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999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (Nintendo DS) Review

Review for 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

With Rising Star Games' recent announcement that they would be bringing the highly anticipated Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward to Europe's shores this November, many European 3DS owners may be left wondering why exactly they should be hyped. Look no further, though, as Cubed3 delves into the original title in the series with the US import of Chunsoft's 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

What probably sounds like a gimmicky title strangely obsessed with the number '9' leads many to enter the game with no real expectations; the visual novel is after all still an emerging genre amongst western audiences with no real comparisons to draw from besides perhaps Capcom's Ace Attorney series. 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is an almost entirely text-driven game, as one would expect from the genre. As with many visual novels, the crutch of the game is based around the decisions made from the perspective of the unfortunate protagonist, Junpei, who awakens at the beginning of the game to find himself on a ship slowly filling up with water.

A few panicked puzzles later and he discovers he's been flung against his will into an extremely sadistic game called the 'Nonary Game' in which himself and eight other unfortunate 'victims' try to escape this sinking ship with no instruction other than those of their captor, someone who calls themselves Zero. Throwing in a couple of non-removable bomb detonator wristbands, the bombs of which will cause a character to implode if failure is met, really puts on the pressure and excitement right from the beginning. Not all the characters seem at all up for this either with the introduction of some who are little older than kids, understandably white as ghosts at the realisation that there are bombs inside them after having been mysteriously abducted. However, they have no choice but to proceed in the increasingly morbid and sickening puzzles and riddles dotted around the ship as they search for a door with the number '9' on it.

Screenshot for 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

This is merely the introduction; it's from here on out that the structure of the game starts to become apparent. It seems like almost everywhere on the ship is locked, and in order to proceed the characters must team up, making use of their assigned number to add up to the digits on the door they wish to enter. From the get go the characters are split up and Junpei has the 'honour' of deciding for himself what door he wants to take, and, in fact, the lucky guy mysteriously has this power of choice for the majority of the adventure. There are, supposedly and non-surprisingly, 9 numbered doors dotted around the ship, each with a series of puzzles and clues inside, and further exploration of the ship sometimes means the groups of characters must decide whether it's in their best interests to trust or not to trust, to help or hinder the others. After all, they are in danger of drowning or exploding, their moral clocks quickly becoming unstable and the player will be witness to a fair share of breakdowns and unexpected character actions as progress is made in whichever order has been chosen to navigate through these doors.

Whereas many visual novels are linear, the choices made throughout 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors very much influence the game's outcome, and depending on which order of doors are gone through, there will be the treat of one out of six different endings, though it's highly recommended to get each and every one to fully enjoy and soak up every piece of the plot's puzzle in order to make it a truly satisfying experience. Of course, spoiling what door nets which ending, or even how shocking any particular ending may be, would be tantamount to ruining the whole journey, but it must be stressed that they are all definitely important. Don't worry, though, while the first play-through might feel like it is quite lengthy indeed, the second play-through and onwards will allow for the skipping of text already read, slowing down just as players happen across a line of writing not viewed before; no matter how minor, not one tiny piece of information will be missed, nor will boredom creep in from going over previously read text repeatedly.

Screenshot for 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The puzzles are mostly (though not all) basically mathematical and they vary from relatively simple to occasionally frustrating, and it is here that the game's first, and probably only, real flaw can be found. While the puzzles are never horrible, they are rarely particularly amazing or thoroughly fun, merely proving to be an aside to the game's story, and while most video games have a story as an assist to the core gameplay it's more the other way around here; the puzzles certainly do their job at moving the plot forward at a steady but not effortless pace. These puzzles will also be easier during succeeding play cycles as a rough idea of the solution will already be in mind. Each numbered door nets very different results in the story and even in the third or fourth play-through players may find themselves shocked by what new plot element or revelation is discovered.

