Visual Novels: A Cultural Difference Between The East And West

By Ishaan . February 17, 2011 . 12:44pm

Visual novels are a largely overlooked genre of games that we actively encourage more people to look into around these parts. While they certainly aren’t for everyone, those looking for an emphasis on character development and story progression often end up finding it in visual novels in a way that most other games don’t quite offer.


While they’ve been published on near every video game console from the N64 to the Xbox 360 in one form or another, visual novels typically tend to be most at home on the PC — an open platform, free of any kind of publishing restrictions. As a result, they’ve been able to explore subject matter like love and sexuality or career and ambition in a way that console games haven’t quite been able to match. Over the years, we’ve also seen several other genres of games incorporate visual novel elements into their own design, the most notable being the Ace Attorney and Persona series in how they emphasize character interaction, development and relationships.


You might be thinking, “But that sounds great! So, what’s the problem?”


Sadly, the problem is that, for all they have to offer, visual novels are largely ignored by the vast majority of the game market, especially in territories like the U.S. and Europe. This is for both cultural and genre-related reasons.


Due to the enormous amount of content out there, it isn’t always easy to separate the good from the bad if you’re looking for a more “pure” visual novel experience on the PC side of things. Erotica is a barrier for many whose knee-jerk reaction is to classify visual novels with sexual content as “porn games,” and one could easily argue that even certain publishers often don’t do a good enough job of promoting why their visual novels are worth playing.


Recently, we talked to John Pickett, head translator of PC visual novel publisher, MangaGamer, to go over just what some of the challenges these games face are, and how they can be overcome. We hope you find it an interesting — or even informative — read.


Lets begin with a quick introduction for people who play games but tend to keep their distance from visual novels. Who are you guys and what do you do?


John, MangaGamer: Well, we at MangaGamer are similar to other companies like Atlus and NISA in that what we primarily do is to localize games from Japan into English, so that those in the western world can experience them as well. What separates us from them is that our focus is on visual novels, a genre of game not as well spread as others here in the west yet. Another difference is that we focus on games developed for the PC and not consoles.


Since our founding in 2008, we’ve offered our games for digital download worldwide through our website, but recently we’ve started offering hard-copies of our games as well through Hendane! in North America, and as soon as we find another distributor, Europe as well.


However, for those who say they haven’t played a visual novel at all before, I have to ask: Are you sure you haven’t? Or do you just think you haven’t because you’re not familiar with the term? A lot of games currently on sale, popular, and so on draw many elements from visual novels, and ones you think might not be considered visual novels are much closer than you think they are. For example, if you took the FPS out of Mass Effect, what would remain? A 3D visual novel. If you’re trying to pursue a relationship in Dragon Age or Fable, then you’re already doing something very similar to what most visual novel players do.


Something we talk about a lot is the relatively limited market for visual novels outside of Japan. It’s a similar situation to what Japanese game developers face in general in the U.S. and Europe. For traditional games, this is an easier issue to deal with because there are so many different genres available to catch people’s attention with. What do you think visual novels need to attract attention?


Well, seeing as our goal is to try and expand and cultivate this western market for visual novels, this is a question we’ve been trying to find an answer to for a while.


I think one of the biggest hurdles visual novels face, and this is also true to some extent for Japanese developers in general, is that we ask, nay demand, that the player actually read. I know, if you’re reading this interview you’re probably thinking “Why is getting people to read considered a hurdle?” but I would instead ask you to think about how many people didn’t bother to read this article once they saw it was more than one paragraph, or how many people just skimmed over this paragraph you’re reading right now.


Visual novels and most Japanese games do not offer the quick, easy, and instant satisfaction of “BOOM! HEADSHOT!” that tends to capture a large portion of the western audience. The sad truth is that this is very much a cultural issue.


I’m sure many here who have taken the time to read this can list plenty of people they know who never bothered to read more than they were required to in school, or even people who can’t read very well. There’s not a whole lot of pressure in America to be able to do so, so it becomes okay to not read. If most people you know aren’t reading, there’s not a whole lot of incentive for one to do so.


In contrast, the opposite is true in Japan. Those who can’t read are under great pressure. Reading is encouraged nearly everywhere. If you get on a train to go to work and want to look at an ad, you don’t see a pretty picture barely related to the product, you see a wall of fancily designed text telling you all about it. In Japan, adults aren’t expected to watch the Daily Show; they’re expected to be current on the latest issue of Nikkei, Japan’s weekly business magazine.


To put this in a more game-related perspective, go back to my previous example of Mass Effect without the FPS. How many in the west do you think would still play Mass Effect if the ability to run around randomly shooting aliens was taken away? Probably very few. In Japan, they might have even gotten more purchases had it never been there. Or look at Catherine: would its sales be worse for a lack of that adventure/puzzle game? I don’t think it would in Japan, but in the west, greatly so.


So I think what the west probably needs most right now to start luring interest into visual novels are those with more of a gaming element to break up the reading. Games like 999, Ace Attorney and so forth are showing there is a demand for these games even if relatively small at present, and introducing people to the idea that you can still have a great game that requires a lot of reading.


As for our end, our upcoming release Koihime Musou has a gaming element, and we currently have two games we hope to bring in the future with one as well. We’d also like to look into more as well, but we don’t want to forget that a gaming element isn’t the part that makes a visual novel great either.


Let’s say there’s someone that’s into visual novel-like games on consoles. Games like Catherine or 999 or the Ace Attorney games. What do you think PC visual novels have to offer them?


Well, first I would have to point out that those playing 999 or Ace Attorney are already playing visual novels. Admittedly, Catherine appears to be adding a rather extensive action/puzzle element to the game, but the sections where the story develops — the conversations with the other characters, the choices you will have to make as Vincent, and the way they then affect the ultimate outcome and progression of the story — all of that is a tried and true visual novel. Likewise, anyone enjoying Disgaea Infinite is already enjoying visual novels, and anyone enjoying the Agarest War series is enjoying a visual novel with an added SRPG element.


What visual novels on the PC have to offer is more of what people who enjoy such games already find enjoyable. If you’ve ever spent hours trying to max out someone’s Social Link in Persona, then congratulations: you’re already entranced with the process of completing a heroine’s route in a visual novel.


For anyone who likes playing a game to experience the rich story, or character interaction, then visual novels are right for you. Visual novels, as the term suggests, are often primarily text with the added touch of on-screen visuals, voices, and other elements found in movies, anime, and games, but not typically of bound novels. If you’ve ever found yourself playing an RPG and wishing you could just get on with the story instead of grinding your way up a few more levels, visual novels are great for you. There are a lot of great stories told through visual novels, and quite frequently they’re even adapted into movies, anime, and more because of how great the experience can be.


However, while the story, character interactions, and text are certainly the most important elements to visual novels, they most certainly do not always stop there. Just as Agarest War adds in a SRPG element, there is a fair deal of visual novels for the PC which does so as well, and in fact, one of the games we’re looking to bring over in the future does something quite similar. Just as Ace Attorney adds a detective/investigative element, we have one game which also does so that we’re hoping to bring over.


