2020 has been a great year for boys’ love (BL) game localizations so far. First, we had Togainu no Chi ~Lost Blood~ from JAST Blue, and now MangaGamer is following with Room No. 9. Room No. 9 is significant as developer parade’s latest BL title, following No, Thank You!!!, which, when MangaGamer released the English version five years ago, it was the first major BL game localization since Enzai: Falsely Accused back in 2006. Seeing as No, Thank You!!! was a very enjoyable title, I’ve been very interested to see what parade’s next game would be like.
From the onset, Room No. 9 is a very different beast from No, Thank You!!!. For starters, instead of having multiple characters to romance, the game centers around just two characters, Daichi and Seiji. Best friends since they were young, the pair decide to go on a vacation to Okinawa together after Daichi is left jilted by the girlfriend he originally intended to take on a fancy summer getaway.
Then, the story takes a turn for the worse – the pair arrive in Okinawa, step onto a bus heading to their hotel, and the next thing they know, they’re stuck in a locked hotel room and are told that they are now being forced to take part of some kind of behavioral study.
This behavioral study requires Daichi and Seiji to complete one of two tasks every day for ten days in order to finish the study and be set free. If they refuse to do either of the tasks for 24 hours, they will be penalized by not receiving meals and being stuck in the room indefinitely. Of course, the tasks aren’t just any kind of tasks – they revolve around either Seiji harming Daichi, or Daichi and Seiji engaging in various sexual activities.
Every time Daichi and Seiji pick an option, the next day’s option in that “category” increases in difficulty, thus causing them increased turmoil over what they should do. And who even knows if they will actually be set free when they complete the designated tasks?
As you can imagine, this game definitely isn’t for everyone. Like Nitro+chiral’s sweet pool, you could also argue about whether or not the content is strictly BL, as the men engaging in sexual acts are best friends doing things against their will. The physical harm tasks aren’t the only difficult-to-stomach scenes in the game, as the sex the two are forced to perform also involves various levels of physical restraint, humiliation, and more. There is an option to turn some of the more explicit imagery off, but the textual descriptions of what’s happening will still remain.
Like sweet pool, Room No. 9 has stuck with me long after I finished the game’s six endings (split between three routes). Also like sweet pool, I’m honestly having a difficult time deciding whether or not I actually liked the experience.
It may be the current situation the world is in in August 2020, but some of the content was just too bleak for me at times. With each day of the pair’s confinement revolving around the different tasks they have to complete, there’s not a lot of room for a breather between the intense moments after the game’s initial setup. Also, there is quite a lot of sex, and as you can probably glean from the premise, most of it doesn’t leave you feeling particularly good afterward. Luckily, the game is pretty short and to the point, so the intensity didn’t completely overwhelm me during my time playing it.
One area I was hoping to see explored more that unfortunately turned out to be little more than setup for the activities that followed was the premise of the behavioral study. Who was conducting it, and why would they conduct such a study in the first place? Those looking for answers like me will not find them here.
Originally I was disappointed by this, but upon reflection, the game’s tight runtime and focus on just two characters really allows it to explore Daichi and Seiji’s friendship, as well as their individual personalities and how their time in captivity impacts them. By the end of the game, I was very attached to these sweet boys who just wanted to have a nice summer vacation together! It was also interesting to consider whether one or both may have had feelings beyond friendship for the other (Or not! That’s okay too.).
While it’s hard for me to recommend Room No. 9 without a bunch of caveats (read all of the content warnings!), if you enjoyed sweet pool, No, Thank You!!!, or find yourself excited by the idea of a Saw-esque BL game, then you’d very likely enjoy your time with Room No. 9. As a BL visual novel package, the presentation is top-notch, from the localization to the art and the voice acting. But, if you think you might be too faint of heart for an intense, bleak experience (especially right now), I wouldn’t blame you for giving it a skip. It will always around if you later decide that you’re ready!
If you’ve played Room No. 9 and want to hear an in-depth discussion of the game’s routes and themes, check out the special episode of Pixel x Pixel!