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999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

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Title: 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors  
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999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
File:999 Cover Art.jpg
The first North American box art, without the Zero Escape branding
Developer(s) Chunsoft
Composer(s) Shinji Hosoe
Platform(s) Nintendo DS, iOS[1]
Release date(s) Nintendo DS:
  • JP December 10, 2009
  • NA November 16, 2010
  • JP May 29, 2013
  • WW Q3/Q4 2013 (in English)
Genre(s) Graphic adventure, visual novel
Mode(s) Single-player
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"), later reprinted as Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, is an adventure video game developed by Chunsoft and published in Japan by Spike on December 10, 2009, and in North America by Aksys Games on November 16, 2010. The game's design team was led by Kotaro Uchikoshi, who is also the writer of the acclaimed visual novel Ever 17: The Out of Infinity.[2] A novel based on the game has also been released, with a slightly different plot. An iOS port of the game was published by Spike, released in Japan in May 2013 and with Western release expected later in 2013, which retains the game's story but removes most of the puzzle elements.

Nine people have been abducted by a mysterious kidnapper who uses the alias "Zero." They find themselves on a ship— possibly a replica of the RMS Titanic and are told that they have nine hours to escape before the ship sinks beneath the waves. Zero is running the "Nonary Game" - a game "where you will put your life on the line." The group is forced to split up into various subgroups and explore "numbered doors," behind which lie Zero's puzzles. Zero promises that escape lies behind a door numbered 9. The characters must work together despite suspicions of each other to advance, as well as to discover Zero's motive and identity.

Emphasis is placed more on the characters, their motives, and the mystery of the situation than the puzzles.

A second game in the series, Kyokugen Dasshutsu Adv: Zennin Shibō Desu, was announced in August 2011, and was released in English as Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward.[3] Among the cast are Clover and Alice, both of whom were featured in 999. The antagonist also shares the same codename, but with a "3" attached.[4]

As of September 19, 2012, all new English copies of the game feature new box art with the Zero Escape series logo on it to help tie it in with its sequel.[5]


Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors has two types of gameplay. Puzzles are placed behind the doors the characters enter, and the player must solve them to advance. This involves investigating each room, picking up tools, and using any notable items in the room. For example, a set of music scores is scattered about in inconvenient locations; when combined and played on a piano, they unlock a door. In the rest of the game, the player interacts with the other characters and make decisions that affect the story of the game. Different dialogue options can reveal different useful nuggets of information, and Junpei's choices of which doors to enter personally changes the information the player learns. Junpei or the other characters may die depending on what doors and dialogue choices the player makes. There are six endings in total, and the player's decisions change which ending occurs. Only one ending is the true ending, and one specific 'bad' ending must be achieved first in order to unlock the true ending.



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.

  1. Ace - Real name: Gentarou Hongou. Age 50. An older gentleman who looks like a lion.
  2. Snake - Real name: Light.[6] Age 24. A blind young man dressed like a prince; he is Clover's brother and will do anything for her.
  3. Santa - Real name: Aoi. Age 24. An aloof and sometimes foul-mouthed white-haired young man.
  4. Clover - Real name: Clover. Age 18. A young girl with pink hair, she is Snake's sister.
  5. Junpei - A 21-year-old college student and the game's protagonist.
  6. June - Real name: Akane Kurashiki. Age 21. A young woman, she is Junpei's childhood friend.
  7. 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.
  8. Lotus - Real name: Hazuki Kashiwabara. Age 40. A woman dressed as an exotic dancer.
  9. The 9th Man - Real name: Teruaki Kubota. A nervous man with a tie and messy hair; he does not offer a pseudonym.

Some of these characters appear again in the sequel, Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward.


Junpei, the player character, wakes up inside a small locked room; his last memory was that of him being drugged to sleep by an unknown person in a gas mask. He finds that he has a bracelet with the number "5" on it and that he can not leave the room. He appears to be on a boat, and is forced to solve a puzzle to escape the room before it floods from a leaking window.

Escaping the lower decks, he encounters eight other people, each with their own bracelets with different digits on them. Junpei recognizes one of them, his old childhood friend Akane. 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 door 5. When he ventures alone through it, he is killed when the bomb in his stomach detonates. Knowing 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, in the case of the Safe Ending, fail to escape from the ship before time runs out. While reaching most of the Bad Endings is not necessary for reaching the True Ending, it is necessary to see the Safe Ending, or the True Ending abruptly ends with a "To Be Continued" message very quickly.

In 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. The 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 a secret facility in the Nevada desert-Building Q. Both sets of children were to play the Nonary Game with those in the building solving the puzzles and sending the solutions to those aboard the ship. 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. However, the experiment went awry: first, Akane was misplaced, put alongside her brother Santa on the ship rather than sent to Nevada. 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. During the timelines in which Junpei is on track to fail, Akane falls ill from a mysterious fever—the fact that she will have been unable to survive the incinerator in her own Nonary Game if Junpei fails his. 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 Akane 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 at the Nevada facility 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 marketing

In 999, Uchikoshi and producer, Jiro Ishii, initially intended to have boys and girls locked together via explosive handcuffs, but later decided against it.[7] 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;[8] due to low pre-orders, Aksys later made these available on their website's shop, both in a bundle with the game and individually.[9]

An iOS version was released in Japan in May 2013, with a Western release expected later in 2013. The iOS version was developed by Spike Chunsoft and is the second entry in their "Smart Sound Novel" series. In this, Spike Chunsoft refocused the game on its story, and stripped out many of the "escape room" puzzles from the DS version. Conversations are presented in more a comic book style, with higher definition art assets tuned for iPad devices.[10]


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 Kyokugen Dasshutsu 9 Jikan 9 Nin 9 no Tobira Soundtrack on a two-disc set on December 23, 2009.[11]



999 received critical acclaim, 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.[12] The game received aggregate scores of 9.0 out of 10 from GameStats (based on 13 reviews),[13] 83.42% from GameRankings (based on 17 reviews),[14] and 82 out of 100 on Metacritic (based on 26 critics).[12] 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."[15] The game received the "Best Story" award from IGN's Best of 2010 awards.[16]

Following the game's release, it sold out from many US retailers both traditional and online, including[17] and GameStop, resulting in high prices on the secondary market. Aksys has since announced a second printing.[18]

See also

  • 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.


External links

  • Japanese official website
  • North American official website
  • Answers to unexplained questions in the game
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