With recent spikes in popularity State side and with a bigger fan base, Visual Novels are becoming something that is almost common place to see on Steam. You wouldn’t think about it but now some of these titles are headlining the front page of this massive digital gaming platform. Titles like Hatoful Boyfriend show us the more comical side to these games but it is only just a sliver of a bigger cake. This cake has many layers and the deeper you cut the weirder they come. Visual novels can be light heartened adventures, grand epics, harem based, jerk at your heart romance or pure, sultry eroge. The visual novel format is something that is entirely simple. They usually involve a series of flat 2D backgrounds and characters, and they provide you with a novel based game that sort of develops into a choose your own adventure, sort of format.
From these choices the player may explore routes that they never knew were in the game and can unlock endings through multiple paths. The most popular ones tend to be romantic ones, where the player is free to come back after beating the game to try and win the affection of more characters in order to unlock more endings. These games allow players to explore many options and offer a wide variety in terms of story and content. However, they all walk in the same pair of shoes and as such each novel can feel a bit used, from the same style of music to the same menu screens. They tend to lack in diversity when it comes to actual software. This is, however, the beautiful simplicity of these games. The fact that something like this does not take much time at all can be quite rewarding, especially if you can churn these titles out with a relative success rate. There are, however, the darker patches of visual novels and those tend to be the Eroge titles. These titles can range from mature to very mature. I’m talking to you Starless! If you ever value your soul or sanity best avoid that one.
To bring us back to our first point, visual novels are growing in mass popularity in the States and beyond. With Steam now featuring more titles, more mature ones too, these games have seen a massive spread in availability and reach. While originally niche, these titles are now sharing a digital shelf space with some larger AAA titles. This in itself is a massive accomplishment and there have been a select few times where a visual novel has held a high release popularity within Steam’s rankings. They are however very particular to the person that plays them. They are not made for everyone, nor are they a game type that most players would like to openly admit to playing. Granted they all have their social stigma’s, the eroge ones more so, but that should not stop you from playing them.
As stated before there are some really impressive titles out there in the wild. I played a few of them growing up and while their names escape me their stories do not. I mean, take a look at most of the PSP’s or the PS Vita’s library. They all have at least a few visual novel titles, some of which are being imported to the West with relative success. Take titles like the gruesome, Corpse Party, this game has seen numerous releases and makeovers, the most recent one being on the PS Vita. These titles can have a diversity in interaction but they can still make a boring day transform into a fun one. That is what I love about these titles. They even run at lower pricing options too! However, with a change in some and a drive for innovation, more and more of these titles are beginning to play like normal games. Look to Danganronpa on the PS Vita as a primary example of a really awesome and ever changing visual novel. The latest release, Ultra Despair Girls, bringing a shooting element into the game. It is this ability to diversify that also helps the genre move into new and uncharted territory as well as being able to move into new and uncharted waters in terms of potential consumers.
While they still are a relative niche section on Steam and in the greater gaming community as a whole for the West, these games continue to dominate a few charts in Japan and beyond. Thank their ease of production for one reason towards their success. However, they do face a lot of scrutiny while coming over to new foreign markets. Grievous spelling errors and the unfortunate view that all visual novels are porn games does not help their cause. Granted most of them are, but they are not all flashy or showy about it. They can be quite romantic and a tear jerk to boot. Some just like to parade around begging for that attention while the rest quietly sit to themselves sipping on their tea. Granted I can say I have been in both camps when it comes to talking about these titles and I have had my share of experiences with both, but when it comes down to it, I really do enjoy them. They are simple to play through, but for those who want the real challenge they can prove tough to master when you want to find every single ending possible.
So, what are your opinions on Visual Novels? Love them, hate them? Feel free to give us a comment down below and also on our official Twitter page! Have you played a few popular titles, such as Danganronpa or Hatoful Boyfriend? Are you also against the rise of Visual Novels on Steam or are you glad that the genre is finally getting some positive limelight and exposure to wider markets?
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