Game: Norn9: Last Era
Genre: Visual Novel
System: Nintendo Switch (and also originally on PS Vita)
Developers | Publishers: Idea Factory | Aksys Games
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: UK £44.99 | EU €49,99 | US $49.99
Release Date: August 31st, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to Reef Entertainment.
The Last Era
A group of people with extraordinary powers boarded the Norn ship at the behest of an organisation called The World to fulfil their duties. These Norn members have been through a journey together and formed friendships and relationships with each other. In Norn9: Last Era we get to see how the members are doing after the Norn9: Var Commons events. Have they lived happily ever after? We will find out in Norn9: Last Era.
The game starts with the prelude stories of all the male characters. You will have to complete the preludes of all the characters to move on to the “main” content. The Prelude is about the events that took place shortly before the Norn9: Var Commons game and, most of the time, their first days on the Norn ship. This part of the game revealed a lot of information about the characters that we were still a little bit in the dark about.
After completing the Prelude, three parts will unlock. Concerto, Fugue and Fantasia. Concerto follows the previous game’s best endings. This is also the main content of the game and is also split into four parts, prologue, Sunburst, Moonlight and epilogue.
In Fugue you get to see the routes of the previous game through the love interests’ eyes. This offers an entirely different perspective on the story and we get to learn more about them.
Fantasia touches on a few what-if scenarios about the Norn members. This also offers you a little more entertaining dialogue between everyone.
I would suggest doing the Fugue part first if you are a bit hazy about the events of the first game. For some routes I would skip to the ending, just to get a refresher on the events. And if you are all caught up, play Concerto. Then afterwards I would play the Fugue routes fully.
The Norn9 Members
This will be a shorter description of the love interests from my Norn9: Var Commons review, if you want to read a more detailed description you can read the review for the original Norn9 here.
Be aware that there are spoilers in this review of the Norn9: Var Commons game, and some small spoilers for the story of Norn9: Last Era.
Like in the original, there are still three heroines in the game, each with their own set of three love interests. The three heroines are Koharu, Nanami and Mikoto.
Koharu was the last girl to join the Norn ship with Sorata and she has the power of fire. She is the most adorable character in the game and is kind to everyone and everything she meets.
Nanami comes from a long line of Shinzo I descendants and thus is skilled in masking her appearance and spying on people. For the most part, she is quiet and not super involved in many conversations. With her power, she can erase anyone’s memories.
Mikoto is our final heroine and my personal favourite. Right off the bat, we find out she is called The Guardian. From the beginning, she has been upfront about possessing the power to create barriers. Her being put on a pedestal has made her a little stuck up. But beneath that mask, she is friendly and seeks the approval of others.
The Love Interests
As far as I knew, there was no particular route order. However, when playing the Concerto routes, there is some sort of order when it comes to spoilers. The order I originally went with was: Kakeru -> Sakuya -> Heishi -> Senri -> Itsuki -> Akito -> Masamune -> Ron -> Natsuhiko. There were some spoilers, but this didn’t bother me too much and I still enjoyed this order.
But if you do want a spoiler-free order this would be the order: Kakeru -> Senri -> Heishi -> Itsuki -> Akito -> Sakuya -> Masamune -> Ron -> Natsuhiko.
In my review for Norn9: Var Commons I wrote this about Kakeru: “In general, Kakeru is kind and always tries to be cheerful. He is also very clever and is good at reading people. This can come off as him being manipulative, but this is often not his intention.”
Looking back on this now I am questioning what rose-coloured glasses I had on. I really had a thing for him in the first game. And though this game has not changed my mind. I do see now I was a bit soft in describing Kakeru’s personality. He was the leader of the Norn group and did try to create a good vibe in the group. But he is also really cunning and intelligent and shows it off mostly in the Fugue of the game where we get to read his perspective. Kakeru constantly tries to manipulate people into doing what he wants.
