Norn9: Var Commons Review – Review
From the NWR Twitch out of town scoreboard: Norn 9, Mode 7, and Blue Jays 5, Yankees 1
A few weeks ago Aksys released another one of their “classic” otome novel localizations on Switch in Norn9: Var Commons, which mostly attracted negative attention for the editing (or lack thereof) in its original launch. It’s been cleaned up a fair bit with the Switch release, and now it can give the game’s unique structure and storylines time to shine.
Norn9 is set on board a seemingly time-displaced ship headed to an unknown location, who stops to pick up a young boy who seemingly jumped back in time by a century and an amnesiac girl while on a mission for “The World”. After taking the point of view of the young boy for the prologue you can pick one of three girls (including the amnesiac, who at least remembers her name) and take their point-of-view for a chapter, before selecting a male character to follow and (ideally) romance. As the girls explore love with various characters, the special powers that brought the members of the ship crew together and the true reason for their assembly is explained, leading up to a common ending once each girl has reached a happy ending with three different people. Although the “common ending” happens a lot in these stories, the conceit of three different protagonist characters (or four if the young boy is counted) does make for a nice change. The game recommends specific routes to start depending on the chosen character, but one out of the three suitors is locked until at least a route is completed.
The basic gameplay of Norn9 is a simple series of multiple choice selections; there aren’t any other true minigames to deal with, though occasionally there will be a time limit of a few seconds before a choice is locked in for you. Since the game is basically looking at a single trip from different perspectives, there are common plot points that will come up on every route; the ship is being invaded and there’s a fantasy story dream sequence, and you can’t get around that. Thankfully, the game can be set to be generous with offering skips of dialogue that’s being repeated. Another common sequence in each route is a portion where the point-of-view character decides to watch TV, which does nothing to advance the main plot and only provides some background info and points for the game’s unlock system.
The big issue with previous releases of Norm9 was a troubled localization; one of the first links I found when Googling the game included the phrase “Translation Fails”. Thankfully, the text has largely been cleaned up; the typo count was in the single digits, which when dealing with ten storylines that can take a few hours each to complete is within what I expected. The cleanup didn’t make the overarching story any easier to follow, though the individual routes were cleaner and it mostly came together at the end.
A supermajority of time in Norn9 is set on board a rather large ship, so the background variety is going to be fundamentally low – but the game does a good job of spreading out events so that they’re not focused on one area too much. The characters are reasonably attractive, though a little bit more blue hair would have helped make the suitors stand out a little more. The music is good background tunes, and the voice work is fine though maybe the young boy character could have been a little younger.
Now that it’s been cleaned up, Norn9: Var Commons is one of the stronger romance novel entries on Switch. With a neat plot, no time to get bored with a suitor because there’s still plenty to go, and just enough hints to guess where the common ending will go, it’ll be worth some time heading to meet The World.