There are a lot of people that tend to think of porn games the minute they hear of visual novels because a lot of them do tend to cover sexual subject matter. If you’re a consumer, how do you separate the unintelligible erotica from the richer, more story or character-driven experiences?


People often say “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but in this case you more often than not can. The “unintelligible erotica” as you call it is pretty obvious from the title. If you’re buying something called “My Sex Slave is a Classmate” or “Conquering the Queen” from a page with an “Are you over 18?” gateway, then you really ought to be able to guess what you’re getting.


Even if the title doesn’t make it obvious, we try and make it clear which is which on our website: if under the sample CG section you see a lot of uncensored intercourse, then you can pretty much guess what you’re signing up for when you click “Add to Cart.”


Titles that aren’t like that are going to be your more story or character-driven games with only maybe one or two adult scenes per heroine. Granted, there are some games which fall at varying points of the spectrum, so you might find a game about in the middle in terms of story and adult content, but if you’re ever unsure, there’s a healthy community of fans on our blog, forum, and elsewhere who can surely help answer your questions and lead you to whichever type of visual novel it is you’re looking for. I know I frequent those two places myself to help anyone who’s interested in the genre.


One of our editors recently decided to try Higurashi out on the iPhone. It was his first visual novel. He was kind of taken aback by the game at first, but he couldn’t put it down after that. What do you personally think is a good game for people to start out with?


A lot of our fans frequently recommend Higurashi or Kira Kira. They’re both really great works, and it’s no surprise why they’re the most frequently recommended. Those who are coming from anime rather than video games tend to pick up Shuffle! or Higurashi from what I’ve seen, namely since those are two popular anime series in the first place.


Aside from those three, I honestly tend to ask what kind of story a person likes before recommending a visual novel to them. I’ve used this tag a few times on Twitter before, but it’s a very true statement: #theresanerogeforthat (note: “eroge” stands for “erotic game”). No matter what your tastes, or what it is you want to see, there’s almost certainly a visual novel out there that will provide what you want. Granted, it may not yet be available in English, but we’ve tried to offer a variety on our catalog too, and this variety will only continue to grow as time goes on.


If you’re just looking for an introduction to visual novels, and have an interest in Japan though, I think our upcoming exclusive will be a great one for people new to the genre to try. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of details to offer on this title right now, but it looks really good to me and I can’t wait to talk more about it once we can.


Part 2 of our discussion with John will go up in the near future. In the mean time, he tells us pre-orders for the Da Capo Limited Edition will go up Friday, February 18th, at 00:00 AM EST on retailer Hendane’s website. Those in attendance at Katsucon this weekend will be able to buy pre-order cards, too.

Read more stories about & & on Siliconera.

  • M’iau M’iaut

    Conquering the Queen. Hmmm did he just slip they will be releasing after all a title they had called “The Queen and Princess as Your Rewards” but got canceled at the last minute around the Rapeplay time.

    That being noted, I’d say he started with the front and center reason VNs have not traveled outside Japan well. You can’t hide that such games exist and are a part of that particular game type. I’d say likely the best solution is to take that head on and say yes, ecchi VNs DO EXIST, but there are many that aren’t, and that is what we are selling here.

  • Heavy Rain is just a visual novel presented in 3d rendered images. That’s why I wasn’t too impressed by it when it came out.

    • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

      I greatly disagree. visual novels are heavy in story, but just because something is heavy in story doesn’t make it a visual novel

      • Wait, then what does make something a visual novel?

        • If you want the technical explanation, the difference between something that gets labeled a novel game and labeled an adventure game in Japan is the amount of interactivity in the game. Novel games are games that are all text with the occasional A,B, somtimes C, and rarely D choices. Adventure games that get called visual novels in the West are usually point and click adventure games. Heavy Rain goes beyond that by allowing direct control over the character, so I don’t see how it’s a visual novel. That difference I mentioned should exist in the West, but somehow that line has blurred completely beyond the point of no return.

          • Temuthril

            No. The difference is in how the text is presented. In novel games the text is overlaid on the background, in adventure games there is a specific dialog box, usually at the bottom of the screen.

          • BTA

            Yeah, I’m pretty sure this is a difference. That is, there’s a difference between a point-and-click adventure game with visual novel elements and an “adventure game” visual novel.

          • Aara_Malik_Davoodi

            I’m pretty sure he was being sarcastic. Just read his post above….good explanation, though

          • I knew he was, but I decided to put up that explanation anyways.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Sometimes it’s best to feed trolls by giving them exactly what they are whining for.

          • No, I was legitimately curious as to how you defined the edges of the genre. Don’t make assumptions about people, dude. It lessens the human experience.

            @Lee Thanks for the explanation. I can see why Heavy Rain wouldn’t be considered a visual novel within those definitions.

    • tr1gun1212

      I agree with Aara_Malik_Davoodi. Heavy Rain is much more like game+movie (which games are already closing in on, anyway), while visual novels are novel+game.

  • i’m really attracted by visual novels…but the main problem is that i don’t want to use windows OS…
    mac, linux, ps3, psp, wii, ds, ps2, iPhone is fine for me…but it seems that this is a windows-only market (at least in the west).
    oh…i’ve played (and completed) kira kira on the iPhone…and i’ve loved it…

    • Locklear93

      Grab Disgaea Infinite for PSP. It’s a visual novel, released stateside on PSN and UMD, and it’s fun.

      • yes, i’m planning to get that game, even if i’m not a disgaea fan…
        unfortunately, i’ve to import it, because i live in europe…
        a digital release is definitely more cheap, but i want the UMD…account switching on the PSP is a pain in the ass…

        • Locklear93

          I ended up with both. I ordered the UMD, and bought it on PSN the day it released, so I wouldn’t have to wait for shipping. >_>

    • I believe you’ll see more of Overdrive’s games (KiraKira is by them) on iTunes in the future as well. The port them over fairly regularly, and MangaGamer’s translations are often used for those versions as well. :)

  • Fantastic interview so far. My recommendation for a place to start would actually be Ever 17, if it wasn’t kind of a pain to get a hold of these days.

    I’d love to know why MangaGamer didn’t go with using the art from the PS2 version of the game. It is possible to patch that in on the PC, if it’s really off putting, I just wondered if there were any licensing issues that stopped it.

  • mirumu

    It’s definitely a case of preeching to the converted in my case in that I’ve been playing visual novels of some sort for at least two decades now, but I suspect the growth in popularity that ebook readers are experiencing in the west may benefit the VN market more than anything in the long run.

    I mean I don’t think it’ll be long until we see interactive ebooks for children (think pop-up books, books with sliding panels, etc), and VNs are only a small step beyond that. In the purest sense many VNs are more book than game.

    I’ve always found VNs a hard to promote as games. Many gamers just skip over the text to try and get to the game, and they lose all interest when they find there really isn’t one there. When I’ve tried promoting them to people who enjoy books though it’s a completely different story. The static images, basic animation, music and sound come across to them as added value. They don’t have the expectation of something more than the text. It just seems to me the term “game” doeesn’t really hold the same connotations in different cultures.

