I’ve been on a bit of a visual novel kick for the last…couple of years? Suffice to say, whenever I discovered the genre, it pulled me in pretty effectively, and I’ve been
addicted to a happy fan of the things ever since. Unfortunately, a lot of the supposed “best” ones originated in Japan and haven’t been officially translated for English-speaking audiences. I’m not a proponent of pirating something that’s not out of print (even if there is a fan patch for it), so a lot of these have remained out of my reach. Hey, imports are expensive!
Since Aksys released games like 999, Virtue’s Last Reward, Hakuoki, and Sweet Fuse (seriously, love you guys!), however, it seems like all-ages and otome visual novels are gaining some ground among the bigger companies. Jast USA finally got their hands on a license to Steins;Gate, and NIS America is bringing over the Vita version of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc. Both are slated come out in the first half of 2014.
But most of those games are on handheld consoles. What if all you have is a computer? At least Steins;Gate is going to come out on PC, but what if you want more visual novels? (And what if you want them sooner than “sometime in 2014”?) You can buy some great VNs online, but you really have to know what you’re looking for already or be willing to do your research, especially if you’re trying to avoid hentai.
Honestly, if visual novels are going to take off among the masses, just getting more of them on Steam would be a huge step. It would likely be a pretty good filter, and then the visual novels would be easy to find and buy. There aren’t a ton there right now (heck, there aren’t even a lot of games with visual novel elements on Steam right now), but there are a few, and you should support them if you like this type of game. Some are even going to be on sale for the next several days as part of the winter sale! In any case, here are a few that you can pick up right now that I’d personally recommend.
Analogue: A Hate Story — In this sci-fi story, you’ll play as the pilot of a one-man spacecraft trying to figure out what happened on board a now-derelict generation ship, which was trying to establish a colony on another planet. You’ll interact with a couple of the ship’s artificial intelligence programs, read the logs of the people who lived on board, and try to figure out why they died. Also, be prepared for a serious commentary on pre-20th century Korean society. There’s also a sequel out, called Hate Plus.
Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos — Okay, so I haven’t played this one yet. But! I did play Dischan’s excellent free visual novel, Juniper’s Knot (I believe that one’s only available on iOS), which I’d also highly recommend. So, I’m expecting it to be good. In any case, this one follows a girl named Winter Harrison, who is trying to learn to mediate problems between chaotic worlds. I’m not sure what that means, but I can’t wait to find out!
Long Live the Queen — This probably only barely qualifies as a game with VN elements, but it’s on the list anyway because it’s damned good. If you’re into raising sims or tabletop games, you’re going to love it. The idea is simple: keep young Princess Elodie alive long enough to be crowned queen of her realm. Of course, various rebels, assassins, magic users, and even fantastical monsters lurk around every corner, ready to end Elodie’s life. Teach her the skills she needs to survive, or die an adorable, pink, chibified death.
If those aren’t enough for you, then head over to Steam Greenlight and vote to get some more visual novels in the store. Long Live the Queen and Dysfunctional Systems are actually recent Greenlight success stories, too. Here are others some you might consider voting for:
Backstage Pass — If you like otome games, then first go download and play Re:Alistair++, and you’ll know why you should vote for this. It’s not available yet outside Steam, but Sakevisual definitely knows how to put together an amusing story, so it has my vote already.
Higurashi When They Cry — This one is a classic supernatural murder mystery/horror tale from Japan. You might have even seen the anime already! It’s been translated and you can actually buy it from places like JList and Mangagamer, but really, this thing needs to be on Steam.
Flower Shop: Winter in Fairbrook & Summer in Fairbrook — Okay, so this is another romance game. But it’s also a rather addicting farming sim. I’ve only played Winter in Fairbook, but that one had a super cute story and nice art. Hey, Ayu Sakata of Sakevisual wrote the stories for these too, so I’d expect no less. They’re already available through Winter Wolves’ site and on Android. But we’re talking about bringing a whole genre to mainstream gamers here.
Welp, hope you enjoyed this little list, and I hope you’ll check out some of these visual novels. If you’re already a fan of this sort of game, what are some of your favorites?