Visual novel

Last updated

A visual novel(ビジュアルノベル,bijuaru noberu) is an interactive game genre, which originated in Japan, [1] [2] 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). [3] As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels.

Japan Country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.

Literature written work of art

Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

Anime Japanese animation

Anime is hand-drawn and computer animation originating from or associated with Japan.


In Japanese terminology, a distinction is often made between visual novels (abbreviated NVL, derived from "novel"), which consist predominantly of narration and have very few interactive elements, and adventure games (abbreviated AVG, or ADV derived from "adventure"), a form of adventure game which may incorporate problem-solving and other types of gameplay. This distinction is normally lost outside Japan, where both NVLs and ADVs are commonly referred to as "visual novels" by international fans. Visual novels and ADVs are especially prevalent in Japan, where they made up nearly 70% of the PC game titles released in 2006. [4]

In video-game culture an adventure game is a video game in which the player assumes the role of a protagonist in an interactive story driven by exploration and puzzle-solving. The genre's focus on story allows it to draw heavily from other narrative-based media, literature and film, encompassing a wide variety of literary genres. Many adventure games are designed for a single player, since this emphasis on story and character makes multi-player design difficult. Colossal Cave Adventure is identified as the first such adventure game, first released in 1976, while other notable adventure game series include Zork, King's Quest, The Secret of Monkey Island, and Myst.

A PC game, also known as a computer game or personal computer game, is a type of video game played on a personal computer rather than a video game console or arcade machine. Its defining characteristics include: more diverse and user-determined gaming hardware and software; and generally greater capacity in input, processing, video and audio output. The uncoordinated nature of the PC game market, and now its lack of physical media, make precisely assessing its size difficult.

Visual novels are often produced for video game consoles, and the more popular games have occasionally been ported to such systems. The more famous visual novels are also often adapted into the light novel, manga or anime formats. The market for visual novels outside of East Asia is small, though a number of anime based on visual novels are popular among anime fans in the Western world.

A video game console is a computer device that outputs a video signal or visual image to display a video game that one or more people can play.

In software engineering, porting is the process of adapting software for the purpose of achieving some form of execution in a computing environment that is different from the one that a given program was originally designed for. The term is also used when software/hardware is changed to make them usable in different environments.

Light novel style of Japanese novel

A light novel is a style of Japanese novel primarily targeting high school and middle school students. "Light novel" is a wasei-eigo, or a Japanese term formed from words in the English language. Light novels are often called ranobe (ラノベ) or, in the West, LN. The average length of a light novel is about 50,000 words, the equivalent size of an American novel, and light novels are usually published in bunkobon size, often with dense publishing schedules. A distinguishing characteristic of light novels is that they are illustrated with anime and manga art style, often being adapted into such media. They are mainly published in separate book volumes, while some of them have their chapters serialized in anthology magazines before collection in book form, comparable to how manga are published.


Visual novels often feature highly detailed backgrounds and characters rendered in a style reminiscent of Japanese animation. RenPy001.png
Visual novels often feature highly detailed backgrounds and characters rendered in a style reminiscent of Japanese animation.

Visual novels are distinguished from other game types by their generally minimal gameplay. Typically the majority of player interaction is limited to clicking to keep the text, graphics and sound moving (many recent games offer "play" or "fast-forward" toggles that make this unnecessary), while making narrative choices along the way. Another main characteristic of visual novels are its strong emphasis on the prose, as the narration in visual novels are delivered through text. This characteristic makes playing visual novels similar to reading a book. [5]

Most visual novels have multiple storylines and more than one ending; the mechanic in these cases typically consists of intermittent multiple-choice decision points, where the player selects a direction in which to take the game. This style of gameplay is similar to story-driven interactive fiction, or the shorter and less detailed real-life gamebook books. [6] Many fans of visual novels hold them up as exceptions to the relatively weak storytelling in video games overall.

Interactive fiction, often abbreviated IF, is software simulating environments in which players use text commands to control characters and influence the environment. Works in this form can be understood as literary narratives, either in the form of Interactive narratives or Interactive narrations. These works can also be understood as a form of video game, either in the form of an adventure game or role-playing game. In common usage, the term refers to text adventures, a type of adventure game where the entire interface can be "text-only", however, graphical text adventure games, where the text is accompanied by graphics still fall under the text adventure category if the main way to interact with the game is by typing text. Some users of the term distinguish between interactive fiction, known as "Puzzle-free", that focuses on narrative, and "text adventures" that focus on puzzles.

A gamebook is a work of printed fiction that allows the reader to participate in the story by making choices. The narrative branches along various paths, typically through the use of numbered paragraphs or pages. Each narrative typically does not follow paragraphs in a linear or ordered fashion. Gamebooks are sometimes called choose your own adventure books or CYOA after the influential Choose Your Own Adventure series originally published by US company Bantam Books. Gamebooks influenced hypertext fiction.

Some visual novels do not limit themselves into merely interactive fictions, but also incorporate other elements into them. An example of this approach is Symphonic Rain , where the player is required to play a musical instrument of some sort, and attain a good score in order to advance. Usually such an element is related as a plot device in the game.

