Norn9: Var Commons is a visual novel 'otome' game, a little-known genre that functions much like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but in game form, with a decidedly romantic bent. The aim of the game is essentially to cultivate a romantic relationship with one of several eligible guys by playing your way through the story, and choosing to say the right things at the right time from the dialogue options you're given.
The overarching story here follows three young women and a number of young men, each with supernatural powers, who are the only ones who can stop the planet from falling into a state of war. Summoned by an all-powerful secret organisation known as "The World", you're asked to board a giant flying ship known as the Norn, in order to meet up with the group. The twist is, it'll take a heck of a long time to get to your meeting with "The World", and so this trip forms the majority of the game. Playing as one of a choice of three girls, it's up to you to chat with your fellow inhabitants, as you play through a series of intertwining tales that cater to every taste, whether you prefer the protective, older brother type, the flirt or the happy-go-lucky friendly guy - or something else entirely.
As a 'visual novel' game, Norn9 is pretty much entirely reading, with the most game-like part being choosing a conversation option or two to steer the story in a specific direction and increase your affection with one of the guys. Played more for getting to know the characters and enjoying the story, it's more like sitting down with a good book than playing a game in the traditional sense. Depending on the character pair you chose towards the start of the game, you'll find yourself locked in to romancing a specific one of the guys, and depending on how good a Casanova you prove to be, you'll get one of several endings, from happily ever after to potentially depressing bad ends, meaning you'll need to think through your choices carefully.
Like many games of its ilk that hail from Japan, it's worth nothing that the game is entirely voiced in Japanese with English subtitles, so a solid reading ability really is a must here. With little in the way of action to keep things moving along, you're relying entirely on the player's patience to sit and read through a very wordy tale, where skipping over dialogue would involve skipping over 99% of the game, making it a potentially pointless endeavour.
In some routes, it's strongly implied that the heroines and the guy in question have sex - nothing naughty is shown, and there's no explicit descriptions, but its pretty obvious what's going on off camera, as they mention beds shaking, characters tensing up and such, while a small flash of a topless guy and woman's cleavage peeking out from behind a sheet is seen. Likewise, dialogue, particularly with certain characters, is littered with innuendos and references, even veering off into masochist/sadist/kink territory at times, declaring that "I'm just as A-OK with physical pain and humiliation as I am with the verbal stuff!" and that a masochist is "Someone who gets pleasure from being tormented. It's fine if you are, I don't mind giving you what you like. I'm more of a sadist anyways.". One character in particular, who apparently grew up in a brothel, is particularly full off innuendos and such, offering to teach the girls about 'bedding techniques', asking if what he does turns them on, or talking about kissing someone "all over… like on your chest, or on your thighs…". Frustrated at said character's advances on all the women, one character tells him to "cram it in your pants for literally two seconds?! Think about surviving, not procreating!". Generally speaking though, in terms of actual imagery, Norn9 is pretty tame - about as risque as it gets is the odd kiss and a handful of scenes which show women pinned down with a topless guy above them.
Violence meanwhile, is fairly rare, with only the occasional scene showing a still of a character being shot, with small blood splashes and blood stains shown on their face and/or body. Characters occasionally get seriously injured or die, as mentioned in the dialogue, rather than being shown on screen in gory detail. Bad language also crops up on a semi-frequent basis, often emanating from one character's mouth in particular, with words such as b*stard, p*ss and sh*t cropping up in the dialogue from time to time.
Format Reviewed: PS Vita