Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Playtest: Piercing Prose

By Spencer . December 12, 2010 . 3:35am

image1 What would you do if you woke up and found yourself in the belly of a third class cruise ship cabin with water pouring through a porthole? Seek a way out! With only a fuzzy idea of what happened, you have to help Junpei, the lead character in Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, escape.


Don’t worry Junpei can’t drown here. There’s no time limit so you can take your time to look or better put "poke" around the room in search for clues. Players tap the touch screen to inspect objects and move around with the D-pad. Lucasarts adventure game instincts kicked in when I started Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. In other words, I tapped everything. You don’t have to do this. While what you need may not be obvious, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors isn’t a pixel hunt. Most essential clues are in plain sight and the game is helpful enough to push you in the right direction if you’re missing something. Once you procure the right items, maybe combine a few things, the solution is just a few dial clicks away.


After Junpei bolts from the flooding room he runs into a group of strangers also caught in the Nonary game. He then meets Akane, a childhood friend, who is somehow caught in the mess with him. Their reunion is marred by a message from Zero, the masked captor that trapped them on the elegant ship. Each unwilling participant is given a bracelet, numbered between one through nine, which they need to open doors by calculating a digital root (a sum of all the digits in a number until you get a single digit). The group is an oddball bunch – a man with amnesia, someone lacking one of the five senses, and a dancer. You don’t know their motives or even their real names. Early on, everyone except Junpei (Akane spills his childhood name) has a nickname based around their bracelet number to keep Zero from knowing their true identities. You’ll have to play through Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors multiple times to discover those.


image18 image73


With so many unknowns, there is natural tension within the group, which only rises when characters disappear and parts integral to continuing the Nonary Game suddenly appear. Being a visual novel, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is heavy on text with the occasional character animation on the top screen. The bottom screen narrates the story often providing great insight into what’s going on inside Junpei’s head. Aksys did a stellar job localizing the game by peppering it with colorful adjectives and witty character dialogue. No line of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors sounds dry, unless its meant as a joke. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the hundred or so Aksys selected to illustrate each grisly death are plenty. I… don’t think I’m going to look at "pizza" the same way after reading what happened to one character. It’s amazing how emotionally charged and descriptive Aksys made the game. Aksys painted, with words, vibrant scenes that feel more detailed than polygon loaded cutscenes.


image67 The story may be the soul of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, but there’s more here than a wall of text. Zero created puzzles for players to solve. Before you step into a puzzle room, Junpei gets to pick which door and the characters that go with him. Each door has a number emblazoned on it and you need to make a group with a digital root equal to that number to enter. If you need it, there’s a calculator with a handy digital root function to help calculate who can go into what door. Because of the digital roots choices are somewhat set, which makes selecting a puzzle (and the resulting story dialogue) more akin to one of those ’80s "Choose Your Own Adventure" paperbacks. Most puzzles stick to the find-the-item formula with a few twists like box moving and a tiny bit of music.


When I completed one group of puzzles and reached an (unfortunate) end I immediately started Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and went a different route. Chunsoft added a timesaving text skipping feature for future plays. Hold right on the D-pad and you’ll flip past text you already read. While puzzles have the same solutions, you’re bound to see a new puzzle in a second play through since you can’t enter every room in one run.


More importantly, you’ll see another side of the game’s story. The enigmatic ending is definitely a highlight of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Kotaro Uchikoshi purposely ended with a bit of ambiguity to spark discussion. After seeing "it" I read through the interview we did with Uchikoshi. If you missed it and beat Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors check it out, it shined some light on the characters and the themes Uchikoshi covered.

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  • If a perfect story could be represented by a game, it would be 999 *-*

    • Agreed. I think it’s the best DS game released in 2010. (I enjoyed it more than Golden Sun Dark Dawn and DQIX)

  • FireCouch

    So if I loved Classic Lucas Arts Adventure games like Fate of Atlantis, Maniac Mansion, and Sam & Max, I should get this game? Or is a game like Miles Edgeworth investigations more appropriate?

    Another question: Does this game have dialogue choices? I’ve never played a visual novel, so I wouldn’t know.

    • Dont worry about reading here, i wont spoil anything :D

      Ok, comparing it to the miles edgeworth, or phoenix games, is really different, when it comes to story, is a story more deeper and more serious than most of the Phoenix/Edgeworth cases. Also, the point in these games(edgeworth/phoenix) is to solve the mistery of some crime, while in 999, is to escape the hell out of where you are, and at the same time, to figure out why all of this is happening.

