EDIT: I totally realized I didn’t talk about the characters at all. Oops!
Right so this blasted game that took me 4 years of following it finally comes to an end! I think it’s about time we celebrate this with a full review…….
Except I forgot my own template for a full review kek
(I’m totally not copy-pasting template from another full review as you’re reading this)
Before I dive straight into the reviewing, I kinda want to summarize the entire series before I do anything else: Great Concepts, Amazing Execution, but Poor Design.
Besides the above sounding like a really shitty subreddit
/r/ATBGE, this adjective really reflects this game as a whole. I suppose I should get started
WARNING: THIS SERIES IS EXTREMELY HARD TO REVIEW WITHOUT SPOILING, AS ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS PAST THE FIRST TITLE IS SPOILERY REGARDLESS. AS SUCH THIS REVIEW WILL NOT HESITATE TO DESCRIBE THE EVENTS IN EACH TITLE IN DETAIL SO PLEASE BE WARNED!!!
Summary: The game revolves around Niimi Kakeru, a boy who seems to have a normal life and normal friends. A particular anime series became popular recently involving the Magatsu who is a Snake God, and such a popularity resulted in various events in the real world celebrating such success. It’s just that on this particular day an earthquake shakes the city disrupting the entire event, and this is the time when Kakeru will be thrown into the midst of chaos and suffering, which will require the strongest of willpower to overcome.
Story Length: Long (~ 30 hours)
Comments: The fact that the game is comprised up of 4 “standalone” (in quotations because it’s questionable) titles makes this a very long game. Though this shouldn’t really be of surprise considering I literally reviewed the first three titles (albeit with the second and third ones briefly).
Character Design Rating: 9/10
Story Rating: 8/10
Protagonist Rating: 8/10
Game Quality: Moderate
Overall Rating: 8/10
I honestly want to give this game a higher score–I really do. It’s just that after finishing this last title the entire series is flawed greatly with contradictions that imply incompetence. While most of the story was great, fun, and overall well executed, it really does seem like none of the story was planned from the start (i.e. from the first title in 2017) and the writer simply added onto the scenario as they saw fit. The fact that the four games were released a year apart each supports this hypothesis, which I’m still really not happy about even now–especially when games from tone work’s can be over 80+ hours long I see no reason why this series had to take 4 freaking years.
Anyway. Onwards to the individual titles.
Koko no Iro
Right. This title presents Miyako, voiced by none other than Sawata Natsu who has the cutest voice ever (fight me), and introduces this series and its background for the most part, along with the mysterious antagonist who supposedly uses the Evil Eye to commit murders of innocent people by turning them into stone. This happens along with how Kakeru is approached by a strange living doll who calls herself Sophie while Miyako finds herself in possession of a strange accessory that gives her superpowers, the characters gather to call these accessories “artifacts” and strive to find out who’s using these powers for evil.
Also let’s not talk about how her grandfather’s company’s name aged like milk lmao
#9-Nine series predicted COVID19
This is when they’re opposed by League Veda, a group of 3 who supposedly are also ones with superpowers of their own and invite Kakeru to join them, but it’s clear that their motives aren’t clean, and they think of themselves superior to others which originally cause suspicion of one of them being the culprit for the murders.
The game does make some really blatant foreshadows here though, since it introduces Yoichi at a certain point in Kakeru’s apartment potentially hearing all the information Kakeru shares with Miyako and Sora, and the only other foreshadow in this title is the ending scene which is vague, but implied in the 4th title that it’s Miyako gaining the Eye of the World superpower from being connected with Kakeru (which is his ability that you don’t find out until then anyways).
Frankly, this title was bad because of its ambiguity. The terminology that’s thrown around with seemingly this particular anime being pretty imperative for the general storyline but kept vague… Not to mention even after finishing the entire title a lot of these features were also quite unnecessary and the romance factor between the Miyako and Kakeru disruptive at best.
While I do believe this particular title didn’t do anything BAD, I still don’t like how it took the cop-out method of keeping a lot of information from the readers. I’m sure it was necessary to elongate the title more
or maybe because they didn’t plan it yet, but there are blatant contradictions also since the very last scene in the 4th title heavily implies that the bad route of this first title is the only “branch” where Yoichi isn’t affected by Iris, yet the entire premise of the 4th title is that Yoichi was working with Iris all along, ever since the beginning.
