NORN9: VAR COMMONS is an Otome visual novel developed by Otomate featuring three main female characters. It was originally released in Japan for the PSP in 2013, and was given a PS Vita port subtitled Var Commons in 2014. The localized version of Norn9 was officially released by Aksys Games on November 3, 2015.
Release Date: November 3, 2015 (North America)
Publishers: Aksys Games
Platforms: PS VITA
ESRB Rating: M(Mature)
Read the game’s synopsis here.
Fun Fact: The game has an anime adaptation began airing on January 7th, 2016 as part of the Winter 2016 Anime season.
ART AND MUSIC
Arguably, there are two artists responsible for NORN9’s overall artwork. First is Satoi, (for the game’s chibi character designs) – a Japanese Illustrator who’s incredibly famous for her other popular works (E.g. Diabolik Lovers, Nil Admirari, Ozmafia!, Re: Birthday Song). Now, she’s currently working on her next project with Otomate “Olympia Soiree” which will hit the Nintendo Switch otome market (Japan) in 2019. The next artist is, Teita who’s responsible for the original character designs of NORN9. Teita has also done her fair share of producing beautiful character designs of today’s most popular otome games in the market. Some of her prominent works are Nightshade “Hyakka Hyakurou” and the recently released Otomate title, Charade Maniacs.
Another notable aspect of NORN9 Var Commons is its outstanding soundtrack. Almost all the BGMs perfectly matched the game’s unique setting and the OP and Ending themes were very remarkable.
Fun Fact: The vocals for the game’s OP, Nagi Yanagi also voiced the side character Aion. If you’ve watched the anime adaptation of Amnesia Memories, Nagi Yanagi also sang the series’ OP song “Zoetrope”. Listen to my fav. Norn9 Var Commons track below, ‘Sunadokei wa Sora no Sora’!
What distinguished Norn9 Var Commons from other otome games was their voiced heroine/s. I’m a huge fan myself, for voiced MCs in otoges, (this is why I’m an absolute sucker for the Psychedelica Series). Voice actors breathe life to a character and it’s definitely a huge advantage in a game whenever the main protagonist gets a VA. It not only contributes to the likability of her character but it also fleshes out her role more in the story.
Ayumi Fujimura “Koharu” – Ruri (Reine des Fleurs), Iwami Aki (Muv-Luv), Neferpitou (Hunter x Hunter)
Ayahi Takagahi “Mikoto Kuga” – Lisbeth/Rika Shinozaki (SAO), Kotoha (Arata the Legend), Young Son Hak (Akatsuki no Yona)
Asami Seto “Nanami Shiranui” – Akira Mado (Tokyo Ghoul), Yui Michimiya (Haikyu!!), Ichiyō Higuchi (Bunguo Stray Dogs)
Daisuki Ono “Natsuhiko Azuma” – Ryouma Sakamoto (Hakuoki), Hyuuga (Neo Angelique), Hades (Kamigami no Asobi), Subaru Asahina (Brother’s Conflict), Yuuya (Muv-Luv)
Hiro Shimono “Senri Ichinose” – Shou Kurusu (Utapri), Kuroyuki (Nightshade), Sou Kiryuu (Harukanaru Toki no Naka De 5), Ricchie (Black Wolves Saga)
Koji Yusa “Itsuki Kagami” – Sanosuke Harada (Hakuoki), Mr. Gasmask (Bad Apple Wars), Bernardo (Luckydog1)
Tomokazu Sugita “Ron Muroboshi” – Takuma (Hiro no Kakera), Oda Nobunaga (Ikemen Sengoku), Rabbit Head (Bad Apple Wars), Reine des Fluers (Hubert), Sasuke Sarutobi (Kurenai)
Mitsuki Saiga “Sakuya Nijo” – Dantalion (Tokyo Babel), Ashley Curtis (Iris School of Wizardry Vinculum Hearts)
Hiroyuki Yoshino “Heishi Otomaru” – Heisuke Toudou (Hakuoki), Sendo Kiyoharu (Vitamin X), Auger von Garibaldi (Black Wolves Saga)
Takuya Sato “Masamune Toya” – Yuuma Kuga (Million Dollar Boyfriend), Katakura Kojuurou (Sengoku Night Blood), Ryonosuke Tsunashi (Idolish7)
Yuki Kaji “Kakeru Yuiga” – Finis (Code Realize), Kei Okazaki (Collar x Malice), Kanato (Diabolik Lovers), Kazue Souma (Hakuoki), Rath Vogart (Black Wolves Saga) Hayato Ozaki (Nil Admirari)
MAIN CHARACTERS (NO SPOILERS)
Although all the routes follow through the same storyline, there are some characters that are best played in the latter part of the game. If you’re like me who’s concerned about major spoilers when picking which routes to start in a game, I’ve prepared a few suggestions of Norn9 Var Commons’ route order below:
1st Option (from least spoiler content to greatest): Heishi — Senri — Sakuya — Kakeru — Masamune — Itsuki — Akito — Ron — Natsuhiko
2nd Option (from least spoiler content to greatest w/ enjoyable pace):Kakeru — Heishi — Senri — Sakuya — Istuki — Masamune — Akito — Ron — Natsuhiko
3rd Option (I’ve enjoyed and played mine in this order): Kakeru — Senri — Sakuya — Masamune — Heishi — Istuki — Akito — Ron — Natsuhiko
If you’d rather deviate with the suggested order above, make sure to play either Senri, Heishi, Sakuya, Kakeru first. Then Masamune, Itsuki in the middle but be sure to play the last three routes in this order: Akito – Ron – Natsuhiko (as finale).
