What is a Visual Novel? (An In-depth look) – Visual Novel Ramblings


Hello friends! Visual Novel Ramblings is what i have decided
to label these types of videos. Here I’ll basically run over any discussion
topics or concepts that I thought would be interesting to talk about. I’ll also play footage from visual novels
I have played before in the background with labels on which games they are from, so if
any catch your eye or look interesting and you wanna know more about them, you can tell
me down in the comments. A quick disclaimer, the opinions presented
here will just be that, opinions. Feel free to disagree with them and perhaps
explain your own opinion down below. For the first topic, I thought it would be
best if we got down to basics here, which you probably noticed if you checked the title
of the video. Hopefully this will help you understand a
good chunk of what I plan on covering in this channel, as perhaps some of you may be confused
as to why I covered Rance Quest when at first glance it seems like just a RPG like any other. And that question is, What is a visual novel? A simple question really, yet one with many
different answers depending on who you ask. And the person I plan on consulting is the
Guru of the internet, the one that knows all And by that I mean wikipedia A visual novel is an interactive game genre,
which originated in Japan, featuring text-based story with narrative style of literature
and interactivity aided by static or sprite-based visuals, most often using anime-style art
or occasionally live-action stills (and sometimes video footage). Basically, a japanese choose your adventure
book is what it’s saying, which is a fair if very mechanical description for the medium. Below that there is this talk about how japan
separates NVL and ADV with ADV having gameplay while NVL not having any, but honestly I think nowadays Japan just puts
everything under the adventure game symbol. I mean Steins Gate Zero by Nitroplus came
out around 2 years ago, and that’s considered an “Science fiction” adventure game even
though all the interactivity the player has is in making choices. Overseas however, the international audience
would place both of these types of games under the same moniker Visual Novel. Which is probably why the VNDB or Visual Novel
Database page contains games from Higurashi, to Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright, all
the way to things like Kamidori Alchemy Meister. While all of these contain varying levels
of story reading and gameplay, they are still considered visual novels under VNDB.. For the most part, my personal consideration
of whether a game is a visual novel or not is whether at least a solid 50% of the game
is spent reading dialogue, whether it be between characters or inner monologues. Which is why I’d consider something like
say Sengoku Rance a visual novel, even though it still has a lot of strategic elements and
is heavy on the gameplay. But I wouldn’t consider something like Silent
Hill 2 to be a visual novel even though it’s a game with a heavy story. The main difference to me is how the story
is presented, and how much reading the game puts forth as their primary way to tell a
story. With all that said, I’ll follow the general
international strategy that if it’s on VNDB it is fair game for me to cover, and even
games outside of that might be included like To the Moon. With all that said, lets dial it back a little. Rather than definition, what comes up to your
mind when you hear the words visual novel. I imagine for a majority of the listeners,
especially for those who’ve only read maybe one or none at all, the first thing you’d
probably think of is a bishoujou or otome games, the ones where you play as a relatively
faceless guy or girl as if you are a witness to a criminal act under protection, you go
to a high school (or cafe, or magic academy) and meet a group of inexplicably cute or handsome
members of the opposite gender. From there you make a bunch of choices, throw
a random beach scene in there, raise relationship points and then maybe get an intimate scene
with your chosen member and get a happy ending. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that
this sort of visual novel isn’t so prevalent when it comes to both the international market
and japanese market. Just look at the popularity of memes like
Nekopara or way worse, Sakura games which are pretty much bottom-tier effort garbage
that are three hours long, yet somehow still make me feel like I wasted my time. Nor do I think these type visual novels have
no place in the medium. After all every VN must offer some sort of
value to their intended audience (although the aforementioned Sakura games on steam make
me question that thought) That said, I firmly believe that Visual Novels are also comprised
of stories that are much more than just dating anime women or men, or for getting your rocks
off. Animes like the hugely popular Stein’s Gate
and Clannad all started out as visual novels before being adapted to anime, and those are
all incredible stories. Heck, Clannad would be considered this kind
of basic school love galge I mentioned earlier and it’s still considered among the best. I would even go as far to say that these stories
are far more enjoyable and deeper as Visual Novels then in their more accessible adaptation
forms (like Manga or Anime). Visual novels have some of the best horror
stories like Higurashi When they cry, mysteries like Ever17, Science Fiction like the previously
mentioned Steins Gate, Modern Fantasy with Fate/Stay Night, Mechas with Soukou Akki Muramasa,
Cyberpunk with Baldr Sky, School life with Little Busters and well I think you get my
point. Even in terms of being games, the visual novel
Rance X is one of the best games I’ve ever played, with a hilarious character interactions
and a tough as nails difficulty that doesn’t coddle you. Phoenix Wright is a great adventure VN that
has achieved widespread appeal, and Utawarerumono: The Two Hakuoro (which I think is a far better
title then the Mask of Truth) is a solid Fire Emblem like VN with great music and characters. None of these visual novels are just made
to date cute anime girls, and none of them are just made to get off once or twice to. These visual novels represent some of the
best stories I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting through, and I mean that in comparison
to books, video games, manga, and anime. I believe Visual Novels are great since they
have the freedom to be written by their creators, without the jurisdiction or overseeing of
any major companies like other normal console games or anime. If characters have a trauma or some sort of
psychological reaction to someone or something, the author is free to explore it without angering
any bigwigs or getting stopped by anyone higher up. Very similar to the indie game scene in America. If they have a crazy idea they want to present,
they’re free to do so without anyone pressuring them to appeal to a wider or different audience
With an emphasis on reading and storytelling, visual novels are free to delve deeper into
character’s thoughts, motivations and goals without being restricted to any sort of time
