Visual Novel Book Club // Next: 徒花異譚

The obstacles are pretty obvious with the absurd length, but it’s sorta been my dream in the back of my head to one day do something like reread Higurashi with others here. It leans into anime nonsense a bit much but it’s also such an incredible piece of writing in so many ways, has stuck with me like few other things. Umineko I stalled out on for a bit now in the middle of arc 5 (in English) but it has some wild moments and seems extremely fun to have people discussing and theorizing about – it’s the kind of thing you hear people say is straight up their favorite piece of writing across any medium. But man would doing that truly take ages.


Considering my history here, now that the guidelines have expanded it seems only right that I do this :joy:

極限脱出 9時間9人9の扉 (Zero Escape: 999)

Developer: Chunsoft, Regista, & Spike Chunsoft
VNDB Play Time: 21h45m
VNDB Link: Kyokugen Dasshutsu - 9-Jikan 9-Nin 9 no Tobira | vndb
Character count: unknown, estimated 348k-413k from vndb times
Number of weeks to finish: ~14-17 (estimated from above character count)


Kidnapped and taken to an unfamiliar location, nine people find themselves forced to participate in a diabolical Nonary Game by an enigmatic mastermind called Zero. Why were they there? Why were they chosen to put their lives on the line? And more importantly, who can be trusted?

more specific summary (not super spoilery but just in case):

Nine people have been kidnapped by a mysterious person called Zero and are forced to participate in a survival game called the “Nonary Game”. Each player has a bracelet numbered 1–9, which they must use to pass through doors numbered 1–9 to reach the exit before 9 hours run out and the ship in which they are in sinks. Various puzzles must be solved in order to advance through the ship and reach the exit, while uncovering the mysteries behind the Nonary Game.


Steam (includes second game)
PS4 (includes second game)
XBox (includes second game)
DS (original version, not voiced)
PS Vita (includes second game)
mobile version technically exists but is weird apparently

Personal Opinion

999 was the first long-form thing I read in Japanese and I had a wonderful time with it! It’s the sort of thing that drags you along for the ride desperate to know what’s going on, which I think is really good for motivation. If you enjoy other mystery death game puzzley sorts of things I’d definitely recommend it (Spike Chunsoft is also known for such things as Danganronpa, AI: The Somnium Files, and Steins;Gate if that’s any indication); it’s also on the more well-known side as VNs go which could be cool. Schedule-wise I think it’d be pretty easy to figure out as well considering the structure of it, and I certainly have insight to provide there :wink:

Also don’t let the idea of sequel games scare you off, they’re there for you if you enjoy the first one but 999 can absolutely stand on its own.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club


  • Most dialogue voiced
  • I believe text-hookable? I used game2text so :man_shrugging:
  • Clear structure
  • Well-known good old fun mystery VN! (8.29 on vndb)
  • Puzzles if you’re into that sort of thing
  • Available a lot of places apparently
  • Good balance of dialogue and narrative for reading practice (though there is a dialogue-only option if that appeals to you)


  • Not fully voiced
  • Covers a pretty wide breadth of topics, though weird vocabulary asides tend to be short-lived
  • Older style reading interface if that bothers you (see screenshots)
  • On the more expensive side, but it’s on sale like every other week it seems like
  • Definitely dark if you’re not into that
  • Puzzles if that’s not your thing



Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this VN?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters


Putting this here in case anyone’s interested in a mini book club, but this game is limited to PSVita so it probably wouldn’t be possible for a proper pick sadly

Side Kicks! ( サイドキックス)

Developer: Extend & Toybox Inc.
VNDB Play Time: 18.5hr
VNDB Link: Side Kicks! | vndb
Character count: ?
Number of weeks to finish: don’t have a character count, but it seems to have 1 less route than B$ so I’d imagine a little less than the current schedule. The VNDB playtime is also significantly shorter, but there’s only one vote so it’s not as reliable

Summary from VNDB

Side Kicks: a newly established special investigation bureau within the Sakrada Police Force, located in California, designed to heighten the security of Sakrada City with their unique style of thinking and individual skill. Currently seeking additional members.

A city in California, USA — Sakrada. In recent years, the spread of a highly addictive drug, ‘Lipcode’, has been causing several issues in the sunny, quiet city located on the West Coast. In order to control cases like this, the Sakrada Police Force established a new organisation — a special investigation bureau made up of members with unique styles of thinking and their idiosyncratic skills, known as the Side Kicks.

Chika, who has exceptional athletic talent.
Hibari, the profiler who possesses a way with words.
Shishiba, the quiet hacker prodigy.
Rico, gifted with photographic memory.
Tatewaki, the leader in charge of the four.

