Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

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Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Cover Art.jpg
The first North American box art, without the Zero Escape branding
Developer(s) Chunsoft
Director(s) Kotaro Uchikoshi
Producer(s) Jiro Ishii
Designer(s) Akihiro Kaneko
Programmer(s) Yasushi Takashina
Writer(s) Hideyuki Shibamoto
Shigeyuki Hirata
Composer(s) Shinji Hosoe
Series Zero Escape
Platform(s) Nintendo DS
Release date(s) Nintendo DS
  • JP December 10, 2009
  • NA November 16, 2010
  • JP May 29, 2013
  • WW March 17, 2014 (in English)
Genre(s) Visual novel, adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, known in Japan as Kyokugen Dasshutsu 9 Jikan 9 Nin 9 no Tobira (極限脱出 9時間9人9の扉?, lit. "Extreme Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors"), also known as simply 999, is a visual novel adventure video game directed by Kotaro Uchikoshi and developed by Chunsoft for the Nintendo DS. It was first released in Japan on December 10, 2009, and in North America on November 16, 2010. It was later ported to iOS in 2013. It is the first game in the Zero Escape series, and was later followed by Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward in 2012.

The story follows the player character Junpei, a college student who is abducted and placed aboard an sinking cruise liner along with eight other individuals. In order to escape the cruise liner, the group is forced to play the "Nonary Game," which puts its participants in a life-or-death situation. 999 follows a branching storyline that concludes in one of six different endings based on the decisions made by the player. The gameplay alternates between progressing through the game's narrative via extended cutscenes and navigating and completing puzzles in escape-the-room scenarios.

Development of the game began after Uchikoshi joined Chunsoft in 2007. When the company wanted to produce a visual novel that would reach a greater audience, Uchikoshi suggested adding puzzle elements, which later became the premise for the game and the series. Uchikoshi also served as the lead writer, and drew upon previous experiences with visual novels such as Ever 17: The Out of Infinity.


A screenshot of an Escape section in the game. An inventory is shown on the bottom screen, showing items the player has picked up; they can combine them into new items to solve puzzles.

999 is a visual novel adventure video game.[1] The premise surrounds a group of nine individuals who are kidnapped and placed aboard a cruise liner which will sink in nine hours. In order to escape the ship, the individuals must participate in the "Nonary Game", which requires them to proceed through several numbered doors in order to find the number nine door.[2]

The gameplay is split into two different sections; Novel and Escape. In the Novel sections, the player progresses through the storyline and converses with the non-playable characters. As with most visual novels, the gameplay of Novel sections require little interaction from the player as these sections are spent reading the text that appears on the screen which represents either dialogue between the various characters or the inner thoughts of Junpei.[3] During Novel sections, the player will sometimes be presented with decision options which affect the course of the game. The most reoccurring aspect of this is deciding which numbered door to enter. Each participant wears a bracelet that displays a number from one to nine. In order to enter a numbered door, the participants must form groups of three to five people, and add each group member's bracelet number together to yield a number who's digital root equals the door's number.[2]

In between Novel sections are Escape sections, which occur when the player, along with other characters, find themselves in a room from which they need to find the means of escape.[4] To accomplish this, the player is tasked with finding various items and solve puzzles within the room, reminiscent of escape-the-room games.[5] The puzzles have been described as a "mixed bag of brain teasers"[6] such as magic squares and baccarat,[6][3] and have been compared to the puzzles found in the Resident Evil series.[4] Sometimes the player will have to pick up items and combine them to form new items necessary to solving a puzzle.[7] An in-game calculator is provided for math-related problems,[2] and the player can ask the other characters for advice if they're having difficulties with an Escape room.[7]

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/or at least one other character being murdered, with the escape attempt either ending in clear failure or ambiguity. 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 iOS version, titled 999: The Novel, retains the Novel sections, but removes the Escape sections, so that the player can solely focus on the plot and the decisions. A flowchart is added to allow players to keep track of which narrative paths they've experienced. Additionally, the illustrations are redone in a higher resolution, and the plot is told through speech bubbles.[8]


Setting and characters[edit]

The characters of 999. From left to right: Lotus, Seven (back), Santa (front), June, Junpei, Ace, Snake, Clover, and the 9th Man.
Each character description is taken from the Aksys Games website.[9]

999 features nine main characters, who are all forced to participate in the Nonary Game by an unknown person named "Zero". The characters have adopted code names to protect their identities due to the stakes of the Nonary Game. The player controls Junpei - a college student - is joined by June, a nervous girl and a old friend of Junpei whom he knows as Akane; Lotus, a self-serving woman with unknown skills; Seven, a large and muscular man; Santa, a punk with a negative attitude; Ace, an older and wiser man; Snake, a man with a princely demeanor; Clover, a girl prone to mood swings; and the 9th Man, a fidgety individual.

