the fact that, by all accounts, Virtue’s Last Reward had a great English dub. I say “by all accounts” because, while the UK at the very least got the game, we got it with only the Japanese voices for… some reason. I’ve heard enough of it to wish I’d played the whole game the first time that way.
That said, the purpose of the trailer is to sell people on the game. It’s the same reason that people getting mad at the new Paper Mario are not necessarily getting mad prematurely. If Paper Mario: Colour Splash has the things that Paper Mario fans want, they should have been represented in the trailer. If ZTD has a good dub like VLR, it should have been represented in the trailer. The burden doesn’t lie on the audience to fill in the gaps. It may be hard to sell out of context, but when voice acting sounds off, people will worry. Also… the Japanese one does sound better to me. But then, I’m not the best judge.
Now, about the look. I like it a fair bit. It’s not mindblowing, but it’s a huge step up from VLR’s mostly real bad CG moments. It is not, however, a step up from the 2D sprites of 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors. Rare is the game that takes the jump from 2d sprites to 3d models well – Ace Attorney is the only one I can think of that managed it in one game. It’s easy to perceive yet more of a Telltale influence in the sketched outlines on the character models. That’s fine. But… the animation seems stilted. Still at VLR level, which is a low bar. It’s absolutely not what I’m coming to ZTD for, but the fact they they’re leaning more on the visuals is a little concerning.
I’ve seen a fair amount of concern about the amount of blood in the trailer. Is ZTD trying to pander to a Western audience? Personally, I strongly doubt it. The use of blood in 999, while certainly evocative, was tasteful. It never felt like the game was trying to glorify gore. The relative lack of blood in VLR actually stood out because of its dissonance with the rest of the game’s tone. That was the result of an attempt to make the game more marketable in Japan, and it didn’t work. I trust that, without those restrictions, Uchikoshi is telling the story he wants to tell.
That said, the subject I absolutely don’t trust Uchikoshi on is tasteful character design for women. I covered it once in a feature where I talked about the negatives of Zero Escape. Lotus, Clover and Alice – in all three cases it made no sense and didn’t match the character. It’s hard to get a handle on Mila’s character from this trailer, but I’m hedging my bets on her following the trend. She does seem quite unsettling, though. “Interesting”.
One last thing – I’m loving, loving, loving the Latin quotes. “Plaudite, acta est fabula” makes a welcome return, bringing the chills along with it. I hope their implementation is every bit as unsettling and weirdly erudite as they were in VLR. More than anything else, these quotes lead me to believe Uchikoshi’s crazy heart is still beating in this final entry in the Zero Escape series. Gaaaaaah, I can’t wait.