<i>Symphonic Rain</i> video game

Symphonic Rain is a Japanese musical visual novel developed by Kogado Studio and first released as a limited edition version on March 26, 2004 for Windows as part of a series of "music adventure" games done by its Kuroneko-san Team; the regular edition followed on August 27, 2004. The game is rated for all-ages, and contains themes which revolve around romance and relationships. The game was later published and released in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Mainland China by T-Time Technology. Symphonic Rain was released twice more in Japan, first on June 24, 2005 as a collector's edition, and again on November 22, 2007 as a popular edition at a reduced price.

A plot device, or plot mechanism, is any technique in a narrative used to move the plot forward. A contrived or arbitrary plot device may annoy or confuse the reader, causing a loss of the suspension of disbelief. However a well-crafted plot device, or one that emerges naturally from the setting or characters of the story, may be entirely accepted, or may even be unnoticed by the audience.

Some shorter works do not contain any decision points at all. Most examples of this sort are fan-created. Fan-created novel games are reasonably popular; there are a number of free game engines and construction kits aimed at making them easy to construct, most notably NScripter, KiriKiri and Ren'Py. [7]

Many visual novels use voice actors to provide voices for the characters in the game. Often, the protagonist is left unvoiced, even when the rest of the characters are fully voiced. This choice is meant to aid the player in identifying with the protagonist and to avoid having to record large amounts of dialogue, as the main character typically has the most speaking lines due to the branching nature of visual novels.

Branching narratives

In many visual novels, players are sometimes subjected to choices they need to make in order to proceed. Visual novel choice.png
In many visual novels, players are sometimes subjected to choices they need to make in order to proceed.

Non-linear branching storylines are a common trend in visual novels, which frequently use multiple branching storylines to achieve multiple different endings, allowing non-linear freedom of choice along the way. Decision points within a visual novel often present players with the option of altering the course of events during the game, leading to many different possible outcomes. [8] [9] An acclaimed example is Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward , where nearly every action and dialogue choice can lead to entirely new branching paths and endings. Each path only reveals certain aspects of the overall storyline and it is only after uncovering all the possible different paths and outcomes, through multiple playthroughs, that every component comes together to form a coherent, well-written story.

The branching path stories found in visual novels represent an evolution of the Choose Your Own Adventure concept. The digital medium allows for significant improvements, such as being able to fully explore multiple aspects and perspectives of a story. Another improvement is having hidden decision points that are automatically determined based on the player's past decisions. In Fate/stay night , for example, the way the player character behaved towards non-player characters during the course of the game affects the way they react to the player character in later scenes, such as whether or not they choose to help in life-or-death situations. This would be far more difficult to track with physical books. More importantly, visual novels do not face the same length restrictions as a physical book. For example, the total word count of the English fan translation of Fate/stay night, taking all the branching paths into account, exceeds that of The Lord of the Rings . This significant increase in length allows visual novels to tell stories as long and complex as those often found in traditional novels, while still maintaining a branching path structure, and allowing them to focus on complex stories with mature themes and consistent plots in a way which Choose Your Own Adventure books were unable to do due to their physical limitations. Visual novels with non-branching plots, such as Higurashi When They Cry , Planetarian: The Reverie of a Little Planet , Muv-Luv Alternative , and Digital: A Love Story are rare exceptions within the genre. [6] [7]

Many visual novels often revolve almost entirely around character interactions and dialogue choices, such as Ace Attorney and Tokimeki Memorial , usually featuring complex branching dialogues and often presenting the player's possible responses word-for-word as the player character would say them. Such titles revolving around relationship-building, including visual novels as well as dating simulations, such as Tokimeki Memorial, and some role-playing video games, such as Shin Megami Tensei: Persona , often give choices that have a different number of associated "mood points" that influence a player character's relationship and future conversations with a non-player character. These games often feature a day-night cycle with a time scheduling system that provides context and relevance to character interactions, allowing players to choose when and if to interact with certain characters, which in turn influences their responses during later conversations. [10]

As early as 1983, Portopia Serial Murder Case featured non-linear elements, which included traveling between different areas in a generally open world, a branching dialogue conversation system where the story develops through entering commands and receiving responses from other characters, and making choices that determine the dialogues and order of events as well as alternate outcomes, though there is only one true culprit while the others are red herrings. It also features a phone that could be used to dial any number to contact several non-player characters. [11] The game was well received in Japan for its well-told storyline and surprising twist ending, and for allowing multiple ways to achieve objectives. [12] Another more non-linear early example was Mirrors, released by Soft Studio Wing for the PC-8801 and FM Towns computers in 1990; it featured a branching narrative, multiple endings, and audio CD music. [13]

It is not uncommon for visual novels to have morality systems. A well-known example is the 2005 title School Days , an animated visual novel that Kotaku describes as going well beyond the usual "black and white choice systems" (referring to video games such as Mass Effect , Fallout 3 and BioShock ) where you "pick a side and stick with it" while leaving "the expansive middle area between unexplored." School Days instead encourages players to explore the grey, neutral middle-ground in order to view the more interesting, "bad" endings. [14]