While playing the prologue as Sorata, Koharu is the first main character you’ll get in contact with at the start of the game. She has a very meek and gentle personality and because she lived her life in entire seclusion, she’s initially very innocent and gullible to a point of ignorance. Despite this, Koharu remains kindhearted to everyone she meets. She’s also one of the most powerful espers to board the NORN ship.
My first impression with Koharu was that I thought she’s going to be one of those bland naive heroines who’ll get dragged around by the guys. Luckily, she didn’t turn out that way. (Phew!) Rather, she went through an awesome character development, especially in Senri’s route. I have to admit her naivety is actually one of her charms! Koharu is such a darling and I believe she’s one of the stronger protagonists of the game.
Mikoto is the oldest of the three heroines. She acts very mature and keeps a strong sense of responsibility in taking care of the younger girls, Koharu and Nanami (kind of like their big sister). It is also because of her esper powers that she feels the need to protect others to a point where she pushes herself to her limit and abandons her own safety. Because she was born into a noble family she can be really uptight and bossy sometimes.
I remember really hating Mikoto’s character at first. She is a tsundere A-type heroine and her harsh rejections towards her love interests can be really off-putting sometimes (esp. to poor Itsuki) but I’ll be damned if her character depth and development wasn’t paced so well. Mikoto was perhaps my favorite heroine in Norn9. Her character really shined all throughout her (three) routes, plus she gets all the cool guys ~particularly, Natsuhiko and Istuki (laughs).
Nanami Shiranui’s family comes from a long line of a famous shinobi (ninja) descendant, dating back to very old times. Although her family does not live and practice a shinobi’s lifestyle anymore, they became famous because of Nanami’s esper powers which eventually rose them back to fame as they make a living out of her special “gift”.
Nanami is perhaps the most popular and the most loved heroine in Norn9. Perhaps it’s because of her kuudere nature that makes it impossible for you not to like her character. She’s very reserved and polite and carries around a kunai which she uses from time to time, in case, her love interest tries to make advances on her. ha!
Out of the three heroines, Nanami was my least favorite. I think it’s because her personality is defined depending on the guy she’s with. She’s also the weakest heroine among the three, which was totally understandable since her powers aren’t combative like Koharu’s nor protective like Mikoto’s. Though I feel like she could’ve been more strong-willed in terms of making her own decisions and taking matters into her own hands. ┐(︶▽︶)┌
The Guys KAKERU YUIGA
Kakeru is a bright, resolute young lad who’s esper powers can control and summon greenery (plants). He is sometimes known to be sadistic especially when *playfully* bullying Senri in the Norn ship. He wears a metal cuff in his left ear as a memento of his father.
Kakeru’s route went from smooth sailing with just pure love-dovey scenes with Koharu to a major train wreck near the end. The sudden turn of events in his story was definitely unexpected. It’s also because I played his route first hence I was so caught off guard. His story left me a little unsatisfied after it concluded in an open-ended finish (most of the NORN9 endings are like this). If it wasn’t for Yuki Kaji voicing him, I probably would’ve not enjoyed his route as much. ┐(︶▽︶)┌
Senri is a shut-in pessimistic boy who prefers to stay in his room for days rather than socialize with everyone in the Norn ship. His distrust towards everybody stems from a past experience that left him traumatized for years. He enjoys and feels more relaxed when he’s surrounded by bodies of water since no one can chase after him there.