The events of the game occur within what appears to be the Gigantic, the sister ship of the RMS Titanic, though all of the external doors and windows have been sealed, and many of the internal doors are locked. The game's nine characters learn that they have been kidnapped and brought to the ship to play the Nonary Game, with the challenge to find the door marked with a "9" within 9 hours before the ship sinks. To do this, they are forced to work in separate teams to make their way through the ship and solve puzzles to find this door. This is set in part by special locks on numbered doors that are based on digital roots; each player has an armband with a different digit on it, and only groups of three to five with the total of their armband's number with the same digital root as marked on the door can pass through. As the Nonary Game progresses, the player learns that a similar Nonary Game was performed on the same vessel around nine years prior, with some of the characters having also been involved in that game.


At the start of the game, Junpei is abducted and rendered unconscious, and wakes up in a cabin inside a luxury cruise liner, finding that he wears a bracelet with the number "5" displayed on it. He escapes the room as it is filled with water, and encounters eight other people, including Akane. Zero announces over a loudspeaker that all nine are participants in the Nonary Game. Zero explains the rules, and states each carry an explosive in their stomach that will go off if they try to bypass the digital root door locks. The 9th Man still attempts to go through a door by himself, and is killed by his explosive. Because they fear what harm might come to them, the group adopts nicknames, and splits up to explore the ship.

At this point in the game, the player has the option to select which group that Junpei travels with, which will affect the story, with several choices leading to the death of Junpei through traps or by being murdered by one of the other characters. Through these choices, Junpei learns of the first Nonary Game and the connections of the other characters through that, as well as various studies regarding morphic resonance and stories of an Egyptian princess named Alice frozen in ice-9.

In the majority of the game's endings, Junpei is killed, with knowledge gained during these carried forward and shedding new light on the circumstances surrounding the game and the choices that can be made. To unlock the true ending of the game, players must first complete the "Safe Ending". In this, Junpei learns that Zero was a participant of the first Nonary Game, and set up the second Nonary Game as revenge towards Ace. Junpei, working with the surviving players, confront Ace and learn he had manipulated the 9th Man to violate the rules and get himself killed in order to both cover his identity and gain access to the 9th Man's bracelet. As they find the door with the 9, Akane becomes weak and Santa stays behind to watch over her, while the others enter the door. They find themselves in an incinerator, where Ace grabs Lotus and holds her at gunpoint. Discovering the incinerator is about to activate, Snake tackles Ace, and Lotus and Seven pull Junpei out of the incinerator before it goes off, consuming Snake and Ace. Junpei returns to Akane, finding her nearly dead. The voice of Zero plays on the loudspeakers, stating that the game's loser has been determined; Junpei initially acts defiant, but Zero clarifies that he's referring to himself. Junpei then goes to investigate a nearby room, and returns to find Akane and Santa have disappeared, but before he can figure out where they went, he is knocked out by a gas grenade.

Once the player has obtained this ending, they can the access the "True Ending". In this ending, Junpei learns that Cradle ran the previous Nonary game by kidnapping nine pairs of siblings, separated onto the ocean-bound Gigantic and a land-bound mock-up located in Building Q within the Arizona desert, to explore the concept of morphic fields; the research anticipated that the stress of the time-limited game would activate the fields between siblings, allowing solutions solved by one to be sent via these fields to their counterpart at the other location. This research was to help Ace cure his increasing prosopagnosia.[10] The First Nonary game went awry: Akane had been placed with her brother Santa at the same location instead of being separated, while Seven had discovered the kidnappings and rescued the children from the ship before it sunk. Ace managed to grab Akane before they could escape, and forced her into the incinerator room where she faced a sudoku puzzle that she could not solve, and apparently died.

At this point, it is revealed that the narrative of the game is presented from Akane's point of view during the events of the first Nonary Game. Through morphic fields, she connected to Junpei during the second Nonary Game, witnessing several possible futures and passing that information to Junpei to allow him to survive. When Junpei and the group reach the incinerator this time, Junpei faces the same sudoku puzzle Akane did, and is able to relay the solution back to Akane in the past, allowing her to escape with Seven and the other children. As Junpei and the others escape in the present, Akane and Santa go missing, and they learn Akane was Zero, with assistance from Santa. They find that they were in the Building Q ship mockup. Outside, there is a car with Ace tied up inside. They drive away hoping to catch up to Akane and Santa, and pick up a hitchhiker who Junpei recognizes as Alice.

