Release Date: 24th April 2020
Age Rating: 18+
Length: 5+ Hours
Links: Official Website, VNDB
With 4 main games in the series, 9-nine- has been a bit of a journey. It marked a departure from Palette’s usual style of romantic, character-based games and is instead an action game (although still retaining their great characterisation). I must admit that I’d been hesitant to play Noa’s episode, primarily becasue with the third episode being pretty darn good, I was worried that this final episode wouldn’t live up to the expectations I had for it. However, I must say that my expectations were overall met and even exceeded.
The heroine of this episode is Yuki Noa, the mysterious and chuunibyou leader of Valhalla Society. It’s stated in the game that her chuuni “persona” is based off of Lelouch from Code Geass which was a fun, nostalgic reference. I must admit that I wasn’t sure what to expect from her since she’s arguably the heroine in the series that is shown the least in the previous games overall. However, I was surprised by how utterly adorable she is! Honestly she may have ended up being my favourite heroine from the entire series, which I was not expecting.
As per usual, the game had incredibly high production values, from the gorgeous artwork to the fantastic soundtrack. Each volume has added a couple of tracks to the OST, meaning that the final volume has an abundance of tracks. The Piano version of Dear My Waker was especially beautiful (but also heartbreaking!). The vocal songs continue to be top tier as well.
Now, let’s get onto the main reason to play these games – the story. What I find that Kazuki Fumi manages to achieve so well with this series is using the reader’s preconceptions about visual novels and their mechanics to tell a surprising, if a little meta, story. Some may call his methods a tad cheap but since this is the first time I’ve personally encountered or even heard of a story like this, I’m going to call it innovative. The way the story is written almost forces the reader to become invested in and care about the story, and thus, the characters which I thought was pretty clever.
If you’ve played the other games in the series then you’ll know that they each tend to have a “twist”. Now, I knew it was coming and I was paying super close attention to the story, because I wanted to be smart(for once in my life) and predict what was going to happen. Sorry to say but I’m a dumbass and the twist was so simple but absolutely perfectly excecuted, that it completely caught me off guard. Looking back, it was such a clever play on the reader’s expectations of how a visual novel progresses that I’m genuinely surprised I’ve never seen/heard of a game trying it before.
Above everything else though, this really is a great conclusion to the series, it really delivered pretty much everything I could have hoped for or expected whilst still being open enough to allow for potential continuations (although most likely with different characters). I really do have to give credit for manging to tie together the different episodes and deliver something that made sense.
My Score: 9/10
Taking episode 4 on its own, it’s an excelent finale to the series that manages to deliver pretty much everything that a fan could want. Noa herself as a heroine was a pleasant surprise and manages to be nothing less than utterly adorable throught the romantic scenes in her game.
Now, taking the 9-nine- series as a whole, it must first be said that you do need to play all 4 games in release order to fully understand the story (unless of course you buy the all-ages compilation version). It’s actually one of those series that improves as you go along, with each individual entry adding more to the game world’s lore.
Upon reflection, the first two volumes are definitely significantly weaker than the latter two. I actually feel rather bad for Miyako because she gets screwed over due to her game being the introductory episode – I actually would love a fandisc pretty much for this reason. Sora’s episode is almost more focused on her individual story, rather than the overall which was an interesting choice.
The latter two episodes are objectively stronger story-wise, as the reader learns more about exactly what is going on. These are where the 9-nine- series really establishes itself as being more than a chara-ge with some action going on and like I’ve mentioned, I loved the clever little twist that each game had and the way it plays around with the player’s expectations of how visual novels work.
Now, would I recommend playing the series? Yes, so long as you are comitted to playing all 4 volumes. This is because of the reasons listed above, where the first two volumes are really just an introduction and you need to at least play the 3rd game to get an accurate representation of how good these games are. And if you’ve played three games in the series then you may as well just play the fourth and finish it off, right?
That being said, if you like story-heavy games with good doses of action and very, very likable heroines then this is absolutely the series for you!