    On that note I think the expecations we have on what we’re going to get when we play a VN have a huge effect on how enjoyable the experience is.

    Edit: Fixed typos

    • PurpleDoom

      I don’t really “play” visual novels, but from what little I’ve dabbled in I can definitely agree here – it’s much wiser to view it as a novel than as a game, and I agree with the interview in that it’s probably part of the reason the genre is so difficult to market in the states.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      Then we don’t promote them as games, make sure the folks we are trying to get interested in them know what they are. Great thought there on the kindle users of the world, drawing the parallel with the non-paper literature they are already taking to, should work. VNs are only enhanced versions!

      • Ren

        But what about people who like reading because they can and have to actually imagine the actions instead of seeing or listening to them? Kids and teenagers will probably prefer VN style, but I don’t think most people who really like to read will have any interest on them. From where I’m from, most people who like reading tend to dislike japanese trope conventions and anime based storytelling, myself aside.

        Off-topic: Hey Nyan-san, can it be considered zettai ryouiki if it’s shorts instead of skirts? Even if it’s a guy?

        • M’iau M’iaut

          Imagining the actions and listening/seeing them are not required to be at odds. The person who listens to their audio books or reads off a computer screen can imagine as well. Or they may just not be the audience for VNs, no problem there — I’m not asking for the whole world to join in my interests/fetishes, just those who wish too.

          The tropes are certainly a big hurdle, this discussion and every other similar one we have on Siliconera sees the fight. So again, I would never expect everyone to be in agreement in the larger world.

          Of course it is. Same concept, someone else’s kink. Although, technically that’s skorts on a singing computer program, which still would apply. Heh……picked up on your name only just now. Victorique is slow at the moment, she’s prepping for her big adventure in tommorow’s Gosick!

        • mirumu

          I don’t see why the two styles need to be mutally exclusive. Books and movies for example require different levels of imagination. VN’s are just another option. I do expect though that a child who has grown up with VNs or a VN-like experience will be more open to them. Children are always more open to new ideas than adults.

          Regarding your other comment though, certainly if VN’s remain so closely tied to anime there will always be large groups of people to whom they will not appeal at all.

  • Yay for the 999 name dropping :D!

  • malek86

    I think people are too set in their porn prejudice. In a way, they are right. The vast majority of visual novels out there have obviously-porn titles like “conquering the queen” and “my big sister really loves me”, and are made solely for the porn content. It’s pretty much the only reason people buy them. Of course there will be a few great titles such as Key stuff, Leaf stuff, and some more, which are worth playing for the story. Unfortunately the other 95% of the visual novels has plots like this:

    “hi there”
    “wanna have sex?”

    And since that happens, of course people are going to generalize and interest in the genre doesn’t rise even for those few good ones. So it’s kinda like the mini-games market on the Wii, where a great number of shovelware will make people ignore even the few good games, unless there is Nintendo in the title.

    Note: I say 95% as a random shot, but I don’t think I’m far away from the truth. A tour on sites like Getchu will probably make you understand just how few and far between the non-obviously-porn visual novels are.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      “hi there”
      “wanna have sex?”

      Hey at least dude bothered to ask first. They don’t always do that.

      • malek86

        It actually was the girl. I know I didn’t really make that clear, lol.

        After all, in most VNs it’s the girls who make the moves on the main character.

        Well, except if you’re going in the rape/tentacles/etc. stuff, of course.

        • M’iau M’iaut

          But if it was the girl talking in one of *those* games wouldn’t the “hi there” have been invitation enough for the guy?

          • malek86

            Not for the Average Visual Novel Main Character.

            The AVNMC is a great guy who never does what a girls doesn’t want, and will always help in times of need. He is also reliable, to the point that he attracts the love of all females in his natural habitat, which consists of high school and home. However, he doesn’t seem to understand his own feelings until they are pointed out to him straight.

            He is usually friends with few other guys, who come off as either leechy or stupid. These non-dominant males have very little chances of reproduction.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            That’s one of the reasons I appreciate Clannad. It actually bothers to deal with the big after.

          • idofgrahf

            Too bad it usually does not happen in real life, which might be another reason for these vn’s to be unpopular in the west, character interactions are often times very unrealistic. Seriously though, a VNMC in real life would not be called a good guy, his a sucker who will always get the raw end of the stick. Being that nice usually gets you to be the guy whom the girl unloads all her problems onto before heading off to find another bf and not the chick magnet these VN games makes them out to be,

          • RupanIII


            LOL! But on the other hand, do you want a sex-filled unrealistic fantasy novel/game, or one that went down like this?

            *knock at dorm door*
            AVNMC: “Hi Mie-chan!’
            MIE: “Hi AVNMC! I was wondering ne, if you’re not too busy, I’ve gotta go out later with my bf and I was wondering if I could copy your answers for homework?! it’s chou muzukashii !!’
            AVNMC: “Oh.. um, well I was doing a report and I dunno if it’s really ethica…”
            *MIE makes pouty face*
            AVNMC: “But, actually it’s no problem! Sure thing! You look so pretty! Can I get you something? Here have a seat!”
            MIE: “omg you are SO nice! arigatouuuuuuz! do you ahve any Mr. Pibb???!!”

            -1 hr later-

            *phone rings*
            MIE: “I’ll be right there, love you toooooo!!!1”
            AVNMC: “Oh who was that?”
            MIE: “Oh my boyfriend! I’ve gotta go now, thank you SOOOOOOOoooooOOOoo much desu ne for the homework and listening about my fight with reiko-chan, you’re such a super nice guy!!1”
            AVNMC: “Oh.. uh, sure! bye!”

            -The End-

    • So the reason visual novels aren’t popular here is because they’re 95% anime porn, and 5% sort of okay books with sounds and pictures?

  • SolidusSnake

    I’m interested in visual novels, but from what I’ve seen most of them tend to be based around romance or dating. That’s not very appealing to me. I’d like to play Higurashi, but I’m holding out for a physical release. I’m interested in playing horror, and maybe mystery themed visual novels (haven’t played 999 yet, but I intend to).

    • Darkrise

      You should definately try out 999, and if you’re willing to, search google for a download of Chaos; Head for the pc that’s in english. One of the best horror vn I’ve ever played and I’m not really into that kind of genre. Umineko is a plus as well, same creator of Higurashi and just as good. Love to give more but this is all I can remember for the moment. Oh yeah there’s Devils Devel Concept, I guess it would be a bit of horror and action type of thing and mystery, but there’s ero content and it’s not fully translated. =/

    • Try out Divi-Dead if you can locate a copy (I think J List has some)

    • DlanorKnox

      Highly recommend Ever 17 if you can find it anywhere. One of my favorite games of all time.

  • pc…. hmmm…

  • Bruce

    i would also recommend Fate/stay night , Tsukihime and Saya no uta . i also wish that they stop making forced H-scenes in VNs already , it breaks the pace .

    • I totally agree with you, especially Saya no Uta for being able to creep me out.

