An explanation of Visual Novels
Visual Novels are text-heavy and give the reader a visual presentation of the current scene. The most basic form of interaction is a choice-system, which influences the flow of the story. There are many sub-genres of visual novels out there. Some focus more on story and atmosphere others on "pervy" stuff.
Since my next review is going to be a visual novel, I figured that I might as well give you a quick rundown on what a visual novel actually is.
Visual novels originated in Japan and many people refer to them as something like a book. This is true, to a certain extent, but not quite right. I rather see them as their own type of media.
They are usually quite text-heavy, but they also add a visual presentation thus “visual novel.” The story is accompanied by background images and dynamic sprites of different characters, as well as music and sound-effects. Since a visual novel is still a game, some sort of interaction has to be present. Do you remember those books where you could choose between different choices and had to browse to a certain page, in order to see the result of your decision? This choice-system is the most basic form of interaction in visual novel. Choices will influence the flow and outcome of the story. Of course, there are unlimited possibilities to add gaming aspects to visual novel (RPG, RTS, Card-Game etc), but the most common one is the choice system.
The combination of all those elements: text-heavy, backgrounds, interaction, sprites (representing the mood) and the music, are what make visual novel so special for me. They can combine the strength of books (story-heavy) and games (visual presentation, audio, interaction). Depending on how well a visual novel can work with its tools it is capable to completely suck you into its world.
So that’s a visual novel in general. But there are actually several sub-genres of Visual Novels out there. Let me show you the most common ones.
Much like a visual novel, but instead of visuals the focus is more on sound (duh). One would be "Higurashi No Naku Koro ni"
Basically like a Visual Novel but the structure of the story tends to follow a particular way. You will usually have multiple love interests in those games. The aim is to “get together” with one of the heroines to finish their story-arc. After you are done with that, you will go for the other ones. The structure is something like that.
- First, the “neutral arc.” You get to know all heroines and can interact with them.
- Second, the “heroine arc.” Depending on how much time you have spent with one of your love interest in the “neutral arc,” you will be able to continue their story.
- The whole game will now be about her. Other characters step into the background.
Also, a Dating Sim may have romantic scenes, but it doesn’t actually show anything explicit. At the very most, it will give a hint, but nothing more. An example for that is "Clannad"
An Eroge splits itself into multiple categories, but I’d rather like to keep it short. The only thing you really have to know about them is that the focus of those games is regularly not the story, but pure sexual relief. That is not to say that they can’t tell a good story (again different kinds), but most of them aim to show you some, well “saucy” stuff. Like "Yume Miru Kusuri" for instance.
Visual novels are text-heavy games that tend to offer you just a minimum of interaction. The most common one is a choice system. The story is accompanied by background images and dynamic sprites of different characters, but also music and sound-effects. Visual novels split themselves into multiple sub-genres. Some focus more on story and atmosphere others on sexual elements or something different altogether
I think that covers the basics of Visual Novels. I personally like them for their ability to make me feel completely involved into a story, like no other games ever could. Sure, there is more hentai out there than, “valuable” content, but the ones that have it, are just really, really good and I highly recommend you to check some of those out. Talking about recommendations…
If you just want to take a quick look at visual novel, I’d recommend you to check out Narcissu. It’s free and about two young people that are terminally ill. Both of them decide to leave the hospital to conduct a trip across Japan. It is a very simple visual novel, but one that might leave an impact on you. The download not only has the regular game but also the prequel in it.
If you want the full package I’d go for “Katawa Shoujo.” You can also download it for free on the creators site. The setting is as followed: You take the role of Hisao, a fairly regular guy that attends high school. But things dramatically change when he has a heart attack and needs to be transferred to a school for disabled people. I’d call this game a Dating Sim, since it is structured around 5 heroines. There are some sex scenes yes, but you can just as easily turn those scenes off via options and they are definitely not the focus of the story.
But wait, a love interest that is disabled? (Not mentally) Isn’t that a rather touchy subject that can just as easily be handled horribly tasteless? Well yes, it had the potential, but luckily the whole, and you can quote me on that, the whole game manages to handle the theme disability in a tasteful manner. So yes, that’s my recommendation for you. There are five story arcs in total and their quality varies a bit depending on which arc you choose to play (every arc had a different writer), but it’s still a truly beautiful game as a whole and one of the damn best I’ve played.
Note to reader: “There is a lot of confusion going on, how sub-genres ofvisual novel are actually defined. Please take into account that my sub-genre definitions are solely based on my personal experiences with those games. That is not to say I’m not confident in the things I’ve written, it’s just that they are people out there, who might disagree with me.”
Yes I have also heard of the new Tsukihime, looking forward to that.
True, Fate Zero was pretty awesome. Though that was just a half surprise for me, because it was the same studio that made Kara No Kyoukai, which is my favorite movie series of all time so that's that.
If I remember right a Tsukihime remake will be coming out this year or the next. Also Sachin finally gets a route. I've read the original and can't wait to see what the updated version would be like. Also Fate Zero was a great adaption slash prequel.
