Norn9: Var Commons

norn9

Company: Otomate

Cost: Paid

Synopsis: Twelve year-old Sorata is on a field trip in the present day when he suddenly awakens, frozen in the middle of a street. He is helped by a girl, who cannot remember her name, and is informed by her that he is in the Taisho Era. With no idea what to do, Sorata is convinced by the girl that he should join her on a journey that she will be going on soon in the hopes that he will be able to get back home. Sorata is surprised when the ship picking them up isn’t a boat, but an flying craft. Aboard the craft are eleven other young folk. They are all, including the nameless girl, espers and they are on a mission for The World, an organization/entity devoted to maintaining world peace.

But shortly after the ship is airborne, there is an attack. There may be a traitor amongst the group, and to deal with the situation it is decided that all twelve of the espers will pair-up. And the only three girls aboard the ship have first pick of who their partners will be

MC: This game has three playable female characters, each with three choices of love interests

  • Koharu: She is the girl who found and helped Sorata and is also the newest esper on the ship. She has recently turned seventeen and has been waiting to be picked up by the others for two years. Her power is pyrokinesis, and she hates it as she sees it as purely destructive and without good points. Because of her power she was banished from town and lived alone on a hill. Her secluded lifestyle has left her super naive about everything. She is very innocent, honest, caring, and curious to know more about everything. She has learned almost everything she knows from books she read while she was alone. She tries very hard in everything and her efforts are usually recognized
  • Mikoto Kuga: She is the the proud, serious, nineteen year-old daughter of a wealthy family. Her ability to create indestructible barriers is well know and she is even known as a Living Goddess and the Guardian of the Nation. She is pretty bossy and feels that she knows best for everyone. The need to protect everyone and the ship weighs heavily on her to the point that she thinks that she is the only one who can protect everyone. Even though she looks elegant she is a clumsy person and was very much a tomboy as a child. In some ways she is the most naive of the girls, since she believes in the good nature of people and that people are logical enough that they will not resort to violence if faced with logic. When something does not adhere to her world view she ignores it if it a small enough detail. I, personally, dislike found her to be a unlikable character who is way too full of herself
  • Nanami Shiranui: At sixteen, she is the youngest of the girls and one of the youngest espers, but she is also one of the most even tempered of all the espers (and definitely so amongst the girls). Her power is to erase memories, and she hates it. As a child her father and family forced her to use her power for their financial benefit. Her family used to be ninja, and they are not any longer even though they still do a lot of underground work. Nanami has picked up some ninja skills from books. The only two people who know about her power is Heishi, because she told him, and Akito, because they’ve encountered each other as children. Nanami may appear emotionless, but she cherishes those who have reached out to her deeply.

Guys: 

  • Akito Shukuri: A rough delinquent who is brash and looks means. He is actually a nice guy though and is afraid of Hiyokos and is the best cook aboard the ship. He hates Nanami
  • Heishi Otomaru: A loud and cheerful idiot. He’s a telepathy able to sense and sometimes send feeling, as well as being able to send his thoughts. He’s very spontaneous and always hangs out with Itsuki and Nanami
  • Itsuki Kagami: A guy who would rather ditch work in favor of flirting with any of the three girls on board. He doesn’t take much seriously, and his power has to do with dreams. Even though it seems that he doesn’t think about anything but girls, no one is able to tell what he is actually thinking
  • Kakeru Yugia: The leader of one of the three groups. He is kind, but cunning and able to usually get his way. He is practical, but prefers to enjoy himself, usually at the expense of others. He is very upfront about his ability to create and control plant-life, which sees a lot of use on the ship
  • Natsuhiko Azuma: The mysterious attacker. He seems to know Toya and also knows more about what The World wants with the espers than the espers do. He is cool and usually threatening someone with his gun
  • Ron Muroboshi: The eldest of the passengers on the ship. He is always sleeping or lazing about and always wears sunglasses. He has a hard time remembering things, especially people’s names. When he does speak, he has a habit of saying things people don’t like to hear.
  • Sakuya Nijo: Mikoto’s childhood friend who has not revealed his power. He is kind, gentle, and especially courteous towards the girls, although he clearly has a preference for Mikoto. His hobby is fortunetelling and saying cryptic things
  • Senri Ichinose: A timid sixteen year-old who would prefer to live shut in his room. He is pretty gloomy and negative. Despite his timidity, he frequently voices his complaints. He lives his life on the ship being tormented by Kakeru
  • Toya Masamune: The point of contact between the ship and The World and the guy in charge/taking care of everyone. He seems mature, is always busy helping out, and is full of secrets. He can handle alcohol fine, but gets easily drunk on sugar

Impressions: This game is a long one with lots of things to dig into if you so desire. Norn9 is pretty famous (in the console otoge niche) for have three female protagonists, each with three romantic options. That’s nine routes with at least two endings each. If you add in the fact that there’s a short story for each guy and that the individual routes start in the second chapter (of eight when you include the ending), this game can really suck away at your time. But with additional things to unlock and mini-games, you can’t say that you didn’t get your money’s worth quantity wise.

