9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors
9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors is a DS game that hit retail on November 16th of this year. Not surprisingly not many people know of this game as it is made by Chunsoft and published by Aksys games. Aksys will probably be more well known for the Guilty Gear and Blaz Blue fighting games than some of their lesser known titles like Theresa or Jake Hunter. However don’t let the oh so little recognition fool you, 999 is by far one of the best games I’ve played in a while.
Before I delve into how fine a game this is, I feel explaining the genre this falls under takes priority. From the start I will say games like Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney, Touch Detective, or Lux-Pain are all fairly decent examples of what type of player this works well with; so if you like any of those games then yes this game is for you. For those who have never played any of those the simplest way I can put it is an interactive choose your own adventure book. The genre of the visual novel is heavily story based so if reading is your arch nemesis then don’t bother as there is a lot of text in games like these as the story tends to take the driving seat rather than play the role of a scenery prop. To get more in depth this is like a story driven doujin game where at various points in the game your decisions determine the ending you get. With that out of the way on to the review.
Right off the bat the game plays its cards very close to its chest. Even to the point where the manual tells you only basic controls and nothing else. You play as Junpei a 21 year old college student who wakes up on a ship with no clue how he got there. He is woken up by an explosion where he tries to get his bearings. The only things he finds out of the ordinary is a door with a 5 painted on it, a lever and a bracelet on his arm that has the umber 5 shown in l.e.d. lights. Just as he gathers his surroundings the porthole starts to crack. After his escape from the room Junpei comes across 8 other individuals who are on the ship with him, each one with a bracelet just like his, and all told by the mysterious figure Zero that he brought them there to play a game called the Nonary game, a game where all the participants have to put their lives on the line to escape or die. They are given 9 hours to find a door with a 9 on it and escape or go down with the ship. The whole story revolves around the participants attempted escape from the ship and the reasons behind the individuals picked to be here. As stated earlier the game plays it’s cards very close to its chest, giving you just enough information to go on while leaving plenty of questions unanswered. However that doesn’t mean the game leaves you hanging, as you slowly learn everyone’s connections and their motivations.
To help further the story along, is how the game is split into 2 parts. The Novel sections and the Escape sections. The Novel portions are just how they seem, they are the parts of the game where the story gets pushed along, characters expound on whats happened/ing and the lead character makes decisions that effect the game, some Novel portions do happen during escape portions, usually giving insight into character personalities and past, as well as scientific concepts that actually have some real life basis. The Escape portions are where the most action takes place. In each room there is a puzzle to figure out in order to proceed. Get a piece of paper and a pencil ready because these puzzles range from simple find object a and b and combine them to use on object c, to full on brain teasers using math involving hexadecimal counting. That isn’t to say the puzzles get so out of hand you cant solve them without a bit of work, but there will be a few that will ultimately stump you for a while. The good thing is that these puzzles don’t change answers on each play through so figuring out the number combination and writing it down will help which is a good thing as you will have to play the game through at a minimum of 6 times to get every ending.
After beating the game once you unlock the option to start the game with memories, which is a fancy way of saying new game+ only instead of having all the items you have the ability to fast forward through any dialogue you’ve read before, and it only stops when you come across any text you have not read or when you have to make another choice. To add the ease they gray out any previous choices you made before so you can see which choices you haven’t picked on previous rounds. This becomes important as your choices in the game do effect which ending you get, which range from depressing, a fake out ending, to the true ending, which you can only get if you see a specific ending beforehand, that clears up a majority of the mysteries in the game while leaving a select few up to personal interpretation. Along with the added features the game unlocks a section called “Memories of the Escape” which allows you to pick any of the previous rooms you’ve finished and replay them again if you want, which is a nice feature if you decide to forget about the game for a few weeks and want a quick puzzle to do on your own.
Musically 999 is all atmosphere, and it works really well for this game. If you let yourself become absorbed in the story the music add to the urgency and dread that plays out from finding a dead body to urgently trying to finish a puzzle quickly.
As much as I love this game there are a few problems. Firstly as neat a feature fast forwarding through text is at times I wished I could just skip to the next choice option as skipping the opening sequence for the umpteenth time can get a little old. Secondly there is a lot, and I mean a lot of information given to you as you play. Almost all of the information given holds relevance to the story but that’s where the problem comes in as it’s very likely you will forget a good chunk of whats told to you, probably forcing you to forgo the fast forward for a play through or so. And thirdly there is only one save file, and this is kinda crappy as if you ever want to let someone else play the game for the first time you will have to erase all data in order for them to get the full experience and that is honestly the worst part, erasing all your previously earned endings.
Overall if I were to give the game a score it would be something along the lines of a 9.7/10. The reason is that despite the three problems I mentioned the only major one would be the single save file, and the other two would just be minor problems that you can forgive but are worth mentioning/major for the right person. But with the solid story, nice puzzles, and great ending that hints at a possible sequel brings it to a near perfect game in my eyes.
Finding the game in an actual retail story may be a bit difficult, luckily you can buy 999 online from Amazon, Gamestop, and Aksys’ own website. And if you are still shaky about committing you can find the demo of the game here.