Release Date: November 3, 2015 (North America)
Publishers: Aksys Games
Platforms: PS VITA, Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: T(Teen)
A boy is swept away to a different time, carried on the notes of a mysterious song.
When he awakens, he finds himself in a strange place.
Old-fashioned buildings within a nostalgic world.
It was as if he jumped into the Taisho era pages of his history book.
It feels nostalgic, but something is off—.
After a period of isolation, Japan has shifted to a democratic government and a culture of freedom.
There is excitement amongst its people, and the country is vibrant.
The future is bright with youths leisurely striding down newly-paved streets.
There is no starvation or poverty in sight, and guns and weapons are nowhere to be seen.
All lives are equal, without discrimination or differences in rank. It is a world where all is blessed.
Did such a time ever exist…?
Here, a strange jamais vu mixes with nostalgia and discomfort.
Here, the history you didn’t even know existed will now be unraveled.
Fun Fact: The game has an anime adaptation that 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). Currently, she is working on her upcoming project with Otomate, “Olympia Soiree,” which is set to release on the Nintendo Switch otome market 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’!
Norn9 Var Commons stood out among other otome games due to its unique feature of having three voiced heroines. I love it when the main heroine is voiced. Having a voiced MC allows for more nuanced interactions and dialogue, making the overall experience more immersive to players. The Psychedelica Series does this super well, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m such a huge fan of it!
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)
Even though all the routes follow the same storyline, certain characters are better played towards the end of the game. If you’re like me and worry about spoilers when deciding which routes to start with, I’ve got some route order suggestions for Norn9 Var Commons 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
BONUS: 3rd Option (I’ve enjoyed and played mine in this order): Kakeru — Senri — Sakuya — Masamune — Heishi — Istuki — Akito — Ron — Natsuhiko
If you prefer to deviate from the suggested order above, I think its safe to start with Senri, Heishi, Sakuya, or Kakeru, as their routes have the least spoilers. Then proceed with Masamune and Itsuki in the middle. However, ensure that you save the last three routes for the end in the following order: Akito, Ron, and Natsuhiko, as they make for a fantastic finale.
- bb girl!
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 is kindhearted to everyone she meets, which is why she remains likable throughout the game. Interestingly, she’s also one of the most powerful espers aboard the NORN ship.
When I first met Koharu, I was worried she’d be one of those bland heroines who just get dragged around by the guys. But thank goodness, she proved me wrong! She had some awesome character development, especially in Senri’s route. And honestly, her naivety is kinda cute and adds to her charm. Overall, I think Koharu is a darling and I believe. she’s one of the strongest protagonists in the game.
- best girl
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 initially disliking 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). However, I’ll be damned if her character depth and development weren’t done so well. Mikoto was perhaps my favorite heroine in Norn9, and her character shone throughout all three of her routes. Additionally, she gets plus points for having two of my best boys in her harem, Natsuhiko and Istuki (laughs).
- kuudere heroine
- worst cook
Nanami Shiranui’s family comes from a long line of famous shinobi descendants, dating back to ancient times. Although her family no longer lives a traditional shinobi lifestyle, they became well-known once again due to Nanami’s esper powers. Her unique abilities enabled them to earn a living, and her family rose back to fame as a result.
Nanami is perhaps the most popular and 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 trusty kunai, which she brandishes from time to time to ward off any unwanted advances from her love interests. Ha!
While I found Nanami to be my least favorite of the three heroines in Norn9, I can appreciate her unique qualities. Her personality may seem to shift depending on the guy she’s with, but I can’t deny that she exudes a gentle and caring nature. And although her esper powers may not be as combative as Koharu’s or protective as Mikoto’s, I admire her for finding ways to use them effectively when situation arises. I just thought that she could’ve been more strong-willed in terms of making her own decisions and taking matters into her own hands in some routes. ┐(︶▽︶)┌
- has a green thumb (literally)
- gets a pass for being voiced by Yuki Kaji 😂
Kakeru is a bright, resolute young man gifted with remarkable esper powers that allow him to effortlessly control and summon greenery. He also has a mischievous streak, especially when playfully bullying Senri in the Norn ship. He keeps a metal cuff on his left ear as a cherished keepsake from his late father.