So, regarding the triple MCs. I liked the idea in theory and was excited about it before the release. Three MCs with different personalities means that they could have a little more personality since they didn’t have to be malleable enough to match with nine guys. But after the prologue (during which you choose which MC you will control) I could already tell that I wasn’t going to like Mikoto, and for me that meant that I dreaded playing a full third of the route; this was doubly unfortunate since I was looking forward to all three of Mikoto’s guys. It would have been fun if you could mix up the pairings, but twenty-seven routes would have been daunting, and I probably would have felt obliged to play all of Mikoto’s routes anyways.

I’m sort of negative-ambivalent about Sorata. He’s kind of cute and interesting, but the stuff about him is so sporadic and most of it comes so late as to be pointless in my view. I don’t think he hurt the game by being there, but I don’t really think he needed to be around at all (besides starting off the game in a neutral PoV). After playing through all nine guys you open up the Truth Route, which is a chapter from Sorata’s PoV. It ties up a couple of loose ends but I though it was almost entirely unnecessary since the game focused so little on the plot with The World (most of the routes basically feature The World and the Reset as minor things and emphasize the romance).

Like with Code: Realize and some other games, you need to play through all the routes (or at least most of them) in order to get all the information to figure out what exactly is going on. Still you’d think that there’s be some standard play order beyond the game’s “recommended” routes (it tells you to read Senri, Kakeru, Heishi, and Sakuya first to get the fullest enjoyment). I put together my own recommended play order in hindsight, but I’m not super satisfied with it because the spoilers are all over the place (Senri and Kakeru’s routes have spoilers for each other) and there are so many reasons to switch spots (especially Akito’s route since there is so much important information in his route that would have been great immediately after several of the routes).

Regarding the look of the game, I sort of feel like the graphics got shortchanged a little because of all the routes. It’s not that the game isn’t pretty to look at, because it is. There aren’t many different backgrounds, and all the houses and most of the rooms look the same. All the espers (and the traitor) have a uniform from The World and I don’t really get why unless it’s so they don’t have to design individual outfits for everyone (which doesn’t make sense since most of the characters have another outfit and all of their uniforms are customized). The art is pretty to look at and all the characters look distinctive, which is especially important with such a large cast. It’s a pretty common thing now, but I love how the hair color has a slight ombre towards the bottom. The character sprites blink and their mouths move when they talk. I’m okay with the blinking, but I sort of hate the moving mouths, especially since the mouths sometimes stop moving while the character is still talking (Nanami tickling Itsuki in the dream is the best example of this).

As far as extras go. You need to collect points to unlock the extras. The points are obtainable by playing a route for the first time and also in a mini-game. I hate this system. I think the points are pointless, you should just be able to unlock things directly by playing the routes (like you finish Kakeru’s route, you then get the short story, and when you complete his album you unlock the comic strip and bonus images). The mini-game isn’t even a game since the only thing you can control is which character “you” are, and it isn’t even entertaining. I never felt like I had wasted my time with the short stories, but I wish they were all epilogues, since some of them took place during the route leading to a missed opportunity. The bonus pictures were fun for the most part and the comic strips were cute. You can unlock the BGM as well which is nice, although I wasn’t particularly in love with the music.

You can quick save, quick load and also rewind from the history, except for the occasional timed answers (which are annoying and way to sparse to really have any impact). There is unfortunately no way to load alter affection level and load a chapter. That means that if you want to complete the album or play all the endings you need to get clever with you save files or put on some TV to watch while fast-forwarding through.

Although this game had a couple of things that annoyed me, overall I enjoyed playing it. If you’re cool with Sci-fi and a longer game, this is definitely a good one to try. And do listen with headphones so you can hear all the great (and sometimes sexy) voices (Natsuhiko has the same VA as Sebastian Michaelis so I know some people are going to make good use of the Keyword feature)

You don’t really need a walk through, but if you’d like one, Annette has a great one here.

Recommended Play Order For Spoiler Reasons: Senri (Koharu) > Sakuya (Mikoto) > Itsuki (Mikoto) > Heishi (Nanami) > Kakeru (Koharu) > Akito (Nanami) > Ron (Nanami) > Toya (Koharu) > Natsuhiko (Mikoto)

Favorite Guy: Kakeru and Itsuki

Favorite Route: Heishi and Akito

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