A common feature used in visual novels is having multiple protagonists giving different perspectives on the story. C's Ware's EVE Burst Error (1995) introduced a unique twist to the system by allowing the player to switch between both protagonists at any time during the game, instead of finishing one protagonist's scenario before playing the other. EVE Burst Error often requires the player to have both protagonists co-operate with each other at various points during the game, with choices in one scenario affecting the other. [15] Fate/stay night is another example that features multiple perspectives. [6] Chunsoft sound novels such as Machi (1998) and 428: Shibuya Scramble (2008) develop this concept further, by allowing the player to alternate between the perspectives of several or more different characters, making choices with one character that have consequences for other characters. [3] [16] 428 in particular features up to 85 different possible endings. [16]

Other notable examples of non-linear storytelling include ELF's most famous visual novel, YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world (1996), which featured a science fiction plot revolving around time travel and parallel universes. The player travels between parallel worlds using a Reflector device, which employs a limited number of stones to mark a certain position as a returning location, so that if the player decides to retrace their steps, they can go to an alternate universe to the time they have used a Reflector stone. The game also implemented an original system called ADMS, or Automatic Diverge Mapping System, which displays a screen that the player can check at any time to see the direction in which they are heading along the branching plot lines. [17] Similar systems have later been employed in the 2010 role-playing games, Radiant Historia [18] [19] and the PSP version of Tactics Ogre . [20]

RPG hybrids

There are role-playing video games that feature visual novel-style elements. A well-known example in the West is the Lost Odyssey , an RPG that features a series of visual novel-style flashback sequences called "A Thousand Years of Dreams". [3] These sequences were penned by an award-winning Japanese short story writer, Kiyoshi Shigematsu. [21] Another title is the Arc System Works fighting game series Blazblue, which plays off of a complex fantasy setting where a one-hundred-year period is reset indefinitely with many variables. The many branching storylines in Story Mode can serve as stand-alone stories, but players must consider them together along with Arcade Mode stories to be able to fully understand the universe.

Another successful example is Sega's Sakura Wars series, which combined tactical role-playing game combat with visual novel elements, introducing a real-time branching choice system where, during an event or conversation, the player must choose an action or dialogue choice within a time limit, or to not respond at all within that time. The player's choice, or lack thereof, affects the player character's relationship with other characters and in turn the characters' performance in battle, the direction of the storyline, and the ending. Later games in the series added several variations, including an action gauge that can be raised up or down depending on the situation, and a gauge that the player can manipulate using the analog stick depending on the situation. [22] The success of Sakura Wars led to a wave of games that combine role-playing and visual novel elements, including Thousand Arms , Riviera: The Promised Land , and Luminous Arc . [23]

Italian independent video game designer Celso Riva developed several critically acclaimed visual novels, including the Vera Blanc and Heileen series, The Flower Shop , Summer Session , Planet Stronghold , the award-winning Loren The Amazon Princess and its spin-off Tales of Aravorn: Seasons of the Wolf . [24]


Visual novels are commonly characterized with dialog boxes and sprites denoting the speaker. This is a recreation of the usual screen layout of a visual novel, generated by the Ren'Py game engine. Wikipe-tan visual novel (Ren'Py).png
Visual novels are commonly characterized with dialog boxes and sprites denoting the speaker. This is a recreation of the usual screen layout of a visual novel, generated by the Ren'Py game engine.

Although using the narrative style of Literature, visual novel has evolved a style somewhat different from print novels. In general, visual novels are more likely to be narrated in the first person than the third, and to present events from the point of view of only one character.

In the typical visual novel, the graphics comprise a set of generic backgrounds (normally just one for each location in the game), with character sprites (立ち絵,tachi-e) superimposed onto these; the perspective is usually first-person, with the protagonist remaining unseen. At certain key moments in the plot, special event CG computer graphics are displayed instead; these are more detailed images, drawn specially for that scene rather than being composed from predefined elements, which often use more cinematic camera angles and include the protagonist. These event CGs can usually be viewed at any time once they have been "unlocked" by finding them in-game; this provides a motivation to replay the game and try making different decisions, as it is normally impossible to view all special events on a single play-through.

Up until the 1990s, the majority of visual novels utilized pixel art. This was particularly common on the NEC PC-9801 format, which showcased what is considered to be some of the best pixel art in the history of video games, with a popular example being Policenauts in 1994. [12] There have also been visual novels that use live-action stills or video footage, such as several Sound Novel games by Chunsoft. The most successful example is Machi , one of the most celebrated games in Japan, where it was voted No. 5 in a 2006 Famitsu reader poll of top 100 games of all time. The game resembled a live-action television drama, but allowing players to explore multiple character perspectives and affect the outcomes. Another successful example is 428: Shibuya Scramble , which received a perfect score of 40 out of 40 from Famitsu magazine. [3]

Content and genre

Many visual novels are centered on drama, particularly themes involving romance or family, but visual novels centered on science fiction, fantasy fiction, and horror fiction are not uncommon.

Erotic content

Many visual novels also qualify as eroge, an abbreviation of 'erotic game'. These games feature sexually explicit imagery that is accessed by completing certain routes in the game, most often depicting the game's protagonist having sex with one of the game's other characters. Like other pornographic media in Japan, scenes depicting genitalia are censored in their original Japanese releases, only becoming uncensored if the game is licensed outside Japan. Certain eroge titles receive re-releases which exclude explicit content in order to be sold to a younger audience, such as ports to consoles or handheld systems where sexually explicit content is not allowed, and storylines referring to aforementioned sex scenes are often omitted from adaptations into other media, unless that media is also pornographic in nature, such as a hentai anime.

