Define “Visual Novel”
Noun: Visual Novel; Plural Noun: Visual Novels
Visual novels are games whose gameplay is based on advancing written action or dialogue, in some cases allowing players to make decisions which may affect the direction the story.
Not dissimilar “choose your own adventure” books, visual novels (or “VNs”) are like flipping through a virtual book — VNs lacking player agency are called “kinetic visual novels”. Most VNs feature one or more player choices, which collectively affect the way the story unfolds; some visual novels employ minigames to determine the outcome of events. VNs are an effective way to craft an intimate experience between characters, without the noise of conventional gameplay.
If you’re willing to sit through what’s effectively a book, nothing beats a VN for character development.
A typical VN-experience consists of reading text boxes, and occasionally deciding between on-screen prompts. Characters in the story are represented by avatars, which appear alongside dialogue to indicate who is speaking. Full-art animations and CGs are generally reserved for turning points in a VN’s story — or, In the case of adult visual novels, CGs they are instead reserved for sex scenes. High-budget releases may instead use full-art imagery for the entirety of the game.
I strongly dislike visual novels, and they are probably one of my least favorite games to play and write about. I don’t enjoy reading, and visual novels are effectively books — writing a playthrough or review on a visual novel feels like writing an essay. It’s hard for me to stay engaged when playing these games, and I find myself reaching for the “skip” button almost every time.
On the plus side, there’s no grinding in visual novels!
Visual novels are the third-longest category of games for me to review, due to the sheer amount of reading I have to do. They are only bested by point-‘n-clickers, which are not nearly as straightforward to write about. However, I much the prefer the latter, which feel less like school assignments and more like actual games.
Did somebody say shot’s fired?
What I look for in Visual Novels
As visual novels are particularly text-heavy, the writing must absolutely, necessarily be entertaining — a bad visual novel is the difference between a bad fan-fiction and uh, the Great Gatsby of erotica. In addition, as visual novel games are not eBooks, I also consider it necessary for them to have serviceable visuals. Since VNs are sold on the same stores that offer games, I value player-agency, or the ability to cause outcomes by actions. . . though a lack of player agency isn’t necessarily damning.
DatWombat’s Favorite Visual Novels (in no particular order)
I enjoyed this game, even though I spent half of it oblivious to the explorable world. In Pledge: Extra Credit, you play as Melissa, and she’s being strong armed into actually studying at the university her parents pay for. Whether or not she passes is up to you, but there’s a whole campus to explore. As head bitch of her very own sorority, Melissa is in charge of maintaining her members’ morale and humiliating her enemies. The gameplay can be a little bit monotonous, and the CGs hit or miss, but there’s lots of artwork and characters to explore. Pledge: Extra Credit is designed to be played several times, with multiple endings and unlockable “cheats”. Overall, I enjoyed playing and writing about this game, and I may consider playing it for fun in the future.
The embodiment of spoiled rotten, in Fashion Business you play at Monica Bukkfett, and as the story unfolds you witness the unfurling of her pampered life — as some people may say, karma’s a bitch. The artwork is clean and well-rendered, and there’s a colorful cast of silly male side characters. There’s quite a bit of character development, leaving adult-content more sporadic than I’d like it to be. . . but when it happens, hoo! It’s entertaining to see Monica be a total bitch, and even better when you watch the world turn her into a bitch. In Fashion Business, Monica has no desire to whore herself (as many VN-protagonists do). However, as her rich world crumbles, it’s interesting to her body humbled by those she treated like waste perhaps days ago.
Though the visuals sometimes leave something to be desired, Sisterly Lust still impresses me today. Once you get the ball rolling, lewd scenes are tossed around like popcorn. Max is moving in with his mommy and three sisters, and they’re all super hot. There’s actually a pretty decent cast (outside of Max’s family) and it’s not that hard to get into anybody’s pants. You know what they say, incest is wincest! Max has a friend (though I don’t recall his name) and together they get into all sorts of dumb shit. He’s got a sissy of her own, and she’s not the type to keep her hands to herself. Sisterly Lust has a lot of love interests to pursue (mostly sisters. . . go figure), rendering the first playthoughs different from the last. I’d love to play this game again someday!