Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
|999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors|
The first North American box art, without the Zero Escape branding
|Release date(s)||Nintendo DS
|Genre(s)||Graphic adventure, visual novel|
|Distribution||Nintendo DS Game Card, digital distribution|
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (極限脱出 9時間9人9の扉 Kyokugen Dasshutsu Ku Jikan Ku Nin Kyū no Tobira?, lit. "Extreme Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors") is a graphic adventure game/visual novel developed by Chunsoft for Nintendo DS. It was first released in Japan on December 10, 2009, and then in North America in 2010. It was later ported to iOS in 2013. Directed by Kotaro Uchikoshi, it is the predecessor to the 2012 game Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward.
The story follows Junpei who is abducted and placed aboard an empty, sinking cruise liner along with eight other individuals. They are forced to participate in the "Nonary Game", which involves exploring the ship and solving escape-the-room puzzles. The game follows a branching plot line that concludes in one of six different endings based on the decisions made by the player character. 999 was critically acclaimed, with many critics praising the game's plot.
999 is a visual novel with graphic adventure game elements in which the player assumes the role of Junpei, a 21-year-old college student. The game, viewed primarily from a first-person perspective, takes place aboard a sinking cruise liner. Junpei and the other non-player characters in the story work together to escape by progressing through a series of escape-the-room puzzles located in various rooms of the ship.
999 features two types of gameplay: the "Escape" sequences, in which the player must participate and solve an escape-the-room puzzle to advance; and the "Novel Part", in which the player reads the game's narrative and dialogue in cutscenes. Escape sequences involve investigating the current room and finding or picking up tools or items, which are then used to manipulate other objects in the room or discover keys or combinations used to open locked doors. 16 Escape sequences are available in the game.
At certain points during cutscenes, the player is given multiple options to choose from, and text progression pauses at these points until a choice is made. 999 follows a branching plotline: depending on the choices the player makes in these cutscenes, the story will progress in a specific direction and different Escape sequences are encountered. The story will then end with one of six different endings, five of which are initially available. These initial "bad" endings involve Junpei and at least one other character being murdered. The sixth ending, in which Junpei successfully escapes from the ship, is made available only after the player experiences one specific bad ending. The player must replay the game multiple times in order to access all Escape sequences and experience all the endings.
The game features nine characters that are introduced at the start of the game. As they have all found themselves aboard a ship against their will, and are marked with different numbered bracelets, they opt to use code names based on their assigned number to identify each other.
- Ace - Real name: Gentarou Hongou. Age 50. An older gentleman who looks like a lion.
- Snake - Real name: Light Field. Age 24. A blind young man dressed like a prince; he is Clover's brother and will do anything for her.
- Santa - Real name: Aoi Kurashiki. Age 24. An aloof and sometimes foul-mouthed white-haired young man.
- Clover - Real name: Clover Field. Age 18. A young girl with pink hair, she is Snake's sister.
- Junpei - A 21-year-old college student and the game's protagonist.
- June - Real name: Akane Kurashiki. Age 21. A young woman, she is Junpei's childhood friend.
- Seven - Real name unknown. Age 45. A heavy-set man who, unlike the others, has no memory of the events that led him to the ship.
- Lotus - Real name: Hazuki Kashiwabara. Age 40. A woman dressed as an exotic dancer.
- The 9th Man - Real name: Teruaki Kubota. A nervous man with a tie and messy hair; he does not offer a pseudonym.
The story in 999 is presented through numerous cutscenes. The action and dialogue between characters is often shown on the Nintendo DS top screen from the perspective of Junpei, the player character, while the narrative is told on the touch screen in third-person limited. The game opens with Junpei awaking inside of a small locked room; his last memory is that of being incapacitated using an inhalational anaesthetic and then abducted by an unknown person in a gas mask. Junpei infers that he is aboard a ship based on his surroundings and discovers that a metallic bracelet with the number "5" on the electronic display has been affixed to his wrist. Junpei is forced to escape the room by means of solving puzzles within it before the room floods from a leaking window.
Junpei escapes to the upper decks and encounters eight other people, who are also fixed with their own bracelets with unique digits. Junpei identifies one of the eight individuals as his childhood friend Akane Kurashiki. As they find that the ship is no longer taking on water, they are greeted by their unseen host over a loudspeaker. The host, "Zero", informs them they are playing the "Nonary Game", which they can only escape by finding a door marked with a "9" within nine hours; fail and the ship will resume sinking. They learn of electronic devices called REDs and DEADs near each marked door that assure that only three to five people whose bracelet numbers' total digital root equals the number on the door can pass through each door; otherwise, a small bomb planted in each person's stomach will be detonated, killing them.
As the group assign themselves code names and plan their escape, the 9th Man holds Clover hostage and forces the group to help him through a numbered door. When he ventures alone through it, he is killed when the bomb in his stomach detonates. Realizing that the game is real, the group proceeds to explore the ship, splitting into groups as necessary. The player has the option to select which group to travel with and other decisions that ultimately affect the fate of the game. Depending on the choices made, Junpei learns of several strange stories that involve forms of morphic resonance communication between people and entities from those groups he travels with, as well as stories of a woman named Alice, an Egyptian priestess apparently frozen in ice-9 for centuries. Decisions made by Junpei throughout the story generally lead to one of the game's bad endings, where Junpei and at least one other member of the group are murdered by another member or otherwise fail to escape from the ship before time runs out. The player is required to experience the "safe" ending in order to access the "true" ending which will otherwise end prematurely with a "To Be Continued" message.