I’ve actually enjoyed Senri’s route a lot! I wasn’t expecting this character to become extremely likable that he out-shined the other two (Kakeru and Masamune) in Koharu’s harem. I also believe he’s the best match for Koharu and I find it really cute how both their characters complement each other so well. Kudos to Hiro Shimono for his awesome portrayal of Senri!
Masamune is perhaps the oldest esper in the Norn ship. Because of this, he not only acts as the big-bro of the group but also as a reliable young adult, who keeps peace and order around the ship. He possesses a wide spectrum of knowledge and is the only member who’s responsible for reporting all activities inside the Norn ship to “The WORLD”.
I’m not sure how I feel about Masamune’s route in general. I don’t really see him making any kind of genuine connection with Koharu. At one point, Koharu just out of the blue developed this crush for Masamune and Masamune returning the favor by liking her back (or maybe he was just thirsty?? hah!)
Because Masamune’s an older character, he gets a lot of *cough*sexytime scenes with lil miss Koharu. This is either a yay or nay in his route depending on your preferences lol. (ʘ‿ʘ)/. Ngl, I may have enjoyed some of his horny urges because I’m just trash like that. lmao
Sakuya is Mikoto’s childhood friend. Just like her, he comes from a noble family and was regarded in the game as “a very handsome, almost princelike young lad”. He’s also very protective of Mikoto to a point where he’ll happily risk his life for her sake.
Sakuya was probably my least favorite route in Norn9. At the start, I feel like he was Mikoto’s very own lapdog who follows her around, anticipating for a treat – it was too painful to watch! Then we have Mikoto pushing him away, telling him, not to fall in love with her because they need to fulfill a certain “vow” they made when they were kids. I mean, I totally get the whole tragic story behind these “vows” but it went on for the entirety of his story, It was such a drag. I guess I’m just not a big fan of the childhood-friend trope? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Because I was the least bit interested in Sakuya’s story, completing his route became a chore for me.
Itsuki is a handsome young man who’s earned his title as the biggest flirt in the NORN ship. Because he grew up in the red light district, he’s developed this playful personality and is very good with his flowery words to woo dem ladies. Istuki is also very smart and cunning though he’d rather joke around telling lies than speak his mind and his true feelings. Due to his very lax attitude, almost no one ever takes him seriously.
Istuki is one of my fav. characters in NORN9. I guess I have a weakness for cheeky charmers with purple highlights! (not to mention my extreme bias in Koji Yusa’s sexy voice) ha! (°◡°♡) I had a few good laughs playing Itsuki’s story. His flirty nature was, of course, the highlights of his entire route lol. If you enjoy a steamy romance with a little angst, Itsuki is one for the taking. His story, on the other hand, didn’t really contribute much to the game’s underlying plot.
Heishi is the most energetic esper to aboard the NORN ship. He’s also the friendliest of all the members and the mood maker of the team. He possesses the ability of telepathy, yet very unstable, as his personal thoughts and feelings often leak out.
Heishi was my least favorite guy in Nanami’s harem, but I do remember liking his story at the beginning. His banters with Nanami were just adorable. They make a good tandem when it comes to destroying the ship’s kitchen through their disastrous cooking shenanigans. More than anything, I think of them both as children than a mature couple.
Heishi’s story also has the least spoiler-ey content of the game’s overall plot, so I think it’s a good idea to play his route as a starter.
The roughest, rudest esper to aboard the NORN ship yet everyone respects him because he’s merely the best cook in the team. Akito also treats Nanami, cruelly for some reason which you’ll get to discover why ~going down his route. Although he fronts a violent persona, Akito is immensely afraid of the hiyokos of the Norn ship lol, this is one of his weakness, which everyone finds extremely amusing.
Akito is a tsundere by nature, and I absolutely love him! His route was also very interesting as it didn’t follow through the overarching plotline of NORN9 but instead, mainly focused on his backstory with the heroine, Nanami. This route contains major spoilers so be sure NOT to play him first in the game. I believe Akito is Nanami’s true route, though I personally feel that Nanami isn’t a good match for Akito?? Oh well…┐(‘～` )┌
Ron is another older member in the NORN ship. He usually just keeps to himself and doesn’t really contribute much during their occasional meetings. He’s also one of the earlier members to join the NORN. He can never remember anyone’s names nor cares to remember them at all.
Ron is prob the worst route in the game. No contest! You really can’t justify this character’s actions. He’s an all-around jerkass! But I’ll be damned if I wasn’t attracted to this insensitive asshole! haha
So, yeah here I am trying to question myself for my horrible taste in (2D) men and the game’s attempt to giving this character a route that forces a sad excuse of a “romantic” finish up our throats. lol The fact that Nanami just quickly fell in love with him despite his violent and “abusive” actions was literally a giant exacerbated question mark. I tip my hat to Sugita’s voice acting for making this character such a wild treat.
Natsuhiko is considered one of the antagonist in the story (depending on whose route you’re in). Due to certain reasons, he’s after the lives of those aboard the Norn ship. As a scientist, he’s very good at inventing and handling machines. He’s also rockstar when it comes to piloting ships.
Natsuhiko is the BEST canon boy of Norn9. Since most routes concluded with open-ended scenarios following the game’s overall plot, Natsuhiko’s story is the only route that made perfect sense in terms of covering the whole NORN story, the “WORLD” organization and how the espers came to be. His route also does NOT hold back when it comes to *cough* steamy love scenes.
It’s pretty rewarding to finally play his route after all the cliffhangers and the loose threads that were previously presented in the game. I’m glad I played Natsuhiko’s story last too, otherwise, the other routes that’ll come after him would be totally irrelevant.
Wait… who? Oh, right! Sorata! The main protagonist of NORN9!
One minor turn off was that the game totally failed to mention Sorata in most routes to a point where you’d be oblivious to the fact that he apparently still exist. Sorata actually has his own story and by playing his epilogue, you’ll be able to finally understand how on earth did this young boy ended up as the main protagonist of this otome game! (Cackles)
Okay, Setsu is just a side character but I felt the need to include him because his character was just hilarious af! Setsu is an extreme masochist and he’d do anything, for you to spit disgust on his face. The dude craves for some good ol’ violent slapping, I kid you not! I guess there’s a tiny voice inside of me that wished for a Setsu route just for shits and giggles. lmao
- NORN9 QUEST – this mini-game will only be available after you’ve completed the game’s prologue. It can be accessed under “New Contents” when you hover over the option that says “???”, you’ll have to tap the ship from the top right of the screen to play it. You don’t necessarily need to play this mini-game but getting 5,000 points in it will unlock a PS Trophy. This can become a major pain if you’re a completionist like me as the game points you’ll be getting depends on sheer luck.
- NORN+ENSEMBLE – If you were wondering about those KEYWORDS that appear on your screen as you unlock a chapter in a route, they are for this mini-game. The Norn + Ensemble can be accessed in the EXTRAS menu. This game, lets you mix and match character lines to simulate a conversation when you press PLAY after arranging the keywords together. The NORN+Ensemble PS Trophy automatically unlocks after completing all of the game’s ending anyway, so don’t even bother playing this mini-game.
TRAILER / OPENING MOVIE
OVERALL THOUGHTS? ♡ (˘▽˘)
It took me a whole month to complete the entire game. This is mainly my fault for playing it during the holidays where I barely have any time for gaming. With three character routes for each of the three heroines, the game lets you finish a whopping nine routes in total, excluding Sorata’s Epilogue story. So yeah, NORN9 Var Commons isn’t a short gameplay and will definitely take a lot of your time. Story-wise, I actually love the game’s concept. The whole core plot of getting to decide on the “World Reset” was interesting from the very beginning but because there was an overwhelming amount of characters, the story became overly repetitive which kind of gets a bit mundane sometimes (esp. on routes that don’t really interest you). How the overarching story-line was presented was lackluster at best. Some routes contradict each other which leaves you a lot of questions and plot holes to piece together. I guess it’s safe to conclude that the game intended for each route to have its own alternate reality. My favorite heroine was Mikoto, her character development was phenomenal especially in Natsuhiko’s route, next is Koharu because even though she’s a total air-head, she’s at least got some backbone. My least fav. was Nanami, she’s not a bad heroine, but I find her personality too boring for my taste. My favorite routes were Itsuki, Akito, and Natsuhiko with a special mention to Ron for having an absolute garbage route I’ve shamelessly enjoyed. („ಡωಡ„) Do I recommend this game? YES Despite a few gripes I’ve stated above. I’ve quite enjoyed playing NORN9 Var Commons as a whole. It definitely presents a really unique sci-fi story as well as a solid game-play that never cops you out of interesting new characters to love. I recommend picking this game up if you haven’t yet. Its story may not be perfect, but it’s still beautifully done and the game still stands out as one of the better otome titles that were localized throughout the years.