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A word of warning: this article contain heavy spoilers to all six endings of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, especially the True Ending. Proceed at your own risk.
Have you ever watched a movie / read a book / played a game that had an ending you didn't like? Maybe the ending was just really bad (Knights of the Old Republic II, I'm looking at you). However, maybe you just think the ending is bad simply because it wasn't the ending you wanted.
Endings that bother me most are the ones that were on the receiving end of what I like to call "The Giant Plot Drill." Nothing is more frustrating to an audience than an ending full of plot holes and haphazardly thrown-together information. Except, maybe, the ending to 999.
Having somehow missed out on the entire DS generation of handheld gaming, I've taken it upon myself to catch up with a marathon of the most well-received games on the system. Of course, this dark and morbid visual novel is one of my all-time favorite DS games. However, the game's ending bothers me to no end. The funny thing about 999's ending is not just that I don't like it; I don't agree with it, and can argue completely against it. The big twist comes in the form of the typical "oh, no! One of my friends was really a villain? I totally didn't see that coming!"
The character in question, June, is suddenly marked as the great mastermind behind everything that happened over the course of the game, previously known only as "Zero." Also marked in the twist: Santa admits to being an accomplice to June, helping her set the whole thing up. According to the official answers page, the writer wanted to make June out to be the very embodiment of hatred.
There it is: the face of pure evil, apparently.
However, there's one little detail that throws a proverbial wrench in this idea. You never see any evidence of this. Throughout the entire game, June is the singular source of "good," if you will, amidst the insane mob of people trying to escape this demented game. During the True Ending, she and the main character are separated, during which time it is revealed that (apparently) she is Zero, and she's not at all the girl the main character thought he knew. After this revelation, June is not seen again for the rest of the game.
For a character to be so suddenly changed, the player needs to at least see this new side of the character. Otherwise, the player simply cannot accept the twist as truth. Why should they? Remember those two guys on the catwalk in the Death Star that ducked when the big laser fired? Little did you know, they were actually pulling the Emperor's strings the whole time. Everything bad that happened to the Skywalker gang was all because of them.
I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about Dahlia is giving me bad vibes…
Don't believe me, do you? Of course not. There's no proof of this. Unlike Dahlia from the Ace Attorney series, who eventually reveals her evil side, those two guys are seen once, and are gone for the rest of the movie, whereas the Emperor and Darth Vader are still present, and still being their evil selves. This is exactly the case in 999. June is gone, called the villain, yet Santa (who admits to being an accomplice to June) is still with the group, still being his generally bad self.
This is the point where I wage war against the writer. This is the part of the game where I stand up, slam my hands down on my desk, yell "OBJECTION!", get strange looks from those around me, and promptly sit back down quietly. There's no denying that June played some part in the events of the game. But I hold that she is not the evil character the writer claims she is. I would even go so far as to say, according to the facts presented by the game, June was not Zero at all.
Santa fits this bill a million times better. He spends the entire game being a complete jerk to everyone, he at least participated in setting up the entire game that the characters are trapped in, he has the most reason to set all of this up (getting revenge on those who killed his sister), and for God's sake, his real bracelet number is 0!
I've confined myself to my own little world, where the ending to 999 had Santa being Zero and June just along for the ride. I'm no professional game writer, of course, but I do take issue when a writer creates a plot point that isn't supported with his previous writing. Or more accurately, the plot point could be interpreted the way the writer wants it, but previous story elements greatly point in a different direction. With the sequel to 999 launching in North America at the end of the month, I can only hope that the plot references 999's, and wish for some clarity.