The special investigation bureau has become well-known in the city for its ground-breaking investigation methods that are unlike anything ever seen before.

One day, the heroine Inori is scouted as a new member of Side Kicks. The skill she possesses…is the mysterious ability of clairvoyant dreams.


(the PSVita’s store)

Personal Opinion

It’s the previous game by the team behind Bustafellows so if you liked B$ you’ll probably like this one too! It also takes place in the US and has no major fantasy, scifi, or specialized vocab apart from police lingo. However the MC isn’t voiced (unlike Teuta).

Pros and Cons for the Book Club


  • everyone apart from the MC (and her inner thoughts) are voiced
  • has the usual modern VN options: save any time, backlog to read and re-listen to what was said
  • apart from some police jargon there’s no heavy fantasy, scifi, historical etc vocab or different dialects
  • engaging story
  • font is easy to read, and a lot of menu options are in english


  • limited to PSVita
  • MC is not voiced
  • can get dark, similar to B$
  • doesn’t have that much romance, similar to B$



Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this VN?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters


9 hours 9 persons 9 doors my beloved :heart_eyes: I love Zero Escape so much, 999 in particular being one of my favorite games of all time. I’ve wanted to try reading it in Japanese for years, so if this is picked I’ll definitely read along!

Should probably mention there are some differences with the DS version (which is the original version, the rest are a remastered version). Most notable for the sake of language learning: the DS version isn’t voiced and iirc it has slightly different dialogue due to the nature of some scenes being rewritten for the dialogue-only option you mentioned.


Oooh yeah that’s right, proposal updated! I think all the rest are the remastered version but definitely something to check case-by-case.


yeah, I know Steam/PS4/Xbox all are remastered for sure. I think the Vita version might be remastered too? (just checked wikipedia: yes the vita version is the remaster) The way to tell is if it’s packaged as The Nonary Games, it’s the remaster.

mobile version is weird since it has an extra ending for some reason and doesn’t have the escape rooms, but I don’t think you can download it anymore anyway. I have no idea if it’s voiced since I haven’t played it, but I don’t think it is?


And here I was content to lurk in this thread until my all time favorite game was mentioned…

The mobile version of 999 is unvoiced, and notably does not include the puzzles. It’s not the ideal way to experience it but it is probably more streamlined if someone wouldn’t want to sit through all the puzzle solving.

As for the port, a lot of the narration that gets cut from ADV mode is IMO pretty critical, and NVL mode makes sure you won’t miss any details - but ADV mode is certainly faster and easier to parse given that it’s 100% voiced.


loving all the 999 talk! It’s easily in my top 3 games of all time and while I don’t know if I’d play it in Japanese, if it got picked I’d love to play in English alongside the group and help out that way :smile:

I also only ever played the trilogy through the original 3/DS games so i didn’t realize 999 got voiced in the remaster! I bought the steam version to force on lend to friends but sadly can’t play it on my mac otherwise I’d love to replay it voiced.

Edit: also didn’t realize they released a version without the puzzles! the story is definitely strong enough to be fun on its own but that’s missing out on a huge part of the experience. granted it would work great for a book club


Is 9 a special number in Japanese? Or just a funny coincidence with the title of this one being 999 and earlier we had 9-nine :sweat_smile:



Of course :joy: No surprise here

I still haven’t finished this because I’m a dumbass :sob:
I should find some time to binge the rest soonish hopefully :durtle_love:

Probably wouldn’t (re)read this with the club since it hasn’t been that long yet, but would enjoy seeing others play it for sure :laughing:

Definitely recommend :eyes:

Uhh… whoops? :joy:
I tried both in the beginning to see if there was anything in the narration that was really important and it seemed like mostly just obvious stuff, so I might have been playing with the dialogue only option 95% of the time :face_in_clouds:
(except for when the game force-switches to the narration mode)
… should I switch once I get back to this? Hmm


REMINDER: Two more days to post new nominations if you want them in the poll! Wednesday evening, central european time, I plan to put together the poll.

Nice to see some new nominations coming in. :smiley:


Hehehe I’m so glad to revive the 999 talk again :grin:

replies got long oops

My response was a bit rushed before but yay that’s super exciting!! If it works out that way I hope you enjoy it :grin:

Yay! :tada: The club’s influence grows haha

I meaaan if you’ve played it before that could be a good boost for trying it out in Japanese, just saying :eyes: is my super subtle influencing working lmao but seriously either way I think it’d be a lot of fun as a group! I’m certainly interesting in rereading it and seeing what all I missed the first time

You know I wondered that but the opposite way when 9-nine first showed up, who’s to say :man_shrugging:

I must maintain my brand

I believe in you :muscle:

I meaaaan that also sounds like a good excuse to reread it in a hypothetical club :eyes: I’m a great influence :joy:


it’s just especially cute(きゅうt)


Unless I made a mistake, I used @Sylph’s math to figure out approximate number of weeks for all entries without a character count. I also added Sylph’s formula to the OP, so people can use that to calculate themselves in the future.