Development and release[edit]

Development of 999 began after Kotaro Uchikoshi joined Chunsoft in 2007. Chunsoft, who had primarily focused on mystery stories, wanted to create a new visual novel category that would be more broadly received. Uchikoshi suggested combining puzzle sections with novel sections, which later became the premise of 999 and its subsequent sequels.[11] Before coming to Chunsoft, Uchikoshi wrote the visual novel Ever 17: The Out of Infinity (2002), which features a group of characters trapped in an underwater theme park, and are forced to escape within a certain period of time before drowning, a similar premise to that of 999. When asked why he wrote about trapped characters again, Uchikoshi noted that trying to escape "embodies mankind’s principal, primitive, and instinctive desires...Both Ever 17 and 999 are a straightforward depiction of these 2 traits that mankind is born with".[12]

Story and themes[edit]

Uchikoshi started writing the script by working on the ending first. From there, he would continue to work backwards, in order to not get confused when writing the plot.[13] One of the major themes of the game was the concept of "Morphogenetic Fields", which were inspired by English biochemist Rupert Sheldrake.[12] The theory is similar to that of telepathy, and answers the question of how organisms are able to simultaneously communicate ideas to each other, without physical or social interaction. Uchikoshi used the theory to develop the concept of esper characters, which are able to either transmit or receive information from another individual.[12] Hands were also one of the major themes of the game, but in the final stages of production, his higher-ups did not accept the focus on hands, which forced Uchikoshi to re-write the story.[14]

Since the number nine played a vital role in the plot, each of the nine characters was based off the Enneagram of Personality, which categorizes each character in accordance to their specific personality type. The characters were originally supposed to be handcuffed to each other as they try to escape, but the idea was scraped because the idea had been overused in such games such as Mahou Shoujo Riska.[14]


Aksys Games localized 999 for its North American release. After being sent the script, Nobara Nakayama translated the text from Japanese to English, which was then properly localized for an English audience by editor Ben Bateman. When localizing the text, Bateman wanted to make the script sound natural, as if it had been written by a native English speaker.[15] Bateman also had to keep track of the numerous plot points throughout the game, as the script had not been written in chronological order, due to the numerous endings.[16] Localizing the game took roughly two months.[15]

999‍‍ '​‍s use of numerous Japanese language specific puns lead to problems with localization. Many of the puns relied on the Japanese dialect to work. However, when translated to English, the puns couldn't be properly retained, which forced Bateman to have to come up with new puns.[16] The ending to 999 also contained a Japanese pun, which caught both Nakayama and Bateman off guard. When the team discovered the pun, they were forced to stop the localization process, and reread the entire script to properly correct the mistake.[15]


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;[17] due to low preorders, Aksys later made these available on their website's shop, both in a bundle with the game and individually.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20] 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.[21] Upon release, 999 became just the eleventh Nintendo DS game to receive an M rating.[22]



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 (?, Above) and Shita (?, Below).[23][24]


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.[25]



Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 83%[26]
Metacritic 82/100[27]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 10/10[2]
Eurogamer 7/10[28]
Famitsu 36/40[29]
GameSpot 8.5/10[3]
GamesRadar 4.5/5 stars[30]
IGN 9/10[5]
Nintendo World Report 9/10[4]
The Escapist 4/5 stars[6]
Wired 8/10[1]
Publication Award
IGN Best Story[31]

999 has received positive reviews from critics. Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100, calculated an average score of 82 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews", based on 23 reviews.[27]

The writing and narrative were well received by critics. Andy Goergen of Nintendo World Report praised the writing, labeling it as an "a strong argument for video games as a new medium of storytelling".[4] Carolyn Petit of GameSpot felt that the lengthy Novel sections amplified the sense of fear and tension throughout the game,[3] while Heidi Kemps of GamesRadar compared the Novel sections to "high-quality thriller novels".[30] Jason Schreier of Wired criticized the inconsistent prose, but noted that the use of a narrator was a "clever and unusual way to tell the story".[1]

Likewise, the narrative received praise. Tony Ponce of Destructoid said that the story was surprisingly phenomenal, and compared it to "Saw if it were written by Michael Crichton".[2] Zach Kaplan of Nintendo Life called the story "funny, exciting, sad, touching and even a bit frightening at times", and noted the narrative's addictive nature.[32] Reviewers of Famitsu called the story enigmatic and thrilling.[29]

Following the game's release, it sold out from many US retailers both traditional and online, including[33] and GameStop, resulting in high prices on the secondary market. Aksys later announced a second printing.[34]


Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was the first game in the Zero Escape series. It was originally intended to be a stand-alone game. The development for the sequel began after the first game got positive reviews.[13] Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward, the successor to 999, was announced in August 2011.[35] Developed by Chunsoft for the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, the game was first released on February 16, 2012 in Japan,[36] and later that year in North America and Europe.[37][38] Set nine years after the events of 999, Virtue's Last Reward follows a separate group of individuals forced to participate in the Nonary game. Virtue's Last Reward was notable for being the first game in the series to include 3D environments and character models as well as full voice acting for each participant.

