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on December 1, 2010
This is not a game for children. Do not buy this title for your ten-year-old; the "Mature" ESRB rating on the package is very accurate. The storyline is very heavy in expletives (up to and including the f-bomb) and periodic sexual innuendo.

I first found out about this game about two months ago while reading a synopsis on Amazon. As the title implies, nine people have nine hours to escape from a sinking ship. They were put there by a maniacal person named Zero, who kidnapped them from all over the world to participate in "The Nonary Game", a life-or-death challenge that will thrust the nine kidnapped people into a world of puzzles.

The best comparison that I can draw to this game is a mash-up of PC classics Zork and Phantasmagoria. If you are not old enough to understand this reference, I offer another: Saw (the movies) meets Professor Layton. What Aksys has done is create a visual novel; you must solve puzzle elements in order to progress the storyline. If you ever played the classic point-and-click adventures on the PC (Myst, Phantasmagoria, Zork, & etc.), then it is fairly intuitive (and obvious) that they can be reincarnated on the DS. The touch-screen interface is a perfect way to introduce this style of mystery/puzzle games to a new gaming generation.

Gameplay

Nine Hours, Nine Person, Nine Doors (lets call it 999 for short) excels in intuitive gameplay. The concept is fairly simple: the game is divided into two sections: narrative and escape puzzles. For each puzzle, your character (Junpei) will be placed into an area, comprised of a room or a series of rooms, and he must find items and solve puzzles in order to open the door and escape.

Now the title and the game itself does indicate that you have only 9 hours to escape. This is true, but the gameplay is very forgiving. Time does advance, but it is "suspended" while you are working to solve each escape puzzle. In addition, you are able to repeatedly attempt to solve each puzzle without fear of locking yourself out or dying. Solving the puzzles themselves is fun without being overly complex. Do not take this to mean that the game is easy; it isn't, not by any stretch of the imagination. The game's producer, Aksys, has done a masterful job in balancing how you have to find items and how you solve the puzzles. Granted the puzzles themselves can be somewhat math-heavy (two key concepts are a digital root and the hexadecimal system), but the game is generous about allowing mistakes to occur and even provides a calculator to help those who may not be as adept at mental math.

Now, here is the caveat [minor spoiler]. 999 is a game that requires more than one playthrough in order to find out everything about the storyline. You may think this sounds like a cheap gimmick, and I assure you that it is not. Each playthrough gives you the opportunity to try different things (choose a different door to go through, choose different party members for each door, and so forth), and subsequently, each character will reveal slightly more about themselves and their past. Thrown in for even more mystery is the seemingly random interjection of history: the Titanic, glycerin crystallization, a priestess of Amun-Ra, and more. Aksys makes each playthrough easier by allowing you to "fast forward" through dialogue that you have already read. In addition, whenever a choice menu appears, previous selections are greyed-out so that you can easily remember the last action you took at that point in your previous playthrough.

The only complaint that I have to this system is that you cannot "fast forward" through puzzles that you have previously solved. Since the narrative part of the game can be rather text-heavy, the option to speed through it is much appreciated; however, I would infinitely prefer not having to repeat the "prologue" puzzle in the 3rd class cabin over-and-over. If I had to open that danged red suitcase one more time, I would've gone looney. Fortunately, if you need to walk away from the game, you are permitted to save at any point. In addition, after you beat the game for the first time, you can access each escape puzzle in the main menu and re-enact the escape if you wish to hone your skills.

In order to access every puzzle room, it is necessary to play the game at least more than once. Also, to get the "best" ending, you have to complete a specific "bad" ending first. Finding the "best" ending is at best a crap shoot, as there is no readily obvious way to find it without trial-and-error or consulting a game guide. The best ending, though, is worth it. In addition, each of the "bad" endings reveals a little bit more of the history of each character and can help you solve loose ends that may not be resolved in the "best" ending.

Storyline

This is where 999 excels. The story is not forced. You will actually delight in reading the text and learning a little bit more about each character. Thrown in is a lot of humor (many of it adult); there were a lot of interactions with the characters that had me laughing so hard that I was wiping away tears. The author of the story is amazing, and it was truly a joy to play through the game several times (I completed it four different times, I still have two endings to watch) and learn a little bit more each time.

