Visual Novel Adventures We’d Love to See Localized – Chapter 1

By Ishaan . February 15, 2009 . 10:32am

With the number of big budget titles in development today, it’s inevitable that several lesser-known games get lost before they’ve even had a chance to shine. Very often, visual novels end up being the victims of this tragedy simply because most people don’t even consider them to be “games.”

 

The truth is, visual novels are no different from other games in that the passion and dedication behind them rivals that of the biggest of big-budget titles. They also do a remarkable job of telling stories and evolving the narrative in games. Following our “Melancholy of Visual Novels” article which focused on revitalizing the genre, this series of posts is meant to give these niche affairs their two minutes of fame. It is also meant to be a useful source of information for any publishers looking out for their next localization project.

 

Welcome to Visual Novel Adventures We’d Love to See Localized! The Visual novel genre is one of my favourites, so naturally, this is a series of posts that I’m very excited to be writing. In these, I’ll attempt to give visual novels that catch my eye their due exposure. As our readers probably know, most mainstream sites almost never cover this genre, aside from maybe the Phoenix Wright games. I hope to offset that to some extent by covering the hell out of them. This “column” probably wont be written on a regular basis because there isn’t exactly a steady stream of worthwhile visual novels to write about. However, whenever I see a game or two that I feel is worth covering, rest assured you’ll see me talk about it.

 

For the first post, I’m going to go with two games I’ve been hoping get localized for a few months now: Last Bullet (DS) and 428: Fusasareta Shibuya de (Wii).

 

The former’s theme is quite different from what you’re used to seeing in a lot of visual novel adventures. It’s a mystery revolving around Karin Hibiki, a regular highschool girl who has lost her parents, but thanks to her friends, she’s doing okay. Then, she finds out she has to – still not sure why – become a sniper. Something to do with destiny. Two of the other prominent characters in the game are her childhood friend Daiki Sakai and her mysterious teacher at school who has something to do with her sniping profession.

 

Like any visual novel, dialogue choices are used to progress through the game. The real action takes place during the sniping elements, though.

 

The sniping parts of the game are in realtime and the scope of Karin’s gun constantly moves in sync with her breathing. During the sniping sequences, Karin can go into “concentration” mode where she can zoom in and out. Similar to FPSes on the system, the L button on the DS is used to fire. Furthermore, Karin’s aim can be offset by things like the in game weather and (possibly) heavy breathing detected through the DS microphone. There seems to be a time limit on the sniping missions as well.

 

Story-wise and gameplay-wise, the game sounds incredibly promising for fans of the genre and perhaps even those just looking for a good balance of action and narrative. The art looks nice, too, and I really hope Last Bullet gets picked up for release outside of Japan.

 

Oh, and whoever localizes it…do try and bring us some of the game’s promotional posters (one pictured above) as well.

 

Which brings us to 428: Fusasareta Shibuya de, developed by Chunsoft and published by SEGA.

 

If you’ve been following the weekly Famitsu news, you’ll know that the game received a perfect score from Famitsu recently. Now, I know their review policies are somewhat…questionable…but a perfect score? From what I’ve heard, Famitsu takes perfect scores very, very seriously. So I decided to see if there was anything behind the title that stood out.

 

And there was.

Turns out Kinoko Nasu and Takashi Takeuchi, the founders of Type Moon (Kara no Kyoukai, Tsukihime, Fate/Stay Night) were involved with the game. Nasu wrote a bonus scenario for the game and Takeuchi worked on the character designs (not sure what exactly, since the characters all seem to be real people). The game – which apparently feels like playing five visual novels at once – starts out with the kidnapping of a girl named Maria Osawa in the Shibuya district. The case soon turns into something much more sinister with worldwide implications and a group of unrelated people including a detective, an ordinary young man, a virus researcher (who is also Maria’s father), a freelance writer, and a cat mascot character named Tama come together to get to the bottom of the mystery. Wikipedia info sheds some more light on what makes this one different.

 

 

“The game differs significantly from other sound novel / visual novel games in that players read through and switch around multiple stories that take place in the same timeframe, each seen from a different character’s point of view. Decisions made in one character’s story can inadvertently affect the story of another character in unforeseen ways.

