Video Games

999 Again!

It’s been nine years since since developer Chunsoft and publisher-localizer Aksys Games took a risk and released Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors in North America. The game was well-receieved in America, which is surprising given the indifference of English-speaking audiences toward visual novels. The unlikely success of this obscure Nintendo DS title paved the way for a pair of sequels, and thus the Zero Escape trilogy came to be.

When I played 999 a few years after its initial release, I really appreciated the game’s narrative quality. However, I only got one of the 6 possible endings. To be more specific, I got one of the bad endings. I had intended to come back to the game and find the true conclusion of the story, but I never did.

In recent years, the first two games in the Zero Escape trilogy were remastered and released as a bundle. I saw no reason not to revisit this freaky little visual novel, so I set out to navigate the timeline and see all six of the endings of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.

The basic premise of 999 is that nine seemingly random people have been kidnapped and trapped in a massive boat. These strangers have nine hours to solve an array of puzzles and unlock nine doors. If they fail to escape the ninth door, they will die. This psychotic challenge is called “The Nonary Game.” The story plays out as a series of narrative scenes between escape-room puzzle sequences. As you work your way through the story, you begin to discover the origin of the deadly Nonary Game as well as the relationship between its nine participants.

The PC version of 999 is easily the best way to experience the story; though, if portability is a must, the PS Vita version appears to have all of the upgrades featured in the PC release. All of the original content is presented in much higher fidelity than in the original game, and its augmented by the addition of voice acting for every line in the game. Some of the voice acting falls short of perfection, but the game already straddles the line between serious and campy.

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is truly special. The game stands out in a genre that had previously been dominated by anime-girl dating stories that don’t particularly appeal to me. It has a wild premise, full of surprising twists and turns. I’m certainly glad that I decided to revisit the game.

What a time to be alive!

Note: Nintendo DS screenshots borrowed from The Let’s Play Archive. PC port screenshots captured on my computer.

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