999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Cover
Platforms Nintendo DS
Genre Bizarre visual novel
MtAMinutes to Action 12
Keep Playing? No
Buy from Amazon

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors... what an awful title. I'm not even sure if that is the right title, just look at its cover. Anyways, you're probably wondering what the heck 999 is exactly. Well, it's basically Saw meets Hotel Dusk. A point and click visual novel with bombs implanted into stomachs that will explode if puzzles are not solved quickly enough. Yes, this game really was released and has the Nintendo Seal of Approval on it. And yes, it's rated M for Mature.

I don't really know why I chose to try 999 out, I haven't exactly had great luck with visual novels *cough* Lux-Pain *gag* Hotel Dusk *puke*, but the whole premise was just too intriguing to pass up. I figured I would give it a half-hour of my time to see if it was worth it to go on.

999 was developed by Chunsoft, creators of very popular visual and sound novels in Japan, including 428: Fūsa Sareta Shibuya de, one of the not-so-elusive 40/40 Famitsu scored games. They also handle the Shiren the Wanderer series and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, so they're not exactly slackers. As for 999, well, I'm going to give my opinion on its first half-hour right now.

Minute by Minute

00 - I poke Start and the first half-hour of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors begins. The game “strongly suggests that you save frequently.” Not a great start. “This game is fiction.” Thanks for the heads up.

01 - I hear some waves and a 24 style countdown appears on the top screen. It goes from 9 to 0 and then a building explodes.

02 - Actually, it was a boat, and the explosion woke Junpei up. Junpei woke up on the boat, but apparently doesn’t know how he got there.

03 - Everything is told through a wall of text so far, no voiceovers.

04 - Junpei is still trying to figure out how he fell out of bed and where exactly this bed is. And why the room is shaking. Lots of questions.

05 - The shaking has stopped so now he’s describing everything he sees in the room with great detail. There are some good sound effects in the background, creepy. The number 5 is spray painted on the iron door in the cabin he is in.

999 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors Ship Cabin06 - The door is locked, but there’s a card reader next to it. Junpei is more confused. I’m just wondering when I will get control.

07 - Right when he was about the punch the door, Junpei notices a watch on his wrist. The watch simply reads, “5”. The watch will not come off.

09 - After noticing the round porthole window, he finally figures out he’s on a ship. And as if we were playing a creepy version of The Curse of Monkey Island, the window bursts open and water rushes in.

10 - “SEEK A WAY OUT!” the game proclaims in bold letters. The bottom screen is for navigating the room from above, and the top screen is the first person view of what Junpei is seeing. Just like Hotel Dusk.

11 - The game runs through a bunch of obvious instructions like, “the purpose of each escape is to get out of the room.” I finally get control. The game is not 3D like Hotel Dusk, where you can explore every nook and cranny. Okay, now what?

12 - I wonder if I’m actually timed? Will the water rise up and kill me before I even figure out what’s going on? The picture of the water rushing in is frozen though, so I’m guessing I’m okay.

13 - There’s a picture of the ship in a frame above the sink. Upon grabbing it I’m treated to a minute long explanation on how to use, combine, and search items. The game keeps telling me that there are screws on the back of the picture but I don’t think there’s a way for me to unscrew them.

14 - Above the sink is a bulletin board with a small note attached to it, on the note are some red and blue triangles. Helpful, I’m sure.

15 - I search under the bunk pillows and find another card with more shapes. Will these shapes eventually help me use the card reader?

16 - Apparently, you can’t control yourself on the overhead map, this really isn’t much like Hotel Dusk at all.

17 - Hey, a briefcase, with a four digit passcode and a keyhole. Hmmm... Well, hey! In the tea kettle there’s a blue key!

999 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors Characters18 - Of course, the key alone doesn’t open the briefcase. Let’s keep looking around the room. But before that, the game is encouraging me to guess the number, uh, okay. No dice.

19 - I find a closet with a red briefcase, similarly locked like the blue one. And then another closet reveals the red key.

21 - In the red key closet, Junpei glances into the mirror and barely recognizes himself. He’s pale and looks so tired, this causes him to flashback on his last memory before finding himself on the ship.

22 - Junpei had arrived back at his apartment late one night to find his bedroom window open and the wind blowing in.

23 - Geez! In Junpei’s room is some guy dressed like he’s out of the Killzone series with a metal gas mask on. Creepy! Junpei collapses to the floor as he notices a smoke grenade going off.

24 - The gas masked man starts telling Junpei that he has been chosen for a game. The Nonary Game.

25 - The flashback ends and I’m returned to the task at hand: escaping from the room! I’m not really sure if I have enough information to open the briefcases, but there doesn’t seem to be anything left to explore.

27 - Oh wait, I missed the stove due to my excitement from finding the blue key. Inside the stove is a screwdriver! Now I should be able to get the screws off the back of the picture. Oh, the back of the picture has some clues.

28 - Okay... this is a cypher on how to interpret the shapes on the memos into numbers. Just need to figure out what the right order is.

30 - I got the blue case open! Inside is a file and some key cards. I would work on the red briefcase next, but the first half-hour of 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors is up!

Half-Hour Summary

999 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors Electric Chair

Minutes to Action: 12

What I liked: 999 is rather atmospheric, I was feeling pretty creeped out by the whole situation, and the kidnapping scene was even a bit scary. The excellent sound effects contribute a lot. I'm also slightly intrigued by the story and where it plans to go (beyond nine of everything).

I was a bit miffed at first that the game didn't play exactly like Hotel Dusk with free-form walking and looking around, but as the half-hour progressed, I appreciated the focused nature of the point and click adventure. It's obvious that there will be a lot less frustrated-hunting-for-that-one-obscure-object-in-the-corner-that's-covered-up-by-a-desk-from-nearly-every-angle kind of puzzles.

What I didn't like: I know this is a visual novel but it's still nice to play the game sometimes, it took over 10 minutes for me to even do something besides advance the text! When the player doesn't really have anything to do, it's really easy to lose their attention.

Would I Keep Playing? No, I almost felt like quitting after about 15 minutes. Not out of hatred or spite or crap story, but just because I was nearly bored to death of not doing anything. The most exciting part of the half-hour was the flashback to how Junpei was actually kidnapped. I've been burned by visual novel games like these one too many times, so unless you're a fan of the genre, skip 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.