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NORN9 Var Commons Review (Nintendo Switch)
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
If you prefer to deviate from the suggested order above, I think its safe to start with Kakeru, Senri, Heishi, or Sakuya, 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 → Natsuhiko, as they make for a fantastic finale.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Please keep in mind that I wrote this review five years ago when I first played Norn9: Var Commons on the PS Vita. During my second playthrough this year, my impressions of the characters remained mostly unchanged. However, I have added a few commentaries on some of the character routes that I enjoyed more this time around. Additionally, I have included my usual character bullet points for all the heroines and love interests. Any new impressions from 2023 will be marked with a [***]. Furthermore, I have edited the rest of the review to improve the article’s grammar flow.😘
- 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 thankfully she proved me wrong! She was actually really awesome! And her character development, especially in Senri’s route were superb! Her naivety wasn’t off-putting at all; if anything, it added more to her charm. Additionally, I believe Koharu is 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 (she’s kind of like a big sister to them). 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 the start of the game. 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). Nonetheless, I cannot deny that Mikoto’s character was exceptionally well-written, not to mention, evolved significantly throughout the game. Mikoto was undoubtedly my favorite heroine in Norn9, and her persona radiated in all three of her routes. What’s more, she gets two of my best boys in her harem, Natsuhiko and Istuki – which I thought was a plus point!🥵
- 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!
***After playing Norn9 again for the second time, I feel like the issue I had with Nanami was that I was constantly comparing her to the other two heroines. This was somewhat unfair to her since her powers are neither combative nor protective, rendering her entirely useless in group combats. However, this does not diminish her value as one of the espers in the Norn ship. Her strength is deeply rooted within her heart, and I her patience is unmatched (esp. in Ron’s route). Baby girl, definitely grew on me the second time around! 🥰
- 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!
- big bro
horny on main👀
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 right away (or was he just thirsty? LOL). Since Masamune is an older character, his route had a lot of, shall we say, *sexy times* with little miss Koharu? Whether that’s a yay or a nay in his route entirely depends on your personal preferences. (cackles) (ʘ‿ʘ) I personally found some of his *questionable 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
Itsuki is the charming heartthrob of the NORN ship who has rightfully earned his reputation as the “biggest flirt”. His playful personality is a product of growing up in the red light district, and he has a talent for using his flowery language to woo the ladies. However, there’s more to Itsuki than meets the eye. Although he has Casanova facade, he possesses a sharp mind and cunning intellect. Yet, his relaxed attitude, which often involves telling lies and making jokes, prevents him from being taken seriously by most people on the ship. Hence his true thoughts and feelings are never communicated thoroughly.
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! I can honestly say, that his flirty nature was 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 something you need to check out! 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.
As with most genki characters, Heishi was the ‘sunshine boy’ in Norn9. Admittedly, he’s my least favorite character from Nanami’s harem. But I did remember enjoying his banter with Nanami and thought they were too adorable together. I also loved their disastrous cooking shenanigans. These two in the kitchen were just hilarious as heck! 😂Despite the chemistry they shared, however, I couldn’t help but see them more as children than a mature couple. Which is probably the reason why I couldn’t get into their romance.
Heishi’s route is also the least spoiler-y in terms of content that adheres to the overarching plot of Norn9. Therefore, if you want to start off light and avoid significant plot revelations in your first playthrough, I highly recommend playing his story, at least at the beginning.
- 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.
***Alright, listen up! I feel like I was in denial about Ron five years ago. This was back when the community was notoriously indifferent when it came to liking problematic characters. So, while I’ve shamelessly admitted to liking this route, I was forcing myself to feel remorseful about it. 😂 (cackles) Now that I am unapologetically free from any inhibitions whatsoever, I can confidently say that I absolutely loved everything about Ron’s route in Norn9! I loved Ron’s carefree self and his ‘no-fuqs-given’ attitude, as well as the fact that he receives absolutely no redemption in his story. He really is the OG walking red flag…
Yang could never…!