In his route, he is battling the Demons (or his father we should say) from the previous game. in Var Commons we found out his father was the one controlling Kakeru and making sure Kakeru would get close to Koharu for his father’s sake. This in turn makes Koharu worried about him, and he seeks advice from the other Norn members. In the last era, he also wanted to find something that he really loved doing and could fill his days with. We get to see a more sensitive side to Kakeru, and even his sadist attitude towards Senri changes just a little.
This was a good first route to play because the issues Kakeru and Koharu face are not as hard-core as opposed to some other routes. It was chill and easy to play, and I still really liked Kakeru. So that didn’t change.
Senri is very unsociable and tends to keep to his room because he wants to be left alone for an unknown reason. He often seems rude due to his lack of communication and communication skills with the other Espers.
The last time we saw Senri; all the Norn members were dragged into helping The World to stop conflicts around the world. Koharu was taken and forced to use her fire powers to burn down the world. Senri in the end was the one who saved and and stated they should stay weak and afraid together.
In Last Era, Senri finds out about Akito, as we already knew from the previous game. Senri also finally stepped up in regards to his home town, so he can hopefully get the closure he seeks. Through this, he becomes more confident in his water-using skills. His route is also mainly about him and Akito working on their brotherly relationship which it was nice to see.
The first half of the route was a bit better and more satisfying than the second half. But it was still a nice one to play. Senri and Koharu are just adorable together and I think Koharu can finally take the lead when she is with Senri. It was refreshing, to see Koharu take the lead.
Masamune is one of the oldest Norn members. This also makes him the father figure of the group and the peacekeeper. He is very responsible and always has to solve everyone’s problems, but he can also be clumsy and a little awkward at times. His favourite thing to do is reading, and when he gets together with Koharu this turns out to be their favourite thing to do together.
In Norn9: Var Commons the Norn members were forced to fight in various wars to stop the conflict. To shield Koharu from the painful duties of using her powers and her guilt of not having been able to save Sakuy, Toya erased Koharu’s memory of their time on the Norn ship and took her to safety at Natsuhiku’s secret hideout. Here they resided for a time while Toya was learning everything he could about aircraft, to potentially, fly it to other places with Koharu. Meanwhile, Koharu slowly begins to regain bits and pieces of her lost memory, but a voice in her head tells her she isn’t quite ready to regain them yet. And that she first needs to become strong for her to retrieve her memories.
Masamune’s route in this game was so much better than in the Var Commons game. It had a good storyline and kept me on the edge of my seat. I even really came to enjoy Masamune and his relationship with Koharu was just not as awkward anymore.
He is the goofball of the group and is friends with everyone. Heishi also tries to come up with a lot of crazy and fun ideas for the group to keep everyone’s spirits up. He does all of these things because he possesses telepathy, which means he can feel people’s emotions. Before joining the Norn ship, he used to be part of a travelling group bringing people in town joy by playing music.
Heishi’s route is mostly about them fleeing from The World and the hardships they had to face because of their choice. It’s also about them trying to help people and trying to settle down. This route also heavily focused on the group Heishi was in before boarding the Norn ship.
I did feel that there were some loose ends in this route. At the start, Nanami admitted to herself that she essentially felt guilty being happy with Otomaru, because she left the other Norn members behind. This is not resolved in the end. This route made me smile so much. Heishi is just so adorable and kind. And the relationship between him and Nanami is just so innocent as well.
Akito, at first glance, is the distant, arrogant, and aggressive type. But when we get to know him, he is most definitely affectionate and caring. This is a classic example of a Tsundere character. Adding to his caring personality is that he is a good cook and is also the chef on the ship.