In addition to having one of the best "true" endings of any puzzle game that I have played to date, the mystery and motives of everyone involved will lead to a rousing debate between members of the gaming community for a while to come. Personally, I have inserted myself into a board discussion on the Gamefaqs website, trading theories with other 999 players as to the purpose of a specific character as well as a secondary storyline within the game. I will not specify anything here, as I do not want to spoil the surprise for anyone, but suffice it to say I am very pleased that a game has had me thinking about it ever since I beat it.

Graphics & Sound

This game is one of the better games for the DS. While the narrative itself is text, each character has a unique design and the backgrounds are very appropriate for an early 20th century ship. There are only a handful of animations within the game (usually limited to puzzle-solving), but they are well done. The backgrounds are detailed, but not overly cluttered as to make it difficult to find items for a puzzle. Overall, the graphics are a 10/10.

The sound is good, nothing over-the-top, and does help to set the mood for the game. I usually play my games with the sound turned off, but while I did have it on, I found it appropriate to the atmosphere without being too cloying. It would have been nice to hear some voiceacting (reading about a character screaming, usually described in great detail, would have been more realistic), but the lack of it does not really detract from the game. The narrative itself is written with great detail, to the point that the desription of a dead body almost made me nauseous. That said, where the sound falls short the narrative itself picks it up. A solid 8/10.

Overall

If you are a puzzle fanatic and love a good mystery, buy this game. The puzzles are fun without being overly complex, the story is extremely well done, and the game is a pure joy to play. I can find little fault in it. If you are sensitive to expletives, it may try your patience, but by-and-large, I did not find them to be overwrought. For the most part, the bawdy language did fit the action and situations presented, so I was able to forgive it.

As stated at the beginning of this review, this game is NOT for children. While it would be lovely to give to a child to solve the puzzles (nothing like some mental exercise), the storyline, some of the graphics, and the language would not be appropriate. The game is very heavily peppered with the f-bomb, s***, b***h, and a few more. While there is nothing overtly sexual within the game, a few campy jokes do allude to some pretty erotic stuff, although it is tastefully done and I found myself chuckling.

999 is perfectly balanced with comedy, a compelling storyline, a great soundtrack, and deep characters that will stay in your heart for a long time. If you are looking for a fun puzzle game that is truly a gem, this title is for you. This game should be one of the games of the year.
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on November 28, 2010
I've played some mystery/puzzle games before but this one REALLY take the cake. Out of all the M rated games so far released, (this being the 11th M rated game out for the DS system) this is really hard to put down once you started playing.

The game itself is a mixture of a graphical novel and a "escape the room"/solve puzzles. So if you hate reading, puzzles, or math in general, I would stay away from the game. However, if you enjoy complex puzzles, memorable characters, great story lines I would definitely pick this game up.

What make this game even better is once you "finished" the game, you can play back through the game and have a completely different ending. Which really adds onto the replay value of this game and no two endings are the same!

I would like to warn parents though, this game is rated by ESRB as M for Mature for a reason. There is blood (tons of blood and a very detailed description of said blood), drug reference, strong language (and when I mean strong language, STRONG LANGUAGE! Not just the f-word is being thrown around), suggestive themes, and of course, violence.
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on November 25, 2010
9 Hours to escape
9 People caught in this mad game of numbers
9 Doors that will determine their very fates within a ship

These people are put into a game known as the "Nonary Game" where they must escape within 9 hours from a crazed person only known as "Zero" and make it out alive.

This game is very. very interesting. The moment I put this game into my DSi and played for the first 10 minutes, I was sucked into these people's lives that hang in the balance. The first few minutes put you in a room with the main character, Junpei, where he must escape from a room being filled with water, and FAST!! This game uses the whole point and click system where you look around a room and use your stylus to tap on objects to find clues and items that will help you escape from different situations in the ship.