The way I did it was I calculated two character counts (aka a range) with Sylph’s formula. Playtime x 16k characters and playtime x 19k characters. Then I divided the low character count by the high weekly amount (25k) to give the lower weeks needed estimate, and I divided the high character with the low weekly amount (22.5k) to get the highest number of weeks estimated. Unless a VN was very short, the span of weeks a VN might take went from a variance of 1 with known character count to a month and a half difference in time.

Of those currently nominated, only one seems to potentially push past our upper limit, and that would be my nomination of Nightshade. I won’t withdraw it right now*, since the count is entirely based on estimates of estimates. But I will make sure to point it out for the poll, and discourage anyone who fear that the weekly amount might already be a big ask from voting for Nightshade at present.

So hopefully all this work will prove useful in the end. xD

A special thanks to @Sylph who made these calculations possible!

EDIT: *unless you guys think I should. ^^


Personally I think that’s fine; having these guidelines for max length and such is good for having a general idea of these things, but I think if a VN goes beyond those and it’s clearly marked as such and it wins the vote anyway, then clearly people are also fine with that :man_shrugging: Setting hard limits is difficult especially when we don’t for sure know the character counts of like half the things we encounter :joy:

So basically yeah I think having general expectations for what the club will look like is helpful, but I think it’s also okay for exceptions to happen if the people involved are okay with it. But again that’s just me :laughing:


I think you shoud leave it because I want to vote for it since it’s all an estimation and it’s supposed to be shorter than BU$TAFELLOWS anyway not to mention the only otome with a seemingly interesting plot that is available on both PC and Switch and isn’t 40h+



One day, earliest next year I suspect (more likely 2025 lol), I will start reading Hakuouki that I bought not too long ago. That one could only be a casual non-related-to-main-vn club at best, considering its length. xD

Hakuouki Talk

Whew, that’s one beast of a VN, easily +100h. Initially I think it wasn’t so long but then they added a bunch of extra routes and now there’s like 12 routes :skull: I got it a few years back and even though I played in English I’ve only done like half? At this point my plan is to just jump in to do a single route whenever I feel like it since it can get a bit repetitive doing so many routes in the same setting one after another. I wonder if I’ll be done by 2025 :joy:

More Hakuouki talk

I hadn’t thought of that. :thinking: Then, maybe, I can put Hakuouki earlier in my plans, if I won’t read it all at once. xD

Following that, is there a lot of story stuff before the routes starts that you can forget if you do the routes spread out over time?

I would prefer to have some historical and samurai vocabulary under my belt before I tackle that. I wonder if I can slot Rurouni Kenshin (manga) into my reading plan by the end of this year… :thinking:

Even more Hakuoki talk

I almost said to bring this convo to the Otome thread but it seems it was closed a while ago, oops

I’m not sure how your version works, but I have the Steam one where it’s basically divided into two games (so all routes get split in half which is… a choice). The first half is all plot plot plot, mixing historical stuff with other things unique to the plot of the game (I won’t spoil it), and there are a few variations depending on choices that eventually determine which route you are on, but after a few routes you’ll have probably seen it all. You don’t really get into the character’s specific route until like the last chapter of that first half. Then in the second game they just let you choose which route you are on (since it wasn’t possible to know your choices in the other game), and that’s where the more otome side of the game begins. However in all-in-one-game versions I imagine it’s continuous and the choices carry over but I have no clue really.

In my opinion once you’ve seen the variations in the common route you’ll feel pretty done with it and at that point I’d just recommend skipping to choices to see what’s different for this character’s route. It’s very easy to know if you are heading for a good end in this game because there’s an indicator that shows when you picked the ‘good’ choice for a certain character so a guide may be needed to get locked into a character’s route but once you are there it’s a matter of saving at choices and reloading if you got it wrong.

The first half of the game is pretty dense and the samurai/historical talk feels pretty intimidating not gonna lie, but I’d also love to be able to get into those historical setting games in Japanese eventually so I’m rooting for you! Well, at least I can use the listening practice I guess :sweat_smile:

Now I kinda wanna go play one of the routes I have left…