Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Review: The Murderous Mystery Escape Puzzle

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After a week of being busy and distracted by other things, at last I get the chance to write about Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, also known as 999.  999 was a game that I’ve actually wanted to play for quite a while, as I’d constantly heard that it’s one of the best DS games out there with an amazing story.  Ultimately, 999 did in fact live up to its reputation and very much impressed me.  Though I wasn’t sure how much I would like it (especially in the early stages of my 999 experience), the last stretch of the game really proved to me how fantastic its story is.

999 is a bit tricky to explain.  But basically, 9 people have been kidnapped by a mysterious person named Zero.  They wake up on a sinking ship and are told that they have 9 hours to escape, forced to participate in what is known as the Nonary Game.  In short, each person has a bracelet with one of the numbers from 1-9.  To go through the ship, a team of 3-5 people must be made to enter one of the numbered doors (again, from 1-9) they find.  However, said team must have a number with the digital root (the number generated from adding the digits of whatever the total is) of that door.  They must find the door with the number 9 in order to escape, but they have to solve a number of puzzles and avoid the looming threat of death to achieve this.  The protagonist is a college student named Junpei, completely unaware of why he’s involved with all of this.  Add on the fact that he not only sees a group of unfamiliar faces, but also his childhood friend Akane, and the situation becomes quite complicated.

999 is a visual novel, though not a typical one.  999 is closer to games such as the Ace Attorney series, where it retains the visual novel interface and style, but has more gameplay elements for the player to interact with the story.  999 has a number of puzzles that must be solved throughout, requiring the player to think about how to get through and use problem solving in order to do so.  Of course, this is no Professor Layton and the puzzles are insignificant in comparison to everything that takes place throughout.  Story and characters are 999’s strongest aspects, and the game actually has 6 (well, more like 5) endings depending on which choices are made throughout the game.  Now a good deal of these endings are variations of the protagonist and various others being killed before reaching the goal, all of which were in fact the endings I first received.  However, there are actually two endings (my last ones, being the true ending and the one that must be beaten to earn the true ending) in which 999’s best is truly displayed and the real reasons that this game is so great.  Everything comes together very well in 999.  The story is well developed, the cast is great, even the music itself is utterly perfect for the situations that take place.  In particular, the last puzzle and the events surrounding it are memorable because of how well the music and what takes place work together to make for one of the most intense moments of the entire game.

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As mentioned before, 999’s story is brilliant.  Though the death endings are pretty underwhelming and leave more questions than answers, they do give steady hints at other aspects of the story before the two big endings make their reveals, and for this reason I believe it is best to complete the bad endings first.  That said, it’s probably easier to get these in the first place, as I got these endings numerous times before discovering the others.  However, with the two major endings, many plot twists take place as mysteries unfold and the hidden secrets of the past become more and more important to the characters.  It’s difficult to elaborate on this without giving spoilers, but every character is crucial to the story and not everyone is as they seem.

Speaking of the characters, 999 has a fantastic cast.  With the multiple endings, the game allows the player plenty of time to become more accustomed and attached to the characters, and as mentioned before, every character plays an important role.  No character is useless in this game and even those who seem to be minor at first ultimately serve their purposes by the end of the story and are crucial to what takes place.  The character development is brilliant, especially once the backstories and past secrets are revealed.  Snake is my personal favorite of the cast.  In truth he had always been one of my favorites even since early on due to how similar he seemed to Miles Edgeworth from the Ace Attorney series, but it’s not until later in the game that I would discover what makes Snake such an awesome character.  That said, however, nearly all of the characters are likeable, and the only ones who weren’t were simply intended to be that way for story purposes.  I cannot stress enough that the cast is very important to the 999 story and every character is there for a reason, with nobody being useless.  However, not everyone is as they seem, and many of the most glorious twists in this game come from unexpected revelations about the characters themselves.  Each character (besides Junpei) comes up with a codename in order to conceal their identities from Zero.  However, the pieces begin to come together once Junpei and the player steadily begin to discover who each person is and how everybody connects to the mystery at hand.  Only small bits are given to the player at first, but by the true ending, nearly every question about the story’s mysteries are solved.

Looking back on what I’ve written, I know that I really haven’t written as much that actually tells about the game as I would’ve liked, and more often than not my descriptions usually give a much better idea of the story that I’m writing about.  However, that said, 999 is very story based, and in a way that I strongly believe should not be ruined.  Even the slightest mentions of particular details can end up becoming major spoilers later on, and it is difficult to elaborate on certain plot points without dropping major hints (if not outright giving away the whole plot).  In any case, if my writing about 999 has not been informative/convincing enough, I’ll say this: If you’re a fan of psychological mystery stories, then without a doubt this is a game for you.  999 is a dark, brutal, mysterious, conspiracy-filled, and yet incredibly moving tale, and I truly believe it is one of the best that the DS has to offer.  Though it may not have the same engaging gameplay as some of the more action-packed, fast paced games out there do, that’s never what 999 was about.  999 is a plot and character based game, and if what you’re looking for is a complex story, it will not disappoint.  Amusingly enough, I’d give 999 a 9/10.  As mentioned in my Anime Expo post, I recently purchased the sequel, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, and as such I do intend to play that soon.  However, I did start Bakemonogatari (which I actually just finished a couple days ago) and Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo, so I’ll have to write about those before then.  That said, I’ve heard wonders about Virtue’s Last Reward, some saying it is a masterpiece superior even to 999, and if it truly is then I cannot wait to play it.

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    • Kai
    • September 14th, 2013

    Indeed, 999’s story is outstanding. I do feel that the bad endings create more confusion then revelations so I would prefer to finish the main endings first (though I did the former).

    I don’t have a Vita nor a 3DS (I think I’m inclining to buy the latter more) so I haven’t play Virtue’s Last Reward sadly.

    • The story was definitely amazing, I wasn’t quite as convinced with my first few endings, but after the safe ending I was completely captivated by the game and couldn’t help but love it. Everything is just brilliantly planned out and the reveals are shocking in a fantastic way. And that’s definitely one of the more frustrating things about the bad ends, as I had no idea what was going on and really wanted to figure out the truth behind everything. Of course, once I actually got to the important endings, I was not disappointed.

      Ah, well if you get either one of those and VLR in the near future I’d like to see what you think. VLR isn’t quite the same as 999 as far as atmosphere goes but I’d say it’s a worthy successor with a lot of interesting twists. I don’t know how the Vita version is but I have VLR for 3DS and it’s great. I think as far as gameplay goes it’s superior to 999, as it has a flowchart to go to certain points in the story (instead of obsessively replaying the game many times to try and find the proper way to get to another ending) and the Ambidex Game adds a lot more suspense too. Storywise I enjoyed 999 more but VLR is just as good and has twists just as great as those in 999, some would say even better. Anywho, I hope you can buy a 3DS in the near future and get VLR, it’s a very interesting experience. But it might be better to wait a bit anyway since the wait for the third Zero Escape game is really painful.

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