**Some spoilers**

My favorite part in this game is not only the puzzles, but the dialog. The narration isn't bland like some other games. But, is literally made like you're reading a book. When you're stuck in the water-filling room with Junpei, the narration is very, very thorough and very detailed. Some parts will tell you about the description of the room to the restlessness of the characters to (I'm not kidding you) the full description of a body after it was blown up. It's not, "the body was blown up into a million pieces", but rather tells you something like, "the blood splatter was all around the room and chunks of the flesh where strewn around the room" blah blah blah. I'm not kidding, this is how detailed the narration is.

**End spoilers**

If there's anything else I like about the game, it's the 9 characters you encounter and must escape with.

Ace, Snake, Santa, Lotus, Junpei (the main character who doesn't have a codename), June, Seven, Clover, and the 9th Man. Each have a past that connects them all together and Junpei must find out why they are all connected so that they can escape from the ship.

If I were to say whether to buy this game or not, I would say, "buy the damn game already". This game might be a sleeper title, and is already one of my favorite games for the DS. The story is good, the characters are all intriguing, the puzzles are all there to make you think, and the short amount of time that you have makes it so that you have to rush the puzzles.

So, 5 stars to this game, story, gameplay, and all others.

Just to note: this game has a long of history in it, from the Titanic, to real people that changed the very world to chemistry. So, if you're not into reading a lot, don't buy it, but you are missing out on a great game!!!!
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on December 5, 2010
I almost didn't buy this game. Reviews sounded good, but I didn't like the price. I almost missed out. I would have paid double for this game. Highly addicitive, great puzzles, captivating story - I literally couldn't put it down. I have completed 4 of the 6 endings and will be going back to hit the other 2 soon! Definitely for mature audiences. Lots of reading, but it is very interesting. If you like suspense, novels, and puzzles, then this game is perfect for you!
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on May 13, 2012
I'm a big point-and-click adventure game fan, so I was naturally interested when I heard about this game. It had awesomely positive reviews, so it seemed like a winner! Unfortunately, I was busy with other games in my backlog so I didn't get around to playing 999 until now. So, does it hold up to my high expectations? Let's find out!

Graphics (score 8/10): The art style of this game is best described as "anime-inspired" without being over the top about it. It also seems very familiar to me, and I think I know why: it reminds me very much of the art style in the Persona games. I don't know if they are actually related or not though... As for the animation, there's some fully animated cutscenes here and there, but for the most part, there's just static images paired with text. The characters are also 2-D and they do move their eyes and mouths occasionally, but compared to a game like Phoenix Wright, it feels like there's far less movement. It also feels like there are less static images in general compared to other games in the genre. Limited budget perhaps? Oh well.

Music (score 7/10): No voice acting, but there IS some sound effects and some music. It's pretty understated music. There's just enough of it to be background noise, but it doesn't really stand out as much as I'd like. That being said, I can't really say the music is bad, it's just a bit bland and unnoticeable. That's really all I can say for this section.

Characters (score 9/10): There are eight major characters that you spend the majority of the game with, all of them with cool codenames (everyone decides to use codenames instead of their real names when they meet in case that psycho who kidnapped them is listening in - more on that in the story section). I'm not going to go through everyone, but you play as a young man named Junpei (who is just your average college student). He's pretty likable and it's obvious he's supposed to represent a sort of "everyman" character for the player to relate to. Even though the game is pretty short (it takes about 10 hours to get through one playthrough), it does a very good job of making you feel like these characters are real people through the use of very little actual knowledge about each of them. That's a hard thing to do and I'm truly impressed. Plus, even if you don't necessarily like all of these people, you at least empathize with them and their plight. That, too, is rather impressive. This would've gotten a full 10 points out of me except for one ending of the game that features a character acting like a complete psycho when it was rather out of character to do so (I'm not going to say who, but it so stunned me that I couldn't like her after that no matter what).