Traditionally, PC-based visual novels have contained risque scenes even if the overall focus is not erotic (similar to the "obligatory sex scene" in Hollywood action films). However, the vast majority of console ports do not contain adult material, and a number of recent PC games have also been targeted at the all-age market; for example, all of Key's titles come in family-friendly versions, although the content might still not be appropriate for children, and three have never contained adult content at all. Also, all of KID's titles are family-friendly.

However, some of these games are later re-released with the addition of erotic scenes, or have a sequel with such. For example, Little Busters! was first released as an all-ages visual novel, but a version with erotic scenes titled Little Busters! Ecstasy came out later, and though Clannad is also all-ages, its spinoff Tomoyo After: It's a Wonderful Life is not.

Often, the beginning of the eroge will be dedicated to introducing the characters and developing the protagonist's relationship with them, before the protagonist sexually interacts with other characters, for example, Lump of Sugar games such as Tayutama: Kiss on my Deity and Everlasting Summer do this. The effect it has on the reader is the H-scenes (sex scenes) will have a stronger emotional impact for the two (or possibly more) characters.

Some of Japan's earliest adventure games were erotic bishōjo games developed by Koei. [25] In 1982, they released Night Life , the first commercial erotic computer game. [12] It was a graphic adventure, [26] with sexually explicit images. [12] That same year, they released another erotic title, Danchi Tsuma no Yūwaku (Seduction of the Condominium Wife), which was an early adventure game with colour graphics, owing to the eight-color palette of the NEC PC-8001 computer. It became a hit, helping Koei become a major software company. [25] Other now-famous companies such as Enix, Square and Nihon Falcom also produced similar erotic games in the early 1980s before they became famous for their role-playing video games. While some early erotic games meaningfully integrate the erotic content into a thoughtful and mature storyline, others often used it as a flimsy excuse for pornography. [12] The Japanese game Pai Touch! involves the protagonist gaining the ability to change the size of girls' breasts, and the adventures that ensue in trying to choose which girl to use the power on the most.

Another subgenre is called "nukige"(抜きゲー), in which sexual gratification of the player is the main focus of the game. [27]

Science fiction

In 1986, Square released the science fiction adventure game Suishō no Dragon for the NES console. The game featured several innovations, including the use of animation in many of the scenes rather than still images, [28] and an interface resembling that of a point-and-click interface for a console, like Portopia Serial Murder Case , but making use of visual icons rather than text-based ones to represent various actions. Like the NES version of Portopia Serial Murder Case, it featured a cursor that could be moved around the screen using the D-pad to examine the scenery, though the cursor in Suishō no Dragon was also used to click on the action icons. [28] [29]

Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear fame) was inspired by Portopia Serial Murder Case to enter the video game industry, [30] and later produced his own adventure games. After completing the stealth game Metal Gear , his first graphic adventure was released by Konami the following year: Snatcher (1988), an ambitious cyberpunk detective novel, graphic adventure, that was highly regarded at the time for pushing the boundaries of video game storytelling, cinematic cut scenes, and mature content. [31] It also featured a post-apocalyptic science fiction setting, an amnesiac protagonist, and some light gun shooter segments. It was praised for its graphics, soundtrack, high quality writing comparable to a novel, voice acting comparable to a film or radio drama, and in-game computer database with optional documents that flesh out the game world. The Sega CD version of Snatcher was for a long time the only major visual novel game to be released in America, where it, despite low sales, gained a cult following. [32]

Following Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake , Kojima produced his next graphic adventure, Policenauts (1994), a point-and-click adventure notable for being an early example of extensive voice recording in video games. [33] It also featured a hard science fiction setting, a theme revolving around space exploration, a plot inspired by the ancient Japanese tale of Urashima Taro , and some occasional full-motion video cut scenes. The gameplay was largely similar to Snatcher, but with the addition of a point-and-click interface and some first-person shooter segments. Policenauts also introduced summary screens, which act to refresh the player's memory of the plot upon reloading a saved game (save), an element Kojima would later use in Metal Gear Solid . The PlayStation version of Policenauts could also read the memory card and give some easter egg dialogues if a save file of Konami's dating sim Tokimeki Memorial is present, a technique Kojima would also later use in Metal Gear Solid. [32] From 1997 to 1999, Kojima developed the three Tokimeki Memorial Drama Series titles, which were adaptations of Tokimeki Memorial in a visual novel adventure game format. [34] Other acclaimed examples of science fiction visual novels include ELF's Yu-No (1996) and 5pb.'s Chaos;Head (2008) and Steins;Gate (2009).