In terms of heroines, I enjoyed Miyako the most. Despite being brought up in a wealthy household she has been taught well to be conservative and is a great cook + waifu material. Sawata Natsu just made her as a character better for me, but in terms of the story she definitely fell behind since not only is her story from 3 years ago her personality does cause a bit of hindrance especially when you’re faced with life and death.
Miyako’s abilities is that she can “steal” anything as long as it’s in possession of an individual, which includes things like sight or memories. This felt rather out of place with the very affable and well-natured heroine, but it does make for some humorous intermissions at times while her abilities allow her to be almost like a “debuffer” in fights.
Sora no Oto
The next title involves Sora, who interacts most frequently with Kakeru among any heroines, and has a unique relationship to the protagonist which I enjoyed seeing. Kiritani Hana was also a great choice of a CV for Sora as well, considering the various gags that the siblings engaged in, and if I could toot my own horn a little bit, I’m just going to copy-paste my own words from the short review I wrote for this title back in 2018:
At this point the concept is pretty obvious; the game tries to suggest that each of these four separate games are parallel worlds, but then goes to suggest that these games are somehow interconnected to each other
Along with my prediction for Yoichi being the Evil Eye user being dead accurate.
The problem with this title is that it focuses so heavily on the crew (or more like Kakeru and Sora) fighting with the antagonist Ghost, who as we all know is just a clone that Yoichi can create out of thin air, and it’s really him that’s killing people (with a true antagonist even further behind him), not to mention all this effort fighting Ghost was worthless regardless. Looking at the entire series as a whole, this does make this 2nd title feel less important compared with any of the other ones since the new information provided in this one (such as the Ambrosia) doesn’t really affect the overall scenario (it’s not important) and there’s literally no foreshadowing in this one to really add to the finale in the final title (there’s the little cliffhanger at the end that shows that Yoichi is behind Ghost, but that’s something even I could predict).
Sora as a character was nice, but probably only because the game spends so much time having Kakeru interact with her than any other heroine that you get to really see her personality as someone who really loves and cares for her older brother. One of her H-scenes is downright hilarious, while as I’ve said before, the choice of Sawa Sawasawa (Kiritani Hana alias), was a great choice.
Her abilities involve being able to erase things, which include intangible things like barriers as she does in the fights (enemy buff remover/dispel character?) but it’s shown in her own route that her own abilities go berserk and eventually erase her entire existence, even going as far as to removing Kakeru’s memories.
Haru no Kaze
The title that I think picked up this series from crashing terribly, Harunokaze finally reveals the true antagonist Iris to be Sophie herself just in a different timeline. Here you see Kakeru actually fighting against Yoichi for the first time and use his abilities as the Eye of the World to connect to the player, who just happens to have the superpower Overload (though this isn’t revealed until the 4th title), while also convincing Haruka to join the Valhalla Society.
It’s in this title that the group temporarily repel Iris, but also provide the most blatant contradiction to how Yoichi loses to Kakeru yet doesn’t call upon Iris like he does in the 4th title and ultimately perishes, even though the setting was that he was already synchronized with her. (Like seriously. This ONE THING in the 4th title is creating contradictions and messing everything up until now and it really pisses me off)
Regardless, Haruka’s abilities is that she alters reality based on her thoughts. Basically she is able to cause phenomenon that’s otherwise impossible or “think” of things that eventually become real. This was a pretty big contrast to her frail and fujoshi mentality, but a great one at that since it allowed the character to become a dynamic one throughout the game.
Haruka’s abilities are used as basically “buffs” to Kakeru as he fights.
The ending of this title displays Sophie directly talking to the player, calling him “Nine” along with the 8 characters who supposedly needs to team up to defeat Iris once and for all (said 8 including Yoichi, Renya, and Satsuki). Everything’s good and I’m excited for this title annnnndd
Yuki no Ato
This title ruined it all.
While there’s also me being slightly salty that my prediction for the above was incorrect, this title goes completely batshit and does exactly the thing which was the worst thing it could have done and I also feared it would do–try to cram every element, every detail, and every answers into one single title.
This title revolves around how Kakeru realizes that Noa and her abilities is keystone to defeating Iris once and for all, yet something is holding the girl back from really bringing out her true potential. He drastically changes his actions in this title by reinstalling memories of other branches (which he hasn’t done before) to resolve the girl’s problems and kill Iris, only to find out that was a fake–the real Iris was elsewhere all this time.