      There must be a reason why there are h-scenes in VNs.. Would appreciate it if someone knowledgeable would be able to explain the inclusion of said scenes.

      (Side question): I’ve been reading fate/zero recently, but I couldn’t enjoy the story due to the way it is written… I just wanted to ask whether the writing style in light novels is similar to normal novels or is it more dialogue based, like in VNs. I was wishing Index would be translated, though :(

      • mirumu

        I can’t explain why the H-scenes are there in many VN’s, but I think there is a deeper issue here. Unfortunately in many VN’s it comes across as being forced or out of place, and I can only assume it’s there for the purpose of titilation alone. It’s a shame as it cheapens the experience and can prevent a title from getting the respect it may otherwise deserve.

        At the same time though I think other novels, games, etc can suffer from overly suppressing this sexual content. Some parts of the world still have very a negative perspectives on sexuality, and in many works it feels like the story has been twisted to avoid it at all costs to the extent it’s not believeable. I’m not suggesting sexual content should always be there and pushed to the forefront, but that in some works there is a place for it.

        To me both of these situations, as different as they are, point to a lack of maturity in society. I’d like to see a more grown-up approach taken, but really I think it’s an academic debate since it’s unlikely any of it is going to change in our lifetimes.

      • tr1gun1212

        Well, part of the answer as to why there are sex scenes in visual novels is down to that fact, that, well… well not? Being on PC, they can include that kind of content, it sells well, and so they do. Sure, there are those that eschew any kind of story in favour of that sort of thing, but that’s just like an action movie that is all explosions and killing with no plot – not for some, but many like it. There is room enough for both.

        If, during the course of the story, two characters have sex, I don’t see why it should not be allowed to be shown – there are sex scenes in movies and novels, even some video games, so I fail to see why they should be excluded here.

        Forced sex scenes do kind of suck, though. Whether it be a movie or novel – it can be a bit too silly sometimes.

        I think another issue here is, like you said, writing styles. This may be another cultural difference, I suspect. I have not read Fate/zero in English, so I am not sure, but there can only be two reasons why the writing style is the way that it is. 1) It is carried over exactly from Japanese, which can be ugly for people used to reading in English. 2) It is not carried over from Japanese, and therefore the translator/editor have to create a style for it in English, which can either have a good or a bad result, depending on what they come up with.

        If you just mean dialogue vs. non-dialogue, that is tough when translating into English, because in Japanese it can flow freely between the two – it’s not necessarily obvious when a character is thinking something, or if it is information being given by a narrator, or…

      • Because visual novels are targeted exclusively at reclusive nerds who hunger for masturbation material.

        The only reason visual novels are a “huge market” in Japan is because they have a larger nerd market.

        No deeper reasons.

        • How is it that everyone else manages to post non-inflammatory comments in this thread, with the exception of you and one other person? Regardless of whether there’s any truth or not in what you say, there’s a politer way of expressing yourself and I’d appreciate it if you made the effort to do that.

          (Also, visual novels are by no means a “huge market” in Japan, relative to the rest of the games industry.)

          • I thought I was being pretty polite. I mean, there’s politeness, and there’s purposefully mutilating your point for the sake avoiding offending someone. I do politeness, I do not do offense control.

            Actually, I don’t really think there’s a more polite way to say that at all. It’s an inherently rude truth.

            Yes, I understand that visual novels are not, overall, a huge market in Japan. I had intended to mean that as a comparison to the western market, but in retrospect did not word it clearly.

          • Apollonis

            It’s inherently impolite to make absolute generalizations about a subject you clearly don’t understand or have experience with. Just chill out a bit, basically.

        • Bruce

          that’s a pretty big generalization there , believe it or not the best selling VNs focus largely on the story , like Chaos;head or Eden* .

          • But they still have porn in them, no matter how much better they’d have been without porn. Don’t they?

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Hey I’m the one here who is supposed to get their H VNs and all ages VNs confused! Eden requires a patch to get the hentai stuff, and many many H VNs have non-adult versions which tell the same story save the sex scenes. In cases like Aselia and Hourglass of Summer, the all ages versions have the most content, or were the original works, with dirty stuff added in. Yes I know there are more which started adult, but this market is not all the same dirty brush.

      • Bruce

        Saya no uta would been perfect without all the H-scenes , they were terrible .

        i think at first VNs focused on erotic scenes and dating , and after awhile they expanded the genre and tried employing new and different themes , so to improve the quality of writing and the story they had to get rid of most H-scenes , so in my opinion the lesser the ero content the better the story would be .

        and trying to come up with a reason for characters to have sex can be pretty silly , Saber x Shiro comes to mind <_< .

      • H-scenes attracts people, and we all know (thanks to VN/games/animes) that a lot of japanese are… uhh, really perverts? It can clearly be seen in most animes (sadly)

        Anyway, this is how i see it…

        A japanese dude reading the game’s main page

        Japanese dude: “Uhh, looks nice, but the story doesn’t attract me that much, i don’t know if it will turn good or bad” (the main page gives a small resume, but as the most important part of a VN is the story, they can’t really say that much to not spoil anything or make anything too obvious)

        Japanese dude click’s on gallery

        Japanese dude: “woaah! but nice girls, these scenes looks great!, even if i cant enjoy the story that much i can enjoy this part!”


        And here the companies start doing figures of the girls, maybe with removal of clothes that will give them more money, etc..

        Meh, anyway, the only reason that i can think of, is that it sells, and is capable of attracting people even if they didnt got interested with the story.

        Is like 999’s japanese ranking poll, you saw how the women of that game ended in the first places -.-… Specially Lotus *sigh*

    • Darkrise

      Yeah I guess that would be a really big breakthrough too. It might instantly kill off any sense of doubt of whether or not “is this an h-game or not?” Example would Utawarerumono. Great game, nice srpg element, interesting story but it had some h-scenes that kind of caught me by surprise. Then there’s Princess Waltz; th story was interesting but again, ero content involved. Tears to Tiara… If only the art was just as good as the anime adaption then I would’ve finished it.

    • Tsukihime… isnt that an anime? i remember i saw it on the TV but it didnt impress me that much.

      i wish they could put more VN for the psp/ds (any portable console), i think VN is better to have it on the go (book style), i just can’t (i tried, with Ever 17, was a hard thing to do) sit in front of my computer and start to read, i don’t know, i can’t concentrate, but when i tried Chaos;Head Noah for PSP, i could really enjoy it in there.

      • Bruce

        ah , they made an anime , i heard it was horrible lol , Tsukihime is a visual novel made by Type-moon , it was before they made Fate/SN and it was a mere dojin , but it was popular among fans , they released a sequel called Melty blood .

        there are many VNs in psp/ds , the psp got a LOT of otome VNs , they aren’t my thing though :P .

        • Zero_Destiny

          Never played the game but Tsukihime is an amazing anime. Very slow but four or so episodes in and you’ll be marathoning it till the end. :D The end was awesome. Had me tears.

          • Bruce

            most fans of the VN didn’t like it , or to be more accurate they see it as so inferior that it doesn’t deserve to be acknowledged , hence the meme ” there is no tsukihime anime ” .


