After finishing the romantic comedy otome game Love Spell: Written in the Stars I set my sights on the newest boys love visual novel Room No. 9. This is the second Parade game to make it’s way stateside, following MangaGamer’s localization of No Thank You!!! in 2015—and I’m going to be honest with you, despite coming from the same publisher, these two games couldn’t be more different. In fact, with it’s psychological horror elements, Room No. 9 has more in common with the recent JAST Blue localizations of Sweet Pool and Togainu no Chi. There is a lot to unpack with this game and I won’t be the first person to say that Room No. 9 is NOT for everyone.
I went into Room No. 9 without having read anything about it—not the game bios, not the Steam page… nothing. It wasn’t until I saw the insane disclaimer and the content filter setup at the start of the game that I had any indication of what was in store for me with this game and for what it’s worth, I think there’s more of a precedence for going into the game blind. Like the main characters, you are thrown headfirst into the confusion and fear that surrounds their unfortunate situation, which in turn makes the abject horror and psychological upheaval Daichi and Seiji face all the more terrifying.
- Genre: Psychological | Mature | Boys Love
- Available for PC (Windows & Mac) | Steam
- Gameplay Length: 10-20 hours
- Fully Voiced – Japanese
- Cost: $29.95
- Similar Games: Sweet Pool | Dramatical Murder| No Thank You!!!
A Descent into Horror
The game follows best friends, Daichi and Seiji as they embark on a summer trip to Okinawa—the two are hoping to have one last hurrah before they become working adults (and a way to forget about their recent breakups). However, what should have been a fun summer of lounging on the beach is turned into an absolute nightmare when Daichi and Seiji are drugged and placed in a strange room made to look like a hotel room. The door is bolted and the only window in the room is just a screen displaying a false view of the outside world. After searching the room they find a message on a tablet near the TV that says they have been selected to participate in a behavioral analysis study and that if they successfully complete a series of tasks they will be allowed to escape with their lives.
Each day Daichi and Seiji are presented with a series of tasks they must complete and if they play their cards right, they will be able to leave in just ten days. But, with each task they complete their captors up the ante, and they have a twisted sense of humor—Seiji must cause physical harm to Daichi, while Daichi must perform humiliating sexual acts on Seiji. They’ll have to play along if they have any hope of surviving the ordeal, but at what cost? Daichi and Seiji are forced to hurt each other, physically and mentally, with each task they complete the pair whittle away at a little more of their humanity…
Not all Scars are Physical
If you’re going into Room No. 9 expecting it to be a sweet romance, where despite everything Daichi and Seiji persevere through the power of love—I’m sorry to break it to you, this ain’t that kind of game. But, if you’re looking for a game that delves into the slow psychological degradation of two men trapped in an impossible situation—you’re in the right place. I want to stress again that Room No. 9 isn’t for everyone, but if you can stomach some of the more gruesome acts the characters must perform, the game offers an intimate look at the various ways the “experiment” strips away Daichi and Seiji’s humanity. With each new task they perform they lose a little of themselves, until they are almost unrecognizable as the people they were at the start of the game.
At first, the pair face their daily challenges with a degree of horror, disgust, and fear. We see them agonize over which task to complete, considering not just the physical, but the emotional toll performing them will have on themselves and each other. It’s almost painful to watch, as we, like their unseen captors are merely observers—sure we can guide their decisions one way or the other, but ultimately we are powerless to do much of anything other than watch as each scenario unfolds. Like the main characters, with each new task we lose a bit of our hesitance and tasks like cutting open a man’s arm seem easy when compared something much more psychologically scarring.
It isn’t until you take a step back that your realize that you’ve become desensitized to the horrors of the situation and that in my opinion is what makes Room No. 9 all the more terrifying in it’s delivery. It’s not the depravity of the acts themselves (and they are pretty gruesome), but how easy it is for the characters to disassociate themselves from the inhumanity of each act. It’s doubly jarring when you realize that you as the player are starting to put aside your own sense of morality—early on I had a hard time choosing between tasks, actively cringing at the options set before me—but as the game progressed, I took less time deliberating. I didn’t stop agonizing over my choices, rather it became easier to justify my choices—I mean what’s a hand job between best bros when the alternative is hammering a nail into someone’s hand? It’s a hard pill to swallow in hindsight, but I think it’s that aspect of the game that makes it such an interesting experience. Because it mirrors the shift that happens in the characters themselves as they progress through the events of the story.
Facing Who You Really Are
Room No. 9 has the potential to be a pretty fascinating character analysis as it gives us an intimate look at not just who Daichi and Seiji are as individuals, but how their bond with one another shapes their identity. Daichi is an easy-going and upbeat guy, he can be a bit of an airhead, but he’s a good guy. While Seiji is the total package—rich, attractive, smart, and a bit reserved—he’s even got a civil servant job lined up after graduation.
