@Kyuusei: You read my post wrong. They called it Zero's Escape. Not Zero Escape. Total context change because of the possessive. XD
Well I just spent the past 4 hours playing solidly and reached my first, intentional 'Bad End'. Not as shock and awe as I was hoping but completely in line with the path my character had been choosing. If anyone gets emotionally attached to characters and the story I can say some of the things you'll have to do to reach certain 'Bad Ends' are going to get to you. Hell despite my resolve to go in as coldly as possible I still had some hesitation when hitting that 'Betray' button. And it's not like the game is wagging a finger at you either; this is a very natural, flowing progression of events, emotions, and overall a product of fantastic writing. I can't really say the plot has me as hooked from 'Go' as 999 did; but I think that has more to do with the 'Be a dick' path I chose creating rifts that prevented me from being a part of the more sensitive secrets the characters are packing.
In case anyone is interested: The path I took was Tenmyoji first with a double Betray.
This very much feels like an upgraded 999. The puzzles are a bit tougher (the last escape room I did gave me frustration about on par with 999's 'early-last chapter' puzzles and I have yet to get a Gold Solution), the escape portion mechanics feel smoother, and 'best' of all is the new Flow Chart mechanic. At any point you can pull up a huuuuge branching path tree that doubles as chapter select; allowing you not only to instantly skip to any past portion of the game but it also shows you where the splits in the plot happen. So now random guessing to figure out which combination of options gives you that one ending you're missing. I say 'best' because in truth this does ruin some of the tension and challenge in finding the best ending (although if you want to be really staunch about the 'blind' factor you can always just not use it; just be warned the game flashes it in your face after an ending so you may not get much choice). Out of all the branches there are two that're obviously the longest, so while it doesn't outright say which is the straight path to the true ending I'm willing to bet the solution isn't the 'obvious one'.
Regardless I will completely be researching every other story possibility before gunning for one of the 'true potentials'.
I'm quite happy to say, spoiler free, that a fair amount of my questions before playing this game have been generally answered except for a few; which I imagine I'll find out along other pathways. Just for one playthrough it feels like I processed a ton of information yet barely have a framework of the whole picture. I may actually cut Ever17 out of my play schedule just to make room for more VLR.
Because of the large amount of pathways I'm probably going to avoid talking about anything story specific for quite a while. I imagine it'll at least take a week or two for people here to have played enough paths to discuss story specifics without accidentally ruining too much of the mystery for those interested. I will say this though:
Zero III = Best Character Ever.
Seriously this little bunny isn't too far off from my own personality, right down to the constant stream of bad puns and ability to flip through a book of comedic accents just for the sake of screwing with people; totally wins my heart as one of my top game antagonists. XD And in credit to the writers and the VA they did a great job of actually giving this guy some 'teeth'. Really after the demo and the promos I was laughing about anyone considering Zero III to be frightening or intimidating; but the things they do with his vocal pitch and demeanor presents a deliciously brewed current of unsettling threat.