Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, often abbreviated as ZTD, is the third and final installment of the Zero Escape trilogy. It is the sequel (and chronologically, a prequel) to Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. It is developed by Spike Chunsoft and published by Aksys Games in North America and Europe.
It was released for the Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita / PlayStation TV, and PC on Steam in June 2016. The 3DS and Vita versions are digital download only for Europeans, with the only exception being the New Zealand 3DS digital copy, because it does not exist. A port to the PlayStation 4 was released on August 18, 2017. The only known changes are the addition of a new lighting engine and a few re-done textures. All versions of the game feature English and Japanese dual audio.
The game's genre is a mix of psychological horror, mystery, suspense and thriller. There are still slight elements of humor and comedy to fill in the gaps when the atmosphere isn't so dark, although there is a lesser focus compared to the previous two entries to focus on the more emotional and serious aspects of the story. The story also contains major science-fiction elements, preventing it from being a realistic murder mystery. The gameplay is a mix of escape-the-room and puzzle.
The story primarily follows three people: a nurse named Diana, a firefighter named Carlos, and a boy with a spherical helmet named Q. The three protagonists abducted by Zero and are trapped in a facility along with six other participants and are divided into three teams. Diana is trapped alongside Sigma Klim and Phi (both from Virtue's Last Reward), Carlos is trapped alongside Junpei Tenmyouji and Akane Kurashiki (recurring characters in the series), and Q is trapped alongside Eric and Mira (two original characters). The nine are forced to participate in the Decision Game, a death game which involves killing at least 6 out of the 9 players, bracelets that inject them with a drug every 90 minutes which induces memory loss, exploring the facility and solving escape-the-room puzzles in order to survive and escape, and figuring out the truth behind the game and Zero's identity. The players must make difficult decisions that force them to choose between their freedom, their humanity and their morals.
- "Six of us are... dead. Counting myself, there are only three left. They were killed... I... I guess you could say I killed them... No... no, that's not quite right. Not just them. Not just these six... All of them... All six billion... Soon, I will have killed six billion people."
- — Diana to the Operator, about the dire situation in the facility
Brother, a misanthrope who despises the human race and wants every single human on the planet to die, has decided that humanity has long overstayed its selfish, greedy existence on planet Earth. Brother has received a mission from "God": to purify humanity via its death and extinction and create a utopia in which every single human is a light-skinned blonde-haired blue-eyed man with the exact same name and face, and everyone has the same beliefs, thoughts, opinions and values with no sense of individuality, since differences lead to conflict, and subsequently hate, violence, discrimination, etc.
In order to kill every human on the planet, his organization of over a million followers, Free the Soul, have developed and prepared a suicide virus known as Radical-6 to be unleashed to the entire world at the end of 2028. This will determine the ultimate fate of humanity and all life on the planet.
On December 25, 2028, several people have been sent to the Mars Mission Test Site, also known as "Dcom", in Nevada to simulate a manned mission to Mars, and experiment if life is suitable there. The participants include:
However, six days into the project, on December 31st, eight of the participants wake up together in a celled room and find irremovable black bracelets on their wrists. It turns out that Dcom is secretly part of Free the Soul, and the participants were probably gassed with anesthetic while they were sleeping. As the Dcom participants are locked in cells, they find an amnesiac boy with a spherical helmet among them, but none of the participants recognize him.
A masked man dressed as a plague doctor, Zero, then appears. He tells them life is unfair, and says that all it takes is one snail for the world to be destroyed. He forces them to play a game - a game which will determine the lives of them, him, and the rest of humanity. He flips a coin with red on one side and blue on the other and hides it under his foot. He asks the players which colored side is facing up, but they will only be able to guess once. If they guess correctly, Zero will release them and set them free. However, if they guess incorrectly, they will be forced to play a game in which at least 6 of them will die.
Zero leaves the decision to Carlos, and tells him that he is a snail. Carlos can choose to agree with Mira that the coin is red or decide that Junpei is correct and it is blue. Regardless of which color Carlos picks, the first choice will be correct, leading to a timeline where everyone is released. The choice must be replayed again with the other color to start the Decision Game.