Cool, glad I could help you out. As I've said, when you want to play Higurashi just send me a PM and I can explain to you in detail, how the graphical update works.
Currently reading Katawa Shoujo, myself. It's only my second visual novel, but I'm really enjoying it. Glad I'm not the only one that likes them on this site!
Nice collection :)
Thanks for the reply Elrood!
I appreciate all of the suggestions - Generally when I delve into a new medium like this I find myself totally gripped by my first few experiences, but then I'm never able to find many more whcih are accessible. Since reading your post, I've downloaded both the linked suggestions and plan to check out "Narcissu" soon.
After I've read these ones, I'll decide whether I want to pay out for the others - I'd definently be interested in reading Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni, having watched the Umineko no Naku Koro Ni anime already (although that ending made me so mad).
What Visual Novels?! WIN. If you can tell by my avatar,This is my favourite: http://pic.twitter.com/Wa2tLVkR I have only watched the Higurashi anime, but I am getting the VNs pretty soon. I also have Rose Guns Days preordered, even though the english patch wont likely be done for some months, but I really like 07th Expansions' works. I am also extremely partial to anything Type Moon. Lol I just wish the bastards weren't super expensive. I tried to save up to buy a Tsuki-Bako set that was up on Ebay, but some bastard bought it for $250 before I could save up that much. RAGE. As a collector, I must own the bastards physically, yo fuck piracy :p
I wish more VN's would get official English releases on consoles. I even bought Hakuoki LE on PSP just to support English VN releases even though that game is geared towards girls (main char is a girl and Men are the romantic interests). I have 999 and I love it too, and I can't wait for Virtue's Last Reward, its sequel. I hear Ever17 is a similar story to 999, but It's official english release is rare and expensive as fuck.
Another Visual Novels that are free, well off the top of my head, I'd say "True Remembrance". An above average Visual Novel that will take you about 2 to 3 hours to complete. It doesn't offer you any choices, so it's just reading the story (which is interesting but at times a bit slow - it's non-h). Link -> http://trueremembrance.insani.org/get.html
I know that there are some Visual novels out there which are browser based, but I haven't played any of those.
Other recommendations are: Fate/Stay Night and Tsukihime (as Rai Burnout has mentioned - both of these are story-heavy eroges by the way), Utawarerumono (a story-heavy eroge with turn-based combat), Ever 17 (not an eroge), Higurashi (if you want to paly that, I recommend you to get the visual upgrade, cause the regular version suuucks ((you can send me a pm if you are interested and I'll explain it to you more in detail)), and Kira Kira (an eroge with a quite emotional story - a personal favorite of mine because it's about music and beeing in a band and all that). That should be enough for now. However all those Visual Novels are not for free, but have (for the most part) been released in Japan. There are ways to getting those games (all in english), but I obviously can't link you any of those "solutions".
Well I think most Visual Novels tend to tell a touching story. Especially if it's about relationships (like in a dating sim for example ;). I didn'tmention the whole "sad emotions" thing because this varies from person to person. Instead I kind of generalized it by stating that Visual Novels "completely involve you into its story". But thinking about it again, hm... well maybe another time. Or if you still want to make a blog, you could dedicate it just to the "sad emotions" aspect of Visual Novels.
Almost the same post, huh. That's certainly a coincidence^^
Haha, glad that there is someone who got the reference^^ Yes' I've played most Typemoon Visual Novels (Fate/Stay Night was actually my first about 6 years ago). But to be frank, it hasn't really aged well in my opinion. It's still good mind you. But there are better ones out there.
I found Katawa Shoujo very enjoyable. I totally recommend it as well.
I found your article to be an enjoyable read! I will certainl be trying the visual novels that you linked too. Do you have any other recommendations which are free? Are any of them browser based?
Also to everyone, if you're a fan of the Ace Attorney series there are many very well-written fan based games available for free. I'd personally recommend Turnabout Substitution (if you've played Apollo Justice) and Phoenix Wright: The Contempt of Cout (if you've completed the Ace Attorney trilogy).
Hi Sean Hinz,
Do you mean Hotel Dusk? If so, they're a very good series. If you're someone who likes to read about mysteries with elements of trial and error I'd certainly recommend them.
I recommend any of the Typemoon Visual Novels if you want a gripping story but I have a feeling you may have read some since you the THIS CHAIR rant from Tsukihime up top.
I shit you not, I am halfway through writing almost the exact same blog as you. Also, I want to play Narcissu SO BAD, but it keeps freezing on my computer.
Though, I wish you had mentioned "crying games", which is more of Clannad's style than a real dating sim. Crying games are VNs that are built around having the player experience intense, touching, and mostly sad emotions, often to the point of having them cry at the conclusion.
Overall though, well done! Took the words out of my mouth!
I always wanted to try Hotel Dust. Might just do that now.
Well, I'm happy to kind of help, lol. I downloaded Narcissu. So far I'm not far into it but I'll let you know what I thought when I'm done.
In the past, I dind't really have any interest in visual novels, until I run into Fate/Stay Night. And Katawa Shoujo, really good choice.
I thought a visual novel was basically a comic book with more text. Thanks for enlightening me.