While “The World Ends With You” is absolutely my top Nintendo DS game of all time, there are other games that fall within my coveted favorites spots right below. One such example is the first entry into the Zero Escape series known as “9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors” or simply “999.”
“999” is a visual novel adventure game originally released on Dec. 10, 2009. I played the game in 2015, so my memory of the entire storyline is hazy at best, though that’s good in order to avoid accidental spoilers.
The story begins with the protagonist, Junpei, waking up in the cabin of a cruise liner. On his wrist is a digital watch with the number five displayed in bright blue. The room begins to flood through the port window, and using puzzle solving skills the player has to use the surrounding area to figure out how to get out of the room before Junpei drowns.
Upon escaping, Junpei enters a large room with a giant staircase where he encounters eight other people that have woken up in the cabins of the ship and went through similar scenarios. Out of the entire cast, the player only learns of one other person’s real name: Akane, a childhood friend of Junpei’s who also has become trapped.
After everyone gathers, a voice comes over the speaker. It’s a mysterious person known only as Zero, who announces that they have placed these eight people in something called a Nonary Game. The ultimatum is simple: escape the ship within 24 hours or the bombs planted inside each participants stomach will go off.
The game is broken into two separate sections: Novel and Escape. Novel is all the text between the protagonist and the rest of the cast as well as the main character’s inner dialogue. Escape is the mode when the player most solve the puzzles of the room.
Overall, the game is an absolutely gorgeous blend of several different parts. The gameplay is fun and simple, the puzzles are difficult enough to keep a player entertained, and the art is stylistic and recognizable.
To me, the overarching scientific feel of the game made it a little hard for me to understand, but I’ve never been good in that field so that could explain why. That, however, did not hamper how emotional this game made me, in terms of giving me a small cast with varying personalities and backstories.
In addition, there’s not just one ending in total: there’s at least six for the player to reach. The game has to be played through twice at least, as the ‘Safe’ ending has to be hit before access to the ‘True’ ending opens up.
The route the player goes down depends on what doors they pass through during their run. Thankfully, I found a flowchart that tells you how to get the true ending, otherwise I may not have beaten the game.
Overall, “9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors” is a compelling visual novel with puzzles and a story that won’t let you set down the game. With interesting characters and plot twists to keep the suspense high, it’s definitely not a DS game to be passed up.