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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 August 19, 2016
I just finished one of the endings, and I have to say so far that this game has the best story I've ever encountered in a game so far. At first I was hesitant because this is the first of its genre that I've ever played before so I was pretty much going into it blind, but man... You get so involved in the story that it starts to not bother you how much text you are reading. I kept coming back wanting to know more about the characters and how things would turn out for them. There are a total of 6 endings and the decisions u make affect what ending you will get. The ending I got had me scratching my head cuz I wasn't sure if I had beaten the game or not. Now I am on my second playthrough and it's just as exhilarating as my first playthrough. It's nice that your next playthroughs, you can skip thru text that uve already read, and go straight to the parts that you haven't gotten to yet. I highly recommend this title to anyone that is looking for a puzzle game with a HUGE emphasis on story telling.
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on September 14, 2015
This is one of the most unique experiences I ever had with a videogame.

Before I say anything else, note that this is a visual novel, meaning it'll have too much dialogue and focus mainly on the story, you'll be spending more time reading and following the story than actually playing, it's similar to reading a book but with puzzles inside.

That being said, even if it doesn't sound interesting to you, I highly recommend this game, at least as a new experience for you.

This game has very good story telling, although it does get boring sometimes, and you can't skip or adjust the speed of the text unless you're replaying the game to get another one of the six endings, however, rest assured as you can save the game any time you want, so you don't have to force yourself to read anymore when you want to take a break.

As for the game play, you basically solve puzzles and investigate, as the game is all about 9 people trapped in a huge ship, have to solve puzzles in order to pass through the 9 numbered doors, within 9 hours (9 hours, 9 doors, 9 persons), the puzzles are pretty smart and require too much concentration, and of course the game gives you enough hints and explains everything to you.

Also, there are six endings to this game, as in every play through you can decide on which doors you want to go through, and you have to finish the game at least twice to get the real ending, which is not an issue since the "True ending" is pretty much connected to the "Safe ending" and has different plot and puzzles.

Last but not least, the entire mystery of the game is genius, some things are left unexplained at the end, but the ending is still satisfying.

Again, I highly recommend this game for anyone who likes to experience something new.
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on September 20, 2016
When I bought this game, it was already a little older, but wanted to play the series in its entirety. I unknowingly played the sequel first. It being older, I didn't have high expectations. But it turned out to be great regardless. the animation wasn't even bad just older. The puzzles were still fantastic, as is known for the series, and the storyline, writing, plot, etc. is out of this world. I was very impressed. I HIGHLY suggest playing the series in its entirety. It is well worth it. Virtues Last Reward follows this one, and is concluded by Zero Time Dilemma. My only, absolutely, only complaint is that you do have to repeat some puzzles and the time line is a little difficult. They have "fixed" this in the following two games. But with the internet being accessible, if I got hung up, or just didn't feel like remembering everything I had already done, there are great walk throughs out there.
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on October 20, 2013
Sometimes I ask myself on what makes a good game. Does it need to be based on gameplay, in which control is in the players' hand and they have full control over their surroundings? Or can it be based on story, in which control is taken away from the player, but they experience a fantastic story and sympathetic characters? Or maybe a mixture of both?

999 is a puzzle game in which it fits into the latter half to a T. 999 stars Junpei, a college student who awakens himself on what appears to be a large cruise ship. Upon escaping his room due to it starting to flood, he finds himself alongside 8 other characters each into the same situation he is. Then a intercom speaker comes on, someone who calls himself "Zero" has selected Junpei and the other 8 and forces them to play the Nonary Game. The objective, to find the door number 9 in a total of 9 hours or the ship will sink beneath the waves.

I say the words "puzzle game" to a minor extent however. 999 has two "phases" to it. The first is almost all reading. To say that there is a lot of text in this game is a massive understatement, 999 has miles upon miles of dialogue and exposition (as well as small sprite based animations and pictures) to move its story. Mind that its a fantastic story, but its still a lot of reading that may turn off gamers that are used to jumping into the action instantly. The second half are the puzzle segments, or as I like to call them "Escape the room sequences". Basically, your put into a room, room has some obligatory theme based puzzle to it, and you must solve the puzzle to escape.

The puzzles themselves are very well thought out. Some range from using picture ciphers, to musical composition, to even spelling out words in Base 16 and then converting them to numbers. The game comes itself with a calculator even, which is pretty damn useful especially since 75% of all the puzzles in the game are Math or Logic based. They are not hard per say, I only needed help on one of the puzzles. Your cohorts also give hints on the puzzles as well, so it doesn't feel like the game is cheating you in any way. In fact, this game takes pride in doing something I wish more games do more, which is making the player feel like a genius.

Yet the real selling factor to 999 is its characters. Each of the 9 characters in this game are full fledged people. They are not stereotypes or cardboard cutouts, instead each character has their own mindset, their own reason to escape this situation they found themselves in. Each character is in someway connected to each other, and finding those connections are some of the joy this game has to offer. Junpei himself is an interesting protagonist, growing into a confident leader who is willing to stake his life to escape the ship with everyone in tow. His moments of brilliance, when he goes Professor Layton on the Nonary Game had me jumping up and down with joy. Other characters include June, a young women with a fascination toward mythology, Lotus, a sharp-tongued computer wizard who apparently dresses with questionable clothing, Seven, a giant man with amnesia, Ace, the calm minded adult of the group, Santa, the obligatory Take-No-S***-From-Nobody character and the siblings Clover and Snake.