Kakeru’s route started off smoothly with pure love-dovey scenes with Koharu, but it turned into a major train wreck near the end. The sudden turn of events in his story was definitely unexpected, especially since I played his route first and was caught off guard. (laughs) His story left me feeling a little unsatisfied because it concluded with an open-ended finish, which is typical for most of the NORN9 endings tbh. If Yuki Kaji hadn’t voiced him, I probably wouldn’t have 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 on the Norn ship. His distrust towards everybody stems from a past experience that left him traumatized for years. He enjoys feeling 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, outshining 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!
- horny 👀
- big bro
Masamune is the oldest esper on the Norn ship, which not only makes him the big brother of the group but also a reliable young adult who maintains peace and order around the ship. He possesses a wide spectrum of knowledge and is the only member responsible for reporting all activities inside the Norn ship to “The WORLD.”
Honestly, I’m still not sure how I feel about Masamune’s route in general. It didn’t seem like he and Koharu really clicked. At one point, Koharu just randomly developed a crush on Masamune, and he seemed to return those feelings (or was he just thirsty? LOL). Since Masamune is an older character, his route has a lot of, shall we say, *sexy times* with our little miss Koharu. Whether that’s a yay or a nay in his route entirely depends on your personal preferences lol. (ʘ‿ʘ) I personally found some of his *pervy urges* funny, but this may not be the case for everyone. Ha!
- pretty boy
- definitely a power sub 🤭
Sakuya is Mikoto’s childhood friend and comes from a noble family, just like her. He is often described in the game as a “very handsome, almost princelike young lad.” Sakuya is extremely protective of Mikoto and has demonstrated on numerous occasions that he is willing to risk his life for her sake.
Out of all the routes in Norn9, Sakuya’s was probably my least favorite. At the beginning, I felt like he was Mikoto’s very own lapdog, following her around and constantly anticipating a treat – it was painful to watch! Then Mikoto pushes him away and tells him not to fall in love with her because they made a certain “vow” when they were kids. I understand the tragic story behind these so-called “vows,” but the issue went on for the entirety of his story, and it became a bit of a drag. I suppose I’m just not a big fan of the childhood-friend trope? 🤔 Since I wasn’t very interested in Sakuya’s story, completing his route felt like a chore to me.🤷♀️
- the flirt
- best boi #2
This handsome young man is known as the biggest flirt on the NORN ship and has rightfully earned his title. Growing up in the red light district has instilled a playful personality within him, and he’s quite skilled at using his flowery words to woo the ladies. Despite his reputation as a ‘casanova’, Itsuki is also incredibly intelligent and cunning. Unfortunately, he prefers to joke around, telling lies rather than expressing his true thoughts and feelings. This relaxed attitude causes almost nobody to take him seriously in the ship.
Itsuki 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! (°◡°♡ )Playing through Itsuki’s route had me in stitches! His flirty nature was honestly, the absolute highlight of his entire route! If you’re looking for a steamy romance with just the right amount of drama, then Itsuki’s route is definitely worth playing. I admit that his story didn’t contribute significantly to the game’s underlying plot, but heck! I found myself thoroughly enjoying him and Mikoto’s hilarious banter to such an extent that the plot became an afterthought! 😂
- genki flute man
- also a cinnamon roll
…but not really
Heishi is undoubtedly the most energetic esper on the NORN ship. With his friendly and outgoing nature, he easily becomes the mood maker of the team. Although he possesses the ability of telepathy, he often struggles with maintaining stability as his personal thoughts and feelings tend to leak out.
Although Heishi was my least favorite among Nanami’s harem, I must say that I enjoyed his story, especially in the beginning. His banter with Nanami was simply adorable, and their disastrous cooking shenanigans were always entertaining to watch. However, despite the chemistry they shared, I couldn’t help but see them more as children rather than a mature couple. What I appreciate about Heishi’s route is that it has the least spoiler-y content compared to the other routes. Hence, I highly recommend playing his story first (or at least, at the beginning) if you want to start light, as well as, steer clear of any significant plot revelations in your first playthrough.
- Norn9’s resident chef!
Despite his rough and rude exterior, Akito is highly respected on the NORN ship for being the best cook on the team. However, he can be cruel towards Nanami for reasons that are revealed as you go down his route. While he projects a violent-ish persona, Akito’s immense fear of the hiyokos is one of his weaknesses that everyone finds amusing.
Akito’s tsundere nature is absolutely endearing, making him one of my favorite characters in NORN9. I love that his route delved deeply into his backstory with the heroine, Nanami, rather than following the game’s overarching plotline. However, I caution players to avoid doing his route first due to some major spoilers. While I believe Akito is Nanami’s truth’ route, I can’t help but feel that they may not be the best match for each other. But hey, that’s just my opinion!
