Thursday, January 24, 2013

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, Nine Reasons

Well, the threat of a new year has frightened me into attempting to do something productive with my life. And, due to a tragic misfire in the neurons of my brain, I have interpreted “something productive” as “Writing words, only to promptly dump them down the garbage disposal of the internet”.So, what topic would make it easiest to trick myself into thinking this is time well spent? Unfortunately, I can answer that question about as well as I can grasp the fact that blogging is a one-way medium of communication. Thankfully,Kotaro Uchikoshi, writer of the game “Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors”, has graciously protected me from the harsh burden of creative thinking, with his almost-desperate pleas for people to mention his game in blogs and such, so that it would garner enough attention to warrant a sequel. (That’s right, kids: 48 words and 7 commas in a single sentence. It takes focus and dedication to write this convolutedly.) And that’s how we got here. So I’m going to give 9 reasons that you, the reader of these pixels, should play Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (Abbreviated to “999” from here on out, because I can never remember the order of the persons and hours and doors, and I’m wasting hella seconds by Googling it every time I type it). I chose the number 9 because, regardless of how many reasons I can actually come up with, this game is pretty big on that particular number, so I figured it fit. So, with just a spot of further ado…
I suppose I should begin with a description of what exactly it is that I’m plugging. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is a point-and-click adventure game for the Nintendo DS. That’s right, just like from the old school days. You pick stuff up, interact with your environment, and solve puzzles. The game centers around the protagonist Junpei, who was kidnapped by an individual in a gas mask named “Zero” and placed in a ship with 8 other people, and forced to play “The Nonary Game” to escape. They have 9 hours to escape, and there are 9 numbered doors, which are important to the playing of The Nonary Game. It is kind of like Professor Layton, except quite different. Saying anything more about it would be quite boring for the both of us, so let us move on to the meat of this post.
"Are you my Mummy?"

9. The plot (twists) Honestly, I could simplify this post to one reason, and it would be this one. It’s hard to describe how incredible these twists are, even using the kind of description usually reserved for hyperbole. The last couple hours of this game is like getting repeatedly sucker-punched in the story glands. This game is like learning that Rosebud was his sled, that Darth Vader was his father, and that it was really planet Earth in the future, all at the same time. Continuously. This game is like if M. Night Shyamalan made a game, decided to put a whole career’s worth of twists in it, and didn’t pick the low-hanging fruit of internet comedy. Mysteries hound our hero at every turn. What is the purpose of The Nonary Game? Why were these particular people kidnapped? Who is Zero? All these questions are answered with dramatic and surprising reveals, yet the most important question of all goes tragically unanswered: “Why is Lotus dressed like that?”.
Lotus, seen on the far left with her "striking assets"

8. The Characters Since a full third of the title is about the characters, you might expect that they be something of a focus. This is something that you would be correct to expect. The characters are all surprisingly deep. And I noticed something rather peculiar about them: I had difficulty rating them from favorite to least favorite. A substantial part of the Nonary game comes from deciding who will accompany you through each of the doors, and it was often a tough decision, as each character had qualities that were admirable and qualities that were… the opposite of that. 
7. Science/Math As you may expect from a game whose title is often abbreviated to just numerals, numbers are a pretty big deal in this game. Digital roots (found by taking the sum of the different digits of a number, until you get a single digit number) and non-decimal bases (particularly hexidecimal) are featured prominently. As far as science goes, a whole bunch of experiments and phenomena are name-dropped, and they sounded legit enough that I couldn’t be buggered to check if they actually happened. Then again, it is quite a feat of buggering to get me to do research, so perhaps this isn’t a terribly impressive benchmark, after all. 
6. Graphic descriptions of exploded bodies: I don’t want to get into spoilers too much, but… yeah. In at least one path, (multiple endings, btw) someone is exploded in a manner that could be described as graphic. If you end up playing this game, you may find yourself with a new appreciation of just how white an ulna is.  I’m not saying it’s a main attraction, but I’m sure there’s someone out there who would consider this a turn-on. Wait… NO! I didn’t mean it that way! I… please… let’s just agree that never happened, alright?
5. Wordplay Despite being stuck in a sinking ship with little chance of survival, or perhaps because of it, the participants of the Nonary game make quite a few puns. In fact, one of the major plot twists centers around a pun. Am I just joking? I’ll never tell! And if there’s one thing we can all agree on, I’m sure it’s that puns are agreeable. Right? 
4. I heard your middle school English teacher say that you couldn’t. Are you going to let that bitch (cuss alert!) be right? No! She’ll regret ever saying that you would never read anything more challenging than a McDonald extra value menu!
According to Google Image Search, this is the tragic face of bad teaching in America.

3. Music I listen to mostly to video game music, so I am the kind of person that has opinions on the stuff. And my opinion of this particular soundtrack is pretty good. It does what it sets out to do, which is evoke an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear. It also has notes in a way that sound good.
2. Help a brother out. By buying this game, you’re supporting indie game developers, or whatever. And you WILL buy, it right? Because, I mean, what kind of monster emulates?
1. Puzzles Oh, yeah. I almost forgot. Since I’m talking about this game, I suppose I should mention the gameplay. Despite my comparison to Professor Layton up there, the puzzles of this game are mostly of quite a different sort. Each puzzle is a room, or set of rooms, where you must “seek a way out”. This is done by looking for clues, picking up items, and solving puzzles. You know, Scooby Doo type stuff. Despite this terrible description, it is actually pretty fun.
Isn’t it funny how, if you made a bar graph charting the length of each reason as a function of reason number, it would look basically exactly like a mirror image of the Cingular bars? The point I’m trying to make is that I ran out of things to say pretty quickly, then kept on running out as the day went on.
0. Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward That’s right. 999 already has a sequel. Since the entire point of spreading the word was to drum up enough enthusiasm to allow a sequel, you may think that this entire post was a waste of time. And I don’t disagree. But that doesn’t make any of these reasons less valid. Playing 999 first will allow for a more enjoyable experience while playing Virtue’s Last Reward. Why should you play VLR? Well, all the same reasons as 999, except even more. There’s more science, more puzzling, more/better music, more plot, and more character development. As of the writing of this post, it’s the only game that made me glad that my brother lets me play his 3DS. Unfortunately, VLR is quite lacking in the exploded bodies department, but it makes up for it with some damn decent voice acting, if you’re really adamant about having 9 reasons to play.
Spoiler Alert: It's James Earl Jones all along.

In the end, the real reason that I want you to play these games is so that I can feel less bad about referencing them. Shocking Twist! 

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