That will be all that is covered in terms of the plot, as it would be wrong to spoil matters as, of course, the plot is the true centre of the game, and oh what a tale it is! More often than not you will be hard-pressed to find a story in a game that is impressive, let alone as remarkable or widely acclaimed as 999's; there are twists and turns at almost every twisted corridor of the ship's interior. The game's plot employs brilliantly clever usage of real and fantasy theories and events alike, some previously totally unrelated, to create an even greater sense of mystery about what really is, (or isn't), going on with this Nonary Game. This splendidly woven mix of reality and fiction will likely make some players want to get out there and research what is real and what isn't out of pure curiosity just as this reviewer did, and, better yet, the writing is never too difficult to understand, while being intriguing at every step.

Screenshot for 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

The game's writing and dialogue is top-notch, expressing perfectly each character's quirks and insecurities. The notable aspects of each area or event feel like they jump out, shouting for immediate attention when in reality it's all very subtle and expertly crafted, rarely doing anything that seems too over-focused and rarely is there a feeling that the little nagging feeling or curiosity inside is going to be totally ignored; no plot holes here folks! Some of the writing is also horrifyingly detailed and vivid and never fails to strike fear, anxiousness or dread into the player regardless of how much, or how little, is displayed visually. One specific scene that sticks in the mind describes in detail one unfortunate soul's entrails, right down to their colour, stench, and even the pattern they made across the wall they were so gracefully splattered upon. There is no accompanying graphical image for this, but the text alone is enough to make a lasting impression on even those who think they are used to gory games. Additionally, if not a fan of gore in general, don't let that turn you off; the characters certainly aren't either and they will quickly help to get minds off of the subject.

Obviously, while the game has its moments of suspenseful silence, it certainly didn't forget to have a soundtrack. The consistently atmospheric music only helps the heart to beat at an appropriate pace for each puzzle or scene. It's not all grim, either, with some (surprisingly) truly funny scenes along the way, as well as some on the more heart-warming, or heartbreaking, side, and, of course, a healthy abundance of scenes that make something suddenly click in the brain as the mind says 'Oh!'

Screenshot for 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

999 is a visual novel, it fulfils its role perfectly and constantly gets players wondering if that last choice made was indeed the right one. Unfortunately, a few of its puzzles are lacking in the 'fun' department and may be a little too heavy in the 'ah, maths' department for some.

Graphics

Simple-but-nice and occasionally well-animated sprite work with many atmospheric backdrops to the action. However, for better or worse, the backgrounds are usually very much dead and empty. While this serves the atmosphere and plot quite well, there's nothing much in 999's visual department that is extraordinary.

Sound

A few memorable tracks surrounded by mostly atmospheric and exciting tracks that get the heart pumping…or, later in the game, the tears flowing. As would be hoped, no track ever gets remotely annoying, which is always relieving when faced with a tricky puzzle or clue.

Value

999 has numerous endings, all of which offer an increasingly better understanding of the storyline. Replaying the game is never too frustrating either, since already read text can be skipped and re-doing puzzles is never as hard as the first time. Also, when finally finishing all the endings and piecing everything together, it will be a challenge in itself to stop thinking about it afterwards. Heck, it will be hard to ever see the number '9' in the same light ever again! Truly a story experience that stays with people to the point where they will wish they could forget everything known, if only to play it for the first time again.

Cubed3 Rating

10/10
Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

About this score
Rated 10 out of 10

With Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward out across Europe on 16th November, there has never been a better time to invest in what is frankly an unsung gem of video game storytelling. While a final score of '9' may have been more appropriate considering the game's theme, such a score for 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors would have been an injustice! If readers have ever been fans of reading or even playing games like Ace Attorney, Ghost Trick or Professor Layton, then 999 is certainly not to be missed -- an absolute must play. Even those who don't enjoy reading in general will likely be utterly hooked on the rich and exciting plot. Though the game was never officially released in Europe it can currently be nabbed for an absolute bargain on Amazon UK. What are you waiting for?

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10.10.2012

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Also known as

Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

Developer

Chunsoft

Publisher

Aksys

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date None   

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Jay (guest) 11.10.2012 07:40#1

Just ordered it, its not quite as good a bargain as it suggests because P&P is a £5 still decent for an import.

Senior ModeratorCubed3 Member

I really hope they bring the original over here. I almost imported it a few months ago, I think I'm going to have to soon. I've heard brilliant things about it and this just cements it in further!

