First Thoughts-Norn9: Var Commons

Before I start this review I have a confession to make, I didn’t buy this game when it first came out… I actually waited until it went on sale during one of PSN’s Flash Sales, so I don’t have any buyers remorse like some folks do. In fact I think I came out like a bandit with this game, because to be honest, Norn9 is worth exactly what I paid for it (and let’s remember that I paid $35 for Alice in the Heart)!

I try to remain neutral when starting a new game, that way I can be as unbiased as possible in my reviews. However, with Norn9: Var Commons that was easier said than done… Since it’s release in the West, Norn9 has been met with some pretty mixed reviews.  On one side of the spectrum are the positive reviews which praise Norn9 for it’s unique plot and interesting characters. Then there are the negative reviews, that point out the various inconsistencies between routes and the gratuitous liberties Aksys took with the translation from Japanese to English. So, I didn’t know what to expect when we in That Game Club decided to pick up Norn9 as our next group gaming experience.

*Disclaimer: All images and screenshots from Norn9 used in this review belong to Idea Factory and Otomate. Please if you are interested in the game, purchase a copy from your local game shop,  Aksys, Amazon.com,  or the PSN Store!*

Norn9: Var Commons is PS Vita port of the 2014 PSP game NORN9 Norun+Nonetto developed by Otomate and published by Idea Factory. The game was later released in English by Aksys Games in 2015. Norn9 follows a group of teen espers as they traverse the globe on their giant Death Star like airship… Unlike most otoges that have only one heroine, Norn9 has three different leading ladies: Koharu, a bubbly amnesiac; Nanami Shiranui, the quiet broody one; and Nanami, the dark haired mature one… Joining our heroines are nine bishies and one shota (you can never have too many bishies)…

you get a bishie

There were so many dudes to pick from that I was actually a little overwhelmed. Then I realized that each heroine was preassigned three exclusive bishies, which I have organized in a nice picture chart!

character table

The first thing I noticed was that not all of the guys show up in the prologue, which was kind of a bummer. But, of the guys that did make an appearance; Akito, Itsuki, and Kakeru were the guys I most wanted to pursue… but, I didn’t really get to spend much time with any of the guys, because someone decided to have us play as the jailbait extra, Sorata. I spent the entire prologue listening to a 10 year old genius throw shade at everyone and everything that he came into contact with. I’ve never really been a fan of shota characters, but Sorata takes it to another level, maybe I’ll like him a little more as the story progresses… But for now, Sorata is just really annoying.

I can’t really say much about Nanami and Mikoto, because we mostly stuck with either Sorata or Koharu aka ‘Hey you’ aka ???, during the events of the prologue. I guess I like Nanami a bit more than the other two, since Koharu seems like an airhead and  Mikoto has this whole alpha queen bee vibe going on. When compared to the other two, Nanami just seemed like the most chill option. I’m curious to see how well my first impressions hold up as I progress further into the game…

I don’t know what people were complaining about, but aside from a few confusing bits in the beginning, I found the plot of the prologue to be rather easy to follow. Now, I will admit that it was a bit of a slow go at first, but once you get on the ship the story starts to pick up considerably. The sprites are really well done which is to be expected from a developer like Otomate, but some of the backgrounds reminded me of the old Voltage Inc games…and not in a good way.

I mentioned this before on Twitter, but the BGM track Hiyoko March sounds eerily similar to the BGM track Hogstein’s Theme from Sweet Fuse- At Your Side… I’m just throwing that tidbit out there for anyone that cares… *Ahem* The overall sound quality was good, but, there were a few times when the BGM overpowered some of the voice performances, like Senri. I tried to adjust the sound settings in an attempt to fix it, but nothing could rectify the situation.

norn death star
Hmm… I wonder if this is relevant to the plot in any way…

So… the plot of Norn9 is very, unique.You have a group of horny, super powered teens stuck together on a Death Star of Peace airship with no parental supervision and let’s not forget the mysterious individual attacking the ship. I’ve only played through the prologue, and I can already tell that there is just too much going on at once. Not to mention all the “mysteries”.

Questions I had while playing the prologue…

  • Why did Sorata time traveling? Why should I care?
  • Who is Koharu? Why can’t she remember her name?
  • Who was her mysterious benefactor?
  • Where are their parents? Will they be paid for their services?
  • Who is The World?
  • Why is their ship modeled after the Death Star? Maybe that’s why they keep getting attacked… Is the attacker Luke Skywalker?
  • Why is the female to male ratio so disproportionate? Do they expect me to believe that there are only 3 female espers in the whole world?
  • What’s up with the name translations? Sorata-kun≠ Mr. Sorata the same goes for Sorata-kun≠ Suzuhara… my Japanese is rusty, but even I remember that much…

final thoughts

So far, my feelings are mixed on  Norn9, sure the premise is unique and the characters are pretty cool, but all of the bad press has me hesitant to fully invest myself in the game. I want to expect the best, but I’ve been burned before and I am not keen on repeating past mistakes anytime soon.

