I’m a big fan of the Zero Escape series, so The Nonary Games sounded like an exciting release to me. In particular, I was eager to get stuck into the 999 remaster, as it’s my favourite of the three, and has the most changes to the two games included in The Nonary Games. Yet I still can’t decide if I liked it…
9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
One of the biggest changes to this version of 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999 for short!) is the addition of voice acting. For both titles in The Nonary Games, the audio is available in either English or Japanese from a simple selection on the settings menu, so you can flick between them easily. As I didn’t have the luxury of choice when playing Virtue’s Last Reward before (thanks, Europe), I’m used to the series’ Japanese cast, and went with the Japanese option again here, but it’s just nice to be given the choice!
I thought it might be quite strange playing 999 voiced at first, but it isn’t at all and the cast are great! It’s worth noting that most of the text isn’t voiced in the Escape sections, the same as in Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma, but having a return to the bleeps is actually quite nice. The Japanese voices pretty much managed to maintain the different pitches for each character that the bleeps provided in the DS version. It’s a little thing, but I’m very pleased and impressed with that!
Another major difference this time around is the choice to play it in either “Adventure” or “Novel” Mode (which you can toggle between whenever you want). This is only a feature in the remaster of 999, and it’s not one I’m fond of. Unlike VLR, 999 wasn’t released on the PS Vita before, and it uses the DS’s two screens a lot more as a result of that. Generally speaking, this is in the form of third-person narration which comes up on a separate screen to most of the action. To get around only having one screen, this narration only appears in Novel Mode, where it overlays the screen in a fairly ugly manner, complete with all the dialogue now in script format for no real reason. Adventure Mode, on the other hand, cuts out the narration and just has the dialogue appear in text boxes where it rightly belongs.
Without going into why, the narration is not simply something that can be taken out. This results in some key scenes forcing you to switch to Novel Mode, which will then cover up the nice HD art, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to hide the text for a better look, which is a real shame. Overall, it just doesn’t look nearly as good as Adventure Mode. I can understand why there are the two modes, but I’m disappointed that the game favours the version with a bunch of the content cut out. Given that the game had already been ported to mobile as well, I’m not sure why they didn’t adapt to one screen in a similar way.
The voices really heighten the emotion and tension of the story.
To get around players not reading the narration, a few changes have had to be made to Junpei’s dialogue too. Unfortunately, these often come across as a bit clunky, and some dialogue and decisions in the game are noticeably disjointed. I was very off-put by the two modes at first, but, with those things aside, you get used to them. It’s fun just to go through 999 again and the voices really heighten the emotion and tension of the story.
When it comes to the rest of the gameplay, specifically the Escape sections, there are a few little tweaks to improve the experience. One of these is a calculator you can access from the menu at any time – it’s a nice option for people who don’t feel like doing mental sums, especially when you start bringing in hexadecimal. Both games now have many more save slots too (although, given that 999 only had one, that wasn’t going to take much).
In particular, the flowchart is a really useful addition to 999 and makes getting the different endings a lot smoother and less frustrating. You can even select the specific choice moments from the puzzle rooms, so you don’t have to redo anything more than necessary. I didn’t mind not having one before all that much, but not having to re-do certain puzzles and a huge reduction to the time spent going over the same dialogue are still very welcome changes.
The flowchart is a really useful addition to 999 and makes getting the different endings a lot smoother and less frustrating.
The final significant change is the game’s last puzzle. I’m not really sure why it’s different, to be honest, but I don’t like it. It’s quite frustrating and confusing. Perhaps the final puzzle was too simple before, but I just don’t like this one at all.
Virtue’s Last Reward
There’s not a lot that’s too different about this version of Virtue’s Last Reward, which is pretty much a direct port of the PS Vita version, but one noticeable change is the memo function. As there’s no longer touch screen input, this is now done using the analogue stick and x on PS4. I’m a little surprised it didn’t use the touch pad on the controller somehow, although with such a small space that would probably have been really awkward. Not that using the analogue stick is much better. It’s manageable, but it’s going to make re-reading those all important codes more tricky.
Looking at a ported/remastered collection as someone who’s familiar with (and very much enjoys) the previous versions is a totally different outlook to having it be your first experience with a series. There’s nothing inherently wrong with The Nonary Games, and it’s filling a 999-shaped gap in the series for a lot of players, but I can’t help feeling it doesn’t really do 999 justice and that sort of works against it for me as someone who is such a fan of the DS version.
The Nonary Games brings together two excellent games which I highly recommend.
Even so, I’m grateful for it bringing 999 to more players – even bringing the series to more players, as The Nonary Games has expanded the list of platforms that have the whole series available so that PS Vita and PC are now options. That’s a really great thing, and, if you’re not directly comparing the two, then the tweaks and changes probably aren’t an issue. I would still encourage people to play the games in their original format, but I’ll definitely settle with recommending The Nonary Games in second place! I’d love to see Zero Time Dilemma come to PS4 at a later date too, so it could be another way for new players to experience the whole series. For all the drawbacks with elements of it, The Nonary Games brings together two excellent games which I highly recommend. It lacks a little polish, but it’s still a very solid title.
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