A popular subgenre of visual novels is the nakige(泣きゲー,"crying game"), which, as opposed to utsuge(鬱ゲー,"depressing game"), still usually has a happy ending. The main purpose of such a game is to make the player feel for the characters and to make them cry because of emotional scenarios which serve to have a bigger impact on the player after the game is over. These games often follow a similar formula: a comedic first half, with a heart-warming romantic middle, followed by a tragic separation, and finally (though not always) an emotional reunion. This formula was influenced primarily by Leaf's visual novel To Heart , released in 1997, and was further developed in the 1998 title One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e , developed by Tactics. After One was complete, the development team quit Tactics to form Key where they developed their first title Kanon , also based upon this formula. According to Satoshi Todome in his book, A History of Adult Games, Kanon was "heavily hyped [and] had gamers impatient until its release. It was only one game released by Key so far, and yet [it] had already sent major shockwaves around the industry. And yet another game [Air], two years later, sent even more shockwaves. Air was equally hyped and well received." [35]

Key's "crying game" formula used successfully in One and Kanon was later adopted by other visual novel companies to create their own "crying games". Examples of this include: Kana: Little Sister (1999) by Digital Object, the Memories Off series (1999 onwards) by KID, D.C.: Da Capo (2002) by Circus, Wind: A Breath of Heart (2002) by Minori, and Snow (2003) by Studio Mebius (under Visual Art's).

One of the most acclaimed visual novels of this subgenre was Key's Clannad , written by Jun Maeda, Yūichi Suzumoto, and Kai and Tōya Okano. Released in 2004, its story revolved around the central theme of the value of having a family. [36] It was voted the best bishōjo game of all time in a poll held by Dengeki G's Magazine . [37] It served as the basis for a media franchise, with successful adaptations into a light novel, manga, animated film, and acclaimed anime series.

In 2008, several of Key's visual novels were voted in the Dengeki poll of the ten most tear-inducing games of all time, including Clannad at No. 2, Kanon at No. 4, Air at No. 7, and Little Busters! at No. 10. [38] In 2011, several visual novels were also voted in Famitsu's poll of 20 most tear-inducing games of all time, with Clannad at No. 4, Steins;Gate at No. 6, Air at No. 7, Little Busters! at No. 10, and 428: Shibuya Scramble at No. 14. [39]


Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (When They Cry) was a 2002 horror-themed visual novel by 07th Expansion, influenced by the "crying game" subgenre. Ryukishi07 of 07th Expansion mentioned in 2004 how he was influenced by Key's works and Tsukihime during the planning of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni [40] . He played their games, as well as other visual novels, as a reference and analyzed them to try to determine why they were so popular. He decided that the secret was that the stories would start with ordinary, enjoyable days, but then a sudden event would occur leading the player to cry from shock. He used a similar model as the basis for Higurashi but instead of leading the player to cry, Ryukishi07 wanted to scare the player with the addition of horror elements. [41] Other examples of horror-themed visual novels include: Animamundi: Dark Alchemist , Higanbana no Saku Yoru ni , Umineko no Naku Koro ni , Ookami Kakushi , Imabikisou, Saya no Uta , Doki Doki Literature Club! , and Corpse Party .

Dōjinshi games (Dōjin soft)

Dōjinshi (同人誌, often transliterated as doujinshi) is the Japanese term for self-published (fan-made) works. This includes (but is not limited to) dōjin games (同人ゲーム), also sometimes called dōjin soft (同人ソフト). These visual novel-style games are created as fan-made works based on pre-existing fandoms (usually anime and manga, but also for tv shows or even other pre-existing games and visual novels). Dōjinshi games are often based on romance (or shipping ) between two characters, known as an otome game (乙女ゲーム) or dating sim ; sometimes becoming sexual (or hentai ), known as an eroge (エロゲ, a portmanteau of erotic game: (エロチックゲーム)).

Visual novels in the Western world

Prior to the year 2000, few Japanese visual novels were translated into other languages. As with the visual novel genre in general, a majority of titles released for the PC have been eroge, with Hirameki's now-discontinued AnimePlay series a notable exception. As of 2014, JAST USA and MangaGamer are the two most prolific publishers of translated visual novels for the PC; both primarily release eroge, but have begun to diversify into the all-ages market in recent years, with titles such as Steins;Gate and Higurashi no Naku Koro ni respectively. In addition to official commercial translations, a vibrant fan translation scene exists, which has translated many free visual novels (such as Narcissu and True Remembrance ) and a few commercial works (such as Umineko no Naku Koro ni and Policenauts ) into English. Fan translations of Japanese visual novels into languages other than English such as Chinese, French, German and Russian are commonplace as well.

English translations of Japanese visual novels on video game consoles were rare until the release of the Nintendo DS, though some games with visual novel elements had been published in the Western world before then, such as Hideo Kojima's Snatcher . Following the success of mystery titles for the Nintendo DS such as Capcom's Ace Attorney series (which began on the Game Boy Advance in 2001), Cing's Hotel Dusk series (beginning in 2006), [42] and Level-5's Professor Layton series (beginning in 2007), [43] Japanese visual novels have been published in other countries more frequently. The success of these games has sparked a resurgence in the adventure game genre outside Japan. [42] [44] [45]

GameSpot has credited Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney in particular for revitalizing the adventure game genre. [46] The success of the Ace Attorney series was followed soon after by the even greater success of Level-5's Professor Layton in 2007. Both have since become some of the best selling adventure game franchises, with Ace Attorney selling over 3.9 million units worldwide and Professor Layton selling over 9.5 million units worldwide by 2010. [43] Their success has led to an increase in Japanese visual novels being localized for release outside Japan, including: KID's Ever 17: The Out of Infinity (2002), Cing's Another Code series (2005 onwards), Marvelous Entertainment's Lux-Pain (2008), Chunsoft's 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (2010), and Capcom's Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (2010). In more recent years, several modern Western narrative adventure games have drawn comparisons to visual novels, including Telltale Games titles such as The Walking Dead (2012), [47] and Dontnod Entertainment's Life is Strange (2015); the latter's creative director cited visual novels such as Danganronpa (2012) as an influence. [48]

See also

Related Research Articles

Hentai Japanese pornographic animation, comics, and video games

Outside of Japan, hentai is anime and manga pornography. In the Japanese language, however, "hentai" is not a genre of media but any type of perverse or bizarre sexual desire or act. For example, outside of Japan a work depicting lesbian sex might be described as "yuri hentai", but in Japan it would just be described as "yuri".

