By Ben Bateman - Editor at Aksys Games . November 4, 2010 . 4:31pm
As you likely know by now, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is a game about 9 people trapped on a ship. If you don’t know, then allow me to educate you!
These 9 strangers wake up in a turn-of-the-century cruise liner, and are told in relatively short order that they must solve a series of puzzles and escape, or die when the ship sinks beneath the waves. Between the strangers and sweet freedom are several doors with numbers on them. Opening the doors requires the use of Math.
Each character wakes up with a bracelet with a number on it. Each bracelet has a different number, and in order to open a door, several people must form a digital root equal to the number on the door. A digital root is found by basically adding up all the digits you have until you only have a single digit left. Say, for instance, that you want to open door number 6. You could do this with bracelets 1, 3, 5, and 6: 1+3+5+6=15 -> 1+5=6. Of course, with 9 people to work with, that’d be pretty easy, which is why there are also rules about how many people can enter a door and things like that.
With a cast this large, the story is, naturally, pretty character-driven. Much of the mystery you’ll uncover relates to who each character is, why they’re on the ship, and what their connection to the other characters is. Some of them know each other, or think they do, and a few of them even already know the truth behind what’s going on. A lot of what makes the story enjoyable is the process of slowly peeling back the layers for each character, and learning just how intimately a group of apparent strangers are connected to one another.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was a somewhat more enjoyable project for me because it was set in what seems to be our world, for all intents and purposes. This makes it a lot easier to write for, since there’s a place for colloquial turns of phrase and other things that wouldn’t make sense in a setting less grounded in reality. For instance, if you happen to be working with a game that takes place in a setting where there are multiple gods, people aren’t likely to say “Oh my God!” There are plenty of things in everyday speech that we never notice but are inextricably tied to our culture, religion, time period, etc. To identify these things, figure out when they should and shouldn’t be used, and replace them with setting-appropriate terms is a decent amount of work, and requires you to think much harder about what you’re writing. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, on the other hand, let me relax a bit, and write more or less how I talk, which is always nice.
One of the particular challenges of this game was the jokes. There are jokes in other games, of course, but Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors had a lot of them, and they almost all revolved around Japanese puns or wordplay, which meant that they were absolute nonsense in English. For instance, in Japanese the word “hashigo” means ladder, but it also means “bar-hopping”. In English, obviously, it would be utterly bizarre for Junpei to suddenly start talking about bar-hopping, which meant that I had to come up with a different ladder joke. Actually, a lot of different ladder jokes. He talks about the ladder a lot, which seems odd, since the room he’s in is quickly filling with water. Perhaps Junpei is simply a braver man than I, but I don’t really think I’d stand around to crack wise about ladders if I was minutes away from drowning.
A number of the puzzles actually required similar changes, and I thank the Maker that Chunsoft was kind enough to change them for us. We would have been well and truly boned otherwise, as the puzzles relied on things like how Japanese people write out the katakana/hiragana alphabets. This also means that if you’ve played the game already, there are at least two new puzzles! Yay!
Of course, with all this talk about characters and plots and so forth, I’m sure you would all love to hear about them in more detail. I would love to provide you with this detail, truly I would, but to do so would penetrate far deeper into spoiler territory than it is proper for a gentleman to go. The characters and their back-stories, and the plot and the concepts it grapples with are so intricately interwoven that to reveal one is to reveal too much, and to pick them apart is to lose the image of the whole thing. As such, I entreat you to have a look at game when it is released, if your interest has been piqued, and if there has not been much piquing yet to instead return at a later date when I will attempt, in another blog, to take us deeper into the Nonary Game and the stories of its participants.