What is the Appeal of Visual Novels

Ever wanted to read a book?  Wanted to read one that’s interactive along with it’s own soundtrack and voice acting to set the mood for a story because you think our imagination is not good enough for one?  You may want to take a look at visual novels

A visual novel is essentially an e-book that tells an interactive/non-interactive story.  It may or may not contain the following:

  • Voice Acting
  • Soundtrack
  • Moving Visuals

Many visual novels tend to come from Japan, some visual novels that do well enough to get a following tend to get a cartoon adaptation (They usually fail because they never really have enough time to tell the full story of the visual novel).  They’ve been getting a bigger notice in America with the release of Clannad, a popular romance genre visual novel by Key almost two years ago and more recently Steins;Gate developed by 5pb was released to steam.

From my experience visual novels can fit multiple styles:

  • They can most easily fit in the dating simulator category.  Many romance visual novels such as Clannad easily fit this category.  Non-interactive novels such as the Sakura series easily fit this as well.
  • They can contain a story with segments of mini-games.  Another visual novel made by Key, Little Busters, is exactly this, to many Little Busters is Key’s most well-done novel.  A more recent visual novel made by Key, Rewrite, actually followed up on this style as well.
  • Some are just non-interactive and take you through the story.  These are typically short stories that take only a few hours to completely read through.
  • Some are can be very action focused Fate/Stay Night is considered a flag ship action visual novel.
  • And then some which also are part of he romance genre can be incredibly erotic (Which is what most of visual novel base is).  Many of these games tend to see a censored version of the game.  Little Busters actually saw this for it’s expansion Little Busters: EX.

I myself usually prefer to read novels in the third category because they are an easy finish generally speaking.

So what is the appeal? Well it’s probably multiple factors but I think the main appeal is the fact that a lot of these visual novels tend to have a big following from the anime community.  As stated before the visual novels tend to be really popular in the Japanese community (The industry is quite large there).  This biggest followings for the Japanese are what tend to get the adaptation.

So what are some non-mainstream appeals?  Well I suppose one could be that someone may not like flipping through the gray pages of a book and wants to read something that’s more lively.  Visual Novels do tend to have these as shown in the name.  They have visuals that display the location of a scene.  They also have sometimes have voice acting (Japanese) and always subtitles (English) that allow you to read along.

My personal take on visual novels are that they can be enjoyable based on taste overall though it’s a very minor part of the video game industry and the indie industry tends to be much more dominant.  I personally enjoyed Little Busters as it slowly revealed what was going on around the main character. My personal favorite had to be Higurash no Nako Koro ni (When the Cicadas Cry) which is a non-interactive visual novel but is an unraveling mystery as it goes through 8 stories to complete it.  It’s about 50-60 hours long.

For those of you wondering whether what visual novel you should start I personally recommend Narcissu, because it’s free on Steam.

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