999 has a total of 6 endings to it. More like 3 "Bad" endings, a prelude ending, a completely infuriating ending, and the True Ending. The only real problem to 999 is that to get the True Ending, you must get the Prelude ending first, or otherwise you will wind up getting a large "To be Continued" screen and then the credits coming right after. 999 loves hints, it will even give you a hint to obtain the true end. So its a must to play this game multiple times.

999 is an embroiling adventure with a serious plot and one of the best casts of characters to grace in a video game. It is a game that sticks with you, and generates a massive hole in which only another game like this can fill.
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on March 31, 2013
I stumbled upon this game when I read some top ten Nintendo DS/3DS lists. I had never heard of it, but went ahead and purchased it based on the strong reviews it had received.

I really enjoyed the story; the premise is engaging and the characters are interesting. The dialog among the characters seemed realistic for the most part and was fairly entertaining, too. It's really more of a visual novel than anything else which is very different than a lot of other games; it helped of course that story itself is so engrossing.

A few things about the gameplay mechanics were a little distracting, which I think other reviewers have mentioned:
- You cannot advance the text as it's being spoken for the first time; you can only speed it up once you have reached one of the endings. I'm so used to doing that in other games that I found it annoying that I couldn't do the same here.
- Whenever I selected an object to enter into a puzzle scenario, I would need to scroll through the instructions again. While this would be helpful if I was just returning to the game after a long break, it's not as much when I already know what I need to do. Since I wasn't able to advance the text, it was distracting. (Some of those instructions could be pretty long, too).
- When I did reach an ending, I was eager to go back, adjust decisions and then advance the storyline in a different direction. At this point, I was able to advance the text which was welcome. However, it wasn't very clear to me what I really needed to do to get to a decision point that affected the storyline. Not only that, but I needed to solve the rooms again, which seemed pointless. As such, I quickly lost interest in reaching the various endings.

From reading reviews of this game, the gameplay issues have been identified and resolved in its sequel. However, reviewers highly suggested playing this game before the next one, so I went that route.

Regardless of the gameplay issues, I'm glad I purchased and played the game and am looking forward to the next one.
1 helpful vote
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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 December 24, 2014
Right, a serious review for once.

Alright, 9/9/9, as the game is often referenced as, is a fun mystery/puzzle game, which follows the main character, Junpei, after he finds himself stuck in a mysterious place with a strange wristband affixed to him. He, along with eight others, run into various twists and turns as they try to discover what is going on and why they were even brought to said mysterious place in the first place.

Both the story and puzzles are good. The plot is engaging and you find yourself wondering more and more just "what in the world is going on?" In addition, the puzzles provide a nice little break between the narratives. However, I will say this, though I personally enjoyed the game, if you're, say, a person who doesn't like to read a lot (there is a ton of text) and prefers more extensive gameplay, you'd probably won't find this game as fun as others have. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just different preferences in games, which is understandable. Also, if you've already played Ever17 before and then started this game, this game might not have as much "wow, that's a surprise!" for you as the writer of both games was the same and I did happen to see some similarities between the plots of both games. Lastly, as a warning, you might also get a bit confused as the game has multiple endings and a "true route ending," the latter of which to achieve, is kind of hard to get without looking up the specifics of what to do.

Overall though, the game is great in my opinion and well worth the money.
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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 July 28, 2014
Warning: not a typical video game experience to those unfamiliar.
So before I begin the actual review, I am going to explain what this "game" truly is. It is what is known as a visual novel. Which means that it is an interactive story in which you make decisions that affect the outcome. I would compare it to the "choose your own adventure" books you may have read as a child. Most of the time, the game will focus on you reading the story (hence the novel portion of visual novel). The gameplay comes in the form of puzzles where the player must escape a room.

Visuals:
The game is very light on visuals. The characters are anime-styled and the environments exist only for the purpose of solving puzzles. That being said, the repetitive poses of the characters in conversation may irk those who are not accustomed to or fans of the genre. Nothing really stands out other than the unique cast of characters.

Audio:
Almost none, other than the sound of scrolling text, ambient music, and occasional sound effects.

Story:
This is where 999 truly shines. The story seems relatively straight-forward in the opening hour or two, but you soon begin to realize that there is much more going on than meets the eye. Without divulging spoilers, the main idea is that 9 people are abducted and forced to play a game of death, whilst unraveling the secrets of the mysterious Zero (the person who brought them here) and for the reasons behind their abduction. Warning, you MUST play through the game multiple times to get the true ending. If you have any intention of playing the follow-up Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, I highly recommend at the very least using a guide to seek out the true ending.

Gameplay:
As I said, the game is light on gameplay. The puzzles are very well designed and always kept me interested and challenged without feeling unnecessarily difficult. One very strong point in the game is that once you've beaten the game, you can fast forward through text you've already read, and it will automatically stop once you've reached a new line of dialogue. The frustrating thing is repeating puzzles that you've already solved, but once you've solved them one time the subsequent times go very quickly since you already know what to do.

Characters:
The cast is quite varied and memorable. Every character is immediately recognizable and entertaining. My personal favorite is the blind man, number 2. I can't get into detail without spoiling the story of course, but there is no useless tag-along character that doesn't have a purpose in the plot.

Overall:
If you are a fan of visual novels, or if you are simply a person who loves mysteries and/or reading, this is an outstanding game. Just be sure to know what you're getting into beforehand. Enjoy!
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