          • Zero_Destiny

            Curse Missing Out on superior versions XD

  • TurkeyPotPie

    The cultural issues with VNs go beyond “Westerners are too stupid to read”. Many people in the west just don’t find the anime look or tropes appealing. And the west already has a well established adventure game tradition for people interested in more involving story/characters than other game genres.

    Anime style doesn’t bother me, but I find it hard to enjoy VNs because they aren’t really games at all. Often there is almost no interactive element (you might get a choice a few times in the game). If I am going to read a novel, I would prefer to read an actual novel rather than what amounts to a picturebook. For starters I can often read much faster than VNs display text, particularly if the VN is voiced (in which case “playing” the VN is like listening to an audio book). The bigger issue is that providing pictures, sounds, and voice acting doesn’t really enhance a written story for me. For a novel I would prefer to imagine those things. And that brings up my final peeve about VNs. The text is often almost exclusively dialogue (like a light novel). I find that style of writing choppy and hard to read.

    • malek86

      Yes, one of my problems with visual novels too, is that the writing style isn’t always good, especially when you have what basically counts as just dialogue between two portrait characters (one behind the screen). I prefer visual novels where you don’t see characters portraits, for the sole reason that they are written more like a book (I usually call these “sound novels”).

      • irzbos

        In that case, a very good VN that has a detective/underworld (deals with yakuza) would be G-Senjou no Maou. There are H-scenes in it, but as many would agree it is very good.

        It is not available for purchase in english, but it is fully fan translated (good quality as well).

        • Hoooooootel Dusk? Most well written localized adventure game I’ve experienced.

    • gatotsu911

      Thank you for saying what needed to be said. This interview smacks of vindictive cultural elitism born from excessive Japanophilia. If they think that the reason silly anime visual novels aren’t popular in the West is because Westerners are too dumb to appreciate the genius of GLORIOUS NIPPON, it’s no wonder companies like these can’t market them for crap. Also, I lawled at all this talk about how visual novels are SERIOUS BUSINESS interspersed with screenshots of generic-looking moe garbage (except for Catherine).

      • M’iau M’iaut

        Funny, the only thing I saw Turkey mention was that tropes and interests were different, not that one set of tropes and interests was any better than the other. Nor do I see any hint of such attitude here from the supporters of VNs, just means to better show what they are, and let folks decide on that rather than on the fallacy that all VNs are porn. The writing on the ‘let’s have sex’ games can indeed be on the weak side of crappy writing, but titles such as Ever 17 and Higurashi do not fall under such descriptions.

        And not liking the genre just because of big eyes and small mouths can mean it is just not your genre.

      • mirumu

        I think it would benefit everyone if the genre diversified outside of it’s anime heritage, but that won’t happen unless some companies are actually willing give it a go. I’d guess it’s a risk no western developer wants to take, but new platforms like the iPhone and Android may let indie developers start testing the waters on a smaller scale. Someone will have to prove there’s a market first.

        I can’t see Japan changing it’s ways. Catering to their own tastes seems profitable enough to sustain their current way of doing things.

        • M’iau M’iaut

          But most of the western folks who use things such as ren’py are still doing their work in an obvious anime style. They are out there, but doing something really no different. It’s again the lack of experience with the VN; the only thing even close are the reboots of Sam and Max or Monkey Island.

          • mirumu

            Yes, and I think that’s because most of those western folks developing titles with that same style enjoy Japanese VNs as they are. It’s a pitfall of exposure to the Japanese titles. If it’s going to change I think that change will have to grow out of a different area such as a publisher deciding to make an interactive book, or someone who has the story/art concept for a game first and uses VN style gamplay as an afterthought.

            The Scott Pilgrim application on the iPhone is a good example I think. Currently the concept is rather basic, but it’s a comic with some added sound and visual effects. It’s completely unrelated to existing Japanese VNs, but they’ve re-invented the same ideas.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Couple of companies have dabbled in the audio comics realm, but just dabbled. Hell, the west no longer even has the radio play concept to find converts. The last significant entrant in that genre was the Star Wars stuff, was also thinking of online productions like say The Guild, but that doesn’t reach folks who aren’t already aware of Japanesque concepts.

          • mirumu

            Yes, they’ve never really taken off. It could just turn out that VNs will never gain any significant foothold in the west which would be a shame. I think there’s a lot of potential, but people will buy what they like at the end of the day.

        • Guest


      • noxian

        and your comment smacks of knee-jerk “i’m insulted!” instead of looking into what he actually said.

        i’ll agree with the comments that what he said (and perhaps some of the blame lies in how Siliconera did or presented the interview, i suppose we’ll see when the interview is complete) didn’t represent the full breadth of the issue.

        as always with stuff like this, people need to be careful when saying “the problem is this!” as if the issue is black and white, because few things in life are.

        anime and manga ultimately aren’t nearly as ingrained in the West as anime/manga fans (or perhaps general Japanese game fans) tend to think it is.
        and in fact it’s nowhere close to it’s commercial height (which was quite a few years ago).

        and for a game genre that is heavily tied to that same media culture (even in Japan), not having that fanbase is a huge disadvantage.

        that having been said knee-jerking to being insulted that he commented that Western audiences don’t like tons of talky-talky and want more instant gratification, and getting put off because you think he called you stupid, just ignores the fact that he makes a valid point.

        and this is not just limited to games, but this is a regularly critically observed point that Western, particularly American, audiences reward instant gratification in their media.
        you just need compare the narrative styles of Eastern and Western literature to see a STARK difference (and in turn. things such as British television versus American television).

        Westerners DON’T like too much reading in their games.
        they DON’T like too much talking.
        it simply is true.
        and the fact is, try to dispute it if you want, but there’s plenty of commercial data to prove it.

        someone pointed out the West has it’s own adventure game tradition.
        and pray tell what is the status of the Western adventure game tradition?

        barely limping on a lifeline that at this point barely feeds a few one-shot indie studios.
        all attempts to revive the genre in recent years have faltered.

        Benoit Sokal, who scored a pair of relative hits (for the genre) in Syberia 1 and 2, just shutdown his studio last year because he was making no money.

        for every Heavy Rain that has succeeded there are 100 Heavy Rains that simply died commercially.
        and let’s be blunt, Heavy Rain only did as well as it did because Sony promoted the hell out of it as the greatest game to ever grace gaming.

        after that, you pretty much need to go back to 1999 and The Longest Journey to find the last adventure game that made a real mainstream impact.

        does that mean Westerners are stupid?

        did he ever say that?
        maybe in your heads in your mental interpretation, but not in the actual interview.

        it merely highlights one of the many very real East versus West divides.

        his comments may have come off as a little too black and white.
        i totally agree there.

        but you’d be completely off-base if you don’t recognize that he did at least hit one of the shades of gray.

        • malek86

          I think you’re forgetting of how Telltale, with their episodic series, basically single-handedly revitalized the adventure genre, and also encouraged older developers to start again with some good results.

