I love horror and survival murder mystery stories, so the moment I realized this game existed it went straight into my cart. Prior to purchasing this game I had a resolve to cut back on buying games until I got through some of my backlog, with the only exception being my Dragon Quest VI pre-order. But my excitment for 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors (lets say 999 for short) was through the roof, and I knew it would get played as soon as I finished my current game at the time (Dragon Quest IV). This is the first game in the longest time that I’ve actually purchased and defeated within a few months of its initial release. I’m an official video game slow poke, I often start something and play it off and on for a year.
Junpei is a college student that wakes up locked in a room in the basement of a boat. The last thing he recalls is being knocked out with gas by a masked/hooded person in his room. Now he and 8 other people are going to be forced to play a puzzle game of life and death (The Nonary Game) in order to escape a sinking boat. How were these people chosen? Why is this game being put on? Who is responsible for creating such an elaborate death trap? These are all questions Junpei hopes to answer and still escape with his life. This game has multiple endings, and which one you get on a playthrough is based on the decisions made by you.
The puzzles reminded me of the puzzles in Professor Layton, but there are far less to solve in this game. The main difference in puzzles is that in 999 one puzzle often links directly to another, and you have to find tools to use to solve the puzzle. Basically each room is a set of puzzles, and all of the puzzles within each room lead up to reaching the final room puzzle. For me, having less puzzles was a great trade off for the plot I got in return. I’m more motivated in solving puzzles if I know some meaty plot information is waiting for me once I do. As much as I enjoyed Professor Layton and The Curious Village, I wouldn’t say that any of the plot was “meaty”.
The facial expressions and character designs reminded me of Phoenix Wright. Each character has art done for say half a dozen facial expressions, and as the conversation goes on the animation just switches between these expressions. I know other JRPGs employ this method but it still reminded me of Phoenix Wright more. I liked all of the character designs, although one outfit was particularly distracting. I couldn’t figure out how that top was covering the most important part of the boob when seeing her from different angles. My theory is that she must have had them surgically removed.
Despite the fearful situation everyone is in, the game has a sense of humor that I enjoyed. I also liked how I slowly got to know each of the characters’ personalities and their backgrounds. At one point in the game one of the conversations actually made me laugh out loud. I think that scene is best enjoyed while playing the game, but if you have no intentions on playing it anyway you can enjoy a video of the conversation here. The game’s narration is great too, horrific scenes are typically off screen, but the internal dialogue of the Main Character (Junpei) probably paints a far more fearsome image in the player’s mind than any artist could hope to accomplish, and still stay within the spirit of the game.
I loved this game, and if Aksys ever makes another well done survival/murder mystery game I’ll look forward to it with a lot of enthusiasm. In the meanwhile I’ll try some of their other games that seem similar. Growing up I searched for games like this one, I played Myst and some Nancy Drew video games for example, but none of these games felt even close to holding a candle to motivating me like this game has. I can’t remember the last time I loved a game so much that I’d give up an entire weekend just to play it. I plan on playing Theresia (also by Aksys) next, but I’m not confident that it will equal 999.
Spoiler Free Tips/Advice:
1) Scribble down the answers to the puzzles you solve, especially the ones in the beginning. It’s likely that you’ll have to solve them multiple times until you make the right choices to get to the ending you want to see.
2) Keep an eye out for items that seem to have a purpose, but don’t directly relate to solving the puzzles at hand.
3) Don’t worry too much about trying to get to the better endings right away, interact how you want to with the other characters and rooms. Once you play something through once, you can fast forward converstions you’ve already witnessed. I happened to get to the endings in an order where each was better than the last, and I really enjoyed that.