Title: 9-nine-: Episode 3
Release Date: August 31, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Sekai Project
Genre: Visual Novel
An episodic series can be daunting when you feel that you have to play each of the entries to get the whole story. Well, developer Palette has delivered the next episode in their 9-nine- series, 9-nine-: Episode 3. Even though this title is said to be standalone, I’d say it’s one of the most impressive entries in the series so far with the help of the character development established through its predecessors.
The opening of 9-nine-: Episode 3 recaps the events of the previous two episodes to remind you of the epic twists that the story has taken so far. Like the last two episodes, this entry focuses on another heroine, Haruka Kosaka, told through the eyes of our protagonist Kakeru Niimi. The good thing about this entry is that we have a good idea of the characters and their relationships together.
This allows the story to flow more naturally, making each interaction that much more impactful because you’ve already invested so much time into the group. While it’s totally possible to play this entry without playing the other titles, it might not mean as much.
As the story develops, many questions and plot points are cleared up as the mystery of the Artifacts is uncovered. We also get the chance to learn more about Rig Veda and its members. The tone of this episode is tense when compared to the others, as there seems to be more on the line as the characters realize there’s a real danger out there.
This change of tone shows a new side of the characters as they weigh out all their options and try to determine the next course of action. There are two different endings here, but you don’t really need to worry too much because it’s easy to obtain both of them without much trouble. The more gripping moments occur when witnessing Kakeru interact with other users and how he infiltrates Rig Veda.
One thing that truly stands out about this episode is just how much character development has helped this series. I’ll admit, I felt that this was something that lacked in the first two episodes, but here Kakeru takes a few steps forward as he interacts with the others. Even the less interesting interactions between him and his sister Sora are significant to follow because of how their chemistry has evolved.
When it comes to Haruka Kosaka, she’s more soft-spoken than the other heroines, which doesn’t allow for the comical back-and-forth that happens between the other characters. It’s more straight forward and to the point, which I ended up liking after two episodes of jokes. Still, this means the jokes that are here stand out, causing some pretty hilarious moments.
It’s interesting to see Kakeru adjust his personality when he’s around Haruka. She seems to draw out his more mature elements, which is a decent side of him. Regardless, he does get caught up in his old ways from time to time, but it’s mostly during conversations with his sister.
However, then Haruka’s personality changes to that of a fine lady, which she refers to as her “other self.” This version of her is more upfront and bold, but it gives Kakeru a chance to be more forward around her. Their friendship develops well throughout the episode, and you believe in their relationship based on how well they learn to trust each other. Her power of charm also comes into play during the story, and it parallels well with her apologetic and nervous personality.
Some issues that I have with 9-nine-: Episode 3 only stem from the lack of CGs in the opening hours of the game, which makes the early moments very much fan-focused and not newcomer friendly. It kind of weighs on the pacing as the story tries to lay out a foundation. Furthermore, the game relies on zoom-ins and illustration pans to show movement within a scene. This ends up working out well to give the scenes more substance, but the game lacks 1080p native support, which causes the images to pixelate when being zoomed in too much on full screen.
One thing I love about this series is its character illustration and 9-nine-: Episode 3 doesn’t let me down one bit. Everything has this silver and pastel look to it, which gives it all a soft appearance. Something else I enjoy is the voiced protagonist, which makes the intense moments of dialogue more impactful. Still, you can turn this off if you want.
9-nine-: Episode 3 ends up slingshotting this series to a must-read mystery visual novel. It not only expands on the more interesting aspects of the series, but it successfully balances a new serious tone with a few memorable comedic moments. Even with the slow opening and lack of 1080p illustrations, the narrative expertly sets up the next title, and now all we can do is wait.
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