Published on June 24th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley0
999 DS Review
999 or 9 hours, 9 persons, 9 Doors is a Japanese point and click adventure game for Nintendo DS.
It was released in Japan in 2009 and was localised to North America in 2010, but was sadly not released here in the UK, the game received a sequel, Virtue’s Last Reward for the 3DS and PS Vita, which for some reason they did decide to release in all territories.
The game series is known as Zero Escape in Japan, in reference to the game’s puzzle design and plot regarding a mysterious masked man who traps unsuspecting people and asks them to solve their way out.
In 999 you are Junpei a teenage boy who wakes up on a sinking ship and must escape the room which is filling with water. He soon discovers 8 other people with similar circumstances and must learn to work together to escape from the ship and their captor.
The general game flow involves a story segment, with a lot of dialogue, then adventure segment, usually where you can search around a room in order to solve multiple puzzles to escape.
As a DS game, a lot of the controls are touchscreen, however like Another Code much can be played using conventional buttons, puzzles often involve taking items and combining them for use on other parts of the room to unlock parts. However escape and entry from every puzzle door is always the same and uses the game’s main theme. Numbers.
The name of the game is Nonary, where the player must add together singular numbers in order to find a “digital root”. For example, the digital root of 25 is 7 because 2+5 is 7. Likewise the digtal root of 236 is 2, as 2+3+6 =11 and 1+1=2.
Each character of the 9 has a watch on their arm with a number from 1 to 9 on, in order to enter a door, the characters must work together to use their numbers to make the digital root of the door they wish to enter.
Although the only playable character is Junpei, you are given the choice of which players will enter what doors in what combinations, however there is very little to choose in each instance, the options have different routes in the story leading to a wide variety of eventual options, and in case you hadn’t guessed it, multiple endings.
The game was a little cryptic at first, however once the first puzzle is over and you understand the general idea, the pacing of the game is much improved and the puzzles feel a little more coherent. Choices that are made greatly influence who will and will not get to live at the end of the game, leading you to making choices based on who you like best, but it won’t always work out as you hoped.
The puzzles themselves are relatively easy and soon become a little repetitive and somewhat dull, however character interaction in rooms takes a little of the edge off some of this. Many elements of the puzzles feel a little forced, as do some of the rooms themselves and the set up of the puzzles. We know that they have actually been made by someone but it all feels a little too unbelievable and far-fetched.
The use of touchscreen and DS controls are a little tame considering the interesting and innovative ideas they could have used. Turning keys is little more than touching the screen let alone utilising the potential to creating deep and meaningful if not at least really tricky puzzles using the stylus.
After completion there is a new game plus which allows you to fast forward through cutscenes and dialogue you have already watched and it also delights any choices you made in the previous game while saving your ending. There are many paths to the same endings meaning that just simply playing the game again and making different choices won’t ensure that you see something new.
The story is interesting and the characters are memorable, the setup and progression of the story complements the game and lends itself well to mystery and suspicion of other characters, being that there are multiple endings of which I only managed to finish one, which was by the looks of things the most common ending and also the worst, I can’t comment much on the story and whether it was completely fulfilling, however with each playthrough and choices of characters, new information can be learnt about the true nature of your comrades and possibly your captor as well.
Being that there is a sequel to this, raises a lot of questions to some of the “good” endings and how they are resolved.
The game took little more than 7 hours and with subsequent playthroughs would take around 5 hours. It was a short game but the different endings and various different pathways and areas makes the experience look a lot larger.
In comparison to Another Code, the design of the puzzles, although more general felt a lot better made and the overall story and quality of the game is much higher. Another Code is great as a beginner to point and click adventures for children, but 999 is more difficult logically speaking and the story is very dark even if the gruesome deaths visually don’t hold up carthartically.
A stressfully enjoyable game with interesting gameflow and bad endings galore. It requires multiple playthroughs but most Japanese point and click fans would enjoy it.
EDIT: I played through some more routes and wrote a little here.