Game Name: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Platform(s): Nintendo DS
Publisher(s): Aksys Games
Genre(s): Visual Novel, Thriller
Release Date: November 16, 2010 (US)
Price: $34.99 (US)
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors hit shelves back in mid-November in the states for the Nintendo DS. 999 is a blend of genres in a way, with puzzle-solving coming into play during the title, but the genre that describes the game best is a visual-novel without a doubt. Don’t cast off this one just yet though as this title offers one of the most thought-out, twisted, and thrilling plots in the gaming world period. Here is my spoiler-free review for Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors for the Nintendo DS.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors starts you out behind the eyes of the story’s main character, Junpei. Junpei wakes aboard a ship and knows nothing about where exactly he is and has a strange watch attached to his wrist with simply the number 5 on it. After a short while, you soon discover eight other random people who all have encountered this same fate and must work together to find a way out. The plot is soon revealed by a mysterious voice over a speaker that goes by the name Zero that if you do not get off the ship in nine hours, a bomb which is inserted in each character’s stomach will explode and you must play a Nonary game to advance and through and find an escape. After assigning each other code-names to remain anonymous (except for Junpei), Junpei and his new found allies have to seek a way out by entering through various doors on the ship. It isn’t as easy as it sounds though as several rules apply to this game. The Nonary game has many rules which must be followed by all of the characters or the bomb will set off inside their stomach, killing them instantly. It is quite a crazy plot, but so many things tie together to tell a story that makes this title shine like no other in that department.
Each character you meet aboard the ship of course has their own backstory, and as you progress you really do learn a lot about the characters you are with on the ship, as well as Junpei, himself. The game tells it’s story like a visual novel, with animations and sounds blending into the text to create a full experience as you advance through the game. As you advance through, you learn more about why you are in this particular situation as well as why the other characters are all caught up in Zero’s twisted Nonary game. Everything ties together well and the story is told with such depth that I was finding it hard to even turn the DS off while playing. There are also really tense moments in the story as well which can leave you on the edge of your seat, quickly trekking through the game to get more answers. I honestly don’t think I have ever been this drawn into a plot on any video game before but with 999, it is nearly impossible to lose interest or just not care about any of these deep, human characters who are so easy to relate to and feel for. When a game can get you to actually feel emotion of any kind, that in my opinion is a true achievement in my opinion and 999 certainly produces many different feeling as you progress further into the game.
The gameplay in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is really mainly made up of puzzles and a bit of point and click with of course the main theme being “Escape”. As you make your way through each door, you are soon told to “Seek a Way Out” of the room you are in. This is done with an easily rotating camera on the bottom screen where you must tap the environment to discover clues, keys, and more to break the locks on each door. As I mentioned, the story will tie into all of these rooms as well, so when you are solving a puzzle to progress, each item may hold more secrets behind the plot or trigger a small cut-scene.
To assist you with this detective work is a well made inventory, which lets you fully examine each item you find. The game’s theme of numbers plays a huge role into just about every part of actual gameplay as well. The digital root method is a prime example of this. For instance, when entering doors, you must have 3-5 people with you to move through, no more, no less. Then you must use each character’s number on their bracelet to enter the doors by matching the digital root for the group of characters to the number on the door (For instance, 4, 6, and 8 want to go into a door, 4+6+8=18..1+8=9, so 9 must be the door’s number for all three to pass).
This method is used for many of the game’s escape puzzles and is quite a unique way to really test your brain as well as provide something original to the genre. Besides that, basic problem solving and riddles can also be cracked by just paying attention to the story in general. Nothing really is too challenging, but when you are scoping out a room it is wise to survey everything so you don’t miss what could be the next clue leading to your escape. At anytime you may also check your journal to get a refresher on past events as well, which helps if you decided to shut down your DS. Saving the game also works great as it can be done at anytime allowing you to pick right where you left off from the last bit of dialogue you previously seen.
One of the best features of 999 are the endings. There is only one true ending so certain decisions which you make in the story can effect the way the whole game climaxes. I got an ending my first play through that made be drop my DS in shock when I reached it and I immediately started a new game to see the next, so yes, each ending is that thrilling. Of course this game was programmed to be played multiple times, so the developers made a brilliant move of having certain text points which you have already seen to be skipped over after your first run. You also can discover new rooms which you chose against on your last play through so even though the game only takes around 5 or so hours to complete, this can lead to at least 4x that number by just going through again to reach each ending. This should not be a problem though as the twists are so intense in the game, it is easy to want to go back in for more.
999 of course is a visual novel, but the whole design of the environments and characters are all done effectively with a stunning art style that lets you get a feel for each area your in as well as the emotions of the other characters. Each area you search is fully detailed and pulls together the story with wonderful settings so exploration is exciting upon reaching the next room as everything is quite different from the next. Characters are also detailed well and the expressions detail on their faces for each situation easily convey the feeling for whatever situation you may be in at the time.
There are a lot of tense, exciting moments in the game, but the music and sound effects are truly what can make your heart pound as you are waiting to unravel the next moment in the plot. Little things such as doors creaking, faucets running, and many more things all have very realistic sounds which allow you to fully engross yourself into the story. I guess I could best use to describe this by referring to the flashbacks in “Lost Odyssey” where everything you are reading, you usually could hear the sound effects and music coming in at the perfect moments to create a perfect image of exactly what the story is trying to portray, only it is like this in 999 for just about every scene that takes place.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is a prime example that there are games on the DS that are for an older audience. The story telling is like nothing else and is just as original as it is exciting. Each character is easy to grow attached to in many ways as you slowly peel away layers of depth behind their own stories of how they ended up in Zero’s game. This attachment works so well that I was constantly wanting to progress to learn the fate of everyone involved as with such a twisted story along with multiple endings, everything is really unpredictable. Besides a few puzzles and some point and click detective work, there isn’t too much actual gameplay involved, but honestly that doesn’t really matter as the pace of everything ties together so brilliantly that 999 comes together as a whole experience rather than just a game itself. When it comes to memorable titles that will stick with you and make you think about them hours after you finish playing, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors may just be one of the best to date in that aspect and for sure one of the most exciting yet smart experiences on the Nintendo DS.
I Give Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: