(For a general description about Visual Novels please read our About Visual Novels page.)
Maybe not a visual novel in the purest sense, but I will take every opportunity I can to push this game series. Released for Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, and on Steam, The Nonary Games is a 2-in-1 combo. The first game is the 2009 release of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors released for the original Nintendo DS. The second game is the 2012 release of Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward released originally on the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita.
Both games play the same way. They are divided into two different modes: Story Mode and Puzzle Mode. The story mode plays everything like a regular Visual Novel. You read the story, complete with beautiful visuals and music, and you are forced to make choices. Each of these choices will lead you down various different story branches, some branches not unlike until you have read through other story branches. Both games features complex story flow charts so you can easily jump in and out of timelines as desired.
Punctuating the story mode is puzzle mode. As the story progress the player will find themselves locked in complex Escape Rooms that they must escape by solving a series of puzzles.
The story is not for the faint of heart, featuring blood and death, and frequently references and delves into metaphysical sciences. While not all story elements are strictly true, most are. Kotaro Uchikoshi is a popular visual novel writer (he wrote my personal favorite visual novel Ever17) and frequently ties in such sciences into his stories.
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors follows the protagonist Junpei, he wakes up to find himself locked in a replica of the famous ship the Titanic along with eight other people. Each of them wears a bracelet with a number on it. The villain Zero tells them they are playing the Nonary Game. There are nine doors for the players to get through within nine hours. If the players fail, bombs inside the bracelets will explode and kill the players.
Virtue’s Last Reward follows protagonist Sigma who is captured and forced to play The Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition. Same principles, bracelets that will kill and doors that require puzzles to be solved. What’s different is that in order to get through the final escape door, the players must gain points in the game… by allying or betraying other players. Those players that reach 9 points can open and escape, but the door only opens once, and any players who reach 0 will be injected with fast-acting poison.
And I can’t mention these two fantastic games without also giving a nod to the third game, Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma. Released 2016 for Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita, it has also been released on Steam, and has a Playstation 4 release late 2017. A game that nearly did not happen. While the Nonary Games received outrageous reviews here in America, it unfortunately did not receive such great praise in Japan, which almost killed any potential for the third and final installment. But the fans persisted, launching Operation Bluebird to raise support, and finally at the 2015 Anime Expo Aksys Games announced development had resumed.