      You should definitely get this, AND Edgeworths/phoenix games, if you got the chance. I don’t want to get out of topic with the attorney series :P so ill focus on 999. Yes it has dialogue choices, also you have to be able to solve some pretty cool puzzles to advance in the game, the characters you are with will help you with this, and most of the times, they will give you some pretty darn interesting stories that will leave you thinking.

      Is a pretty well written story, with great characters, the game has 6 endings (5 “non-complete” and a true ending), and its not completely meaningless to get a bad ening, you will get to know a lot of stuff about different characters on the way, and is great to see how they get a meaning when you are going to the true ending route, also, there is this one ending you need in order to get to the last route, its pretty epic to see how they all tie up.

      If you have any other question, or i didnt make something too clear, feel free to ask whatever you want :D

    • Exkaiser

      It would skew towards the more text-heavy and exploration-light Ace Attorney Investigations. While the puzzle-solving is still important, it’s streamlined a bit and the focus is more on the story, whereas Lucasarts games were more puzzle than story at times.

      And there are dialogue choices. It’s the norm for visual novels, which almost always include branching story paths based on the player’s choices.

  • Roses4Aria

    Great review and I concur 100%! The only thing that bothered me at all was having to play through the introductory scene multiple times, but that skip text feature came in pretty handy there. A great game and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoy reading. But even if you aren’t big on reading, the story and characters are interesting enough that I think it will pull you in regardless. :)

  • Aoshi00

    I just started the game and I liked the fact there was no time limit for the first puzzle, so the rest are the same too right? (I don’t work well under pressure like Dead Rising) I spent so much time on that way because I missed searching the pillow for the 2nd piece of clue. I think the point and clock definitely works well w/ the stylus, compared to like Misshitsu no Sacrifice, it was rather hard to point the cursor on the PSP to the right item and the puzzles are rather devious (I only tried the demo)..

    I really want to play this game more, but I’m afraid to go on because I’m a bit squeamish on this kind of torture thing like the SAW movies. Just reading the synopsis of Human Centipede makes my stomach turn, and I don’t dare to watch it to have that image stuck in my mind…

    Maybe the lighthearted Phoenix/Edgeworth games are more for me.. I did like Anata wo Yurusanai though, it dealt w/ mature themes w/ very unique arts but not gruesome deaths…

    Just curious, did anyone get the gamestop watch? Was it worth it? I got the Apollo Justice keychain from GS before but it was a rather simple piece of metal w/ no much details..

    • Haha, yeah there are no time limit things in the game. It is truth that sometimes the game can be too… expresive when describing stuff, but it never really shows something horrible (you could just jump skip those text when junpei starts describing those kind of things xD).

      You surely already found every other “numbers” after going out of the room with jumpei and saw what happened. But that’s the most you can see, only the stains… It is definitely more heavy than phoenix wright games, and can be kinda “*glup* o.o “, or “wtf D:” at times, but it never shows more than we want to see :P, i never liked horror/scary games, and i must admit at some points of the game i was like “omg i hope nothing happens” but it never crosses that line (only in some bad endings), and the true ending is a really good ending, so dont be discouraged if you get a bad ending, and as i said in other comment, getting a bad ending is actually good at the end. So basically, the most you can see is just stains, what makes it “O_O” is junpei’s descriptions xD.

      I recommend you try to keep on going, and at least finish one ending, when i got my first ending, it was a bad ending… it really made me sad for some minutes but then i had to wonder what the hell were so many things and questions that happened in that walkthrough, and had to get into the game again. Every different road is a whole new hole of information X_X.

      • Aoshi00

        Thanks, I would try to press on :), seems like a very good VN indeed, the puzzles seem fun and the story is intriguing and lines well written. I’m just adverse to the idea of people getting trapped and slowly killed by some psychopath lol. I’m glad there is indeed no time limit though, that always deters me from playing some games I would play otherwise, like Dead Rising or Pikmin. And the skipping feature for multiple playthru is definitely great, some games feel very redundant w/o that (like Sakura Note). I got this game because of the good reviews on Amazon Jpn, at the time there was only like 1 review on Amazon US, and I’m careful w/ VNs because it could be hit or miss, and this one seems good :)

        • Cool :D!, remember you can ask me anytime if you ever have a problem.
          Ahh good thing DS games are a lot cheaper than anything, i bring 2 DS games and it cost the same as bringing 1 ps3 game (full price of course xD).