Story (score 9/10): In a genre that's absolutely saturated with games themed around being a detective/investigator of some type, 999's story is a really refreshing change of pace. Don't get me wrong, I love detective-style adventure games, but it's really nice to see something new - and it's a horror-themed game no less (the only other horror-themed adventure game I can think of on DS is Theresia)! 999's premise is that your main character, Junpei, has been kidnapped by a mysterious (aren't they always?) psychopath who's trapped him and some other random people on a sinking ship and is literally going to kill everyone if they can't solve his/her puzzles and escape. Sounds intriguing, huh? Well, the story is pretty good. I do have a bit of a complaint, though. I'm sure you've heard the old phrase "show, don't tell"? This game has a bad habit of doing to opposite. Rather than show you something, it just has long bits of text to exposit it. So, for example, instead of showing Junpei's face reacting with fear, it'll just have text saying "Junpei reacted with fear". I suppose it's related to the limited animation (see graphics section above), but I've certainly seen this sort of thing handled better elsewhere (namely in Phoenix Wright and just about every other adventure game on DS ever...). In fact, if you are the sort of person who hates long cutscenes, then this game may have you huddled in a corner, begging for the sweet release of death... I thought this wouldn't bother me; I mean, I played through all three games in the Xenosaga series (an RPG notorious for its long cutscenes), but it started to grate on me after awhile (I clocked one round of scenes as lasting at least 1 ½ hours!). When you have to hit the X button or tap the screen after every few sentences, the scenes get tedious really fast. It's especially annoying when you're fast-forwarding through stuff you've already seen before (on previous playthroughs, more on that in the gameplay section) and you just wish you could press one button and skip it entirely. I will say one thing, though, the multiple endings ALL add some value and enjoyment to the story (once again, more on that in the gameplay section). Well, anyway, if long cutscenes don't bother you, then I can safely say you'll enjoy the story immensely like I did since it's quite good!

Gameplay (score 7/10): This is a bit of a catch-all category for me. Games in the point-and-click adventure genre can have the best stories and most compelling gameplay ever, but usually they don't have much replay value. I mean, if you're like me, you'll want to replay them eventually just to re-experience the story, but most of them don't have anything past that. Well, 999 has very kindly tried to fix this problem by giving us multiple endings! In fact, you really can't get the good ending without replaying the game. Now before you start moaning about the tedium, the game let's you fast forward through dialogue you've already been through so it doesn't feel like such a slog fest. I do sorely wish though that you could skip the entire scene by just pressing a button once instead of having to hold down a button to fast forward. Oh well. The really cool thing is that each ending (even the bad ones) is that they all add something to your knowledge about the story/characters and don't feel like a waste of time. All I can say is that I appreciate the developer's attempt to add some replay value to this game when it's in a genre that often lacks it. As for the actual gameplay, all the controls work well enough, and it's just what you'd expect for an adventure game; there's (long) scenes, then there's times where you wander around to explore various rooms, and there's puzzles to solve. It's pretty standard stuff. The puzzles themselves aren't too bad, but some of them are kinda tricky, especially if you don't understand math concepts like hexadecimals and magic squares and stuff too well (like me - sigh). This is a very math-centered game. Other than that, there's not much to say!

Overall (score 8/10): NOTE this score is not an average; it's my subjective overall score. Well, this is an interesting game... As for my expectations, I'm surprised that people gave this game such high scores. I mean, I've seen tons of professional reviewers giving this game perfect scores when games like Ghost Trick got good, but less awesome, reviews. If I were to be completely honest, I'd have to say that I enjoyed Ghost Trick a great deal more than this game because the whole experience (from storytelling to gameplay) just felt more polished to me. That doesn't mean that 999 is a bad game; quite the contrary - it's got a great story and great characterizations. I've heard that the developers are releasing a sequel to this game on the 3DS. If they manage to balance out the length of the cutscenes vs. actual gameplay while still maintaining the same story and character standards, then I'm sure it'll turn out fantastic. Even if they don't improve on anything, I'm still looking forward to playing that game. I'm sure it'll still be a great experience!
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on December 30, 2014
As far as visual novels go, I'd say this game is one of my favorites. If you're not familiar with visual novels, it's basically like reading a story with some choices sprinkled in. This game actually has puzzles in there, which are fun to play and are thematically involved with the story.

Speaking of the story, that's what's important with 999 -- and it's brilliant. I won't spoil it, but it starts off with a tense "Saw" like moment where the main character is abducted and put into a strange, life-threatening game along with 8 other people (thus making the "9 Persons" part of the title).