Hideo Kojima Japanese video game designer

Hideo Kojima is a Japanese video game designer, writer, director and producer.

Dating sims, or romance simulation games, are a video game subgenre of simulation games, usually Japanese, with romantic elements. They are also sometimes put under the category of neoromance. The most common objective of dating sims is to date, usually choosing from among several characters, and to achieve a romantic relationship.

<i>Eroge</i> type of Japanese video game featuring erotica

An eroge is a Japanese erotic video game.

<i>Bishōjo</i> game Japanese video game with attractive girls

A bishōjo game or gal game, is "a type of Japanese video game centered on interactions with attractive girls". These games are a subgenre of dating sims targeted towards a heterosexual male audience.

<i>To Heart</i> 1999 Japanese adult visual novel, manga, and anime television series

To Heart is a Japanese adult visual novel developed by Leaf and released on May 23, 1997 for Windows. It was later ported to the PlayStation and given voice acting. A second PC version, titled To Heart PSE was released containing the PlayStation version as well as bonus games. To Heart PSE and the PlayStation version had the adult scenes removed. To Heart is Leaf's fifth game, and the third and final title in the Leaf Visual Novel Series along with Shizuku and Kizuato. The gameplay in To Heart follows a plot line which offers pre-determined scenarios with courses of interaction, and focuses on the appeal of the eight female main characters. A sequel of To Heart, To Heart 2, was released on December 28, 2004 directly to the PlayStation 2. A special bundle of To Heart 2 and a PS2 version of To Heart was released on the same day. The original PC release of the visual novel was titled To Heart, however the anime and the PSE versions later changed to ToHeart without any space between the words. The English release of the anime uses the former format.

<i>Policenauts</i> 1994 adventure game

Policenauts is a graphic adventure game developed and published by Konami. It was written and directed by Hideo Kojima, and originally released for the PC-9821 in 1994. A hard science fiction story, Policenauts is set in the mid 21st century and follows Jonathan Ingram, an astronaut recently recovered floating in space in cryosleep after an accident at a space colony sent him drifting into space 24 years ago. Now a detective in Los Angeles, Ingram travels back to the colony to investigate the murder of his ex-wife and her husband's disappearance. As he begins his investigation, he starts to uncover an illegal organ trafficking ring.

The inclusion of sex and nudity in video games has been a controversial topic since the early days of the industry. While many video games have used scantily clad images or characters to sell or enhance games, some go further, using sex acts or nudity as a character motivation, in-game reward, or simply as a gameplay element. These games originate worldwide, on most platforms and can be of any video game genre. While releases in Europe and North America have been sporadic and often unlicensed, Japan has seen the emergence of a pornographic video game subgenre—eroge, first appearing on the NEC PC-88 computer platform in the 1980s. In the 1990s NEC and Sega were the only companies who officially allowed sexual content on their consoles in Japan, but eroge was more prevalent on the NEC PC-98 and FM Towns computer platforms.

A video game with nonlinear gameplay presents players with challenges that can be completed in a number of different sequences. Each player may take on only some of the challenges possible, and the same challenges may be played in a different order. Conversely, a video game with linear gameplay will confront a player with a fixed sequence of challenges: every player faces every challenge and has to overcome them in the same order.

An otome game, sometimes contracted to otoge, is a story-based video game that is targeted towards women. Generally one of the goals, besides the main plot goal, is to develop a romantic relationship between the female player character and one of several male characters. This genre is most established in Japan, and is mostly made up of visual novels and simulation games; particularly dating sims and life simulation games.

<i>The Portopia Serial Murder Case</i> 1985 video game

Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken, often translated to The Portopia Serial Murder Case in English, is an adventure game designed by Yuji Horii and published by Enix. It was first released on the NEC PC-6001 in June 1983, and has since been ported to other personal computers, the Nintendo Famicom, and mobile phone services.

Dialogue tree

A dialogue tree, or conversation tree, is a gameplay mechanic that is used throughout many adventure games and role-playing video games. When interacting with a non-player character, the player is given a choice of what to say and makes subsequent choices until the conversation ends. Certain video game genres, such as visual novels and dating sims, revolve almost entirely around these character interactions and branching dialogues.

<i>428: Shibuya Scramble</i> video game

428: Shibuya Scramble is a visual novel adventure video game produced by Koichi Nakamura with Jiro Ishii serving as executive producer, developed by Nakamura's company Chunsoft, and initially published by Sega, originally in Japan for the Wii on December 4, 2008. The game was ported by Spike to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable in September 2009. A version for iOS and Android was released in November 2011. A PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows version was released in September 2018.