The Decision Game begins
- Team C: Carlos (leader), Akane and Junpei
- Team Q: Q (leader), Eric and Mira
- Team D: Diana (leader), Sigma and Phi
The teams are forced to play a series of miserable "decision games" involving life-or-death. In order to escape, they must collect 6 X-Passes to open the X-Door that blocks a central elevator hall. However, a password is only revealed when a person dies. They cannot escape without sacrificing six of their people.
In the beginning of the game, the participants of the game must decide which other team they want to kill. This is done by computers and a majority vote means that if a team has 2 votes from other teams, all three members are killed. Only the team leader can vote and they can only vote once. If a team refuses to vote, all three of them die.
Carlos devises a plan to spread the votes, and then uses an old dog named Gab to send information on the plan to the other participants. The three team leaders can decide to go along with the plan or pick a different team.
This leads to four timelines:
- Everyone spreads the votes and no one dies
- C-Team is executed
- Q-Team is executed
- D-Team is executed
The executions are performed by trapping the three team members with exploding bomb collars around their necks.
Q-Team is executed
If Q-Team is executed in the vote, C-Team awakens in the infirmary and survive being poisoned by finding the correct antidote.
D-Team awakens in the facility's trash disposal room, and discover Phi locked in an incinerator. Sigma is restrained, and Zero forces Diana to play Russian roulette with her friends' lives on the line. If she pulls the trigger on a revolver pointed at Sigma's head, Phi is released; the revolver is loaded with three live cartridges and three blanks. If Diana refuses to shoot, Phi is incinerated. If the revolver contains a bullet, it leads to a game over.
Diana refuses to shoot
In the timeline where Diana refuses to shoot, Phi is killed in the incinerator. Diana and Sigma are put to sleep after the active period, and when they next wake, they have no memory of what happened in the trash disposal room.
In the control room, Carlos and Junpei are killed by carbon dioxide gas shortly afterward, and a heartbroken Akane escapes on her own, abandoning Diana and Sigma.
Diana and Sigma awake in the transporter room and discover an alien device called a transporter capable of copying matter and sending it through the space-time continuum. Diana and Sigma send duplicates of themselves to an alternate timeline, and then spend the rest of their lives in the facility. They give birth to fraternal twins, who they name Delta and Phi. Diana and Sigma use the transporter to send duplicates of their children to the past where they will live healthy lives, and then presumably die when the facility's food runs out.
Diana shoots and Sigma dies
After killing Sigma, Diana proceeds to kill herself, leaving Phi alone. Her fate is left unknown.
C-Team awakens in the Rec Room.
Diana shoots and Sigma survives
If Diana shoots Sigma with a blank cartridge, all three survive.
C-Team awakens in the power room, and Carlos and Junpei are forced to participate in a prisoner's dilemma with their lives on the line. Carlos lives through both a timeline where he chooses to cooperate, but Junpei betrays and kills him, and a timeline where he chooses to betray, killing the cooperative Junpei and resulting in an enraged Akane beating him to death with a fire extinguisher. Carlos returns to the decision and learns from Akane that, when under threat of imminent death, he can jump between alternate timelines. Akane jury-rigs a bomb to kill them all and uses the danger to jump to the timeline where Diana shoots Sigma with a live cartridge, and then completes suicide in despair.
There, Carlos and Junpei allow a booby trap to kill them so that Akane can learn their passwords. The three of them then jump to a timeline where they survived this booby trap and attempt to use the passwords, but they are set at the moment of death and therefore worthless. A robot resembling Q attacks them, and Carlos promises to save them and jumps to another timeline.
C-Team is executed
If C-Team is executed in the vote, Q-Team awakens in the facility's biolab. Zero explains that they may have been infected with a disease called Fanatic Bio R, and that the only cure is an injection of Radical-6, which is antagonistic to FBR. Q-Team can either inject the virus or refuse.
Q-Team doesn't inject Radical-6
If Q-Team refuses, Mira pockets a syringe of Radical-6 for later use.
D-Team awakens in the manufacturing room and discovers a bomb; they decide to use it to blow open an alternate escape route. Zero punishes them for their rule violation by placing the anesthetized Q-Team near the bomb, where they will almost certainly be blown up and killed. If Diana chooses to allow the bomb to detonate anyway, Sigma stays behind to try to disarm it, but to no avail; the bomb explodes, kills Eric and Q instantly, blows off Sigma's arms and right eye, and mortally wounds Mira. Mira injects Phi with the Radical-6 out of spite before dying, and Diana defies Sigma and Phi and takes them to the surface, causing a Radical-6 pandemic. This timeline leads to the events of Virtue's Last Reward.