Honestly at this point while everything seemed really great, I was enjoying the game, and it was engaging the game felt like it was forcing this pattern of powercreeping common in popular shounen manga or grindy MMOs. The fact that even after her defeat Iris implies that she spent several hundred years far in the future developing her own Overload and somehow this allows her to return to the past FURTHER than how much it allows (because the one limit of the superpower is that you can’t return to the time before you obtained the ability, due to time paradox probably) provides the blatant contradiction that now you’re telling me she was synchronized with Yoichi 5 minutes after the player was synchronized with Kakeru.
Though that fake Ending Movie was really well done. It actually caught me off guard and shattered the Fourth Wall better than I saw any other game doing it.
Me when I’m actually impressed with a game
There was just so many things wrong with this final title though, and the problem with it is that the writers didn’t want to create an actual finale title like they should have and literally stuffed everything at the last moments. I liked the dark atmosphere with the sense of despair that the game tried to portray, PLUS it was done really well. It’s just that the design of these scenes (with Yoichi repeatedly killing the heroines around Kakeru) lacked impact or even depth because Kakeru was missing a lot of monologue around these events (though he had some to be fair), not to mention it even implied that he didn’t really care that much about the other heroines–it was only Noa because that’s who he happened to hook up with this time.
This final title DOES show the protagonist more in action of becoming this pogchamp badass who completely realizes his actual powers as the Eye of the World and uses the Overload from the player to synchronize himself with all the other branches (basically the other 3 games) where he pulls the powers of all the heroines plus extra ones obtained during that branch… Wait.
Cue quote joyjason from his Kokonotsu review:
Of course there’s a chance the writers might scrap it and give him some supernatural power in the end
Sorry guys. Looks like I spoiled this entire game for you back in 2017.
But seriously. Even if we put aside how I love this kind of protagonist badassery, the game doesn’t actually show him obtaining these powers and simply shows a jump in time about a month to imply this instead.
The fact that Noa seemed like a canonical heroine also bothered me quite a bit, especially since she’s literally not there for the first two titles (since she refuses to join the group). If at all, there should’ve been a true route which involves more of a harem-esque environment but even then that’s not ideal since the third title HEAVILY implied that it would require the efforts of all 9 characters (8 characters + player) to defeat Iris once and for all.
As a character she does seem a bit more forced, since her abilities “The Order” is revealed to be one where she can obliterate any enemy, but needs to be able to determine the enemy as a sinner. While there’s also various questionable traits about this ability, the game conveniently lets you know that this is the only ability that can traverse time and space and kill Iris residing in alternative universes or in the future (which makes absolutely total fucking sense)
Right so I’ve been rambling (more like ranting) quite a bit and it feels like I should organize some general thoughts about this series as a whole.
Overall, really like the originality. Anything that doesn’t involve some dumb school-life harem is probably a good candidate to being original and something to give plus points to, even if the background or said originality gets thrown out the window later down the road.
Character design is obviously also on the superior side, with each of the titles utilizing everything possible to sell them properly to the readers, whether that be humor, gap-moe, or even their artwork for which we should praise Izumi Tsubasu. God I love her artstyle so much and this game had Live2D implemented in the H-scenes that really tickled my fancy.
To tell you the truth part of the reason why I was late with this review was because I was looking for extractors to obtain game CGs and animations #Isucceeded #humblebrag
Story execution is excellent. The writer created from scratch this fictional setting and needed to create characters to interact with it and it was done superbly; unlike other titles where dialogue between characters or even just the narrative is artificial, boring, and unimportant, the dialogue in the 9-Nine series was important and even the humorous intermissions enjoyable. Storytelling was possibly one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.
Cliffhangers were done well (regardless of how I generally don’t like them), along with even with some lacking explanations for the lore at least this game didn’t make me want to ragequit from frustration due to vagueness of the story like Favorite’s Irotoridori Sekai did.
In the end it’s safe to say I generally enjoyed this series, but as with all the titles that I recommend, I really need to point out the cons.
