I hadn’t intended to play 999. Back in November 2012, Rising Star games published Virtues Last Reward on the Vita and 3DS. Being a Vita owner and back last year, new games werent amazingly frequent so I looked into it. It turns out I had downloaded a promo video from the Japanese PSN for Virtues (from here on I will refer to as VLR) and thought it looked interesting. I say interesting, the video seemed to consist of an mad rabbit seemingly telling people to die. Admittedly my Japanese is very limited (Scott has witnessed this firsthand so he can back this up) but it was enough. I preordered the game. The guys from Epic Battle Axe said it best – yote with your wallet (check out their podcast Epic Battle Cry – its very good). If I want to see more of these Japanese curios translated then I have to lay down my cash. Around this time I start hearing about Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors (from now on 999 as i’m lazy). Both VLR and 999 are part of the Zero Escape series of games. While VLR is a stand alone game, it is supposedly better if you have played 999 first. I heard this on the Giant Bombcast and decided to get a copy of 999. It turns out that 999 was never released in Europe. So via an Amazon importer I was able to purchase a US copy. It never arrived. An e-mail or two later and 4 days and my cart of 999 was finally in my grasp.
999 is a mixture of visual novel and point-and-click puzzling. For those that dont know, visual novels are kinda what they say they are. Some simple pictures onscreen and you click through a lot of text. Recent examples are Phoenix Wright and Professor Layton. In the game you play Junpei, a 21 year old student that has woken up on a ship. He initally cant work out whats going on but quickly remembers Zero (someone in a Helgasht outfit – they look pretty close!) abducting him. From here you meet up with 8 other characters, each having a braclet with numbers from 1 through 9. Here is where the title starts making some sense. There are nine people on the ship, you have nine hours till the ship sinks and you are told to seek out the 9 door. As this door is the way out of Zero’s game.
Back to the braclets that people are wearing. The only way to remove them is to leave the ship, or have the wearers heart rate reach zero. Everyone on the ship has a different number on their braclet and this ends up deciding the code names for each of the characters. This is where the games obsession with numbers starts. There are locked doors that will only allow certain people to go through via the digital root system. The digital root can be found by totalling up the numbers from the users braclets until there is only one digit, for example the digital root of users 2,5 and 6 is 2+5+6=13 1+3=4 so the digital root is 4. There are several rules to these doors, between 3 and 5 people can go through a door, their digital root must match that of the door, everyone that scans their braclet in, must scan it out. By scanning in/out they have to touch their braclet againts a machine that records their braclet number. Not too bad I suppose, but then add in a 81 second time limit from scanning in to scanning out. If they dont do this in the time limit, they explode. Yep, their kidnapper Zero has planted a bomb in them and the braclets are the detonators.
If you arent into puzzles and reading lots of text, then this game is not for you. Its hard to talk about too much of the general story due to spoilers. There are multiple endings and going through these does shed light on certain events. But several of the endings just feel cheap. However, going through the main endings (you will probably need a guide unless your uber dedicated) is more than worth it. I just wanted a bit more out of the true ending before “that” final shot.
I’d love to see an anime of this game, especially done in the style of Umineko no Naka Koro Ni or Amagami where after several episodes it gets restarted as that would mean it could go through all the plot lines. As long as it doesnt go all Endless Eight and repeat itself when it doesnt need to.