If there is one thing I have to insist on, it's that you play it on the Nintendo DS (or 3DS, as this game is compatible with the 3DS). I can't say why without ruining it, but BELIEVE when I say that the hardware it is played on is absolutely critical to getting the full impact of the story, and it's worth every moment of it. Other versions like the iOS port take out the puzzles and lose the full impact.

This is a game that can affect your sleep habits, as you get to revelations in the story and you just want to keep going to find out what happens next. Then you look up and 4 hours have passed.

One last thing -- when you get one ending, you're not done! Keep going until you get the "True" ending. It's not really "optional" as far as the story goes, it's actually kind of required. Don't worry -- it will all make sense in the end -- er, mostly.
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on October 23, 2014
I read an article on a gaming website that pointed me towards this game, I had a few extra dollars to spend so I said sure why not. I fell in love with the game almost instantly. I love the way it hooked me from the beginning with the mystery and intrigue surrounding the main character and those around him. The puzzles are stimulating, you do feel a great sense of accomplishment when you figure them out and solve them, and when you do it quickly...you almost feel like a genius, but there is always another challenge ahead. The multiple endings storylines is great...I've never really been of fan of exploring multiple endings...but here in order to get the "best" ending, you have to play through the story multiple times making different decisions and it never really feels like a chore. There are some far fetched concepts thrown around the storyline, but I guess thats part of what hooked me. It's a definitely an entertaining game.
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on June 14, 2015
One of my favorite games. There are not many games now days that once you beat it, you immediately start up again but thats the way this game is set up. It will take multiple playthroughs of 6-8 hours each to learn different things about the characters depending on the paths and answers you take. I would say this game is more for the gamer is who is on the intellectual side who appreciates a deep story. Plus the tension of trying to find out what exactly is going on is pretty rare in gaming.
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on April 17, 2016
Part Danganronpa, part SAW films. Suspenseful, eerie, mysterious, and more. I've never played a game like this before, though there could be a large library of games out there in this genre for all I know. I recently got sucked into this title as a result of Nintendo's big Spring sale currently underway, which included a heavy discount on this games sequel (Zero Escape). Reviews for that game a incredible in spite of the title receiving much publicity and select fanfare. The same could be said for this title as well. Upon reading reviews for Zero Escape, I was informed that playing this title wasn't necessary, but was highly recommended based on its own merits. After much hype, I bought in. Totally worth it.

For me it was a unique gaming experience. Very engaging. This game is quite a few years old by now, but here I am loving it on my 3ds in 2016. I just beat it earlier today and got the bad ending & now I absolutely must go back to experience the other 5. The bad news is that my ending solved no mysteries or saw the game to a conclusion, but I will keep playing til I get my answers!

If you like puzzles and enjoy death games this title is a no brainier.
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on February 11, 2012
I realize this review is a little late considering how long this game has been out and the fact that the 3DS is out now and the DS is nearing the end of its life. However, if you have a DS or 3DS, you should absolutely play this game. The story, characters, and environment created in this game are absolutely stunning. The story is so engaging that you'll lay awake at night wondering what is going to happen next. The first time the game ends you'll be shocked when it happens. You'll play through it again and the second time through the game will be even better. The more you play, the better the story gets. The gameplay is simple but effective, it's about half puzzle solving and half interactive novel. The gameplay and puzzle solving are fun, for the most part logical and not excessively frustrating like some puzzle games, but again it is the story that will really pull you in. I could go on and on about how great this game is but if you're not sold by now I doubt much is going to change that.

Like I eluded to above, this is a game which is meant to be played through multiple times. If you play through it once and end there you're missing the boat and about 70% of the game. After a couple playthroughs find a guide online to help you, not one that gives anything away, just one that tells you which choices you need to make to get the "true" ending. Also, the ending during your final playthrough will be a lot longer than you may be expecting, I was sure I was at the end of the game for at least 2 hours but it just kept going, but in a good way. Finally, there is a sequel being made for the PSP/3DS so if you're as impressed by this game as I was, keep a look out that that in the near future.

9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors is a great game which will draw you in with its great story and won't let go until you've completed the game. I honestly can't say that any other experience on the DS has been as good (though Hotel Dusk and Elite Beat Agents came close) and I'm not sure I've ever played a game before with such a compelling story.
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