constraint like an Anime or Manga has. A scene that would be a quick 5 second line
in an anime, or a single page in a manga would instead be a few paragraphs exploring the
characters psyche in a VN. I can safely say the best character interactions
I have ever seen come from playing VN’s. At the same time Visual Novels have a presentation
and budget that elevates it from being OC work on fanfic websites. The sense of suspense you get as you click
through gruesome descriptions, with the background picture being some stale inorganic white wall,
accompanied by a startingly lack of music, or even worse, clown music as you click on
is something unique to the medium. It treads that fine line of how much control
the player is given versus what the game is trying to show. Just like a good book, visual novels can use
alot of tricks in what it does and does not show to beguile and surprise the readers,
with the added ability to hint at scenes with images and animations
Aside from the creative freedom visual novels tend to have, there is also the emphasis on
characters and story that you just don’t see as much in other games who need to prioritize
gameplay as the selling point and story secondary in order to appeal to the audience they are
directed towards. Which is not to say I think story is always
more important than gameplay (I play videogames and enjoy a fun game like anyone else like
Dark Souls or Divinity 2) but it’s always nice to have a change of pace. Story and gameplay don’t have to be mutually
exclusive. It’s just the focus is different depending
on the game. Even with visual novel that contain gameplay,
you can always tell the narrative is the primary focus, while perhaps the opposites holds true
in other types of games. Although to be fair, sometimes visual novels
take this too far with gameplay that are basically an afterthought, but that’s a video for
another day. So I’ve spent the past few minutes talking
about visual novels in quite a positive light, and the fact that I am a big fan of the medium
is probably quite apparent. That said, I want to give a broad overview
of visual novels in general, and that includes the negatives. Visual Novels in the end are exactly what
they sound like, they are games that are focused on presenting the stories in a way akin to
a novel. That is to say that, they involve reading
alot of text. VN’s aren’t the type of game where you
can expect to start blowing up things from the introduction. By this same logic, another weakness of Visual
Novels are that the beginnings tend to be slow. Unlike other games which can hook you by a
bombastic action set piece spectacle, Visual Novels usually spend their time building up
character backgrounds and history, relationships to each other and all the sorts. While some visual novels introduce these in
a fantastic way that immediately hooks readers, the vast majority will be much slower affairs
which may find adequate at best, and dull and plodding at worse. Utawarerumono Itsuwari no Kamen & Futari no
Hakuoro is a great example of that. As a whole package I think the two games is
fantastic. As a standalone product, man was the first
game’s first half of 20 hours was incredibly boring. There’s only so many times I can read about
everyone poking fun at how Hakuoro is a weak boy compared to the animal people before I
get tired of it. Another inconvenience about visuals novels
is that, they are lower budget products in general. I said earlier that Visual Novels development
is very similar to indie game development in America, and I meant that not just in the
creative freedom aspect, but also in how much money they have to work with. Visual Novels tend to be relatively jank affairs,
especially when they have gameplay and resort to 3D. Since they don’t have anywhere near the
budget of triple A games of say Dark Souls, they have to cut corners in places, and sometimes
those cuts are fairly obvious. It’s why when I see a visual novel with
an wide range of varied sprites for each character, I’m very impressed rather than thinking
it’s expected. Of course in the end it’s up to the company
to how well it uses their budget. For Instance Rance X has some of the best
gameplay I’ve ever played, and looks amazing while it’s at it. Consequently, Rance 9 has some of the jankiest
looking gameplay I’ve seen, like where are the sound effects here? Shouldn’t there be a ZING or something?. Last one off the top my head is that while
visual novels are a medium that allows the writers to flex their brains and writing muscles,
sometimes can go a little too hard whether it’d be because they really want to push
a point home, think what they’re writing is super genius, or is just straight up bad
writing. Visual Novels live and die by the writers
ability to make good prose, and when you are churning out like 30 hours worth of text to
sift through, chances are not everything written is going to be solid gold. I’ve read my fair share of bad text, and
even some of the most well-known visual novels by the community at large like Fate/Stay night
have less than stellar lines and paragraphs in it. With only nice art, voices (and gameplay if
lucky) to belly the experience, the writing is what is presented first and foremost to
the audience, whether that be to the game’s advantedge, or to its detriment. Let’s finally bring it all together back
to the original question, What is a visual novel? A visual novel is a narrative focused game
that presents it’s story primarily through written dialogue. Although they are generally perceived as just
dating games to bed cute anime characters, they are more like well-made reading experiences
made by indie companies that have creative freedoms in their story to explore whatever
topic they want. The stories in visual novels range just as
much as anime, from those light-hearted for making people warm and fuzzy, to those much
darker in tones and tackling far harder subjects. While they may lack budget or have slower
beginnings the other video games, they make up with intricate plots and thoroughly explored
characters. And I believe that the stories in visual novels
are some of the best I have read in any medium. If any of that sounds real good to you, stick
around to the channel, I’ll be introducing some of the better visual novels I have played
throughout my time in this medium. I’ll be keeping it wide and broad as present
those from various genres and gameplay, and I hope you’ll find one that you will pick
up and enjoy thoroughly. If any of the visual novels I listed looked
cool to you, feel free to comment below if you wanna hear me talk about it. As always if you like or dislike the video
the buttons are below, and if you would like to stay up to date when I talk about other
visual novels or just support me, hit the subscribe button. With that I’ll see you next time, I’d
say next week but I failed that when I had to scrap a project that wasn’t going well
haha.

3 Replies to “What is a Visual Novel? (An In-depth look) – Visual Novel Ramblings

  1. Glad you mentioned Sakura series. From the cover art it seems to have more clones and pallet swaps than Love Live and Yandere Simulator do.

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