Hey, guys. Last week, we competed in a twisted, black-and-white reality show.
Today, we'll look at a DS game with a lot of reading. One that's worth every second of your time.
999: Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors was developed and published by Chunsoft and Aksys, respectively. Basically, 999 is about nine strangers who awaken on a ship, with no memory of how they got there. You play as Junpei, a student who wakes up in a room of the ship that is flooding. Making your escape, you meet up with the rest of the group, all different, colorful characters. A voice that identifies itself as "Zero" explains to the group of nine that they are playing the "Nonary Game", where they will have to escape the ship within nine hours by finding a door marked with...wait for it...a nine.
To accomplish this, the group has to work together to enter various doors around the ship marked with different numbers. Each member of the group wears a wristband marked with a number (for example, Junpei's is 5). These wristbands also serve as detonators for bombs implanted in the players, thus preventing cheating. The doors open for groups of people, in two or three, whose assigned number's digital roots match up with the number on the door. For example, door 5 would be something like: 5+6+3=14, then 1+4 equals 5. Presto, door opens! You then have to solve puzzles in the room in order to escape the room and progress through the story.
First and foremost, 999 is a visual novel. A HUGE portion of your time will be spent reading text. You can tell from the screenshot that there's dialogue to read as well as novel-like exposition to go through. Those of you looking for an action-focused experience will be left out in the cold.
Those of you that take the chance, though-or if you have already-know just how great this game is. The general flow of gameplay is: reading dialogue, answering a question here and there (essentially, choosing which door you'll go through with whom) and solving puzzles in whichever room you've chosen. This is repeated a few times in each playthrough.
The puzzles will take up most of your time, because some of them can be hard. Not a nebulous, how-the-hell-does-anyone-even-know-that kind of hard, but they will require you to switch on your brain, which is a muscle we don't use that much in games today. But the puzzles fit nicely within the context of the story, seeing as how Zero set them up. It's better that puzzles just being puzzles for no reason whatsoever (see Resident Evil).
So. The puzzles are one thing. But you're here for the story, and 999 does not disappoint.
It's really difficult to explain the story without wandering into spoiler territory (I don't like to spoil games I write about, because maybe not everyone has played. Especially this one, where the story has to be experienced firsthand). Nevertheless, expect a compelling tale about nine well-developed characters, all thrust into a situation where they have to cooperate with each other. There's twists and turns, as each character has their own agenda, and some-or all-may not be who they appear.
The story plays on the nature of trust, as even old relationships are put to the test. You'll totally fall in love with the cast, and love to hate some of them. It's pretty much all character driven. And the ending will leave you satisfied, happy, sad, wishing there was more, and maybe a little confused at first.
But like a lot of adventure games, 999 has multiple endings. But unlike similar titles, you need to play through each ending before getting to the True Ending. This seems tiresome (and it is, though just a little) but you'll understand why when you finish.
Really, I can't oversell the story. It's one of the best. There's nothing quite like it, especially on DS, where you don't really see darker games like 999, with rather grim subject matter.
Track down a copy (or dust one off) and play it. Unfortunately, it can be tricky to track down in local stores these days, but it's worth it. There's, of course, a sequel; last year's Virtue's Last Reward, but trust me, play 999 first.
This was a surprisingly hard game to write about. Please, if you're going to comment with spoilers, please label them as such. Thank you.
Also thanks to IGN for the images. Side note: really, nowhere else to get screenshots besides taking them myself, and I don't have that kind of time these days.
As always, comments, questions, drink recipes, and future Game of The Week suggestions are more than welcome!
Next week, we'll check out a 360 game where you'll probably be happier with batteries than bullets.