The last time we saw Akito, he finally revealed to Senri that they were brothers and that he had taken half of Senri’s power. He did all of this to protect him from the villagers of their home town. When the remaining Norn members are summoned to The World, Nanami and Akito decide to give their powers back to Aion. After this, Akito finally fully forgives Nanami for erasing Senri’s memories. Since Akito let Senri know they are brothers, he has been living with Senri, Koharu and Nanami. He wants to catch up on lost time with Senri and he wants to make sure he and Koharu are doing well. The four of them are living a quant life and are figuring out what they want to do with their life. Meanwhile, Nanami’s past comes back to haunt her…
In the previous game, I liked Akito but didn’t really see him and Nanami as a fitting couple. But Last Era completely changed my mind, I am their number one fan now. Akito gets embarrassed quickly about communicating his feelings, but here he steps up and shows his soft side. Even I am in love with Akito now!
If we are talking personality, this guy is the worst. He mostly keeps to himself and if you do come across him, he will say these cryptic comments. He also refuses to learn anyone’s name. Since he keeps to himself, nobody knows anything about him. Even though he is trash, I weirdly loved him. And playing the Fugue part (Var Commons from his perspective) I started loving him even more. He isn’t necessarily the bad guy we think he is, and there is a kind person underneath the trash.
Of course on the Norn Ron is revealed to be the traitor and he doesn’t possess any esper abilities. His goal was to kidnap Mikoto and find out who the fire user was. While trying to fulfill his tasks he takes a liking to the quiet girl Nanami. At first, Nanami tries to change him, but after figuring that won’t work on Ron, Ron decides to nudge Nanami into erasing parts of his memory. So that they could have a chance of being together.
I am still not sure how to feel about Ron’s route. In my eyes, he is the definition of a “grey” character, a person who is neither good nor evil. And Last Era made me even more confused about his character, because he was not the trashy self we have come to know, but he was also not necessarily a good person. In Last Era, Nanami tries hard to keep Ron from remembering his past self. But it turns out memory erasing can’t entirely change someone’s personality. Ultimately Ron has to choose between the personality he has with Nanami and the person that he was.
One thing I did appreciate was the relationship between Ron and Nanami. They both accept each other, whatever may come, be it good or bad and I can admire that. And even though Ron is about nine years older than Nanami. Nanami has no issues with taking the lead and being a “responsible” adult. This route also had some funny scenes, especially the ones about cats. Be on the lookout for those.
He is the biggest flirt on the ship and is always trying to tease the girls with his compliments and jokes. This is likely because he grew up in a pleasure district, where he learned to seduce women and make them happy with his words. But Itsuki is very good at hiding his real personality; he would never communicate his true feelings and thoughts to others.
In Var Commons, Itsuki quickly fell in love with Mikoto and did everything in his power to make her a “normal” girl, so that she wouldn’t have to suffer anymore due to her barrier power. He even went as far as to give her powers to the traitor on the ship, Ron. After the ship crashes and a looming fight is on the horizon they both decide it’s best to run from the ship, since Itsuki can’t fight due to his injury.
Itsuki’s route shows us more about his life before the ship, but also how he wants his life to look in the future. In my eyes, it was a wholesome route with a plot and ups and downs. And in terms of romance, the route was just so nice and lovey-dovey. I absolutely loved it and played through it very quickly. This couple reminds me the most of my own relationship in a way. Them being able to overcome that they are so different from each other. Itsuki is for sure my favourite character in the game.
Sakuya and Mikoto are childhood friends and could always be seen together. Just like Mikoto, he is from a rich family and he definitely exudes a perfect prince aura. But beneath that, he is caring and very intelligent.
In the first game, he would be Mikoto’s personal guard dog and would follow her around everywhere. It felt a bit like Mikoto was his whole personality. This game did a whole one-eighty on Sakuya and I was pleased. Sakuya took the lead in this route and we could see someone who was born to lead in him. In the previous game, Sakuya en Mikoto decided to go through with the reset. Now they get to see what the reset entails and how to make sure these wars don’t happen again so that the world can stay peaceful.