          The adventure genre might have been on life support until 2005 or so (culminating in 2004 with the cancellation of Sam & Max 2 and Full Throttle 2), but now, for the last few years it’s been going relatively well for itself, with a nice number of projects running.

          • Telltale is one of the best things to ever happen to the adventure genre. If the cancellation of Sam & Max 2 and Full Throttle 2 was like the sudden death of the genre, then the founding of Telltale and the beginning of the Sam & Max episodes is like the rebirth of the genre. Telltale has become one of my favorite developers in more recent years for this reason.

          • Aoshi00

            Sam & Max was great, haven’t finished it yet.. Back to the Future seems to be awesome if it has the same crazy humor :)

          • Guest

            Those games are actually visually stimulating interactive games though, not just stories one reads while looking at still Anime pictures.
            Westerners dont like VN because theyre simply not games. Theres hardly any fun element to it. Now mix in some puzzle element (Ace Attorney / Hotel Dusk), or fighting (Blazblue) then you’ll peak their interest.
            The genre is very stagnant

          • Aoshi00

            That’s true, I was thinking people would like the games to have more detective elements or murder mystery, like Phoenix Wright, Hotel Dusk, Trace Memory, or 999, those are more like point & click adventures w/ more interactivity instead of just reading. Otherwise some VNs are quite engrossing if one’s willing to get into them..

        • john411

          >just ignores the fact that he makes a valid point.

          >Westerners DON’T like too much reading
          they DON’T like too much talking.
          it simply is true.

          Bullsh*t. Westerners like reading as much as any other group of people in the world. Books sell, EVER HEARD OF HARRY POTTER? TWILIGHT? Adventure games sell, HEAVY RAIN, INDIGO PROPHECY, ALAN WAKE, heck, there are tons of people who rave on and on about the READING PARTS in games like LOST ODYSSEY and NIER.

          But all John can do is whine and “lament” about how westerners just aren’t interested in reading and that is the reason why Mangagamer’s games don’t do well. No sir, it’s not the medium that is the problem, it’s you and your loli-anime style games. The question you should really ask is “why do the fans of moe-blob anime and lolis read more? There are tons of them out there and because that’s the niche you’re selling to, if they aren’t biting, it’s clearly because THEY DON’T LIKE TO READ AMIRITE?


          • Feynman

            I’m not sure I’d say “westerners” don’t like reading, only having experience in the US, but I WOULD say that Americans don’t like reading. You mention Harry Potter and Twilight, but those books are the exception, not the rule. I know more than one person who religiously read Harry Potter/Twilight and have never voluntarily read any other books in their lives.

            Years ago when I went through college, countless classmates had a really, really hard time reading the material. And it’s not just a skill level issue, it’s an attention span issue. Americans are so used to the light, ADD-style of internet reading that actually spending a couple hours focusing on reading one thing is considered terminally boring by a very large portion of the population (perhaps even the majority).

            A lot of folks have brought up games like Heavy Rain and the Telltale titles, but those are a very different beast compared to visual novels, focusing more on puzzle solving and having more active, direct control of the character. Visual novels on the other hand tend to be nothing but straight up text… essentially light novels with pictures and voiceovers.

            You bring up Lost Odyssey and Nier, but the “reading sections,” as you term them, are only small sections, quickly over and done with, they aren’t what the games are based on. Furthermore, for every one person I’ve met who loves those bits, there are several more who hate them.

            Nobody is saying “lol Americans are dumb and they can’t read,” but the culture doesn’t really do much to promote it, and most people don’t bother. Out of about a dozen friends, only ONE person other than myself reads as a from of recreation. Most Americans are perfectly literate, but most Americans ALSO don’t actually use their literacy for anything other than menial tasks or reading sentence-long Twitter posts.

            On a different note, I think the “porn game” aspect is a bigger issue than the interviewee makes it out to be. Visual novels suffer from an ENORMOUS stigma of being “smut games,” and given how most localized VNs really ARE just porn, it’s easy to see why the stigma exists. There are VNs that contain only a very small handful of adult scenes that tell perfectly good stories, but the presence of even a small amount of adult content in a VN – even just one scene – is enough to scare people away, especially given the reputation the genre has.

            VNs that are 100% clean still tend to be viewed with skepticism simply because the entire genre has a lingering unsavory atmosphere about it – to say nothing of how incredibly tired people are with the current “moe” trend and the way the anime industry (and industries connected with it, including the visual novel industry) are shamelessly exploiting moe/loli crap in an effort to stay afloat by appealing specifically to the lowest common denominator of the anime fanbase. VNs will have a very hard time gaining acceptance under ANY circumstances until the anime industry and those associated with it start putting more effort into appealing to a range of consumers beyond the otaku market.

          • gatotsu911

            Haven’t read all the responses (though needless to say, some have amused me), but I will say here that the assertion that Western GAMERS don’t like lots of text or dialogue actually does have some truth to it. This has nothing to do with intelligence; rather, Western gamers expect games to be as interactive as possible and generally tend to prefer fast-paced games. Japanese gamers, on the other hand, have a higher tolerance for non-interactive segments in games, and tend to be less bothered by slow pacing in general. As many Western gamers will undoubtedly tell you, when they’re playing a game, they want to be PLAYING – if they wanted to read a novel or watch a movie, they’d go do that. And I more or less support that logic. If a game’s going to be extremely focused on non-interactive story segments, they should at least be good enough that they’d hold their weight in the mediums they’re trying to emulate, and with video games in general (visual novels included) that’s unfortunately rarely the case.

        • Yesshua

          Hey there.

          You’re pretty knowledgeable. I appreciate that you took the time to type all of this out. Good stuff.

      • john411

        I wholeheartedly agree with the two above. Westerners don’t like to read? Please. Clearly there are no popular books that sell on the NY Bestseller list, Amazon isn’t a hugely successful place to buy books, and Telltale and other numerous successful western ADV developers don’t suggest Americans like to read, not at all!

        Yeah, Mangagamer, stop licensing horrible moe games and sex romps and then maybe we’ll take you seriously.

        • There’s a big, big difference between adventure games and visual novels. Adventure games are more far interactive, often developed by larger and more well known companies, and they’re on consoles where they’re pirated less. To compare visual novels to something put out by Telltale is completely unfair.

          • john411

            No, it’s not. Telltale is not any bigger than your average ‘visual novel’ company. They are successful by the choices they make, and that involves not making moe niche non-appealing games. And btw, Telltale is also on Steam.

            As for the difference between adventure games and visual novels, the point is, any sane person can see from the success of various text-heavy games and books that “reading” is not the problem here. And for Mangagamer to insinuate as much is an insult to avid readers and adventure game/visual novel players such as myself.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            Telltales titles are known IPs that even had US cartoons made about them. They are rebooting previously successful titles and doing a nice job with it. Yes, the anime aesthetic is a huge stumbling block stateside, but the general US gamer looks for a title with action and faster pacing, and is part of the hurdles to overcome just as much.

            The goal is not to grab you me or others of our ilk, but to get others interested and buying.