    • I am right there with you on Saw and Human Centipede. I am the biggest wuss on the planet—I can’t watch Donnie Darko a second time because Frank scares me too much and I cover my eyes for the part in the Matrix where they put that little robot spider thing into Neo’s stomach.

      That being said, I don’t think you’ll have too much trouble with the stuff in 999. It’s gruesome, yes, but not in that “Oh God there is a beartrap on this man’s head” sort of way, more in a “Wow, there is blood and bits of meat all over the place here” sort of way. You never actually see anything gruesome happen: You just show up for the aftermath. Besides, I wrote every one of those descriptions, and if they didn’t keep me up at night, I doubt they’ll be too much of a problem for you.

      • Not sure if it’s too late for the whole question period thing, but could anyone ask Chunsoft which movies influenced their script?

        Also great job with the script.

    • The watch was worth it! But it’s too big for my tiny wrists. It’s made out of metal and the display’s pretty!

  • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

    Would you say 999 is easier than the Ace Attorney games? I remember having a hell of a time trying to find some of the clues at the crime scenes, not to mention knowing what to do with them in court

    • Ummm… In my opinion, honestly, no, i think 999 is harder than Phoenix Wright, but the problem here is not much to find, but to what to do with the things you find, to find the answer of the puzzle. But! when you examine the things, the people you are with are really easy with their tounge xD, they tend to almost give you the answers. I would say that the only puzzles that took most of my time were the ones where you had to add and substract things.

      But seriously, some puzzles are pretty epic, you really feel that you accomplished something when you finish it. And the story is worth it. But if you ever have problems with the game, you can always reply me in any msg in siliconera :D and ask me anything, i really want this game to feel the love of people.

      Also, on a side note, when you examine the rooms, the MC says something, also the people you are with, really phoenix wright style, and i love it, and also, is faster to examine things here, in phoenix wright i didnt liked that i always had to move going into a menu, then choose X place to be able to go to Y place, and that gap where the screen changes sometimes bothered me, i feel the interaction with the room here is a lot more faster.

      • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

        Ooh, that decides it. I will be purchasing this game.

    • WildArms summed that up nicely, but personally… I thought 999’s puzzle parts was easier than Ace Attorney. There aren’t any penalties for making mistakes and the characters that travel with you automatically give hints if you’re going in the wrong direction.

  • Thank Jeebus you can skip text on a second playthrough.

    Chunsoft, would it kill you to add a fast text scrolling option to a visual novel????

    Otherwise sweet game.

    Oh and Aksys this is easily your finest work so far. Couple of tiny typos such as “think” instead of “thing” and the eternal “your”/”you’re” but wow, this is leagues beyond Jake Hunter.

    • Actually “Another think coming” is correct ;) “Thing” is the common misuse of the phrase :)

      I’m glad you liked it :D!

      • Mind is blown. I just looked it up.

        I was pissed off at Ys Seven doing the whole period-inside-quotes thing too, until I found out it was “proper” American English…

        • I’m a fan of periods being stylistically outside of the quotes myself. Though I suppose that’s the British way haha

          Periods inside quotes looks weird to me unless you’re quoting a sentence or something lol.

          • Periods inside quotes has always seemed idiotic to me, unless the quotation specifically includes the end of a sentence. The period represents the end of a sentence. Nothing should follow it. Quotes indicate that you are repeating something. Unless what you are repeating includes a full stop, why should the period be inside the quotes?
            Unfortunately, as much as I love it, English grammar rarely makes a great deal of sense. :(

          • Ereek

            Nothing should follow it. Quotes indicate that you are repeating something. Unless what you are repeating includes a full stop, why should the period be inside the quotes?

            Not necessarily. I don’t mean to get “grammar Nazi” on you, but in true English formal writing, periods can do a good deal more than this. Depending on your sourcing, you can be using multiple periods per sentence, if you’re sourcing the end of a statement. Periods are also used for omitting information in a sentence in the form of an ellipse. I’ve even had one professor use some ridiculous format type where instead of ellipses we used Periods in place of them. That was back when I was studying in Moscow, though. Now American students use MLA or the like? That has periods on both the inside and outside, depending on sentence structure and sourcing.
            Periods only represent a full stop in informal or non-essay writing.