***Playing Ron’s route the second time around was definitely a wild treat. I was cackling and giggling on the side while imagining what the amazing Sugita (his VA) might’ve looked like while trolling around, reciting his lines.😂This time around, I enjoyed it even more than before, maybe because I already knew how his story goes down. Sometimes when life gives you a dumpster fire, you just gotta put on your best hazmat suit and dive right in!🤪 ~This is literally, Ron’s route in a nutshell!💩
- 👀 🔥 🥵
- 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 stones may break my bones…
- but chains and whips excite me…😏
Okay, Setsu is just an NPC 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! 🤭
SYSTEM AND LOCALIZATION
First of all, I wanted to commend the game’s localization glow-up! For context; eight years ago, the PS Vita version of Norn9 was plagued with translation errors and typos that turned off many players during its release. So when Aksys Games announced the Nintendo Switch port for this title last year, they promised to correct these issues – and well, they certainly delivered on their word! The localization for Norn9’s switch port was really good! No more of the heavy translation mistakes, nor weird kissing noises!😅 Looks like we’re finally winning folks!
Regarding the port itself, there are additional commands and shortcuts that are exclusive to the Switch version and were not present in the Vita version. One in particular was the “Skip to the next choice/chapter” which you can activate by simply holding the ZL button and pressing the 🔽 on your left joy-con. This feature was a game changer, adding more convenience and ease for players to navigate the game quickly and collect all of its CGs in no time. A big plus for obsessive-compulsive players like myself who loves to achieve 100% completion.
- NORN9 QUEST is a mini-game that can only be accessed after completing the prologue of the game. To play it, go to the “EXTRA” section and select “NORN9 QUEST”. This mini-game awards you with Norn9 points that can be used in the Norn9 store to purchase additional CGs and BGMs. However, it’s important to note that this game relies solely on luck.
- NORN+ENSEMBLE – If you were wondering about those “KEYWORDS” that randomly appear on your screen as you unlock a chapter in a route, they are for this mini-game. To play it, simply go to the “EXTRA” menu and select “NORN9 ENSEMBLE”. Once there, you can mix and match character lines to create a hilarious conversation flow with your chosen keywords. While this game can be entertaining, it’s not necessary to play it unless you want to.
OVERALL THOUGHTS (REVISED)
This otome title is undoubtedly on the lengthier side. I believe it took me around 50-60 hours to complete it the first time. 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.
Playing the game for the second time on the Nintendo Switch, unfortunately, did not change my opinion of it. The overall plot remained a hot mess, with plot holes bigger than the ones in my pocket after my monthly merch shopping sprees. 🤓 I stand by what I said the first time; the game concept was brilliant! 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. How the storyline was pieced together at the end of some routes left me with more questions than answers.
Now that my gripes about the plot are out of the way, I’d like to shift my focus to Norn9’s vibrant and dynamic cast of characters, which I believe is where the game truly shines. Every single character in Norn9, from the main heroines and their love interests to the side characters, was meticulously crafted. Their nuanced personalities, which I was particularly fond of, made it easy to root for them. Simply put, Norn9’s characters undoubtedly stole the show.
Mikoto is still my best girl (and still one of my favorite heroines of all time). Koharu, despite her occasional air-headedness, is still such a darling of a character who showed not only some backbone during combats, but also courage and determination in many instances. That said, she remained second place in my personal MC rankings for Norn9. As for Nanami, she definitely grew on me the second time around, and I’m placing this kuudere sweetheart third in my ranking not because her character is any less good than the other two. It’s just that I preferred Mikoto and Koharu’s personality tropes better.
As for the LIs, I’ve come to appreciate Sakuya more this time around. However, I still found his route (and its trope) not for me. (laughs)😂 As for my favorites, Natsuhiko’s route remains the best in the game, no contest! However, my oshi-crown goes to non other than Ron Muroboshi. 😝 Five years later and he’s still one of the few LIs that gave me the ultimate, unbridled trash experience.👑🔥
Do I recommend this game? YES
After re-playing NORN9 Var Commons for the second time, I must say that I still thoroughly enjoyed this title as a whole. The game offers a truly unique sci-fi story with a solid gameplay and a diverse cast of interesting characters you are sure to adore. While this title is not without its flaws, it remains a classic that must be experienced by all otome game enthusiasts. If you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend picking it up. There’s a reason why even after the release of many new otome games over the years, NORN9 fans remain loyal and hyped with this title’s port to the Nintendo Switch. This, in itself, is a testament to the game’s appeal and its enduring popularity. 😘
If this review piqued your fancy, give in to the FOMO and don’t be a NORN9 noob – join the hype train and give this game a shot!