          • Guest

            Well he’s right that there is a big difference from Western “Adventure” games and your standard visual novel. They shouldn’t be lumped together like they’re one and the same.

          • john411

            @M’iau M’iaut

            They’re definitely not trying to grab me, because even though I play such games, I do not have any interest at all in the cutesy-moe-peddling games Mangagamer has to offer. And I’m actually a player interested in such games!

            I don’t know who they’re trying to grab, but there’s really no point in imagining they’ll get a piece of the 20 million or so gamers who play Call of Duty every day or something.

          • BTA

            There is a *huge* difference between a game by Tellltale and a visual novel. Telltale makes point-and-click adventure games that last a few hours. A visual novel is, well, a visual novel that can last up to say… 50 hours. To call a Telltale game “text-heavy” when compared to the average visual novel is laughable.

            I personally believe that “Americans don’t like to read” is a completely valid point here. As a student in high school, I regularly see other students complaining about having to read any book that’s over a few hundred pages long. I certainly don’t see them playing a game requiring a large amount of reading in their free time.

            However, I do agree that there are other problems as well. People assume that visual novels are “porn games”, which companies like MangaGamer and JAST do nothing to combat because they keep bringing over games that *are* porn! They are the ones that need to fix this problem by bringing over more all-ages (or at least less sex-heavy) games. Of course, the problem within the problem is that these games are rare, and the best ones are made by companies so popular that they demand so much money from the localization companies that they can’t be brought over. But I think it’s safe to say that both MangaGamer and JAST make a good deal of money off their more porn-centered titles, so it’s not like they have much of an incentive to stop…

            There’s also the whole “it’s Japanese and looks like anime KILL IT WITH FIRE” thing that’s completely ridiculous but still a common view on any game that’s obviously from Japan. It sucks, but there’s no real way to fight that besides people showing others that these games are better than they expect.

      • JustaGenericUser

        Someone forgot to buy some stool softener.

    • Zero_Destiny

      Well ultimately the “anime” style is pretty much THE thing in Japan. It always gets to me when people don’t want to play a game just because of that but I do understand. I came from liking manga and anime so it’s no biggie for me. But it’s different for some people who haven’t gotten into those mediums. Some Visual Novels do tend to be just “question and answers” kind of gameplay but if the story is woven correctly it can be highly addicting trying to see how the story unfolds every time and trying to unlock all the endings. Some Visual Novels have become more like the Point and Click games of the west and I think it’s a great way to start getting into these kind ot things. Of course you still have to overcome “anime portraits” but if you’re willing than I suggest games like 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors or Phoenix Wright games on the DS. Fun point and Click mechanics and good stories. 999 has a branching story system too. It’s quite fun to try to get all the endings. But you’re right they are a matter of taste. I’d like more gamers to get into Visual Novels though and see some more releases out in the west.

      • Aoshi00

        I like all Phoenix Wright games.. if people are so averse to anime-ish art, maybe Hotel Dusk’s more realistic drawing would help? Since they traced the drawings based on real photographs/videos except adding that final anime touch (which explains why the motion was so natural).. I thought that was an awesome art style.. Anata wo Yurusanai’s art was less anime-ish to me too because the artist draws for a female fashion magazine, but I guess it’s still anime-ish to Western eyes at the end..

        • Zero_Destiny

          Oh Hotel Dusk I suggested that to someone just yesterday. lol That’s another great game and another great place to start getting into Visual Novels. I love holding the DS vertically too. Made it really cool. :D

          • Aoshi00

            Totally, I think only Hotel Dusk and Anata wo Yurusanai make you hold the DS and PSP vertically which felt very nifty (thought holding the DS could be a bit tiring), well there’s Love Plus too lol.. argh, we need Last Window.. I know there’s a European release.. I could get the Jpn release, but I hope they have a US release too.. unlike Another R. Have people played Last Window yet, is it a good sequel to Hotel Dusk?

          • Guest

            Ace Attorney games
            Hotel Dusk
            Last Window: The Secret of Cape West
            Miami Law
            Trace Memory
            Another Code R
            Zack & Wiki
            Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles
            Jake Hunter: Memories of the Past
            Time Hollow

            honorable mention:
            Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law

  • Great interview! I already bought Da Capo ~ Innocent Finale from their store, and I can’t wait for the upcoming titles.

  • idofgrahf

    I personally think VN’s are not well known or well established outside of Japan because it came to the west a bit too late. Had it came out in the west at the same time as say asteroid defender i think people would have been more willing to accept it as a game genre. But now since the concept of what is a video game has already taken root in alot of people’s minds, trying to push the idea that reading text while watching pictures instead of using your keyboard or controller to blast asteroids, kill demon’s (doom) will of course be difficult. I like VN’s for the most part but I can see why alot of people would be put off by it.

    Also lets face it, many of the vn’s that commercially available are not all that great to begin with, be it translation error’s (Manga Gamers comes to mind) or simply crappy line up (like jast).

    One last thing I think is important is production value. Some of these vn’s charge close to 60 USD, I’m not saying it’s wrong and I understand why they do it but many people, my self included, find it hard to shell out that kind of money for such a small budget game. It feels like you are paying dollar on the penny if you were to compare it to say Dragon Age, Mass Effect, FFX etc… all of which are considered triple AAA titles with high production values and they cost at around 50-60 dollars when they first released.

    • noxian

      very true.

      VNs are greatly affected by an economy of scale. they don’t actually produce much output, so their production costs are surprisingly high.
      and they in turn are forced to push those costs on to buyers.

      it may all make sense economically, but for the end buyer, the fact that the economics line up tends to matter less than the fact that i’m paying as much for a VN as i am for a Triple A studio game release.

      the scale makes sense for the developer but makes little sense for the buyers.

  • there this VN called infinite loop that i’ve wanted to read in english but no luck so far.

    • Aoshi00

      Infinite Loop was pretty fun, but could feel a bit repetitive (literally deja vu) because you keep replaying the same events over and over until you do something different to diverge to a different outcome.. I got stuck at some point and got really frustrated and never really went back to the game again.. maybe I need to check out a guide.. I guess it felt like Shadow of Destiny/Memories where you repeat the events in order to prevent a character from dying.. it was fun until I got really stuck..

  • A good visual novel will try to engage me and encourage me to discuss it with other people. Even if the VN doesn’t offer branching paths or multiple endings, it should still try to do it.

    I always find that a good VN to start out with is True Remembrance. It’s free, it doesn’t take up a lot of space, fairly short compared to a lot of VNs out there, and most of all, it’s heartwarming. I considered reading Umineko first, but wanted to start out with something smaller.