Q-Team injects Radical-6
If Q-Team takes the virus, Mira murders Eric and stabs Q.
Later, after D-Team escapes from the Healing Room, Mira kills the entirety of D-Team and escapes on her own.
Left behind and trapped in the facility, Q directly confronts Zero in the Quantum Computer Dome, who reveals that Q is a quantum artificial intelligence named Sean. Sean is capable of jumping between timelines like the group's human psychics and explains that the computer contains memory from multiple histories.
D-Team is executed
If D-Team is executed in the vote, Carlos and Akane awaken in the facility's pantry and discover Junpei's dismembered corpse. An altercation ensues where Akane accuses Carlos of murdering him. Carlos can either agree with the accusation and complete suicide, or kill Akane in self-defense.
Carlos kills himself
In the timeline where Carlos kills himself, Q, Mira and Eric locate a study where they begin a three-way stand-off.
Carlos kills Akane
In the timeline where he kills Akane, Q and Eric awaken in the facility's pod room. Eric obtains a shotgun crucial to solving that room's puzzles, and the two discover Mira has been strangled to death. A crazed Eric accuses Q of killing her at gunpoint, but if Q does not name a potential killer, he ultimately calms down.
The Diana and Sigma who were sent through the transporter in the Q-Team timeline arrive in this timeline; they discover a passage between wards D and Q and regroup with Q and Eric. They are then joined by the Carlos from the Q-Team timeline, who is inhabiting the D-Team timeline's Carlos' body. The group discovers that the entire facility consists of a single ward and that Zero has staggered the awakening times so that no two groups are active at the same time.
The still-unhinged Eric confronts the others and demands to know who killed Mira. Carlos provokes Eric into shooting him and jumps back to the Q-Team timeline, where he defeats the robot and transports Akane and Junpei to the Virtue's Last Reward timeline. He then jumps to yet another timeline so he can follow them in the alternate transporter, and rescues them from the facility. Akane uses the memory drugs to wipe Junpei's memory of the Decision Game, and leaves to begin the AB Project.
In the confrontation between Eric, Q, Diana, and Sigma, Q recovers his memories of the timeline where Mira escaped. He reveals his robotic nature and deduces that Zero's true identity is Diana and Sigma's son Delta. It is revealed that the character identified to the player as Q is not and has never been Q; the other participants have always known him as Sean. The person who the participants know as Q is in fact Delta, an old man who presents himself as wheelchair-bound, deaf, blind, and mute and who Q-Team has treated as a piece of the background.
Delta explains that when Diana and Sigma sent him and his sister Phi back in time, they arrived in 1904 in Germany. The German researchers sent Phi forward to 2008, where she became a participant in the Ambidex and Decision Games. Delta also reveals that if the Radical-6 outbreak does not occur, a religious extremist will start a nuclear war that will destroy all of humanity; he sees Radical-6 as the lesser of two evils. He finally reveals that he has the ability to read and control other people's minds and has been using this power to learn all about the alternate timelines the participants have been going through. Having decided he no longer needs this timeline, Delta forces Eric to shoot Sean and Sigma and complete suicide with the shotgun.
No one is executed (True ending route)
In the timeline where all three teams vote differently, nobody is executed. The three teams are sent to the decontamination room. Delta attempts to convince each team to push a button that will douse the other two teams in hydrofluoric acid, allowing them to escape. Once a button is pressed by a team, the other two teams are doomed.
If none of the teams press the button, they discover a red box marked "Force Quit", which they unlock. All three teams regain their memories of the alternate timelines except for Eric and Mira, who are not psychic; Sean explains the events so far to them. Phi, Diana and Sigma also have an emotionally touching reunion.
