NORN9: VAR COMMONS
Release Date: November 3, 2015 (North America)
Developers: Otomate, Regista
Publishers: Otomate, Idea Factory International, Aksys Games
Platforms: PS VITA
ESRB Rating: M(Mature)
Read the game’s synopsis here.
I purchased this game last year but kept putting off playing it for all kinds of odd unintended reasons like *cough* a broken vita charger. Plus, I had an overwhelming otome game backlogs this year that I totally forgot about this amazing title that’s been sitting on my shelf for almost a year and a half. Finally, the time has come for me to dive into the world of N O R N !
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. 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. One of her prominent works is 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 incredibly 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 later 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 within the story. 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 aboard the NORN ship.
My first impression with Koharu was that I thought she’s going to be one of those bland naive heroines who’s gonna get dragged around by the guys in the story. Luckily, she didn’t turn out as a doormat and went through a really awesome character development in all of her (three) routes. Though, I have to admit her naivety is actually one of her charms! Koharu is such a darling of a character and I believe that she’s one of the strongest protagonists in the game.
Mikoto is the oldest of the three heroines. She acts very mature and has a strong sense of responsibility for taking care of the other heroines (Koharu and Nanami). 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 every day 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. Unpopular Opinion, but Mikoto was perhaps my fav. heroine in Norn9 as 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 any case, her love interest tries to make advances on her lol. Out of the three heroines, Nanami was my least fav. since her personality in the game is defined depending on the route she’s in. She’s also the weakest heroine by far when compared to the other two which is totally understandable since her powers aren’t combative but I felt like she could’ve been more strong-willed in the game as far as making her own decisions and taking matters into her own hands (lol she’s still fun to play though, this is just me griping! haha). ┐(︶▽︶)┌
Kakeru is a bright and strong-willed 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 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 rabu-rabu (love-dovey) scenes with Koharu to a major train wreck near the end. I did not expect the sudden turn of events in his route. Perhaps, its because I played him first that’s why I was caught off guard? I liked Kakeru as a character of the game but as a love interest? Nah. His route left me a little unsatisfied since it concluded on an open-ended finish (most of the NORN9 endings are like this). If it wasn’t for Yuki Kaji voicing him, I probably would not enjoy his route as much as I thought I’ve had. ┐(︶▽︶)┌
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 everyone stems from how he was treated in the past. He enjoys and feels more relaxed being in the water since no one can chase after him in there.
I’ve actually enjoyed Senri’s route a lot, surprisingly! I didn’t expect his 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 in the game. It’s really cute how both their characters complement each other so well. Also, kudos to Hiro Shimono for his awesome delivery with Senri’s lines. Funny enough, in some routes, I find Senri’s sarcastic dialogues a comic relief or an icebreaker to the immense drama or angst in the NORN9’s overarching story.
Masamune is perhaps the oldest esper in the Norn ship. Because of this, he not only acts as the big-bro for the younger members but also as a reliable young adult, who keeps peace and order in the ship. He possesses a wide spectrum of knowledge and is the only member who’s responsible for reporting all activities inside the Norn to The WORLD. Despite this, his downside is that he can become unnecessarily clumsy sometimes because he’s not too skillful with his hands (when it comes to ship repairs etc.).
I’m not sure how I feel about Masamune’s route as I didn’t really get that kind of genuine connection between him and Koharu. Maybe it’s the age gap? 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?? lol) ...And because Masamune’s an older character, he gets a lot of *cough* sexytime *cough* scenes with lil miss innocent (Koharu). This is either a yay or nay in his route depending on your preferences (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 described in the game as a really handsome young man. He’s also very protective towards Mikoto to a point where he’ll happily risk his life for her sake.