<i>YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World</i> 1996 video game

YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World is an adult visual novel adventure game developed and published by ELF Corporation. It was originally released in 1996 for the PC-98 Japanese home computer and later ported to the Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows platforms without the sexual content of the original version. The story follows the protagonist travelling between parallel worlds to solve the mystery of his parents' disappearance. Although parallel worlds are a familiar concept in science fiction, the game uses concepts from physics, mathematics, philosophy, history and religion to construct a unique fictional universe. The "Auto Diverge Mapping System" (A.D.M.S.) that displays the branching parallel worlds and storylines as a tree helps the player navigate the game world.

<i>Angel Beats!</i> (visual novel) episodic visual novel developed by Key

Angel Beats! is a Japanese episodic visual novel developed by Key for Windows PCs. The game is based on the 2010 anime television series Angel Beats!, originally conceived by Jun Maeda, and also adapts scenes featured in the anime. The first of six volumes, titled Angel Beats! 1st Beat, was released on June 26, 2015, with a rating for all ages. An English version of 1st Beat is in development. The story takes place in the afterlife and focuses on Otonashi, a boy who lost his memories of his life after dying. He is enrolled into the afterlife school and meets a girl named Yuri who invites him to join the Afterlife Battlefront—an organization she leads which fights against God. The Battlefront fight against the student council president Angel, a girl with supernatural powers.

<i>Imouto Paradise!</i>

Imouto Paradise! Onii-chan to Go nin no Imouto no Ecchi Shimakuri na Mainichi is a Japanese erotic visual novel developed and published by Moonstone Cherry. Imouto Paradise! was first released on January 28, 2011, playable on Windows as a PC game. On July 29, 2011, M-Trix produced an Android version of Imouto Paradise!, and on September 29, 2011, the game was released as a DVDPG edition by Dennou Club. MangaGamer released an English language localization of the game on August 22, 2014. On May 31, 2013, Moonstone Cherry released a sequel to the first visual novel called Imouto Paradise 2.

<i>Kanojo × Kanojo × Kanojo</i> Japanese erotic visual novel released in 2008

Kanojo × Kanojo × Kanojo: Sanshimai to no Dokidoki Kyōdō Seikatsu (彼女×彼女×彼女~三姉妹とのドキドキ共同生活~) is a Japanese erotic visual novel developed by Crossnet, and released for Windows PCs on May 30, 2008. Kanojo × Kanojo × Kanojo was later released for the PlayStation Portable, and as a DVD TV game. A sequel visual novel, titled Kanojo × Kanojo × Kanojo Dokidoki Full Throttle!, was released as a PC game for Windows on February 27, 2009, and later released as a PSP game and DVD TV game as well. The story follows Shiki Haruomi, who begins living with three beautiful sisters after the volcano on his island erupts.

<i>Imouto Paradise 2</i>

Imouto Paradise! 2: Onii-chan to Go nin no Imouto no Motto! Ecchi Shimakuri na Mainichi is a Japanese erotic visual novel developed by Moonstone Cherry and released on May 31, 2013 for Windows PCs and later ported as a DVD TV game. Imouto Paradise! 2 is a sequel to the visual novel Imouto Paradise!, featuring a new cast of characters, but with a similar plot. Both games depict incest.

<i>Snatcher</i> (video game) 1988 adventure game

Snatcher is a cyberpunk graphic adventure game developed and published by Konami. It was written and designed by Hideo Kojima and first released in 1988 for the PC-8801 and MSX2 in Japan. Snatcher is set in a future East Asian metropolis where humanoid robots dubbed "Snatchers" have been discovered killing humans and replacing them in society. The player takes on the role of Gillian Seed, an amnesiac who joins a Snatcher hunting agency hoping it will help him remember his past. Gameplay takes place primarily through a menu-based interface through which the player can choose to examine items, search rooms, speak to characters, explore a semi-open world, and perform other actions.