The nine of them meet up and are confronted by Delta, who has the shotgun. Delta explains that during a routine jog, a woman (possibly Eric's mother)'s usual route was blocked by a snail. The woman went down another path, and was subsequently murdered by a girl (possibly Mira, who would go on to become a sociopathic serial killer who gouges out her victims' hearts in order to understand emotion). Akane's father was falsely accused, convicted, and executed; her mother committing suicide shortly afterwards. These events placed Akane in position to be abducted and forced to play the original Nonary Game, causing the events of 999, and by extension the whole series. Akane would eventually go on to create the AB Project in another timeline, leading to the timeline where Diana and Sigma gave birth to Delta and Phi. One of Delta's primary purposes for creating the Decision Game is to close the predestination paradox that results in him and Phi being born.
Phi and Eric disarm Delta and activate the Force Quit box, which turns out to be the facility's self-destruct mechanism. Delta then reveals to the players that he killed Gab. Delta forces Eric to shoot him dead using Mind Hacking, leaving the nine participants trapped.
The group agrees to jump to the timeline where they won the coin flip and were all released by Delta, using the resonance of their SHIFTing powers to take Eric and Mira with them.
In the final timeline, Carlos wins the coin flip and the group is released. The group from the Force Quit timeline arrives and are once again confronted by Delta. The participants threaten to call the police on him, but Delta points out that he has not committed any murders in this timeline, and that he has removed all evidence of his wrongdoing from the facility. He reveals that his other purpose for creating the Decision Game was to train the participants so that they could stop the religious extremist from causing the nuclear war without resorting to Radical-6.
He offers Carlos a handgun and gives him one last decision to make; he may let Delta leave without receiving any comeuppance, or shoot him dead. Carlos picks up the gun, and the game ends, implying that for the first time, the characters are making the decisions themselves, without Delta's influence.
The post-game epilogues reveal that in this final timeline, Carlos' sister Maria recovers from her Reverie Syndrome illness and also gains the ability to jump between timelines. Carlos has become a brother figure to Akane and Junpei, who are to be married, and the three of them vow to stop the religious extremist. Mira has turned herself in for her killings and married Eric, but Sean breaks her out of prison so that they can use the transporter to stop Mira from committing her murders in the past. It is revealed that the 1904 version of Phi is speculated to have become a researcher who studied the transporter well into her 100s, which would mean she may have adopted herself.
- Main article: Zero Time Dilemma endings
Zero Time Dilemma features seven named endings and a number of unnamed bad endings where the story hits a dead end without it being a true ending.
CQD-END: 2 is the true canon ending, although the player is required to experience other endings, meaning that all of the other endings are also "canon" in a sense in their own way.
List of endings:
- CQD-END: 1 - Achieved by correctly answering the coin flip in the beginning of the game. Everyone escapes.
- C-END: 1 - Continuation of D-END 1.
- Q-END: 1 - Team D executed by vote; Carlos blames himself for Junpei's death; Shoot Eric in 3-way standoff.
- Q-END: 2 - The real Zero is identified.
- D-END: 1 - This ending is the one that causes VLR to happen.
- D-END: 2 - Diana and Sigma transport themselves, then their own children.
- CQD-END: 2 - Continuation of CQD-END 1, True ending.
- Happy-END - Choosing to go in the virtual world. Sean's consciousness is uploaded onto a VR simulator and he lives the good life he never had.
- Perceptive-END - Choosing to shoot Delta in the 3-way standoff for Team Q. Reveals that Delta is watching everything that occurs in the facility.
|The leader of Team C and one of three protagonists. A hot-blooded man with a strong sense of justice. He cares deeply for his younger sister, who is suffering from an incurable disease.|
|A member of Team Q. A young man working at an ice cream shop who is in a relationship with Mira.|
|A member of Team D. A curt young woman who joined the DCOM experiment to save the world.|
|The leader of Team Q and one of three protagonists. A young boy who has lost his memories and who is wearing a mysterious spherical helmet.|
|A member of Team C. After the events of 999, he joined a detective agency to track down Akane, who had vanished completely.|
|A member of Team C. Though she appears to be a proper young woman, her true personality is Machiavellian.|
|The leader of Team D and one of three protagonists. A pacifistic young woman who hates fighting. Works as a nurse.|
|A member of Team Q. A young woman who is in a relationship with Eric.|
|A member of Team D. Although only 22 years old, he seems to have led a long and complicated life. Occasionally called "old man" by Phi.|
|An unknown person hiding their identity behind a mask and disguise, who seems to be controlling the deadly games. Their goal is unknown.|
|Gab||An old dog able to fit through air vents too small for humans, making him able to travel between sections of the facility. Participants attach messages to his collar to try and communicate with other Teams.|
The game has fully animated visual novel parts, but they are in the form of more cinematic cutscenes. The usual narration is all replaced by voiced dialogue.