During the true ending, Junpei is told of the events leading up to this point. Nine years before, Cradle Pharmaceutical, led by CEO Gentarou Hongou, kidnapped nine sets of siblings for an experiment involving morphic fields. Hongou's desire was to understand morphic fields to try to cure his prosopagnosia. People are more easily able to access morphic fields under conditions of "epiphany" and "danger" — thus, trying to solve problems in a life-and-death situation, exactly what the Nonary Game sets up. The kidnapped children included Snake and Clover, and Santa and Akane, as well as Lotus' children, twins Nona and Ennea. One of each set of siblings was to be placed aboard the Gigantic, the sister ship of the RMS Titanic, the others in Building Q, a secret facility in the Nevada desert, that both had identical interiors. Both sets of children were to play the Nonary Game with those in the building, solving the puzzles and telepathically sending the solutions to those aboard the ship. However, the experiment went awry: first, Akane was misplaced, put alongside her brother Santa on the ship rather than sent to Building Q. Second, Seven, a detective at the time, had discovered Cradle to be behind the kidnappings, and was able to rescue the children on the ship. As they fled, Hongou recaptured Akane and forced her back into the incinerator room to continue the experiment alone. She was unable to solve the sudoku puzzle to escape the incinerator, and apparently died. However, Akane (June) has been playing the Nonary Game with Junpei and the rest of the group the whole time, implying a mysterious paradox.
At this point, the player learns that the gameplay they have witnessed has been through the viewpoint of young Akane during the first Nonary Game. She was able to connect to Junpei in the second Nonary Game nine years in the future through morphic fields and watch his actions. Akane had been able to see multiple futures for Junpei depending on his choices (i.e. the multiple endings), and is able to provide him with guidance as to which choices will succeed. Junpei learns that Ace is really Hongou, and the 9th Man was another Cradle executive. During the second Nonary Game, Ace had lured the 9th Man to act as he did to test the seriousness of the game and to avoid his identity being revealed, as well as obtain the "9" bracelet he possessed. Ace also kills two other Cradle executives that Zero had planted for revenge for the first Nonary Game. Junpei and the group also learn that Zero is really Akane assisted by Santa, having created the second Nonary Game to guide Junpei to the same puzzle in the incinerator that Akane faced nine years earlier. Junpei, under duress and linked by the same situation, is able to communicate back to young Akane, and demonstrates the solution to the puzzle to her. Young Akane reunites with Seven, Santa, Snake, and the other children, and escapes the ship before it sinks.
In the present, Junpei and his friends escape, discovering they were inside Building Q all along, and that their bracelets did not contain detonators. Outside, they find an SUV with Ace tied up in the trunk, and they drive off, hoping to catch up to Santa and Akane. As the story closes, they encounter a hitchhiker, who Junpei recognizes to be Alice, and Clover stops the car to let her on.
Development and release
In 999, Uchikoshi and producer Jiro Ishii initially intended to have boys and girls locked together via explosive handcuffs, but later decided against it. In the United States, a replica of the watches seen on the wrists of the game's characters was offered as a pre-order bonus at GameStop; due to low preorders, Aksys later made these available on their website's shop, both in a bundle with the game and individually. Coinciding with the release of Virtue's Last Reward, 999 got a reprint titled Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, with new box art featuring the Zero Escape brand.
An iOS version, entitled 999: The Novel and developed by Spike Chunsoft as the second entry in its "Smart Sound Novel" series, was released in Japan on May 29, 2013. It was released worldwide in English on March 17, 2014. 999: The Novel lacks the "escape the room" gameplay seen in the Nintendo DS version, and features high resolution graphics.
A novelization titled Kyokugen Dasshutsu 9 Jikan 9 Nin 9 no Tobira Arutana (極限脱出 9時間9人9の扉 オルタナ?, Extreme Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors - Alterna) was released in two volumes: Ue (上?, Above) and Shita (下?, Below).
The soundtrack to the game was composed by Shinji Hosoe. The style of music consists primarily of electronica, industrial, and ambient. For more emotional scenes, the music shifts into a more melodic focus. The entire soundtrack was released as 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors Soundtrack on a two-disc set on December 23, 2009.
|1.||"9hours, 9persons, 9doors"||2:04|
|5.||"Riddle and Puzzle"||4:51|
|6.||"Who is Zero?"||4:11|
|9.||"Chill and Rigor"||4:29|
999 received generally favorable reviews from critics, with several near perfect scores emphasizing its well-written story, remarkable presentation, and addictive gameplay. Some of the notable review scores are a 10 out of 10 from Destructoid, 4.5 out of 5 from Cheat Code Central, and 9 out of 10 from IGN, Nintendo Power, and GamesRadar. The game received aggregate scores of 83.42% from GameRankings (based on 17 reviews), and 82 out of 100 on Metacritic (based on 26 critics). Metro GameCentral compared "the effect your decisions have on the unfurling plot" to that of Mass Effect 2 and concluded that 999 has "one of gaming's best told stories." The game received the "Best Story" award from IGN's Best of 2010 awards.
Following the game's release, it sold out from many US retailers both traditional and online, including Amazon.com and GameStop, resulting in high prices on the secondary market. Aksys has since announced a second printing.
- Virtue's Last Reward, the next entry on the Zero Escape series.
- Ever 17: The Out of Infinity, a visual novel with similar themes by the same writer.
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Hongou: I only wanted to see the faces. Human faces. [...] I thought that if I could gain the ability to access the morphic fieldset, then perhaps I could see faces...
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Narrator: Had... Akane Kurashiki died 9 years ago...? If she had, then... who was June?
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