Reviews: Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors

The importance of the number 9

I'm not into visual novels, but this amazing game showed me how good and absorbing they can be. 999 puts you in a game of life or death where you have to cooperate with 8 strangers to escape in 9 hours from an apparently sinking ship. There are two imposing doors: one with a big, red, fancy 5; and another one with a not-too-shabby 4. Which are you gonna pick?

The location of this Nonary Game is brilliant: it motivates the player to keep exploring the ship and go through one door after another to see what they find. Besides, every choice seems crucial, and you will be eager to start a new game after getting one ending to choose different doors and see what's different. "Maybe Door 9 is behind this one? Or maybe it's beyond this one? Ah, I need to explore THAT one! They said in the other ending they found it there!!", and so on.

I really like the digital root concept, too. It gives a ton of possibilities, and in my opinion it was brilliantly exploited for the plot twists, unlike the useless color mechanics in VLR, which can't even be thought about because Phi immediately tells you all options. I'm sure I wasn't the only one planning ahead of time who would be my partner on the next numbered door. That speculation and fun with numbers was great, and I was disappointed when told that they were gone in the sequel.

The puzzles and the music that goes with them are pretty awesome and charismatic, and the difficulty is fairly right except for three particular cases in my runs: the 15 magical square, Pushmaster and the infuriating brain puzzle in the torture room. Hexadecimal was an integral part of some rooms, and I liked it. I didn't know anything of hex and now I know how it works. It's interesting.

Among the things I don't like are the Big Bad's motivations for what he did 9 years ago and the lack of the Memo and Flowchart functions that we do find in VLR. Also, the Knife ending was a letdown and pretty useless in your way to understand anything of what's going on. I don't like gore and I must confess I was pretty shocked sometimes... The body in the shower room along with the 9th Man's death... What a beginning to the game that was. And the Axe ending... Not to mention the Mindscrew-y Sub ending.

There are previews that tell you which doors you have to pick to get the Safe and True endings, but I didn't notice them... So I had to resort to a guide because of the sheer amount of random reruns. Dang it, there's no way of knowing that you must take the bookmark to... Well, you'll find out. It's not that big of a deal.

Overall, this game was breathtaking for me and I was hoping that its sequel would be as awesome or better. Unfortunately, it wasn't. But no problem: 999 will remain as an amazing experience that made its way into my Top 5 videogames ever. And that's not something I give away to any game, I tell you. If you want a good mystery with fun puzzles and absorbing narrative, this is the game. Please play it. It needs the love.

Ladders, and Funyarinpas, and Boats, oh my!

As yet another game that TV Tropes has led me to, I attempted to find out what happens by searching for videos on Youtube. I found some, but I still couldn't make much sense of the plot. Then in April 2012, (perhaps the 100th anniversary of the Titanic's sinking made me think of it?) I was led back. This time, I became determined to get the game.

Unlike most players, I went in spoiled to the plot. However, this did not hinder my enjoyment of the game or its characters. I enjoyed watching the characters and wondering how their outward personalities related to their Hidden Depths. I decided to get all the wrong endings before I aimed for the Safe and True endings, just to make it more satisfying.

This is definitely a game that loves to play with your expectations, both on the story and with the characters. None of the characters are what they seem at first glance; Not even Junpei, who isn't really hiding anything. That's one of the things I love about this game. Even though I went in knowing what was going to happen, it still surprised me. That's a good sign no matter how you look at it.

I felt strangely proud when I read that the game sold better in the U.S. than it did in Japan and I was happy to see that a sequel has been made and is to be released in the U.S. I haven't yet decided if it's worth getting a 3DS or a Playstation Vita over. I'm leaning toward "Yes".

EDIT: It was indeed a "yes".