Editor’s Note: 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is currently available on the Nintendo DS in Western markets. An iOS port is expected soon, but it has not yet been released. This review is in anticipation of that event.
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is a Japanese mystery/adventure video game, developed by Chunsoft, published by JP Spike and localized by NA Aksys Games. The game can best be described as a visual novel puzzle game, with the premise revolving around 9 people having been kidnapped and placed on a huge and slowly sinking ocean liner. There they are forced by their unknown kidnapper, who goes by the alias “Zero”, into participating in the “Nonary Game”.
The story puts players in the shoes of Junpei, a 21-year-old college student. Having been startled awake by what sounds like an explosion, he finds himself trapped in what appears to be a ship’s cabin. No sooner after coming to this realization, the cabin’s outer window bursts open, allowing an unstoppable flow of sea water to come flooding in and start filling up the room.
Junpei quickly searches for a way to escape the locked room, barely avoiding a watery demise. Soon after, he meets up with 8 other people, one of which is a childhood friend called Akane Kurashiki who he has not seen for quite some time, and all claiming to also have escaped from a locked room. After a short introduction to the group, they come to realize that not only do none of them remember how they got there, but they each have a strange bracelet with an electronic display attached to their wrist, each displaying a number from 1 to 9.
Suddenly, and out of nowhere, a strange and distorted voice chimes in over the speaker. Going by the alias “Zero”, the voice informs the 9 captives that they are trapped on a slowly sinking ship, and if they desire to escape before the ship goes down, they must participate in what is known as the “Nonary Game”, a series of varying cryptic puzzles involving the number 9.
Playing out like mystery novel, the story retains its intrigue by offering new plot revelations and drama where appropriate. The characters are also diverse and fleshed out with plenty of personality, making interacting with them feel that much more immersive.
Nine Doors gameplay is split into three parts. The first is a text-driven graphic novel that provides character illustrations and a background for the environments. These sections primarily exist to help drive the plot forward, letting the player know what’s going on, what they should be doing, and where they should be. At times, you’ll also be able to make decisions, such as what teams you want to form in order to enter a locked door and what areas you want to investigate first.
The discussions during these sections can tend to drag on at times, but the vast majority of them are integral to the plot. There are also a few optional conversations which help to flesh out the other characters, but they aren’t at all important to the plot and can be easily avoided; however, they do offer some very interesting stories, as well as making players aware of some interesting real world facts and theories.
The second gameplay mechanic comes into play when searching a numbered room. When inside a numbered room, you’ll be given partial control and will be able shift your point-of-view by pressing the arrow buttons displayed on the screen. This will allow you to better search the environment for clues or items.
Every room you’ll enter is unique, ranging from dining rooms, game rooms, kitchens, and engine rooms, and almost everything inside is searchable. By tapping on an item, you will be given a short explanation as to what it is, and when you come across anything of importance, it will be placed in your inventory. Here, you’re able to look at a 3D display of the items you’ve found so far and will also be able to combine certain key items in order to create new ones.
The third gameplay mechanic is the puzzle solving minigame. When inside a numbered room, you’ll need to successfully complete the puzzle within before being able to progress through the exit.
Every numbered room has its own unique puzzle; some will simply require you to place a certain set of items in the correct place, others will require you to play a short minigame, but many will test your mathematical skills, with a heavy emphasis on root numbers.
These puzzles, while certainly doable, range from the incredibly simple to the mind-bendingly frustrating, which will no doubt put many gamers off all together. However, those who enjoy a good mental challenge and an interesting mystery drama to sink their teeth into will find much to like about 999 .
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is about as niche a game as they come. I can see many gamers becoming tired and frustrated with the game’s slow pacing and difficult puzzles. However, I personally found the game to be very fun, interesting, and immersive. Those who have patience for this game will be rewarded with an engaging, story-driven mystery, chock full of interesting facts and theories, and offering some of the most challenging, but rewarding, puzzles to be found in any handheld video game.
This review is based on a retail copy of the Nintendo DS version of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors developed by Chunsoft
- Interesting Mystery Plot
- Challenging Puzzles
- A Little Repetitive
- Lots of Text to Read