The titles being released one year apart is definitely a major flaw I see with this game, especially because such a tactic wasn’t necessary at all in terms of production (i.e. games weren’t long or complicated), and if at all it raises suspicion on whether the scenario for this game was written in advance or written as they went (latter is likely), as either way it would open this series up for some critique (since if it was the former they literally planned the entire story to contradict itself)
The original lore of Magatsu, artifacts, and overload was good, but as the game started to add more details to their concepts and design inevitably some really started to fall out. The prime example being the Ambrosia or how there’s so many artifacts yet you only see a very minuscule number of them. Even something like how Haruka’s artifact allowed her to trigger this second personality or Noa’s The Order ability being able to transcend time/space/universes or how the reader obtained Overload or Kakeru’s super convenient Eye of the World ability were all something never answered and definitely holes in the storyline.
Though to be fair this alternate personality made her as a character much more interesting
The player himself is supposed to be a character who is similar to Sophie was pretty farfetched though on the other hand it encouraged engagement from the player and helped me to feel invested in the story. The player obviously doesn’t have accessories or artifacts and this gimmick of breaking the 4th wall creating a super-meta environment had very poor basis that didn’t correspond with the logic of the environment the game created. For example, Sophie needs to use a medium (which she uses the weird doll) to speak or communicate with others but the player doesn’t need this despite being in a similar situation. If at all it explicitly shows that the player is somehow able to fully communicate with Kakeru but not with Sophie or any of the other heroines creating another plothole that never gets answered.
It also doesn’t sit well in my stomach how at the end of the 3rd title Sophie makes great implications that the player’s Overload abilities is key in defeating Iris yet the 4th title basically says “lol jk” by giving Kakeru the Eye of the World ability and having a literal deus ex machina to resolve the conflict. The player hardly does anything to trigger this awakening in Kakeru, and only has a small part in connecting all the branches to bring the heroines from each branch and “tracking down” Iris who is in the far future.
“Stupid Antagonist” is something I also have beef with the game and has been for quite a while especially with some games in the past (primarily ones from 3rdEye). Generally speaking, when there’s a conflict where life and death is at hand, ideally I want even the antagonist to have some kind of spotlight or at least some form of reasoning to act as he does. This gives the reader the dilemma of choosing which side to be on and heightens the intensity of the battles, or even just sympathize with the antagonists. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen with both Yoichi and Iris being crazy ass bitches who just wants to kill and torture for fun, which made the battles for them much less engaging and also made the scenes when Kakeru was oppressed more annoying instead, not to mention pointless because you know right off the bat there’s going to be some kind of reversal when Kakeru comes back, otherwise this would just be a trash garbage game.
Instead of this it would’ve been super easy simply to have a side scenario of both Yoichi and/or Iris being oppressed in their own way and or how/why they gained this insanity displayed here. You’re literally just told that these characters are antagonists and the game goes to excessive extremes almost FORCING you to think they’re the bad guys instead of having the reader come to that conclusion instead.
It does feel like the game attempted to do some explaining with the design of Renya going as far as to dying multiple times throughout the series for the benefit of Yoichi though this was, without any basis or background of their past, more annoying than honorable.
That’s moreorless my entire thoughts and opinions on the entire series. I suspect that people who haven’t actually played this series might be super confused about everything, but I think that just goes to show how good the game is in the first place, if it delivers a clearer understanding playing it than having someone analyse/recite it for you.
I encourage readers to also go through this series because of this, since while it’s not the best game ever, it’s still an enjoyable one. Though on the other hand, I also hope people going through this series don’t ignore the blatant contradictions and be able to explicitly state what you liked/disliked (not just with this series but with everything in life) and back that up with your own reasoning, no matter how personalized it may be.
Also sorry of this full review is really bad. It’s literally been months since I’ve done one, and also required me to recite memory of each of the three titles I haven’t touched in a minimum 1 year.
CG Score: 9/10
Music Score: 6/10
Conclusion: I don’t think I’ll need to do a Pros/Cons list as I do with the other ones because
I’m lazy I’ve been pretty thorough with my thoughts on this series. I liked this series for a lot of reasons, but I really wish they could’ve improved on the two things I’ll be brief to describe as “a better introduction and an elaborated conclusion”. That being said I’m curious to what kind of titles Palette will produce now, and I’ll definitely question their sanity if they try to pull a fandisc of any kind for this series.
That being said, Izumi Tsubasu art is a work of a God.