Reader Review: 999

Yesterday we featured a story about a curious "visual novel", a genre of gaming that many people are unfamiliar with. Today we have a review from Kotaku reader Ben Latimore about a slightly less controversial but equally intriguing game of the same genre: 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

The Game

"You have 9 hours." 999 is a puzzle game / visual novel developed by the team behind original Dragon Quest games, Chunsoft, and translated by Aksys Games. The game promises to be an action-packed thrill-ride, but does it live up to these grand claims or is it just a dud? (PS: Review will remain spoiler free.)

Liked

Storytelling: 999 is arguably my choice for having one of the best stories (if not THE best story) of any game in 2011. It remains constantly fast-paced and leaves you guessing all the way to the very end; you constantly have choices to make that determine your fate, and new plot elements are constantly introduced. The characters you encounter each have their own backstories and a lot of the banter is hilarious.

Even a dead, blown-up body is explored in gory detail through text, which is probably worse than attempting to show said body on screen. Every one of the game's endings (there's six or seven depending on the way you look at it) each have their own plot elements to introduce into the game -- one ending can show one side of a character, another ending can show a side of another character. I apologize for the vague description but it’d be a spoiler to clarify any further.

Soundtrack: Accompanying the story is a high quality soundtrack, with unique beats for every puzzle and different situations. It succeeds at setting the tone for the game, conveying action, relief and despair. It’s a very strong tool used to give the game a consistently mysterious atmosphere.

Puzzles: Interpersed between the walls of text and choices come with a series of Flash-style "escape the room" puzzles. Before everyone starts sighing and walking out the door, let me explain why this falls within the “Liked” category.

The puzzles are very well designed. Random screen-tapping is kept to a minimum, you're not time-limited in any way (even though the main story implies a time limit), and you're able to save at any area you like to come back to a puzzle later. Sometimes, even non-escape the room puzzles are dropped in to give a bit of extra variety. Everything related to the puzzles is just done right in every way.

Hated

Slow Skipping: As with other visual novels, 999 has multiple endings so it requires going through the game multiple times to see everything. While it's very enjoyable to do so, the skipping text goes rather slowly and it's impossible to skip in-game puzzles, even if you've done them before. The slow skipping feels like it pads out the remaining game time. The game's first puzzle will be burnt into your memory by the end of your last playthrough.

Addictiveness: Start playing this and you'll probably have a lot of sleepless nights. I stayed up until 3am getting the first two endings of the game. Then I spent another night getting endings three, four and five. My god, it's almost as bad as crack. The storyline is really just that gripping.

Verdict:

I'm pretty sure 999 is my favourite Nintendo DS game to this day. The story is fantastic, the puzzles are great, and it simply becomes a truly epic staple in the DS's library and something everyone should play.


Comments

    Love the game. I must go back and get the 'true' ending one of these days.

      The true ending is awesome, mind blowing stuff!

      how did you not get the true ending you insane man

        My first paly thorugh I did all the 'right' things for the true ending. as it turns out, and ofcourse didn't get that ending (if you've played the game you'll know you have to play through this way at least twice). Ofcourse thinking I had made a mistake I never chose those options again... play through after playthrough i failed to get the true ending before I finally gave up and looked up how to do it and foudn out what I did 'wrong'.

          Yeah, there really should have been a clue there, but the chances of getting that ending the first time around are quite low.

    Grammatically, I've never understood the difference between 'persons' and 'people'.

      I think you're supposed to have 1 person and 9 people! Lost in translation?

        I've seen 'persons' used in formal, native English a lot too.
        I'd say that 'people' is for an unknown mass, whereas 'persons' is for a discreet group of individuals

      http://www.dailywritingtips.com/people-versus-persons/

      Kinda interesting actually.

    This game is absolutely amazing, loved it from start to finish. Glad to see someone review it!!

    I have been meaning to get this game for the longest time, but no one seems to sell it!

      Play Asia!I have a $5 off $60 order voucher, should you want to splurge anytime soon.

        I will keep that in mind. I've never bought from play Asia before

    999 was one of the most memorable games I played last year. Dark and disturbing, and so good. Pity it wasn't released here, but last time I checked it was still available on play-asia.com, DS owners who like Phoenix Wright and Ghost Trick should pick this up.

    OMG there's gonna be a sequel!!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyokugen_Dasshutsu_Adv:_Zennin_Shib%C5%8D_Desu

    I'm not optimistic on the chances that this will get an EU release, and even if there's a NA release, the 3DS is region-locked :(

      Ahh, it'll be on the Vita too :)

    The true ending is FANTASTIC. I normally really dislike visual novel games, but I LOVED this one. It was refreshing to read something mature and dark in a game. Well done to the localization department, too.

    i saw this, and as a massive fan of phoenix wright visual novels, i really wanted to get it, you may have convinced me!

    (however, i'm sorry but both best DS game and best story of 2011 goes to ghost trick :P)

      Play 999 first and you'll probably change your tone on at least the story :P

    Such a great game. Can't even remember if it was released in Australia, had to import.

    Another visual novel I really enjoyed was Time Hollow - very cool concept.

    BEN
    You nailed everything I thought about the game in your review. Are we twins?

    But yes, superb 'game' (More visual novel-y but whatever, semantics).

    Also Time Hollow was pretty rad too.

    I was planning to buy this, so it's good to have some positive reinforcement.

    I felt that the developer did I terrible job porting this to the DS, could have been so much better if they'd spent the money to fix it up to the standards that Another Code: trace memories set right from the DS launch.

    This game was really great but halfway through my second playthrough I got distracted by other games... glad I've been reminded to get back to it. :)

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