  1. Cavallaro, Dani (2010). Anime and the visual novel: narrative structure, design and play at the crossroads of animation and computer games. McFarland & Company. p. 8. ISBN   0-7864-4427-4.
  2. Lebowitz, Josiah; Klug, Chris (2011). "Japanese Visual Novel Games". Interactive storytelling for video games: a player-centered approach to creating memorable characters and storie. Burlington, MA: Focal Press. pp. 192–4. ISBN   0-240-81717-6 . Retrieved 10 November 2012. Visual novels (or sound novels, as they’re sometimes called) are a popular game genre in Japan.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Ray Barnholt. "The Weird World of Japanese "Novel" Games". Archived from the original on 18 October 2012. Retrieved 8 March 2011.
  4. "AMN and Anime Advanced Announce Anime Game Demo Downloads". Hirameki International Group Inc. 8 February 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2006.
  5. Lebowitz, Josiah; Klug, Chris (2011). Interactive storytelling for video games : a player-centered approach to creating memorable characters and stories. Burlington, MA: Focal Press. pp. 192–195. ISBN   0-240-81717-6.
  6. 1 2 3 Chris Klug; Josiah Lebowitz (March 2011). Interactive Storytelling for Video Games: A Player-Centered Approach to Creating Memorable Characters and Stories. Burlington, MA: Focal Press. pp. 194–7. ISBN   0-240-81717-6 . Retrieved 20 February 2012.
  7. 1 2 "The Ren'Py Visual Novel Engine". Ren'Py. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  8. The First Free Visual Novel Engine Released, Softpedia
  9. Cavallaro, Dani (2010). Anime and the visual novel: narrative structure, design and play at the crossroads of animation and computer games. McFarland & Company. pp. 78–79. ISBN   0-7864-4427-4.
  10. Brent Ellison (8 July 2008). "Defining Dialogue Systems". Gamasutra . Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  11. John Szczepaniak (February 2011). "Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken". Retro Gamer . Retrieved 16 March 2011. Reprinted at John Szczepaniak. "Retro Gamer 85". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 16 March 2011..
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 John Szczepaniak. "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier". Hardcore Gaming 101. p. 3. Retrieved 16 March 2011. Reprinted from "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier". Retro Gamer (67). 2009.
  13. John Szczepaniak. "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier". Hardcore Gaming 101. p. 4. Retrieved 16 March 2011. Reprinted from "Retro Japanese Computers: Gaming's Final Frontier". Retro Gamer (67). 2009.
  14. Eisenbeis, Richard (28 August 2012). "How A Visual Novel Made Me Question Morality Systems in Games". Kotaku . Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  15. Commodore Wheeler. "EVE Burst Error". RPGFan. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  16. 1 2 "428 – The greatest experiment in non-linear story telling". Destructoid. 17 December 2009. Retrieved 27 August 2012.
  17. WooJin Lee. "YU-NO". RPGFan. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
  18. Radiant Historia Gives Off a Distinct Chrono Trigger Vibe Archived 10 December 2012 at , 1UP
  19. To those of you that asked about Radiant Historia, Destructoid
  20. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, GamesRadar, 15 February 2011
  21. Fear, Ed (17 March 2008). "Harvard's Rubin on translating 360 epic Lost Odyssey into English". Develop. Retrieved 30 January 2009.
  22. "Sakura Wars ~So Long My Love~ Interview". RPGamer. 2010. Archived from the original on 11 May 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
  23. Jeremy Parish (8 May 2009). "Sakura Wars Comes to America, But is it Too Late to Matter?". Archived from the original on 18 July 2012. Retrieved 18 May 2011.
  25. 1 2 Pesimo, Rudyard Contretas (2007). "'Asianizing' Animation in Asia: Digital Content Identity Construction Within the Animation Landscapes of Japan and Thailand" (PDF). Reflections on the Human Condition: Change, Conflict and Modernity – The Work of the 2004/2005 API Fellows (PDF). The Nippon Foundation. pp. 124–160. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 September 2011.
  26. Jones, Matthew T. (December 2005). "The Impact of Telepresence on Cultural Transmission through Bishoujo Games" (PDF). PsychNology Journal. 3 (3): 292–311. ISSN   1720-7525.
  27. "Visual novel database" on nukige, Plot serves the sex-scenes, not the other way round..
  28. 1 2 "水晶の龍 – SQUARE ENIX". Square Enix Japan. Retrieved 26 May 2008. (Translation)
  29. "やーきゅーうー、すーるなら!? 「水晶の龍(ドラゴン)」". ITMedia. 22 August 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2008. (Translation)
  30. Kasavin, Greg (21 March 2005). ""Everything is Possible": Inside the Minds of Gaming's Master Storytellers". GameSpot . CNET Networks. p. 2. Retrieved 15 August 2007.
  31. Retroactive: Kojima's Productions, 1UP
  32. 1 2 Kurt Kalata, Policenauts, Hardcore Gaming 101
  33. Mark Ryan Sallee. "Kojima's Legacy: We reflect on the influence of Hideo Kojima's 20 years in gaming". IGN . Retrieved 20 August 2009.
  34. Hideo Kojima Speaks, IGN
  35. Todome, Satoshi. "A History of Adult Games, chapter 3" (in Japanese). Retrieved 22 November 2007.
  36. pre-Clannad (in Japanese). SoftBank Creative. 15 April 2004. ISBN   4-7973-2723-5.
  37. "Dengeki G's Magazine top fifty bishōjo games" (in Japanese). ASCII Media Works. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 3 June 2009.
  38. "【アンケート結果発表】感動して泣いてしまったゲームはありますか?". Dengeki . ASCII Media Works. 15 October 2008. Archived from the original on 7 May 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2012.
  39. Romano, Sal (29 December 2011). "Famitsu's top 20 list of tear-inducing games" . Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  40. "騎士07ロンクインタビュー" (in Japanese). Faust. 24 May 2005. Archived from the original on 19 March 2017. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  41. Ryukishi07 (9 July 2004). "Key's Essence is Actually...(Bitter Smile)" (in Japanese). 07th Expansion. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2009.
  42. 1 2 Kurt Kalata, Snatcher, Hardcore Gaming 101
  43. 1 2 Layton Series Hits 9.5M, Ace Attorney 3.9M, Gamasutra
  44. Gameplay of the Week – Two new engaging DS adventures hit the spot, The Olympian
  45. Kurt Kalata, Sotenga, Jason Withrow, Phoenix Wright, Hardcore Gaming 101
  46. "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Review". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 19 September 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  47. "Walking Further: Delving Into Visual Novels". USgamer . 3 July 2013.
  48. "Life Is Strange Director Talks About The Theme Of "Identity" And Visual Novels". Siliconera. 5 February 2015.