This is because the developer felt most modern gamers simply don't like reading much these days, and that cutscenes are much more direct and easier to keep players invested in a story, similar to a drama being watched. It would also make the game more accessible to those not interested in the text-heavy visual "novel" aspect (999 on DS, for example, contains hours and hours of clicking and reading).
The text skipping function from Virtue's Last Reward that doesn't skip new text returns.
There are 13 escape rooms, 3 less than the 16 of both 999 and VLR.
- Main article: Decision Game
Zero Time Dilemma does not feature a Nonary Game, but instead, a Decision Game. Each team from time to time are presented with a series of tragic, heartbreaking, sadistic, horrifying, intense and emotional mini-games. Each entails lethal risks to the participants, often resulting in one or more player's deaths. The ending results are much more extreme and gorier than in previous installments - so much so that the previous two entries have Japanese ratings of ages 15+, and Zero Time Dilemma is ages 17+. The European rating of Virtue's Last Reward is ages 16+ and Zero Time Dilemma is ages 18+.
Unlike previous games where the Nonary Games only occasionally end on a bad note, the Decision Games are filled with extreme scenarios that often do not have a singular right answer. Often, the answers come with clear options while others are simply left to fate and luck.
- Do you choose to press a button that says "Do not push"?
- Do you pull the trigger on a gun that contains three bullets and three blanks?
- Do you take a mysterious vial containing what is claimed to be an antidote to a poison you were forcibly given?
Some options lead to "best" endings, others are left with not positive viable options - hence the "dilemma" in the subtitle. Moral elements are the main theme of the game and are meant to intensely shake the player's way of thinking, values and virtues. What is right? What is good? What is evil? What is wrong? For the extreme decisions, they are often accompanied by scenes where someone's life is on the line. Ultimately, all Decision Game dilemma's choices and outcomes are dictated by the Team leader's Carlos, Q, and Diana.
The Decision Game has some randomized outcomes, utilizing elements of pure luck and chance instead of skill.
For example, at the beginning of the Decision Game, Zero says, "Life is simply unfair" and flips a coin - one side is blue, one side is red. Carlos can guess whether the coin will be red or blue. If the player guesses correctly, all of the players can escape, but if they guess incorrectly, the players will be forced to play the Decision Game which will kill 6 of them.
Randomness, chance, and unfairness is a core theme of the game, just like how life operates under these principles. A major component of life does not rely on actual effort, talent or skill.
For example, after a certain puzzle Sigma will be trapped in a chair. The gun pointing at Sigma's head has three live rounds and three blanks, i.e. a 50/50 chance of killing him. The game calculates the odds each time so in one playthrough, he may live, while in another, he may die.
The player may replay sections of the game to trigger alternate probabilities. The game's probability generator is also heavily weighted to outcomes that have not yet been seen. Like Virtue's Last Reward, some fragmented events are required to be seen in order for certain endings and decision choices to be available.
Floating Fragment System
- Main article: Floating Fragment
Zero Time Dilemma features three main playable characters, taking control of the three Team's leader's Carlos, Diana, and Q. However, due to the nature of the Decision Game where at the end of each round, the cast is subjected to a powerful drug that erases all events that occurred during their investigations, the chronological events of the game are unclear as the player begins a new Event chain. Until the puzzle room and the respective decision game are completed, the player won't know where in the global flowchart this fragments falls into.
Using the Floating Fragment system, the player can freely jump to different event fragments for each team at their own leisure. This also allows them to revisit old Decision Games and choose other outcomes. The fragments have no set order in which they are completed or randomization. Players can choose to complete all events of a singular team at a time or jump in between team events.
Several Event Fragments require that the player have seen/completed another fragment however - these are known as Fragment locks which are similar to the locks in Virtue's Last Reward. An example of a fragment lock is not knowing who the murderer is.
Shinji Hosoe composed the music for Zero Time Dilemma.
The game features several remixes from 999 and Virtue's Last Reward, although there are considerably more Virtue's Last Reward remixes than 999 remixes.