Great review Josh, glad to see you back! 

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I hope they do too, it deserves recognition here and from interviews it seems like there are actually a lot of western fans outside the states, its acclaim has made it a pretty widely imported title.

I would recommend importing though, I bought it on Amazon for like £40 last year and found it was worth the price because it's just so good, can't really go wrong with its current price on there.. plus I'm not sure I can see it getting a localisation this late.

And cheers! Hoping to get a little more active on the writing side of things now.

Jay (guest) said:
Just ordered it, its not quite as good a bargain as it suggests because P&P is a £5 still decent for an import.

I found it was a bargain compared to how much it used to cost on import, as I mentioned I had to buy it for over £40, £13+£5 P&P is a steal for an experience like this if you ask me. Not the kind of story you'll forget any time soon!

( Edited 11.10.2012 15:54 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Honestly, I'm totally with Josh on this one. I played it early last year, but got too tied up with other C3 commitments to ever do the import review. I planned on a 10/10 - loved every second of it, and truly soaked up every last drop of the atmosphere, playing through ALL the possible endings. Sure, I had to use a guide in places to ensure I didn't miss anything on the last couple of endings and waste time, but what an absolute blast I had doing it!

When everything is pieced together at the end my mind was just blown for weeks after. It's the sort of game that I went around reading others' thoughts just to see if there was more explanation that I'd potentially overlooked. I'm gutted nobody ever brought Imabikisou or 428 on Wii across. Hopefully Virtue's Last Reward will do well enough to keep these style of games coming thick and fast. There's a Jake Hunter game for 3DS as well that hopefully Aksys is looking at Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Staff Member

Well, I've been on the fence about this one for a while, but you've just made me pull the trigger Josh, congrats. Smilie

I find it odd that Nintendo is heavily promoting the sequel though (as on Nintendo Direct last week) seeing as how the original never landed here. I guess if the sequel's story is separate enough to stand on its own then it doesn't really matter.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

From what I've heard it does stand on its own plot yeah, however I'm sure it'll be a better experience if you know more of the backstory to it (plus 999 is just such a great plot, even if you enjoy VLR on its own merits I don't think you should miss the original). Personally I hope it's not too standalone, there are some plotpoints from 999 I'd love them to explore further.. and I know at least one will, but it'd be too much to say what they all were here!

Either way I'm glad Nintendo are pushing VLR, if it's anywhere near as good as 999 it'll deserve as much exposure as it can get.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

I thought 999 was excellent, I'm not much of a fan of puzzle games but the story/plot was so outstanding that it's enough to call it a great game for that alone. I loved the visual novel aspect though, the writing was really well considering it was done in first person. I haven't played the game in over a year but I still remember how amazing it was, how the many morbid scenes in the game gave me chill and rigor (giggles) as I read through it. The cliffhanger at the true end gave me so much hype for the sequel that I still have today; I'm really looking forward to Virtue's Last Reward,

Great review for a great game!

Staff Member

Wow, what a game. Just got to

and am going through it again with different choices. Thank god for auto-scroll! All text adventures need this function.

From one of the endings I got, it was an awesome game to play. The plot has me thinking about who and why Zero does this stuff and what does he get out of it all. Fantastic review Josh, just wish the puzzles were not so hard to complete, since I suck at the majority of the categories in the game. 



SuperYoshi6 PSN name
3DS friend code 2878-9581-8999

I've finished this and can't decide whether I like it or hate it, It felt very grasshopper manufacturesque in that it feels like its designed to mock the player for wanting an explanation.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

JayUK said:
I've finished this and can't decide whether I like it or hate it, It felt very grasshopper manufacturesque in that it feels like its designed to mock the player for wanting an explanation.

Almost everything in 999 is explained if you pay enough attention and play through each ending (which is the aim), imo piecing things together isn't too difficult and it's a very rewarding feeling when the pieces click into place.

I think it's very satisfying compared to say No More Heroes which purposefully skips a lot of details for the sake of mocking or comedy.
Virtue's Last Reward Demo is out this week! Very excited for it.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

SuperLink said:
JayUK said:
I've finished this and can't decide whether I like it or hate it, It felt very grasshopper manufacturesque in that it feels like its designed to mock the player for wanting an explanation.

