Why hello thar MoarPowah!, pluffei here. You all must be thinking, “Don’t you know Laevatein already reviewed 999?” Of course I know, but I’d planned (a couple months back) on writing a review of the game, and Laevatein’s review isn’t going to stop me from writing one of my own. (No offense to him of course, but it also helps that our opinions pertaining to 999 tend to differ at more than one point). I’ll try not to overlap too many of the points he’s already covered, but without further ado…
Let’s dig in, itadakimasu~
Like Laevatein mentions in his post, 999 isn’t actually a game; it’s a visual novel with video game aspects. For example, in order to advance the plot, the player needs to solve puzzles and make choices. ( but for the purpose of this review, I’ll just refer to 999 as a game.) So far, this sounds strangely similar to a video game series about a certain top-hatted English gentleman, but rest assured; 999 is far more plot-heavy and far less kid-friendly. Also, there are no hints or point system, and puzzles that you solve (or miss) will affect the eventual events and routes into which you will be flung.
Onward with the plot. You are a college male, named Junpei, who is knocked out, kidnapped (along with 8 other people) and locked away in a sinking ship. When you wake up, you realize there’s a watch cuffed onto your wrist with the number 5 on it; you also realize, lo and behold, you are stuck in a room soon to be filled with water. After escaping the room, you find the 8 other people, each with their own numbered watch. Someone named “Zero” (hey, I know another trollish masked Zero) speaks over the intercom to inform everyone that the ship will sink in 9 hours, and within this time limit they have to find a door with the number 9 on it, as that is apparently the door to freedom. However, all of the doors leading to door 9 are numbered, and only groups of 3-5 with a combined digital root (using the numbers on their watches) of the number on the door can pass through. Confusing? It’s easier when you’re playing the game.
Driven by suspicion, the remaining 8 people you meet on the ship decide to use code names that reflect the number on their watches. There’s (from left to right) Lotus (8), Seven (7) (the tall one), Santa (3) (the short one), June (6), Junpei (5) (you miss your chance to get a code name), Ace (1), Snake (2), Clover (4) and the 9th man (9). The 9th man actually gets killed from the get-go (the bomb in his stomach explodes when he tries to go through one of the doors) so you only interact with 7 other characters.
The game play is fairly straight forward; you read the dialogue, you have multiple-choice answers when you’re asked a question, and generally if you see something suspicious then it’s probably related to a puzzle you need to solve. However, one thing I hated about this game (at first) is that it’s impossible to get the true ending on your first play-through; you can only attain the True End after you finish the Normal End, otherwise you simply get a “To Be Continued” ending and you have to start over. That was what happened to me, and afterwards I just hit the walk-throughs and unlocked all of the endings.
Unlocking all the endings sounds tedious, but it’s definitely worth the time. It also helps that you can fast-forward through dialogue you’ve already read; this was probably out of concern for the player’s frustration (I wouldn’t want to read the same dialogue 8 times at normal speed). Anyways, each character has a great back story, and when you put the whole picture together the True Ending makes a lot more sense (well, the game makes more sense too). And this is to be expected, as 999 has the bullet-proof plot of a VN. However, the game play isn’t quite as solid. It wasn’t a big problem, but a few of the puzzles weren’t that gaijin-friendly. Otherwise, at times I felt like the puzzles were constructed hastily, or at least contained really silly components (c’mon, grilling frozen pork so you can retrieve the message stuck inside of it? Why not eat the pork too?). Not to mention, the build-up to the final puzzle was absolutely overrated; the last problem you had to solve was to fill out an easy-leveled sudoku chart. Nevertheless, annoyed me the most about 999 were its random uses (or overuses) of hexadecimal (base 16). I spent too much time trying to convert numbers into alphabets and then back into numbers. For gamers who hate math, this game is filled with math and numbers. Even I think there’s too much math here, and I like math.
This game was really fun, although sometimes it’d make me want to chuck my clunky old school DS across the room (or out the window). The majority of these times was when June (6) had screen time. It was through June’s character that you could really tell the game was geared for males. June is the typical love interest for the protagonist, and she happens to be Junpei’s childhood friend (her real name is actually Akane). She’s also cute, kind, quirky, and everything a guy likes, but the bottom line is she’s absolutely useless. She cringes and nearly faints at the sight of blood (there be a lot of gore in this game, mind you) and then she really does faint because she develops a fever. Throughout the whole game, Junpei is responsible for making sure she doesn’t die in a ditch somewhere or raped in a back alley, figuratively. And the worst part is, his mental dialogue shows he doesn’t mind this, in fact he either feels obligated or overjoyed to be in charge of the pretty piece of dead weight. Maybe I’d have some more sympathy for her if I were a guy.
Gochisousama deshita, over and out!