Early orders of the PC version came with a digital 12-track mini soundtrack which is 39 minutes in length. However, this is not the entire soundtrack.
- Zero Times - New song, plays in intro.
- Quondam Monitors - Plays in Control (remix of "Monitor").
- Ustulate Pathos - New song.
- Tough Decision - New song, plays during decisions.
- Trash Disposal - Plays in Trash Disposal Room.
- Glacial Solitude - New song.
- Transient Tranquility - New song.
- Unliberated Library - Plays in Study (remix of "Pantry").
- Nostalgic Scenery - New song.
- Sacrificial Demise - Remix of "Demise".
- Extreme Urgency - New song.
- Interminable Dilemma - New song.
It is unknown if a full official soundtrack will be released later. When Shinji Hosoe was asked, he said "we will prepare".
Due to the low popularity of the Zero Escape series in Japan, as well as budget and financial matters, the game was put on hold "indefinitely" in 2014, meaning that there was a possibility Zero Escape 3 would never be made, greatly upsetting the series' fanbase.
Soon after, a Facebook group "Operation Bluebird" was created by fans, supporting the Zero Escape series, posting images of their Zero Escape collection, often with a message supporting Zero Escape 3.
Kotaro Uchikoshi posted on February 17, 2014 "That matters are now under consideration".
In 2015, a mysterious site called "4infinity.co" appeared, with many fan speculation it was Zero Escape 3.
Zero Escape 3 was officially announced at Anime Expo 2015 on July 3. A press release revealed the title for the game, Zero Time Dilemma. Uchikoshi said that without fan support after 999, both Virtue's Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma would have likely not have been made. The first visual tease of the game was art of Diana threatening Sigma with a gun, leading to much fan hype.
Both the Japanese-language and the English-language versions were developed simultaneously. The 3DS, PS Vita / PS TV, and PC versions of the game were released June 2016. The PlayStation 4 version was released in August 2017.
Zero Time Dilemma received an extremely mixed reception, and is doubtlessly the most polarizing game in the series. For example, in a single NeoGAF thread, reactions to the game range from:
- ""ZTD is great", ""I really liked ZTD"
- ""I didn't find ZTD to be that bad", "ZTD was okay"
- ""The game is an abomination", never happened", "never play ZTD", "it can retroactively ruin enjoyment of the series"
Despite the mixed reception, the majority of series fans generally agree that ZTD players should lower their expectations and know that it does not answer a lot of the series' plot threads. They should also know that "Another Time END" of VLR is non-canon metafiction which ZTD does not address, due to the reasoning that Another Time was an unlockable that not every player saw.
Destructoid gave the game 9.5 out of 10, calling it a "hallmark of excellence" ruined only by the "abysmal presentation" of the cut scenes. IGN gave it 9.2 out of 10. Also praised was D:END-2, which many fans have called a powerful and emotionally moving ending, comparing it to the likes of the Submarine Ending from 999 and Luna END from VLR.
However, many other fans expressed disappointment and dissatisfaction, mainly with the game's true ending and unanswered plot points. These fans feel it was a letdown from 999 and VLR, and consider ZTD to be the "black sheep" of the series, and that it was a flawed way to end the series, especially with the amount of hype. Of course, many fans consider that Zero Escape 3 being created was a miracle in itself, but Zero Time Dilemma wasn't quite the answer to Zero Escape 3 they were hoping for.
Some points of criticism include:
- The game's length on average is around 20-25 hours, a step down from the average 40 hours or so of VLR.
- There are 13 escape rooms instead of the 16 from past games.
- Some criticism has been directed at the game's character movement animation, with reviewers feeling that they move stiffly, awkwardly, and unnaturally.
- The English voice acting has received mixed reception, some feeling it is good, while others feeling it is inconsistent. The lip sync has also been a point of criticism for both languages.
- The soundtrack, while praised, was criticized for re-using a lot of music from the past two games, even though they were slightly remixed.
- The non-chronological Floating Fragment system has received a mixed reception. Some fans feel that it is an interesting mechanic and that piecing the story together is fun; others note that it can detract from some of the game's emotional scenes, especially when the Decision Game players are killed. For example, Phi can be incinerated to death in one fragment, and then the player can simply jump to another fragment and see her alive again. Despite it being a "Decision Game", decisions don't have lasting consequences.