- oakleys ambassador 😎
Ron is another older member of the NORN ship. He usually keeps to himself and doesn’t contribute much during their occasional meetings. He’s also one of the earlier members to join the NORN and seems to have trouble remembering anyone’s name.
Ron is prob the worst route in the game. No contest! You really can’t justify this character’s actions. 😂 He’s a total jerk! But let me tell you, there’s something inexplicably attractive about his insensitive, devil-may-care attitude.🥵
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.😂 The way Nanami fell head over heels for Ron despite his violent and “abusive” behavior was literally a giant exacerbated question mark.😂
But idk man, I kind of like it for some reason…and Idk why???😳 I tip my hat to Sugita’s voice acting for making this character such a wild treat.
- 👀 🔥 🥵
- Best pilot, best boi!
Natsuhiko is considered one of the antagonists in the story, depending on whose route you’re following. Due to certain reasons, he’s after the lives of those aboard the Norn ship. As a scientist, he’s very skilled at inventing and operating machines, and he’s a rockstar when it comes to piloting ships.
I think Natsuhiko’s route is the best one in Norn9. While most routes conclude with open-ended scenarios that follow the game’s overall plot, Natsuhiko’s story makes perfect sense in terms of covering the entire NORN storyline, the “WORLD” organization, and how the espers came to be. Additionally, his route does not hold back when it comes to *cough* steamy content. Playing Natsuhiko’s route is a truly rewarding experience as it ties up all the loose threads and cliffhangers presented throughout the game. It’s a great relief to finally get a sense of closure on the “WORLD” organization and the origins of the espers. In fact, I’m glad I saved his route for last because any other routes that came after would have paled in comparison.
- knock knock who’s there?
- ^ the actual main protag 😁
Wait… who? Oh, right! Sorata! The main protagonist of NORN9! 😂
It’s kind of hilarious how the game just forgets about him in most of the other routes. It’s like he didnt even exist? Sorata actually has his own story and by playing his epilogue, you’ll be able to finally understand how on earth this young boy ended up as the main protagonist of this otome game! (Cackles)
- sticks and stone may break my bones…
- but chains and whips excites me…😏
Okay, Setsu is just a side character but I felt the need to include him because his character was just hilarious as heck! 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 the sheer entertainment of it? Like come on devs! Give us your best shot! 🤭
- NORN9 QUEST is a mini-game that can only be accessed after completing the game’s prologue. To play it, go to “New Contents” and select “???”, then tap the ship in the top right corner of the screen. While playing this mini-game is not necessary, scoring 5,000 points in it will unlock a PS Trophy (in the PS Vita platform). This can be a major pain for completionists like myself since the game points you earn are based 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. To play it, just head to the EXTRAS menu and start mixing and matching character lines to create hilarious conversations with the chosen keywords. While this game can be entertaining, it’s not necessary to play it unless you want to. Besides, you’ll automatically unlock the NORN+Ensemble PS Trophy after completing all of the game’s endings anyway, so it’s not worth stressing over.
TRAILER / OPENING MOVIE
It took me a whole month to complete the entire game. This is mainly my fault for playing it during the holidays when 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 short gameplay and will definitely take a lot of your time.
In regards to the game’s story, I must say that I am quite fond of its concept. The sci-fi premise and the idea of having to decide on a “World Reset” was intriguing right from the start. However, due to the abundance of characters, the narrative did become somewhat repetitive and mundane at times, particularly on routes that didn’t pique my interest. It is truly unfortunate that the overarching storyline was presented in a lackluster manner. Furthermore, I found myself facing several contradictions and plot holes throughout the different routes. It seems as though the game intended for each route to have its own alternate reality?🤔
Among the three heroines, my top pick is Mikoto due to her phenomenal character development, particularly in Natsuhiko’s route. Koharu is my second fav, because, despite her occasional air-headedness, she’s got some backbone and has displayed courage and determination in many instances. My least favorite was Nanami, not because her character was any less good than the other two, but because her personality seemed too bland for my liking. As for the LIs, 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
Although I have mentioned a few gripes above, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed playing NORN9 Var Commons as a whole. The game offers a truly unique sci-fi story with solid gameplay and a diverse cast of interesting characters to love. I highly recommend picking up this game if you haven’t yet. While the story may not be flawless, it is still beautifully crafted, and the game remains one of the best otome titles to have been localized throughout the years. I highly encourage everyone to give it a try and see for yourself why it’s worth the hype!