Sakuya’s route was one of the only routes that still had something to do with The World and it had a plot where you had to pay attention. This route could have been the route of a second game, instead of a fandisk. An extra thing I want to add is about the epilogue, the ending took me by surprise but I loved it so much. Extra points just for the epilogue.
In the game, we meet him as the intruder of the ship and an enemy to The World. He comes off as cold, and it almost seems like he has no emotions. For a yet unknown reason, he is searching for Espers, who have unique powers, going so far as trying to abduct them. Natsuhiko spends his time inventing different types of modern machines and other technologies. He even complements himself on the stuff he makes.
As mentioned, in Var Commons we came to know Natsuhiko as the traitor to the world and also as an intruder of the Norn ship. His main goal was capturing Mikoto so that he could use her barrier powers to hopefully stop the wars going on. Eventually, they find themselves at The World headquarters where Natsuhiko finally has a heart-to-heart with Aion about the reset. Here he decides that change should start with yourself, so he promises to lay his guns down forever.
Like in Var Commons Natsuhiko’s route is the best and I am glad I left it last. A lot of open-ended questions regarding The World are answered in this route, as well as some information about Natsuhiko’s past comes to light. This route had such a good balance between a suspenseful plot and the mushy day-to-day life scenes between Natsuhiko and Mikoto. They complement each other so well and it is nice seeing Natsuhiko do something other than tinkering with his machines. And I loved his ending as well! It was such a perfect ending for them.
Visuals and Sound
The visuals have a futuristic feel, which of course fits well with the plot of Norn. There weren’t a whole lot of new CGs (Computer Graphics) for the amount of content there is in the game. I think there are about seven new ones per route if I am not mistaken. But the CGs did have something mystical and magical about them.
As for sound, my thoughts are still the same as in Norn9: Var Commons. I enjoyed the background songs in the game, and they fit the mood. I even admit to having listened to the BGM’s (Background Music) in my spare time, just to feel like I am playing the game. The opening and ending songs were also nice to listen to; I would even go out of my way to let the songs play in the game without skipping. I believe they added a new BGM in this game that fit the romantic moods of this fan disk.
Norn9: Var Commons had a really good story in my opinion, and I am still intrigued by it. So whereas Var Commons tugged on my plot strings, so to say, this game tugged more on my heartstrings. I love a good romance story and sometimes this is even more important to me than a good well thought out plot. Most of the routes left me completely satisfied and I even slightly cried at some ending (I was just in a sensitive state at the time 😆). I will say that I was a little let down by some of the endings. Not every route ended with a wedding, family or something else that was satisfying. Can’t have it all be the same endings I guess. If I were to rank the routes it would be this: Heishi -> Senri -> Kakeru -> Sakuya -> Akito -> Ron -> Masamune -> Natsuhiko -> Itsuki. But I must say I enjoyed every route especially Mikoto’s routes, they also had collectively the happiest endings.
Let’s talk about Sorata. As we came to find out in Var Commons, Sorata is a really important part of reviving Ain also known as Aion. We get to see bits and pieces of Sorata in some routes, but that is it. I think it’s a missed opportunity to not include anything regarding Sorata’s future. It would have been nice to see him grow up and potentially fix Ain. So part of the story was left to our imagination.
Once again we have the NornLife game, which I am still so utterly confused about. With this game, you can earn Norn9 tickets, which in turn you will be able to use in the NornStore to buy locked items. These items vary from fun visuals to the BGM collection. But I am confused as to what the goal is for this game. What would have been better is, if you could collect tickets by completing routes. This would make a little more sense to me.
I will come out with it right away: Norn9: Last Era is a good game. The game really balances between being a fan disk and a sequel to Norn9: Var Commons. I enjoyed the Norn9: Last Era. I enjoyed the mix between the couples being lovey-dovey and actually facing some issues so that it doesn’t get too sappy. If you loved Norn9: Var Commons you definitely must pick this game up as well.
Final verdict: I like it a lot.