Sunday, May 8, 2011

Visual Novels: Anime in a New Form

It occurred to me when I was talking to my friends about visual novels that they actually had no idea what they were. I genuinely never felt nerdier than I did in that moment, but I realized that this was a perfect opportunity to dive into a subject I just absolutely love.

Simply put, visual novels are video games. I know, mixing "novel" with "video game" seems a bit odd, but visual novels are not at all like graphic novels, manga, or anything else in print. Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia's entry:
visual novel is an interactive fiction game featuring mostly static graphics, usually with anime-style art, or occasionally live-action stills or video footage. As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays.
Beyond the style in art being a big difference, there is also background music, sound effects, and even voice acting that goes into a visual novel. But visual novels aren't like your standard games, either. There is usually minimal interactivity (the focus is on the story-telling side rather than the gameplay) aside from clicking to move the text along. However, they can have minigames to move the story along, or even have several points in the game where you must make a choice that could alter the rest of the story. Most visual novels have multiple endings, with a majority being "bad endings." So there is a sense of "If I don't do this right, I'll die and have to start the level over," that you get in most video games.

Unfortunately for visual novel fans, most of these games remain in Japan and never even get translated. There are a few ones that make it into America-- remember Phoenix Wright, anyone? You know. The one where you're a Los Angeles criminal lawyer... (It's always murder, isn't it? It's never something over health insurance or a class action lawsuit.) Yes, my favorite game series certainly qualifies as a visual novel. Although there are no voice overs, there certainly is a good amount of reading. Beyond that, there's also the visual novels that made it into the anime scene-- Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni, Clannad, Air, to name a few.

For those of us that like electronic books, this is certainly a great option. It's a digital book that comes with free music! Who doesn't like that? (Well, arguably when you pay for it, you pay the royalties to listen to it...) Of course, you can't ignore the large number of erotic visual novels... Again, who doesn't like that?

Perhaps I'll review a few of them to introduce the genre to you guys. Or maybe I've already sparked your interest?

See you next time.


  1. Awesome blog! Was a nice read =D Keep it up, i'm enjoy reading it!

  2. Visual Novels don't have enough interactivity for my taste. I like the ones that are more like text adventures.

  3. AH thanks for explain it to me. I've always kinda put it aside as something I'll look into later and now I know!

  4. It's really a little bit sad that they aren't so popular around the whole world. At first I thought that playing a visual novel would be a waste of time, but now I'am glad that I played one!

  5. Higurashi no Naku Koro ni? I enjoyed that series :D

  6. please, do review some of them so that we can have a look!!

  7. I've been waiting for graphic literature in general to make this step. It would be really cool.

  8. My interest is indeed sparked. Please provide examples.

  9. Insider33:
    The draw of these games is the story. The use of sound and visuals helps augment the text, and can make these games engrossing, even for people who have trouble reading though a book.

    If you don't enjoy them because there's not enough interactivity for you, that means most of these games aren't for you. They're for people who want to enjoy a good story, not gameplay. A few of these games do have a focus on gameplay, but they're a minority.

    hoaks2: 999 on the Nintendo DS has been highly rated. It's a mix between escape the room games and a visual novel, and the story is pretty good. Also, Ever17 is pretty good too.

    There are other great games, like 428 (by the makers of 999) or Steins;Gate, but they haven't been translated in English, at least yet.