999 Vs Xenosaga, the fine line between RPGs and Visual Novels

Let me preface this by saying that I have never read a book in my life. It's not exactly a revelation to those that know me, but I have ADHD and I hate drugs. It's really difficult for words to hold my interest. Typically, my mind wanders as I start to make up my OWN story in my head. For emphasis: It is REALLY REALLY hard to hold my attention for any length of time.


But "9 Hours, 9 Peoples, 9 Doors" (DS) managed just that. Not only did I buy 5 DS games this weekend, but I haven't touched any of them once I started 999, nor have I even done much in the way of sleeping. For all intents and purposes, 999 falls into the increasingly popular genre of "Visual Novels."

Traditionally speaking, a Visual Novel is a video game that is comprised of about 95% reading, usually with a few Choose Your Own Adventure-style decisions. In what experience I've had with Visual Novels, this results in multiple potential endings. 999 takes these Visual Novel staples a little step further and adds some puzzles to the mix... but there weren't all that many of them. Perhaps more like 98% of the time was simply spent reading the dialogue. But the dialogue was good... fantastic even. (For those who are interested... I've heard it described as "Saw" meets "Battle Royale.") Having finished all endings in my massive marathon, I can see why this game gets the praise that it does for breaking the mold.


It did, however, remind me of another game I liked, though this time I found myself in the minority of the equation. Yes, "Xenosaga" was about 75% cutscenes and story, and that sums up the vast majority of the criticisms about the game. Many cite the hour long cut scenes, but one of the ENDINGS to 999 took me about 3 hours to read. (And by the end of it I think I had more questions than answers.)

So what's the big deal?

When I look at the ever-increasing praise of Visual Novels, 999 simply being one of many... I really have to scratch my head when people point at Xenosaga, Lost Odyssey, and the like and criticize them for having too much plot, not enough button pressing. I wish I could say that these are 2 mutually exclusive groups of people, but even on these forums (or people from these forums) I find that to NOT be the case.

If you take out the battle system and the walking around, 999 and Xenosaga have a lot in common. Is there an "uncanny valley" of control, or is there more to Xenosaga/Lost Odyssey that people dislike, and they're just going for low hanging fruit when complaining about it? (Have they even PLAYED those games, or are they just regurgitating the hype?