Probably my least fav. route in the game was Sakuya’s. This route was such a drag because the whole childhood friend trope was just too much to bear in his story. At the start, I felt that Sakuya was Mikoto’s very own lapdog who follows her around, anticipating for a treat – it was too painful to watch! Then we have Mikoto telling him, he must not fall in love with anyone (esp. to her) so she tries to push him away because they need to fulfill certain “vow” they made when they were kids. Like, I totally get the whole tragic story behind their said “vows” but this went on for the entirety of his route, I just couldn’t wait for it to end tbh! Perhaps to someone who enjoys a good ol’ cliche childhood-friend-love-story, this is route is probably for you. But because I was the least bit interested in Sakuya and his story, completing his route merely became a chore. (￣ヘ￣)
A handsome young man who’s earned his title as the biggest flirt in the NORN ship. Because Itsuki grew up in the red light district, he’s developed this playful personality and is very good with his flowery words to woo women. 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 facade, 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 playful flirtings were, 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. Though his story didn’t really contribute too much with 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, although it is very unstable, as his personal thoughts and feelings often leak out.
Heishi was my least fav. guy in Nanami’s harem, though, I remember liking his story at the start because he looked so cute together with Nanami. Plus, he has his own BG (flute) music which I find really soothing. (laughs)^^ Heishi’s route also has the least spoilery content of the game’s overall plot, so I think it’s a good idea to play his story as a starter.
The roughest, rudest esper to aboard in 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 seriously afraid of the hiyokos in the ship lol, this is one weakness of his, which everyone finds extremely amusing.
Akito is a tsundere (who’s got no chill) and I absolutely love him! haha His route was also interesting enough as it didn’t follow through the overarching story of NORN9 and focused mainly on his backstory with the heroine, Nanami. His route also had a lot of 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 amongst aboard the NORN ship. He usually just keeps to himself and doesn’t really contribute much during their occasional meetings. He doesn’t talk about himself at all, so no one knows much about him. Though he’s 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 the worst route in the game. No contest! You really can’t justify this character’s actions. He’s an all-around major jerkass! But I’ll be damned if I wasn’t attracted to this insensitive bonehead of character! 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 towards her was literally a giant exacerbated question mark. I tip my hat to Sugita’s voice acting for making this character such a wild treat.haha
Natsuhiko is considered one of the antagonist in the story (depending who’s 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, handling machines, and a specialist at controlling and maneuvering ships.
Natsuhiko is the BEST canon boy of the game. Since most routes concluded with open-ended scenarios when it comes to the game’s overall plot, Natsuhiko is the only route that really made sense as far as covering the whole NORN9 story, the “WORLD” organization and how the espers came to be. Here, we finally get a couple of backstories and action-packed scenes where Natsuhiko has proven himself best boi and a rockstar pilot. His route also does NOT hold back when it comes to *cough* steamy love scenes *cough*. 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 just be totally irrelevant.
Wait… who? Oh, right! Sorata! The main protagonist of NORN9!
One major con 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?! (Thank god!) Ha..ha…haaah!
Okay, Setsu is just a side character of the game but I felt the need to include him in this review because of how hilarious this character is. Setsu is an extreme masochist and he’d do anything for you to spit disgust on his face. The dude, gets off on some good 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 get 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. Don’t even bother playing this mini-game. The NORN+Ensemble PS Trophy automatically unlocks after completing all of the game’s ending anyway.
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 at the start but because there was an overwhelming amount of characters in the game, the story became overly repetitive which kind of gets a bit mundane sometimes (esp. to characters that don’t really interest you). How the overarching story-line was presented was a complete mess as some routes contradict each other and leave you a lot of questions and plot holes to piece together. This really didn’t bother me at first, but as I write this review I began reflecting on the game’s major plot holes that were left open-ended on each story and I’m just here thinking, the “whys” and “hows”… ┐(‘～` )┌ I guess, Its 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 on Natsuhiko’s route, next is Koharu because even though she’s a total air-head, she’s at least got some backbone. 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 (cackles). („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 which 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 its still beautifully done and the game still stands out as one of the better otome titles that were localized throughout the years.