Gamer’s Thoughts: The Visual Novel

Photo-2014-08-21-17-31-45Lately, I see various games appearing on Steam. Visual novels. That interests me quite a lot. But the let down is huge when I find out that it are kinetic novels. What is a visual novel actually and why is it such an underrated game genre? I want to talk about my favorite game genre in this article and hopefully make some of you guys interested in the visual novel genre. As usual, feel free to write a comment about the visual novel games and or the content of this article.

What makes a game a visual novel?

999-.9.Hours.9.Persons.9.Doors.full.934360So, when is a game a visual novel? It’s quite logical that a visual novel is more of a novel then a game. When the novel isn’t interactive, you have a kinetic novel. A kinetic novel is a novel that a movie you can read.

A visual novel has interaction. Sometimes “repetitive actions” and sometimes not. Virtue’s Last Reward for example always has the same gameplay. Solve the puzzle to find the solution to open the safe. Corpse Party on the other hand isn’t repetitive. You have to try and find the other survivors.

A visual novel could be easily confused with a very heavy story driven RPG. Those two genres are two similar, yet different genres. Since visual novels play more on the imagination of the player instead of the skills. If you have ever played an Ace Attorney game, you might have noticed that there isn’t much animation outside the characters. It’s the writing that pulls people in.

Underrated

screen_pacifist

What do I like so much about visual novels? I can’t really explain. I think the reason is that I feel more as the main character of a story. I feel that my fate is already planned out and that I have to look for the right path.

Now visual novels nearly have always one solution. Even when a game has different endings, you will most likely come across the final true ending.

Games nowadays are getting “lazy”. The graphics try to paint the most beautiful picture and the sound and music tries to blow you off your chair. But visual novels, that isn’t the goal. You don’t get fancy graphics, you mostly get static images and text boxes.

Somehow, visual novels have the power to make you come invested in a story more then other games have. I rarely felt touched by an amazing game when there wasn’t a deep story. When I’m playing a visual novel, it’s very hard for other games to distract me out of that trance. Visual novels are that good in my opinion.

 Visual novels try to pull the gamers in with clever writing. They don’t try to make it a massive big show, they create an interesting plot line. Think about it this way, how many times did you start to loose interest in the side quests or the side goals and started to go for the main goals in a game?

Maybe it’s just my interest. My favorite game genre is adventures and my favorite subgenre is visual novel. Since I’m interested in interesting stories and such. I can’t honestly really answer why, but I think that visual novels deserve more credit then they get. It has it’s issues of course, like for some people there is too much text, but hey, name me one genre that doesn’t have issues.

Anyways, to close off this article, let’s take a short look at 2 great visual novels I played in my life.

Examples

The Walking Dead

The-Walking-Dead-Game-Dev-Wants-Suggestions-for-Potential-Second-Season-2

Even when I’m not a fan of the series, you got to give it to this game. TellTale Games makes excellent modern visual novels. While the typical text boxes aren’t there, the main focus is the story and how your choices influences the outcome.

It’s a great and modern example of an excellent visual novel. Too bad it doesn’t interest me as much as other visual novels do. If you want to know why I’m not such a fan, you might want to read my first impression. But my buddy Zach (aka Dark_Legend) is a big fan of it, so you might want to read his articles about it.

Ghost Trick

Ghost_Trick_EU

In this game you play as a death cop and you have to solve your own murder. The catch is that you can rewind time to save somebodies life. With this power you try to figure out who wanted you dead.

This game is tricky to place. It’s a visual novel alright but the gameplay… is it a puzzle game? Action game? Adventure game? I don’t really know.

I wish CapCom announced a sequel of this game since it’s a good game. Not only the story but the gameplay was rather interesting. I liked the idea very much and I wish the game was a bit longer.

Closing thoughts

Most visual novels are rather lengthy. I haven’t seen a visual novel you would be able to finish in a week. Actually, I have seen one as the exception on the rule. Time Hollow.

The most irritating thing is getting stuck in these games. Since you don’t have to grind or anything of that nature, getting stuck can get even the most veteran visual novel player to put down the game.

It’s quite clear that I’m not done talking about visual novels. I have some other things I want to mention but that will be for another article. I want to compare the visual novel genre with other genres. Or it might be an idea for a podcast.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Thank you for reading and hopefully I can welcome you at another article. Take care.

