I’m always up for a good supernatural mystery novel. I just enjoy the way that they seem to introduce a totally crazy premise and wrap it all up in the conclusion leaving me at the edge of my seat. So you can probably guess that I jumped at the chance to review the Palette developed visual novel 9-Nine-: Episode 1 as its premise is as out there as they come. However, the story ended up not keeping my interest in its promise of mystery, but rather that optimistic personality of the characters.
9-Nine- is a supernatural murder mystery episodic visual novel series. As of right now, there are five episodes planned and two of them have been released in Japan. As its name suggests, 9-Nine-: Episode 1 is the very first episode of this series. Each episode will focus on a different heroine, but they all share the same setting and dimension. However, each episode tells a stand-alone story so playing them out of order isn’t a problem. Currently, there is also a free 18+ patch available on Denpasoft.
9-Nine-: Episode 1 resolves about Miyako Kujo, a popular girl that every guy dreams about getting close to her, including the main protagonist Kakeru Niimi. One day, she finds a lost hairpin and tries to return it but for some reason, she isn’t able to part with the item. All of the sudden, a statue gets discovered that looks strangely very close to a real human. Evidentally, this statue was once a real human who got turned into stone. A strange plushie named Sophie appears in front of Niimi and claims to be from another world and is searching for certain artifacts, such as Kujos hairpin. Everyone with such an artifact possesses a unique power and the artifacts choose their owner by themselves. Niimi also seems to possess an artifact, though he doesn’t know what his power could be. Kujo and Niimi are both determined to find the culprit together while bringing the artifacts back to their original world.
9-Nine-: Episode 1 was quite different than I had imagined. While it has a serious plot, this game still contains plenty of fluffy and light-hearted scenes. Kujo is a protrade as a cute hardworking girl who never fails to give up as she tries her best no matter the challenge. With that said, she is also a bit reckless and is willing to put herself into danger way too easily.
The dialogue between Niimi and his male friend Yoichi can be aggravating at times since they only talk about naughty things involving girls. This could be written off as typical behavior of teenage guys, but it seemed out of character for Niimi and didn’t fit his personality, which made the friendship as a whole not believable. Although it’s not a problem and sometimes even guys talk about girls, Yoichi never talked about anything else and Niimi never reciprocated the eagerness for inappropriate conversations. Their friendship just felt weird since they don’t even seem to have the same interest. Luckily, Yoichi doesn’t appear in too many scenes of the story.
9-Nine-: Episode 1’s specific genre was a bit different than I has assumed it would be when I first started the game. Basically, there is someone who goes around killing people and we don’t know who it is. Sadly, that’s the only mystery that happens in 9-Nine-: Episode 1. The supernatural happenings will get explained very early on in this game and the murder story was not in the foreground enough to really catch my attention.
The story scenes are serious when it’s necessary, but overall this game is very humorous. The friendship shared between the cast of characters as they joke around is believable, save for Yoichi, but this also makes the game seem like more of a Slice-Of-Life title. Throughout the game, we get a chance to see Niimi and Kujo’s everyday life as they slowly start to get closer. In this game, romance definitely is the main aspect of the story. While I really don’t mind a sweet romance story I just thought it would be more focused on the mystery aspect. The story holds the reader’s hand through most of the unexplained events and leaves nothing to really have to guess for yourself.
The system setting in 9-Nine-: Episode 1 allows the player to choose a font of their own. So if you don’t like the standard font, you’re free to change it anytime. You should pay attention to which ones are supported since you can basically choose any font, but not all of them are optimized for 9-Nine-: Episode 1 so it might look a bit odd at times. There’s also a feature called Already-Seen-Text that pops up as yellow on the text bar. This makes it impossible to miss what you already read. You can also set dual languages to show up, in case you’re trying to learn or improve your Japanese.
9-Nine-: Episode 1 features multiple endings, but you have to complete the bad end to be able to unlock the good ending. This means this game is pretty linear and even though it does offer choices during the second playthrough, your choices won’t result in a different ending of the story. You will either get the bad ending again or you will get the chance to fix your mistakes. However, during the first playthrough, there will not be any choices at all and it’s a kinetic novel until the ending is reached.
9-Nine-: Episode 1 offers an option to skip to the previous or next choice to get through the second playthrough quicker. However, there are new scenes the occur based on the player’s choice so it’s possible to miss out on the new dialog while using this feature. Given that the true ending is longer than the bad ending, the replayability of the game was quite high for me to experience. Sadly, both endings were unsatisfying due to the episodic nature of the game. Some events even go unexplained as they set up the rest of the series.
9-Nine-: Episode 1 is fully voiced, included the main character. The voices are superb and indeed high in quality. There is also a lot of stutterings and excitement that sounds natural to the dialog. Furthermore, the soundtrack is catchy and calm at times and it is pleasant to listen to while playing. However, there were a few moments when the music playing didn’t match the scene, such as, during a creepy scene when the music fits closer to a moment of action than a dark and atmospheric theme.
I had expected, 9-Nine-: Episode 1 to be more of a mystery adventure, but still found enjoyment in its slice-of-life undertones. The romance between Niimi and Kujo was believable and the CG scenes and character illustrations were undoubtedly charming and beautiful throughout the entire story.
9-Nine-: Episode 1 has enough for players to play through the game twice, but I didn’t have any interest in the supporting cast to say that I enjoyed the writing completely. I just think if you’re looking for a creepy mysterious story, maybe 9-Nine-: Episode 1 is not the game you are looking for. However, I ended up enjoying it for many other reasons, which has me eager to have all of my questions answered in the upcoming episodes.
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