Almost everything in 999 is explained if you pay enough attention and play through each ending (which is the aim), imo piecing things together isn't too difficult and it's a very rewarding feeling when the pieces click into place.

I have issues with the way they ended, in no more heroes i like the whole **** you style ending. It was funny because the rest of the game wasn't serious. 999 was quite dark up until the end where they just went all silly. My issue with the ending is in the spoiler tag.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

JayUK said:
I have issues with the way they ended, in no more heroes i like the whole **** you style ending. It was funny because the rest of the game wasn't serious. 999 was quite dark up until the end where they just went all silly. My issue with the ending is in the spoiler tag.


But it does make sense if you think about it carefully enough. Things are explained and answered in a bit more detail on this page http://www.aksysgames.com/999/answers which really only cements things which are more or less in the game anyway, there are lots of interesting reads but of course spoiler warnings. And speaking of which:



( Edited 12.11.2012 22:14 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery



( Edited 12.11.2012 22:44 by JayUK )

Senior ModeratorStaff Member


( Edited 12.11.2012 23:03 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery

SuperLink said:

thats my issue with it, just because junpei getting to that point is so contrived and requires June to be alive for him to get there. As for the Allice thing it requires a sequel for it not to be considered a bad joke. As a stand alone game its beyond silly to end on that.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

JayUK said:

thats my issue with it, just because junpei getting to that point is so contrived and requires June to be alive for him to get there. As for the Allice thing it requires a sequel for it not to be considered a bad joke. As a stand alone game its beyond silly to end on that.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Folks - you may all be able to help me here...Cubed3 has been granted an interview with Chunsoft about Virtue's Last Reward and I thought you'd all love the chance to get some questions answered!

Please just post here - anything that pops into your head. Ties between 999 and VLR, any cameo appearances, anything that springs to mind Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I was wondering if puzzles would be skippable once you've completed them in Virtues Last Reward. In 999 it got a little bit tedius playing through the first puzzle 6 times. 

Also it would be interesting to know if they'd considered releasing 999 as a digital download on the 3DS e-shop seen as it never got a release in Europe.

As a silly question how about this:

if you could kidnap a character from another company and put them in a Zero Escape whose room would you release the sleep gas into Kyle Hyde's, Guybrush Threepwood's, Phoenix Wright's or Professor Layton's.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

That's great - please feel free to ask more if you want Smilie I like the last Q Smilie

Josh, have you got any as well? Especially after trying the demo?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Adam Riley said:
That's great - please feel free to ask more if you want Smilie I like the last Q Smilie

Josh, have you got any as well? Especially after trying the demo?


Didn't I email you some a while back? Smilie Well I have a couple in spoilers (i may have asked these before can't remember-Smilie


Will let you know if I come up with more.. I wonder if they'll answer anything about the next game in the series Smilie

( Edited 16.11.2012 13:35 by SuperLink )

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I don't remember...I thought you only gave me questions for Liberation Maiden? If you did, you may need to email me again!

Are you going to write a quick hands-on of the Virtue's Last Reward demo? Would be good before the release of the game...If you've not got time, though, let me know and I'll try to do something quick Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Adam Riley said:
I don't remember...I thought you only gave me questions for Liberation Maiden? If you did, you may need to email me again!

Are you going to write a quick hands-on of the Virtue's Last Reward demo? Would be good before the release of the game...If you've not got time, though, let me know and I'll try to do something quick Smilie


Won't have time I'm afraid! Really need to knuckle down with my work unfortunately. And I remember I sent you only one question before:
"did you have ideas for sequels as soon as the first game was finished or is every game's plot mostly separate from one another"

Thinking up questions isn't really my strong suite! If I think of any more I'll post em here though.

Twitter | C3 Writer/Moderator | Backloggery
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

No worries - I'll try something. Just finishing up a quick VC review of Kirby's Star Stacker at the moment Smilie

Thanks for the Qs. I can put together the basics, but it's always good to get a few from real fans of the games Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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