The water is rising, there are 9 doors, and time is running out.
9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors is a visual novel/puzzle game by Spike Chunsoft and localized by Aksys Games and is the first installment of the Zero Escape series. Originally released in 2010 for the Nintendo DS, 999 will have you carefully inspect your surroundings, and think as you solve each of the puzzles to escape. Will you survive and uncover the reasons behind your abduction?
In 999, you are Junpei. You have been kidnapped and placed in a small room, which starts to fill with water. As you escape, you find that you are not alone. There are eight other people who have also been abducted and placed on a luxury cruise ship by a person known only as Zero. You have been placed here for one reason, to play the Nonary Game. To play the Nonary Game, you must split up into separate groups and enter various numbered doors. Within each of these rooms are a number of escape rooms that you and your group must solve numerous puzzles in order to exit, and find the keys to unlock the rest of the ship. If you and your fellow abductees don’t follow the rules, the punishment is death. You have 9 hours to play the Nonary Game and reach the door marked with a 9 or the ship, or you and everyone aboard will drown.
The gameplay is broken down into two parts: Novel and Puzzle sections. Being a visual novel, the majority of the game is in the novel section. Both screens show the same background which will change depending on where you are in the ship: lobby, crew quarters, hallways, etc. What separates the two is what text gets placed where. All of the dialogue and character portraits get shown on the top screen and all of Junpei’s narration/thoughts take place on the lower screen.
Occasionally, you are presented with dialogue and door options that can alter the story of the game. Depending on the choices you make, will determine which of the six endings you will receive. To get the true ending, you must go through the story at least twice. After every ending, you can save your game so that every sequential play through knows what you have done previously so you can skip dialogue portions you have previously read, make the subsequent play-throughs a bit shorter.
The same display format holds true for the puzzle sections. The top screen gets the dialogue and the bottom screen is where you explore everything in each escape room. While in each escape room, you have to click on everything to find clues about the ship and its past, and items you will need to solve the puzzles in each room. These items can either be physical objects that need to be placed in a certain place or can be clues like maps or charts that’ll help you to solve them. The various puzzles will require thinking as they will require a bit of math here, some music note identification there. You might need to figure out what goes where and what doesn’t belong. If the puzzles seem too hard, you might get some hints from your fellow abductees after a while. Once you solve the door puzzle and escape, the game returns to novel mode. Be sure to keep a pen and paper handy because you are definitely going to need it.
Personally, I feel 999 serves as a perfect way to bridge literature and video games. The novel sections are wonderfully written so you never feel bored while reading it. The dialogue, while not the best, is definitely better than most games. 999 sparked my love of the visual novel genre and brought back joy to something school sucked the fun out of, reading.
If you have a DS or 3DS and like to read, 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors is a fantastically written horror/suspense story that keeps you interested until the very end. With its lengthy story and multiple endings, this isn’t something that you will finish in a few hours. For those without a DS or 3DS, there is a version out for iOS devices. However, this version is all story and no puzzles. Aksys Games does also have a short demo on their website. While it does give you a taste of how the game plays, the full game gives an experience that is ten times better.
9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors is only the beginning of the Zero Escape series. After this, you will once again play the Nonary Game in Virtue’s Last Reward for the 3DS and PS Vita systems, and finally, we will see how this all ends in Zero Time Dilemma due for release this summer.
9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
- Story - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Mechaincs - 8.5/108.5/10
999’s wonderfully written story and multiple endings will make you want to come back for more.