Out of the Nintendo DS's robust library of games, I must say that I am glad that a friend of mine recommended this little gem to me. 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors for the DS is an excellent game, though many have never heard of it. Moreso, it suffered from low production numbers so it's a relatively rare game to find in stores these days. 999 is a visual novel/point-click text adventure/horror game, those who have played the Ace Attorney series should be familiar with this format. The riveting story of this game alone should be enough to convince most to go out and look for it - it's well worth the $35 price tag.
The premise of the story starts out pretty simple. The main character, Junpei, wakes up on a passenger ship (from the details he assumed upon waking up) having no recollection of where he is or how he ended up there. As it turns out, Junpei is a college student who was abducted from his home one evening by a person wearing a cloak and gas mask who goes by the alias Zero.
Pretty creepy, huh?
After realizing this, Junpei escapes the room he woke up in and eventually runs into 8 other people aboard the ship. They are all in the same predicament it seems as no one can remember where they are or how they got there, but they all share one memory in common - meeting a person in a gas mask before blacking out. The group soon learns that they are aboard a large passenger ship out in the ocean and were selected to participate in the Nonary Game - a game of life or death. The participants must escape the ship within 9 hours through numbered doors scattered throughout the ship (hence the 9 Doors and 9 Hours portion of the title). If they fail to do so in a timely fashion, the ship will sink and disappear under the ocean with them aboard. The only problem is...how can they trust one another?
This is where the story in the game really picks up at. It is the player's decisions throughout the course of the game that affect Junpei's actions towards the other players. Who should I trust? Is he/she telling the truth? Who is Zero and what are his motives? These are just a few questions that may run through your mind as you play through the game, setting a sense of uncertainty as you trudge through the ship.
As stated above, 999 is a visual novel and like most other titles in this genre, it involves quite a bit of reading. If you're not a fan of reading for hours upon end, this may not be the game for you. 999 features many puzzles that the player must solve in order to get to the next room. These support the use of the DS's touchscreen capabilities. The game comes packaged with an amazing replay value, also. 999 has six different endings depending on your decisions in-game. More than likely you will probably run into one of the game's bad endings on your first playthrough which will make you want to go at it again. This is where the replayability of the title shines. After getting an ending, the player is prompted before starting a new game to start with the "knowledge" gained through the previous playthrough. This neat little feature helps you make new decisions during your new game that will ultimately result in new puzzles to solve, new rooms to explore, and another glimpse at the storyline from a different point of view.
A bit of sarcastic humor, or a subtle death threat?
Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles. This game features many puzzles (though much less than Professor Layton I assure you) that are required to pass through a room. While some are pretty simple to figure out, others are just downright difficult and may take a bit of time before figuring them out. Using and combining certain items in your inventory can come in handy when trying to solve puzzles. Other than that, the touch screen is used to check out your surroundings with the stylus and examine items. The rest of the gameplay lies in interacting with your fellow "shipmates" and trying to advance through the numbered doors Zero set up.
For a visual novel game, 999 boasts some pretty good graphics. Characters are rendered with high resolution 2D sprites that add a bit of flair to their personalities. The game also features a few cutscenes, but they are pretty few and far in between. Rooms on the ship have a lot of attention to detail, just about every nook and cranny looks well done and be glad it is, you'll need a good eye to find certain items.
999 has by far one of the best storylines a game has to offer this generation. Filled with suspense and horror, it is almost guaranteed to keep players coming back for more. Character development is another aspect of the story that the game pulls off well. I promise you that these characters will grow on you. Some you will come to hate their guts, others you'll not want to die. 999 is a game full of subtle humor and throwbacks to popular culture as well. I admit, I chuckled when Junpei threw out the "Why so serious?" line, but one scene in particular just made me burst out into laughter.
-It shouldn't contain any spoilers but I'll put the video here for those who want to see what I mean, though it is much funnier in-game.-
The audio in this game helps it to achieve its horror aspect. Many tracks in the game are very melancholy and help add to the suspense of Junpei's situation. Others are just plain weird. The game features no voice-overs, however. It would've been a nice treat though.
All in all, 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors is an excellent DS title. The graphics, gameplay, audio, and storyline all mesh together well to produce a story that demands hours upon hours of play. It's not exactly perfect, but it comes very close. I definitely recommend this game to anyone who is an avid lover of text adventure games or is just a fan of the "Who done it?" archetype. Go out and find this game now.
And...this concludes my first review. Hope you guys and gals enjoyed it. :3
999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
Overall Score: 9/10