 

“For instance, the game opens with a detective (protagonist #1) waiting for a kidnapper to pick up the ransom money, which is being carried by a girl. Another character, a young man out for a walk (protagonist #2), happens to encounter the scene. Protagonist #2 now has a choice to approach the ransom-carrying girl or not; If he approaches, his story reaches a dead end by being wrongfully arrested, but not only that, the detective’s story also reaches a dead end by making the wrongful arrest.

 

“The player’s role is to figure out whose actions are affecting whom, and find the right choices to lead every protagonist to the conclusions of their storylines. The game offers a time chart screen where the events of all the protagonists’ stories are listed in chronological order.”

 

You can read more about the plot here, but be warned that the page contains a ton of spoilers. An anime – named Canaan – based on the scenario by Type Moon is also set to debut in Japan this year. Both Nasu and Takeuchi are involved with this as well. You can check out a behind-the-scenes feature for the game here and a trailer with gameplay clips here. The game reminds me of 20th Century Boys for some reason.

 

An intriguing plot set in modern-day Shibuya, voice-acting and Type Moon’s involvement really make me hope this one will see an English subtitled release for the Western market. Fusasareta sounds like a great experience for fans of the Japanese mystery movie genre. But given the amount of retailer resistance anyone planning on publishing this would face, I’m keeping my hopes under control.


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  • QBasic

    And do keep those hopes under control something fierce. If a game like Sigma Harmonics is seemingly getting a denial, the best you can hope for when it comes to stuff like this are shady R4 cards, even shadier modded systems, and some few, very willing translators.

    • Aoshi00

      Personally I think Sigma Harmonics was an awful game, characters uninteresting, battles boring, stylus control wonky, and the arbitrary murders seem like deja vu that require blind trial and errors in gathering evidence littered across the mansion (how many times can grandma be poisoned..). What puts me off is there is no logic in solving the mystery before the boss fight, which to me is broken gameplay, even though it could be skipped granting a harder boss fight. I don’t think you’re missing much even if they skip that one. Granted I have not finished it as I was really put off.. does anyone know if the mansion is the only locale for the whole duration of the game? I was fooled by the aesthetics from the commercials, a waste of $60..

      I’m interested in Last Bullet’s art style, the real time sniping sounds a little like Valkryria Chronicles.

      Speaking of Chunsoft, I tried the demo of Imabikisou on PS3, I didn’t find the story to be very interesting either, seems to involve drugs and hallucination rather than ghosts.. Does 428 use live action visuals w/ filters or anime art? I don’t know if it’s just me, Shibuya’s been way overused in games recently as hip..

      • QBasic

        I didn’t say anything about it being a bad or good game… Hell, several publishers gave it damn good reviews…

        That said…I was just using it as an example.

        • Aoshi00

          I understand some might like Sigma Harmonics, having played the game I only offer my perspective. I was really put off by how arbitrary the detective work is since it’s supposed to be an integral part of the game. Since it’s not that good a game to begin w/, maybe that’s why publishers are skipping it.. again, just my personal opinion.

          I usually am not too critical of games in general, maybe Phoenix Wright has set too high a bar for handheld games of this genre, especially for imports that cost $60 and up, there is some expectation.

          Another visual novel game that I regretted buying is Infinite Loop, doubt we would see that here, as much as I hate saying it, it’s really not a “game”.

  • ShadowYuri

    You really know how to express your passion, I kinda want these games in english too, now >< (and I am not usually fond of games like these) Thanks for the summary !

  • Nekobo

    Nice work, Ishaan. I’d love to play both games. I’d also love to see the Higurashi DS games translated, too. Probably won’t ever happen, but there’s always fan translations. Digital distribution of games like these would be perfect for the DSi, Wiiware, PSN, and Live.

    • Aoshi00

      Is Higurashi no Naku koro ni really that good of a title? I have not watched the anime at all and only know it meshes the cute as a button character design w/ gruesome murders/horror.. the idea just seems jarring and like a gimmick to me (look at the blood on that cute girl). Maybe cute chars just really isn’t my cup of tea..

      • EvilAkito

        I can understand where you’re coming from in saving that the idea seems gimmicky, but I think Higurashi’s strong point is it’s multi-layered storyline. I mean, when you finish the first season, you’re totally confused. The second season, however, thoroughly explains everything; you learn new plot details in almost every episode, and there’s so much stuff going on at once that it almost seems like the writers had a brain-storming session and found a way to incorporate every single good idea they had into one big story. It’s also so uncommon in anime to see such a confusing story actually make perfect sense in the end, which is what made Higurashi easily one of the most fulfilling anime I’ve ever watched.