- Some fans felt the characterization of returning characters (Akane, Junpei, Sigma) felt off. In defense, Junpei's characterization is due to him having experienced a year of seeing dark and morbid stuff as a detective. Sigma's characterization is due to him having a consciousness swap. Akane's characterization is due to her no longer playing the role of Zero and wearing a facade; she is no longer in control of the game, making her far more terrified and prone to panic, which is why she is more "yandere" and eager to kill Carlos in one route, who murdered Junpei, he could be Zero, and she needs a X-Pass.
- Some Phi fans felt she didn't receive enough screentime.
- Some fans felt the new players (Carlos, Q, Eric, Mira) were uninteresting.
- Some fans felt that the players being separated into teams of three hurt the "relationship" aspect between other characters which is limited as a result. One of the most acclaimed aspects of the Zero Escape series are the relationships between the players over the course of hours of cutscenes. For example, the relationship between Carlos and Phi, Diana and Junpei, Eric and Akane, etc, are rather unexplored and not developed into detail.
- Some fans have called ZTD a "gorefest", which may be disturbing, although this is the point of the gore. There are scenes of dismembered bodies, murder, torture, and people dying in various horrible ways that involve excruciating pain and suffering.
Some of the supernatural and sci-fi elements of the story have a somewhat mixed reception, especially since it increases the amount of supernatural and science fiction. The amount of supernatural and science-fiction (if not fantasy) elements may be seen as a contrast to the fairly realistic grounding of 999. Examples of sci-fi elements include:
- Drugs so powerful that they can erase someone's memory of 90 minutes.
- Time travel and jumping between histories referred to as "SHIFTing", although the previous games contains element of these.
- Mind Hacking, although Mind Hacking could also be seen as an ability that appeared in the previous two times, if ? (the player's consciousness) is interpreted as a force controlling Junpei's and Sigma's actions.
- Alien technology (i.e. the Transporter which fans have dubbed the "alien fax machine" and a literal "deus ex machina") which can duplicate humans and objects and send them to the past, present, and even to other histories. The Transporter also means that the Akane and Junpei in Virtue's Last Reward could be considered clones of their original selves, which may be an off-putting idea.
- Technology which can change the appearance of walls and furniture (i.e. the Lounge and Healing Room)
There are also questionable plot elements:
- Sigma and Diana being careless enough to make babies, especially knowing they are trapped in an underground shelter 50 meters below the surface, and with a finite amount of food.
- Delta (Q) being conveniently hidden or not talked about, although there are hints.
- Delta, who is put in the position of answering many of the series' mysteries, merely handwaves questions by claiming he has complex motives and often does not clarify anything beyond that.
- This has led to "complex motives" becoming a fandom meme and joke. For example, when a question about ZTD is asked on the series Reddit which there is no known answer to, someone will often simply reply "complex motives".
- The plot dropped the ? and Kyle and Left clone subplots. It does not mention what happened to Clover, Alice, Santa/Aoi, Snake/Light, Luna and Quark.
- There are no "Post-Payoff" files for Sigma, Diana or Phi, leaving a player in the dark about what happened to them after the events of the game.
- ZTD ended similarly to how VLR did, with everyone motivated to stop a mysterious religious fanatic from killing humanity.
Some fans called into question Kotaro Uchikoshi's writing skills, with some disappointed fans even going so far to call him a "hack". There are some rumors that Uchikoshi only wrote the D-Team parts, but this needs a citation. Fans asked him if he could answer questions in a Q and A session, and he said he wanted to give fans time to positize and make theories. When the possibility of a Q and A was mentioned again, he basically declined. However, in the meantime, he has answered many questions about the game online (see answers).
All versions of the game contain three save files. All versions minus the 3DS one feature trophies/achievements.
Unlike Virtue's Last Reward, the 3DS version of the game lacks 3D support. Due to the inferior graphics capacity of the Nintendo 3DS, this version has recieved criticism for containing blurry textures; it uses a slightly different lighting system which gives the characters a more "yellow" or "pink" look compared to the Vita and PC versions. It also has slightly more compressed audio. (Some players feel that the music is louder than some of the voice acting, and that Zero's voice can be hard to hear.) The lower resolution of the 3DS has caused some minor issues with the escape room puzzles - some examinable objects and items are difficult to read and there isn't always a zoom-in option.