During their 10 day ordeal they learn new and uncomfortable things about themselves, some of which come at the the expense of their own humanity. Each task is specifically created with each character in mind—Daichi grew up in an abusive home, so his tasks involve physical injury, while straight-laced and self-sacrificing Seiji’s tasks involve debasing him through sexual humiliation. You can get a lot of mileage out of a premise like that, but Room No. 9 takes it a step further by not only showing how the tasks affect the victim, but also the aggressor. It’s a given that the victim suffers greatly from each task, but what about the person who has to perpetrate each act? What affect does performing these acts on another person have on them?
Room No. 9 gives us a fascinating look at the affects of prolonged abuse and the ramifications of it not just on the victim, but the perpetrator. There’s this duality to each of the tasks that chips away at both the victim and the aggressor—gradually pushing their boundaries until they disappear all together. We see the gradual shift in how each character deals with each task. At first, Daichi is repulsed by the physical injuries inflicted on him and Seiji finds harming his friend mentally taxing (even physically shaking at the prospect of drawing his blood). And, for Daichi the idea of performing sex acts on Seiji seems like an impossible task, both finding it difficult to “perform”, but over time they find it easier to comply with the increasing demands of their captors. They even begin to derive genuine pleasure from it and even crave each other’s touch. But it doesn’t end there; rather, that’s just the tipping point for both men as they find themselves spiraling at these new revelations. They can either completely give themselves over to these new urges and emotions or fight to retain some semblance of who they were before entering into the study.
Daichi’s emotional anguish is much more real for us, because it is through him that we experience the events of the game—we feel his pain more strongly, because we are privy to his thoughts. His internal struggle is on full display, which makes it that much more painful to watch when he gives in to the depravity of their situation because we know just how hard he fought to keep his humanity. This is largely missing with Seiji, since every thing we know about him is filtered through Daichi’s unwavering idolization of him (for a self proclaimed straight guy he spends a lot of time praising Seiji’s looks).
But, what makes this so intriguing is that the game poses the question of whether it’s the events of the game that bring about these new (and often horrifying) revelations or if Daichi and Seiji always had the potential to become so tainted.
The Trigger Warnings are Worth Considering
Right, so this is not the game for the faint of heart—the trigger warnings at the start of the game are legit and should be taken seriously. Let me repeat that for the folks in the back, DON’T ignore the trigger warnings. I have played quite a few graphic BL games before in my life and I thought, if I could get through Sweet Pool and DRAMAtical Murder, I could get through anything, but Room No. 9 really pushed the envelope.
So the easy stuff, there are depictions of blood and bodily harm and it is shown in great detail, so if you are squeamish or uncomfortable with seeing someone get cut or worse—you might want to give this one a hard pass. The game doesn’t go as far with the blood and gore as they could have, but it’s still enough to be unsettling.
This is a BL game so there is sexual content (uncensored) and it is in no way romantic—I cannot stress that enough. Room No. 9 is not a romance game and there is some serious dub con going on in this game. Most of the sex is meant to be a form of punishment and even when it isn’t, it’s more an act of desperation than anything else. So, if you’re expecting soft caresses and sweet kisses, you’re not gonna get any.
But, that did not prepare me for the “scatological imagery”, I’m not going to go into detail, because there are just some things you just have to see for yourself. But, it happens. It is prolonged. And if you don’t think you can stomach it, there is a filter to censor it.
Happily Ever After Doesn’t Exist
Like Sweet Pool, there really is no “happily ever after” ending. There are certainly some endings that are much more palatable than others, but each ending is tinged in an unmistakable bittersweet aftertaste. And if you’re expecting to get answers about who the perpetrators of the study are or why they chose Daichi and Seiji… you won’t get them.
But, it’s kind of fitting that you don’t get any answers, because at the end of the day Room No. 9 isn’t about the people behind the study—it’s about Daichi and Seiji and their friendship and that is ultimately what determines whether you view some of the endings as “good” or “bad”. Because at the end of the day, what matters is whether Seiji and Daichi come out of the events of the game with their humanity and bond intact.
After spending so much time getting to know these characters and watching them go through so much you genuinely just want them to be happy and move forward together. Because there is no way you can go through something like that with someone else and not come through it stronger.
So, the Verdict—Should You Play Room No. 9?
Honestly, that’s tough to answer. Room No. 9 is not a game you should enter into lightly. Carefully consider the warnings and disclaimers. Room No. 9 goes to some pretty dark places, and had I not already played quite a few Nitro+Chiral games, I might not have been prepared for a game like this… but, there is something to be said for Parade’s ability to hit you with an emotional character driven story while also delivering a damn good psychological thriller.
This game is intense and it will stay with you long after you finish it, but, if you can stomach some of the darker elements of the game, I definitely think it’s worth picking up.
Thank you to MangaGamer for providing me with a review copy of the game. This post also includes an affiliate link.