Before everyone starts reaching for their shotguns, let me make it clear that I am quite fond of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999 for short). A good friend of mine wrote a review for the game not too long ago on Facebook, which I was going to link to before realizing you probably have to be registered as a friend in order to read it. I will promptly update with a link if he establishes a more static place for the blog. Like most reviews for the game, there is nonstop praise for the storytelling and the atmosphere, which, admittedly has the suspense factor going for it.
This article probably would not exist if it weren’t for an unplanned event. I looked at many reviews, even listened to testimony from friends who were in love with the game and at the beginning of January, I decided it was time to finally purchase my copy of the game from Amazon. By this time, the game’s reputation had caught up and Amazon estimated a couple of weeks before I would be able to get my copy. I was devastated, not to mention impatient!
Another good friend, and source of many juicy bits of information I usually skip over pointed me toward a PC game written by the same author that could hold my interest until 999’s delayed arrival. Published by KID, Ever17 -the out of infinity- looked nothing like the gory fun I was expecting out of 999. To be honest, I was reluctant to give it a chance.
In order to accurately describe the kind of PC game Ever17 is, have you played Tokemeki Check in? Snowdrop? Xchange? Maybe you’re not a perv like me, but they all play like choose your own adventure books where you make a series of decisions, and you get an ending based on those decisions you make, some good and some really shitty. Ever17 is kinda like these games without the nudity (bummer).
The character designs are not very different from these games either, like your standard anime, nothing special. It starts out bland enough, but once the main crisis of the game starts, it quickly becomes more serious in tone.
Romantic elements are kinda there, but are in no way what the story is focused on. For most of my playthrough I was more concerned about what was going on and how we were all going to survive this fiasco instead of which girl’s ending I might achieve.
The story is supurb, the character development is amazing once you get passed the animation style and while the true ending took roughly 5 hours to go through all the text, I finished it with a sense of closure. Most if not all of my questions were satisfactorily answered through the dialogue and when all was finally finished, I was already psyched for 999’s arrival, for another perfectly crafted story.
What 999 brings new to the table is the addition of puzzle rooms that you can freely explore until you find out how to escape the room and continue the journey. A great concept and the puzzles are incredibly fun to solve – the first time around. In order to get the true ending, you have to clear some rooms more than once, which would not necessarily feel like a chore were it not for the fact that the puzzles are the exact same every time you go into the rooms. Really, who wants to solve the same exact puzzle multiple times just so you can figure out if you chose the order that leads to the desired ending? Games as old as Night Trap had the courtesy to change up their passwords so the player is always on their toes.
-spoilers in the upcoming rant, skip to where I indicate the end of spoilers if you haven’t played-
Sure, you can say that’s a little nitpicky, and it is a forgivable flaw. What really got under my skin was the cheap, scooby-doo feel of the true ending. The villain’s tied up in the back of a car while the heroes drive away. Hilarity ensues while the protagonist plays with the piece of tape covering his mouth as the villain rambles about why they did what they did. The final picture of the game has an awkward vision of a certain female giving a thumbs up, then the game cuts off. Really? No epilogue? No full explanation of the villain’s motives because it would have taken more text to read? No thank you from the person whose life I just saved? No! I’m out in a car in the middle of a desert, The End!
Apparently I’m not the only person who felt unsatisfied with the direction the story went. There’s a whole Q&A page on the official site where people ask a variety of questions related to the plot and the author answers them…
I am going to go out on a limb and say these are the most half-assed answers to the game’s plot holes possible, playing it off as though the studio expected international acclaim and left it open for a sequel. All of a sudden, the gigantic was the center of various rituals and the owner has an entire history of running nonary games. All of a sudden June disappears without a trace, even though the events were designed to save her life, and it’s obvious the two characters want to be together… but nope, they can’t even have a talk about what transpired during the course of the game.
Also, Lotus should not have been in the game when she has children with a stronger connection to the rest of the characters and the first (but apparently not first with the previous revelation) nonary game. Just sayin’.
-Spoilers end here-
Other than that, the majority of the game has a genuinely creepy atmosphere to it, and the puzzles were a blast to solve while they were fresh. The character models look far more original here than in Ever17, but the whole tone of the game is undermined by the ending and the story is, to be blunt, is a mess that the author then smears around like spilled paint into an even more blurry and hard to appreciate picture.
Also, what’s with the constant Saw comparisons? Last I checked, people would want their money back if they went to view a Saw film with two relatively immediate, explosive deaths the entire film and a couple of brief axe or knife murders depending on which endings you get. Neither the violence of Saw nor the elaborate and creative death traps are there, so all you really get that is reminiscent of the movies is the requirement of cooperation in order for everybody to get out alive.
All in all, it was a fun game while it lasted, but hardly groundbreaking and definitely not the best DS game that many people make it out to be. It is a step backward from another visual novel with similar plot and events, designed by the same author, that has no sense of closure and far less effective use of the crazy scientific themes explored. I respect what my friends and everyone else has to say, but disagree nevertheless.
Of course, Snake is easily the most awesome character of both games. So it isn’t like 999 has no merit! Also, there’s Remember11, another game previously made by the same author (must really like his numbers) which I haven’t played myself, but looks pretty crazy, and has an awesome theme song. With that I leave on an opening video that really makes me want to play the game and compare the three of ’em.