The Vita version looks very similar to the PC version, essentially having the same textures and lighting system. Note: if played on a real Vita, the screen auto-dims after 1 minute of no input from the player and there's no way to disable auto-dim, meaning that it's essentially impossible to watch the game's hours of cutscenes at full Vita brightness - this doesn't apply if the Vita version is played on PlayStation TV.
The PC version is a higher-resolution than the Vita version -- the Vita's resolution is 960x544, while the PC version can go up to 1080p/4K and runs at 60 FPS.
The PlayStation 4 version, which was released a year after the other three, features several graphical changes and improvements, including different lighting, shading, and upgraded textures. In general, the PS4 version has more shadows and looks darker than the PC version. A comparison video can be seen here. The graphical improvements are especially noticeable in D-END:1 (which has a red tint outside due to the eclipse, while other versions did not), the scenes in the Nevada desert outside the Dcom facility, the Quantum Computer Dome, and the Pod Room.
- Once Virtue's Last Reward was released, Uchikoshi was told by someone above him at the company that his career was washed up and he would never ever get to make a sequel, so he should quit while he was ahead. In the end, he proved them wrong, showing the power of not giving up, perseverance and will.
- There is a 48-page A5-size full-color art book called Zero Escape Premium Booklet. It contains illustrations from character designer Rui Tomono and background design. It also includes a Kotaro Uchikoshi-written prequel detailing the events of the participants at Dcom/Mars Mission Test Site before the Decision Game, a summary of the previous games, and a booklet-original "mystery". In Japan, this was a pre-order bonus. Outside Japan, this was a bonus for those who bought the PC version between launch and July 8. However, this version was digital, not physical.
- Exclusively in the United States, there was a limited edition pre-order bracelet watch. Shortly before the game's release the watches were damaged during transit and were sent back to the factory. As a result the release of the watches was delayed by a few weeks and were shipped separate from the game. An additional bonus, a digital copy of the Zero Escape Premium Booklet, was included as compensation for the delay.
- The art style of the characters is a mixture of the previous two games. In 999, they were 2D sprites with black outlines. In Virtue's Last Reward, they were fully 3D with no black outlines. In Zero Time Dilemma, they are fully 3D with black outlines, creating a cel-shaded look.
- The game's plot took Uchikoshi about a year to write. He also wrote it with two other writers. There are rumors that Uchikoshi only wrote the D-Team segments, but this needs a source.
- One of the game's themes is "identity", and people trying to figure out who they are. Uchikoshi writes about characters with identity issues because it's something that he constantly struggles with himself: "I'm always thinking about who I am. In some ways I think I have a multi-faceted personality."
- This is the first game in the series in which both the American and Japanese versions were developed at the same time, the second Zero Escape game to be released in Europe, and the first Zero Escape game to be released outside of Japan first.
- Sigma was intended to be the sole protagonist, but that was changed early in the game's development. Uchikoshi felt that giving the players control of someone who knows everything from the previous game would be undesirable for new players, hence why all three protagonists are nescient to the events of previous games.
- Uchikoshi had planned to ask Kinu Nishimura to return as character designer, but once he hammered out how Zero Time Dilemma would differ from the past games, he decided to ask Rui Tomono. This was also because they needed to make the backgrounds and characters more cinematic.
- This is the first game in the Zero Escape series to have multiple playable characters.
- The title Zero Time Dilemma is an anagram for "Me, I'm Zero, I'm Delta". This was not intended by Uchikoshi, but may have been done by Aksys. 
- The cover of the game shows the three team leaders in the middle: Carlos, Diana, and Zero. Sean is placed slightly to the right, but close to the center to deceive the player into thinking that he is the leader of Q-Team.
- The release date for the PS4 remaster factors out into a digital root of 9.
- Website (English)
- Website (Japanese)
- Zero Time Dilemma on Steam (PC)
- Zero Time Dilemma on PCGamingWiki
- Zero Time Dilemma on PlayStation Store (PS4)
- Zero Time Dilemma on PlayStation Store (Vita)
- Zero Time Dilemma on Nintendo eShop