Zero Time Dilemma, the successor to Virtue's Last Reward, was announced in July 2015.[39] Set between the events of 999 and Virtue's Last Reward, Zero Time Dilemma follows several characters from the previous games, as they try to prevent a lethal disease from escaping a Mars testing facility.


  1. ^ a b c Schreier, Jason (January 10, 2011). "Review: 'Visual Novel' Nine Hours Mixes Gripping Drama, Spotty Prose". Wired. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on August 30, 2015. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Ponce, Tony (November 17, 2010). "Review: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors". Destructoid. Modern Method. Archived from the original on March 25, 2015. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d Petit, Carolyn (December 7, 2010). "Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Review - GameSpot". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c d Goergen, Andy (May 9, 2011). "Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Review - Nintendo World Report". Nintendo World Report. NINWR LLC. Archived from the original on August 30, 2015. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Thomas, Lucas M. (December 16, 2010). "999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors Review". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on October 15, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c Arendt, Susan (January 12, 2011). "Review: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors". The Escapist. Defy Media. Archived from the original on October 2, 2014. Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "999: System" (select "System" tab). Retrieved October 17, 2015. 
  8. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (March 11, 2014). "999 is coming to iOS without puzzles". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved September 27, 2015. 
  9. ^ "999: People". Aksys Games. Retrieved September 27, 2015. 
  10. ^ Chunsoft (November 16, 2010). Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. Nintendo DS. Aksys Games. Scene: True ending. 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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  12. ^ a b c "999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors Interview Gets Philosophical, Then Personal". Siliconera. September 3, 2010. Archived from the original on June 10, 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Chapman, Hope (August 13, 2015). "Interview: Zero Escape series creator Kotaro Uchikoshi". Anime News Network. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "Chunsoft Blog: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors The Untold Story". Siliconera. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
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  18. ^ "Best of the Best (In This Particular Category, at Least)". 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
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  20. ^ Sarkar, Samit (2013-05-29). "999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors released on iOS in Japan, coming stateside this fall". Polygon. Retrieved 2013-05-29. 
  21. ^ Sarkar, Samit (2014-03-10). "999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors hits iOS March 17". Polygon. Retrieved 2013-03-11. 
  22. ^ "999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Is The Eleventh M-Rated Game On DS". Siliconera. 30 August 2010. Retrieved 10 July 2015. 
  23. ^ " 極限脱出 9時間9人9の扉 オルタナ(上) (講談社BOX): 黒田 研二, 西村 キヌ, チュンソフト: 本". Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  24. ^ " 極限脱出 9時間9人9の扉 オルタナ(下) (講談社BOX): 黒田 研二, 西村 キヌ, チュンソフト: 本". Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  25. ^ "SRIN-1069 - 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors Soundtrack - VGMdb". Retrieved 1 December 2014. 
  26. ^ "Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors for DS - GameRankings". GameRankings. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on July 24, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  27. ^ a b "Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors for DS Reviews - Metacritic". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved August 30, 2015. 
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  31. ^ "Best Story". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on December 6, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2011. 
  32. ^ Kaplan, Zach (October 21, 2011). "999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS) Review - Nintendo Life". Nintendo Life. Gamer Network. Retrieved October 31, 2015. 
  33. ^ Cassidy, Kevin (2010-12-26). "Finding 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors can be an expensive outing". Retrieved 2010-12-26. 
  34. ^ Cassidy, Kevin (2011-01-05). "Aksys rep says 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors stock replenishments are on the way". Retrieved 2011-01-08. 
  35. ^ Gantayat, Anoop (August 25, 2011). "First Look: Team 999's New Vita/3DS Adventure". Andriansang. Retrieved September 27, 2015. 
  36. ^ "極限脱出ADV 善人シボウデス". Famitsu (in Japanese). Enterbrain. Archived from the original on November 23, 2014. Retrieved September 16, 2015. 
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  38. ^ "Virtue's Last Reward". Nintendo UK. Archived from the original on July 30, 2015. Retrieved July 26, 2015. 
  39. ^ Hussain, Tamoor (July 6, 2015). "Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita Getting Sequel to Acclaimed Japanese Puzzle Series Zero Escape". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 14, 2015. 

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