As far as the translation goes, I didn’t really notice too many fails, save for the wonky name changes. However, I have been assured that it’s only down hill from here… But, I don’t imagine Norn9 being any worse than that god awful Alice in the Heart translation from QuinRose.

I plan on splitting my main Norn9 review into three separate reviews, one for each heroine and her personal harem. I’m not especially inclined to finish this game anytime soon, so don’t expect the full character reviews for quite some time. Since the other Club members are further along in the game than I am, I asked them for a recommended play order…

Senri → Akito → Heishi → Sakuya → Itsuki → Kakeru → Ron → Masamune → Natsuhiko

So, we’ll just have to see where this crazy train leads… Have you played Norn9? Did you like the game? What’s your recommended play order? Which characters did you like the most? Least? Let me know in the comments section and as always THANK YOU for reading!!!

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17 thoughts on “First Thoughts-Norn9: Var Commons

  1. lmao that Oprah meme!

    Like you, I got Norn9 on sale as well, and I definitely agree that it’s worth the sale price. I like to call Norn9 my “favorite hot mess” because even with all it’s problems, it’s still a lot of fun. I haven’t finished the game yet (I’m about 4 routes away from completion), but out of the routes I’ve done so far, Senri was my absolute favorite, with Itsuki coming in close second (…tho this might change once I get to Natsuhiko because the thirst is real and I’ve heard lots of good things about him/his route). I love how there’s three heroines to choose from, tho I do wish they weren’t limited to only their three guys. I didn’t think I’d like Mikoto too much, but she definitely grew on me and overall all of the girls are pretty damn amazing. I love hearing people’s thoughts on Norn9, so I’ll be looking forward to your reviews in the future!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m 3 routes in right now (halfway through Heishi’s route) I would have been further along but I was distracted by Haikyu. 😄

      But I agree it is a hot mess, but you can’t help but enjoy it! Senri is my favorite so far too, but we’ll see how I feel after I finish all of the routes.

      Yes! We are on the same wavelength about the heroines. I wish I could mix and match the heroines and the love interests! I’d definitely pair Nanami and Itsuki, I’d love to see how that pair would work out!

      I’ll make sure to work hard on my reviews, so I hope you’ll enjoy reading them! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have played Norn9 using the same route order. Yes, I did like the game and I sort of went on a rant when I wrote my review on the whole translations thing. I like Senri, Itsuki, and Ron the most. I dislike Shiro. I look forward to seeing how you react to the game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha ha I kind of deviated from the play order a bit, I swapped Kakeru and Senri…. and then I swapped Heishi and Akito 😛

      This is the one time my failing Japanese language skills have worked in my favor. I can’t tell what all was changed when Aksys translated the game in English. Sure the weird name translation and the obvious stuff sticks out, but the big stuff goes over my head lol

      So far I like Senri, but I’m hoping Akito doesn’t disappoint me like Heishi is right now…

      I hope you like my final reviews!😁

      Like

      1. I think that is still ok, but the last ones are rather important to the background story. I didn’t understand what was going on either in Japanese, but the drama that just came with it really bother me, especially when people were bashing it and they hadn’t even played the game. Senri is really cute! Akito is nice too, hopefully you’ll enjoy it. I look forward to your overall thoughts later on.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha ha, I almost posted my Norn9 review today instead of my Iryuu post! 🙂

    I will say I’m still torn on whether my translation section should be a separate post. I had pages and pages and pages of notes. It really brings the game down. I think, overall, Koharu’s routes –> Nanami’s –> Mikoto’s is the best because of a) story, b) interest/mystery, and c) it feels like the game was translated in this order.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol great minds think alike!😄

      I’ve been debating on how I’m going to go about writing up the translation section, because a lot of what I know about it is hearsay. My Japanese language skills are not quite up to scratch for a full out translation analysis. So, I’ll probably stick to a broad strokes kind of approach.

      I agree Koharu’s routes seem to be the ‘canon’ routes, but I’m not far enough to make a say anything specific.

      I look forward to reading your review when you do post it! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  4. How can you not like Sorata? He was tots so good at throwing shade, his remarks are Senri level of badum tss xDDD
    My shota-ism is noticeable~
    I’m using the guide/walk and recc’ed play order by UnluckyHero and I’m really liking playing it so far.
    Man, I’m so looking forward to one of your rants (ᇴ‿ฺᇴ)

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Poor Sorata…tho I agree…he IS THE CUTEST, DID YOU SEE HIS SUPER DUPER CUTE OUTFIT IN THAT ONE ROUTE? (is it a spoiler if I say the route or outfit? I won’t say it unless you don’t get which one it is xD; )
        ;_; But, he is super adorable, and also a vicious little thing ❤

        Liked by 1 person

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