        • Nekobo

          I didn’t like the characters at first, but I kept on going because of the compelling plot. Like Evil Akito said, it’s especially satisfying when it all comes together in season two. I’m really picky when it comes to anime these days, but I really enjoyed the series…definitely one of my favorites.

  • http://www.nisamerica.com NickyD

    I’m glad to see you’re allowed to write what you’re passionate about — we didn’t have that freedom on PS3/PSP Fanboy.

    Now, I know these were originally eroge, but there’s always a ‘clean’ version… that being said, since I really enjoyed the light & fluffiness of the animes, I kind of wish we’d get some classics over here, like Da Capo and Clannad. Maybe there are downloads of them with an english patch, but I don’t want to jump through hoops.

    As you said, Ishaan, it’s all about an advanced form of narrative. I agree and that’s what I focus on… it’s too bad people will generally think of that as an excuse to ogle 2D anime girls. That’s not the point — I want a story that I can really feel involved and immersed in. *shrug* That’s my rant.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Yeah, we usually try really hard to cover games and genres that other sites wouldn’t care about as much. Luckily, that also happens to be what I’m passionate about. :)

      And I agree with all your points there…I don’t think any game can pull me into its story the way a good visual novel can.

  • http://myanimelist.net/profile/Kuronoa Kuronoa

    Thanks for the article. ^_^

    Both games would be nice to have translated. Most of us aren’t asking for every game in this genre but it would be nice for a select few to be released once in a while. It’s sad for those who would buy visual novels to get denied because it isn’t what the market wants. T_T I watch the anime version therefore I’m interested in the source material.

    Maybe (just 1% maybe) Konami and Sega will read your efforts and give the games a chance but I doubt it.

  • http://myanimelist.net/profile/Mario1-7 Mario1-7

    Clannad, Air and Kanon… Are the best that you can get.

  • Mazen

    I think someone should try and bring 428 in english it has an amazing quality and its kind of story have a chance to sell.

  • Trickless

    Nice piece, looking forward to the next one ;-)

    But sometimes I wonder if ‘Visual novel’ is the correct term used for some of these games. I see a lot of English media labelling games such as Phoenix Wright and Time Hollow as ‘Visual novel’, yet on many Japanese sites they are commonly known as ‘Adventure’, or sometimes ‘ADV’ for short. Check the back of their Japanese boxes and it would say ‘Adventure’ as its genre (although in Phoenix Wright’s case it would be ‘Courtroom Battle’ :p).

    It just irks me a bit when a Japanese game with a menu interface is immediately labelled ‘Visual novel’, whereas the gameplay is not so much different to ‘Deja Vu’ and ‘Shadowgate’, two classic adventure games.

    Maybe I’m just confused on what ‘Visual novel’ actually is, but it feels to me that the term is often incorrectly used to distinguish between Japanese and English adventure games.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      You’re right, not all of these are pure visual novels. I spent a while thinking about what to refer to them as collectively, and finally settled on “visual novel adventure.” I think the reason I still tend to lump them in together with v-novels is that – like NickyD said above – these games are all about the narrative.

      Sure, there might be other fun little activities thrown in there for variety’s sake, but they all exist to progress the plot. Even in the case of eroge, some of them have excellent character dialogue (see: Sagara Family, Tsukihime, Crescendo) and development.

  • Aoshi00

    Quick question, can anybody cfm if 428 can be played w/ the Wii freeloader? I was very disappointed to discover Hajime no Ippo Revolution and Disaster Day of Crisis not being able to load. I have not updated my Wii yet so the other imports still work.

    I’m interested now because on Amazon Japan it has a 5 out of 5 stars based on 44 reviews. I put a lot of stock in those reviews because they’re from users of all range and from a more objective standpoint. They say it’s nothing like Chunsoft’s lackluster Imabikisou.

    • http://www.siliconera.com/ Ishaan

      Isn’t GeckoOS the region-free software? I think the best place to check is GBATemp.

  • http://several-hours-into-the-game.blogspot.com/ Nika

    You picked 2 really interesting games here, I’m looking forward to more articles :)

  • http://www.freelancewebdesigner.me Freelance web designer

    I used to draw a lot of those novels, but i gave up after no one wanted to read them,
    that was sad

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