            As for my opinion, I was taught to put them outside in elementary school, but I had a ridiculously strict English professor during my first year of college and he changed my mind incredibly quickly. It was “place the period correctly or lose 5-10 points on a 100 point paper.”

            But in the end, what makes English so nice is that it is so flexible. Be thankful Latin isn’t in use anymore.

          • (I guess Disqus won’t thread comments any deeper than this?)
            I know that there are a number of other things periods can be used for, especially in the context of formal writing. I was only talking about what makes logical sense to me, not what is actually “correct”. To me, writing He enjoyed the taste of “ham.” implies that you are quoting the end of the sentence which ended in “ham”, while He enjoyed the taste of “ham”. implies that you are simply quoting the word “ham”. It’s a subtle difference in meaning, and if the current system allows for a way to communicate that, I confess that I’m ignorant of it.

            Like I said, though, that’s only my opinion, and I know it doesn’t have any bearing outside of that.

          • Join the Commonwealth empire and free those periods from Quotasticus’ wrath!

        • That rather reminds me… I was taught the British way on that. And everyone kept telling me I was wrong for using logic in my punctuation. Except teachers, strangely.

          Turns out it’s related to old printing methods. The Brits risked misalignment and stuck with the old way, Americans went for convenience. Shoulda went back when they improved printing. >=(

  • Great play test write up, Spencer :D! Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is amazing! (Though I may be slightly biased being in charge of it and all ;) )

    If you haven’t already, try and pick up a copy, you’ll be glad you did :D!

    And if you’re just curious, you can check out the official 999 website and online playable demo found here:

  • Phoenix_Apollo

    On my second playthrough of this excellent game, and the only thing that sort of irks me in the script is the use of “2” instead of “two” in the dialogue. Is it just having fun since it’s a game based on numbers, or…?

    • We decided to do that as a stylistic choice, since the theme of the game is “numbers” ;)

      So any number that normally would have been spelled out, we for the most part made them their numerical equivalent to adhere to the theme.

      • Phoenix_Apollo

        That’s what I figured. It shows that you guys really wanted to make this the best it could be; most wouldn’t even go that far to stylize it.

        • It did lead to some interesting problems, though. For instance, if someone asks “All right, which one of you did it?” do you leave that as “one”, or change it to “1”? There’s no question about the word “one” being equivalent to the number 1, but in that sentence it isn’t being used in a strictly numerical context: It’s more a sort of accusatory identifier, like “a” or “the”. On the other hand, it is sort of being used numerically: If the sentence was “Which of you did this?” it could refer to more than one person—i.e., two people are guilty. If you change “one” to “1”, though, the sentence looks extremely odd: Which 1 of you did this? Because I’m lazy, I usually just wrote around problems like this (i.e. “Who’s responsible for this?” instead), but it was a consequence of that stylistic choice that didn’t occur to us when we made it.

  • Day2Day

    I’ve just finished my first playthrough and I’m enjoying it very much…
    I daresay the prose is quite piercing indeed.
    Anyone else that played or is playing it, After saving, it does the thing that the Zelda series tends to do and asks if you’d like to continue playing the game. Does anyone else ever save their game, select “Yes”, then promptly turn off their DS?

  • Bah. I can’t believe STILL doesn’t have copies of the game in stock. Aksys guys, you guys seem to have a lot of trouble with bringing your games over the border. GG:AC+, BB:CT, BB:CS, and now this.

    I’m still buying a copy though. Unfortunately, the only option I have is… Gamestop.

    • That depends solely on if retailers want to stock the game in question :) We only ship our titles out to the retailers who decide to order them.

      Sorry about that though!

      I’m glad you still want to pick it up and play it! :D

    • Just let us annex you, and then we won’t have to worry about any of that pesky “customs” nonsense. :3

  • vadde939

    This game is absolute brilliance and without a doubt it’s my personal game of the year for 2010. The story is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a video game and much love for Aksys for such a fantastic localization and for being awesome enough to bring over a visual novel game like this when most localizers don’t even care. I’ve played through twice so far and both times got the submarine ending ;_; Methinks its time for a third playthrough!

  • Phoenix_Apollo

    Got a second ending (the sub one this time, instead of Ending 2). At this point, I really hope the guys at Aksys made a profit off this downright amazing game. That, and that it’s able to get a more than limited release. At the very least, the level of Record of Agarest War.

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