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About NekoJonez

I'm a Dutch video game blogger. I play old and new games. On my blog I give my opinion and views on them. These are my personal views. I say what I think. I also talk about more then just games. I talk and discuss the gaming industry or elements of games. To get to know me better, you should come on my blog. :) Keep the most up to date with me on my twitter: http://twitter.com/nekojonez Reviews, first impressions and more. Visit my blog: https://arpegi.wordpress.com/ http://www.arpegi.be/ Besides blogging, I also act on stage, have a job in education, play games and study to become a better IT guy.
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3 Responses to Gamer’s Thoughts: The Visual Novel

  1. I was actually thinking about writting and article on Visual Novel as they increases in number on PC. I know it’s popular in japan (well, it is in some manga…) but I’ve never really understood.

    First, you say this : “So, when is a game a visual novel? It’s quite logical that a visual novel is more of a novel then a game.  When the novel isn’t interactive, you have a kinetic novel. A kinetic novel is a novel that a movie you can read . »

    Isn’t it strange to call kinetic fixed images and background ? (Prove me wrong, I’d love to discover good stories) I was surprised when I didn’t find more general examples in your post (more on that later). I’ve only tried some VN so far and not the best, according to Steam reviews.

    You say a bit after this : “Since visual novels play more on the imagination of the player instead of the skills.”

    That’s were my main problem comes. How can it let the imagination do the work if they are so many artworks ? I remember playing some interaction fiction where you needed to input commands to progress (Zork, Adventurefall) since it was only textual you had to define the world with your own limits. Yet, Visual Novel are interaction fiction with on character to the left speaking with someone on the right. With many images, assets, music and even voices, it’s like you said, more of a « readable » movie. But appart of clicking the screen or choosing one or two options…it may not be the most interactions I’ve had with a game. But I may have played bad VN.

    “Visual novels try to pull the gamers in with clever writing. They don’t try to make it a massive big show, they create an interesting plot line.”

    It may be true but many VN I saw on Steam are writed like frontline Shonen (aka it’s bad and full of cliché) with twists you see coming from miles away. And on top of that you have those artworks that aren’t really helping. Nice male and female characters that are really appealing and follow the codes of manga. Well, that won’t do the trick for someone who doesn’t like to read manga.

    But I do. I simply dislike Shonen, I tend to see something different that what offers those VN (again, on Steam I’m not familliar with the genre at all!). An example of what I thought a VN was like is Narcissu 1st & 2nd (and it’s free on Steam).
    You may choose or not the voice acting and you only have a little background image while the narrator tells you this depressing story. While on the other hand you have « Evertlasting Summer » (also free on Steam) with young females in short skirt. I absolutly do not juge any of those games since I didn’t play them but you can clearly seee that one of the two tend to really play with your imagination while the other may be more located in your pants. And the more VN they are on Steam, the more boobies driven story appears. Well, on the next topic…

    « Anyways, to close off this article, let’s take a short look at 2 great visual novels I played in my life. »

    If you consider The Walking Dead as Visual Novel what about games like , Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls (or even Asura’s Wrath) ? Those were highly criticized for not being « real » games. You don’t have Game Over and the focus isn’t on the gameplay but the story and cinematics (Yeah…Metal Gear Solid is pretty much intouchable even to the games are terribly short.).

    What you call here « Modern Visual Novel » I call « Modern Point  N Click ». I see in those exactly what Monkey Island was in my youth. A game I didn’t played for the sake of jumping and testing my agility but for the plot. In fact, Beyond Two Souls is exactly that : a game were you have to click on a script to go further.

    « Most visual novels are rather lengthy. »

    Oh well ! Those on Steam seemed to last one or two hours ! It may explain something haha !

    « I want to compare the visual novel genre with other genres. Or it might be an idea for a podcast. »

    Ah well, let’s see for that next article, you may tell what I wanted to read here !

    Like

    • NekoJonez says:

      While I haven’t read your comment in full detail, I’m quite glad you left this. :D.

      I’m planning to write a sequel article somewhere this year and I will probably take some things of your comment as inspiration. 😀

      Thanks for reading 🙂

      Like

  2. Pingback: What games do you play? | NekoJonez talks games

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