  • Darkrise

    Steins; Gate. Valkryie Complex. Hm, Chaos; Head Noah. Some really good unstranslated games. Strange, I had more but this is all I can remember for now. Only one with ero content would be Valkryie Complex but it has a very fun srpg element similar to FF tactics which is enough to overshadow said content. Shuffle imo was just boring… I kind of liked the anime and decided to pick up the VN but it just felt like it was going nowhere. I know there are quite a bit more good reads out there and I’ve played a few but since my previous harddrive was trashed, this is all I can remember for now. And I emphasis Chaos; Head as being really good, that game was just a big mindf%#@ right till the end and I just loved every bit of it. Every character was voiced so it felt a bit more lively and there was suspense, mystery and psychological stuff that can screw with your head. I don’t doubt that Steins; Gate would be a disappointment as well, because it was also sci-fi,psychological and recieved quite alot of praise to an extent of having figures made, an upcoming anime(hope it’s not as bad as the Chaos;Head adaption…), manga and a few bunch of other stuff. Btw, none of these two had ero content especially in pc. Would love to see the console versions brought over. =/ Oh then theres Eien no Aselia kono daichi no hate de and it’s sequel Seinarukana. Both are srpg of the classical style like FFIV with some interesting elements added in. Never got a chance to play Seinarukana yet. And both of them have no h-content.

    • kactaplb

      All of xuse games have ero, including aselia and narukana.

  • caddyalan

    As recently as 2003, fans could count the number of non-porn visual novels in English on one hand. Even today, it takes careful web searching and dedication to find well written VNs in English, let alone ones without obligatory sex scenes. J-List, Mangagamer, and several other companies have been responsible for not only translating very little except for formulaic harem games, but also for creating more than a few poorly written translations.

    That said, within the last eight years, there has been a steady increase in different types of content. English speaking fans have released freeware and indie visual novels. Fans have translated a few more diverse VNs. And occasionally companies have released unique content in English.

    A little while ago, the developers of the planned freeware visual novel Katawa Shoujo posted this article — — in which they criticize current VNs in English. They encourage fans to create stories which have different themes, varied types of art, good pacing, logical design, and an integration of art and story (as opposed to “paper doll” art that does not mesh with the writing). They also admit that fandom is currently small, and state it will take quite a few more fans — and quite a bit of work — in order to make varied, quality content.

    • malek86

      That’s a good article there. I agree with most of it, but not only that, I’d also say that for the most part it easily applies to japanese visual novels too.

      Well, except the part where it says that it needs to up the ante on the graphics, because after all most of these games are made on a tight budget. I think, however, they could do much if they simply stopped using the ridiculous portraits system. Anything is better, at this point. Not only that, but having portraits and dubs means that you don’t need to describe emotions and people with words, which makes visual novels usually a lot less interesting than books, as they basically become just a neverending stream of dialogue that takes forever to go anywhere (which is definitely not good pacing).

      • JustaGenericUser

        If there’s no portraits or anything like that you might as well just read a regular novel.

  • i wish i could have utawarerumono in English T.T
    great game, truly great.

  • who else bought disgaea infinity, and not just because nis games rock? that’s how i support the cause ^^

  • Zero_Destiny

    Is it just me or has Silicon Era been a blaze with Visual Novels lately? There was three or four related post on Visual Novels just yesterday. lol I guess it’s a good time for Visual Novel fans. :D I wonder what that new game is. I’m really curious.

    • M’iau M’iaut

      Spencer and Ishaan are simply providing the rest of us the same life sustaining nourishment they give Tsuna with a random One Piece or Naruto thread.

      • Zero_Destiny

        Good So very good. lol I was about to die because of the lack of Visual Novel related post. I became very malnourished. lol So can you or anyone else really suggest anymore free-source or purchasable(physical or just downloadable) VN’s. I don’t really like fan-translations. Not unless it was freesource or just a patch. Anyways I ended up downloading the four that Lee pointed out in the Ever17 post (May Sky, True Remembrance, Brass Restoration, and Narcissu) and I found myself playing May Sky for like an hour and half straight last night. Even stayed up late even though I had a midterm today. lol Now I want more VN love. Not really in the know though. Most of my VN has come through MagnaGamer and the DS.

        • M’iau M’iaut

          Those are the only four Japanese VNs that are free and not a legal shade darker than gray. There’s one called Ripples (done with that ren’py) engine that is real short — like 20 mins. One or two of the sites that Tommy linked to for those also should have a few translated demos of titles which have not come over.

          • Zero_Destiny

            No more kind of legal free games :( lol What about purchasable games? I don’t mind paying. I’ve seen some of your suggestions about those kinds of games, now I’m curious.

          • M’iau M’iaut

            I posted a link to Yo-Jin-Bo above. Hanako Games and Winter Wolves sell some US indie titles. Family Project, Cresendo and Kana Little Sister through JAST or Right Stuff.

          • Zero_Destiny

            @M’iau M’iuat Cool, thanks. I have no idea where to go to find out about these games. When ever I ask about them or look around all I can find is fanlations. I’ve seen all these VN games out on the net and some that even make you purchase them but I have no idea what’s legal and what isn’t. It’s kind of confusing and I don’t want to pirate and I especially don’t want to buy an illegal product. With my credit card no less. :( Nice to have someone give out links. :D

          • irzbos

            ah so the legality issue is whats preventing you from dl’ing a game with a fan translation? cuz as i mentioned earlier in this forum G-senjou no Maou is oen of the best VN games out there, but has yet to be legally translated

          • Zero_Destiny

            @irzbos well if it’s like a patch and I can import the game that’s Ok right? (I think it is) Because if it’s a patch I’m interested. Tell me more please. :)

          • irzbos

            one second and let me look it up…i will edit this post when i get the info


            You can find the patch under RELEASES. I’m not to savvy on where you can import the game, but I assume that would not be an issue. Ah, you can only get in trouble for downloading the game, not importing it or adding an english patch; so adding the english patch onto it should have no legality issues whatsoever.

          • Zero_Destiny

            @irzbos Thanks yet another page to bookmark and yet another game to search for. :D I’m getting suggestions left and right. This is awesome!!!

          • irzbos

            Last thing I’ll say is from the looks of it, importing the game would cost you around 90 dollars and I don’t know about shipping since I can’t read japanese (pretty freaking expensive). Also, I don’t know how you feel about H-scenes. While the game certainly isnt an ero-based VN there are still h-scenes in it. 3 of the heroines have 3 scenes and the main heroine has 2. Your choice, just wanted to make sure you have all the facts.

          • Zero_Destiny

            @irzbos $90!!! It automatically went from the top of my want list to the bottom. lol Can’t shell out $90 during this time too many other games coming out in February and March. I’m now envious of Sawada’s bank account/pockets again. XD And yeah shipping always kills from Japan. It kills me for figures and it kills me for ArtBooks. I can’t imagine how bad a full game would be. lol Welp I guess I’ll just keep it in the back of my mind for now. And no I don’t mind the H or the ecchi stuff. In fact what man doesn’t love himself some of that. lol I’ll probably come back to it in a couple of months when I got some money to burn thanks for the suggestion.

          • irzbos

            In the TLwiki link you bookmarks under miscellaneous at the bottom is a link to for the game so u can find it easily. that should be it.

        • M’iau M’iaut

          Looks like the Japanese side of jlist got Remember 11 (same series/writer as Ever 17) back in stock. The price is quite reasonable for the genre. In Japanese, but there is a full translation available that just zips right in and works fine.

          • Zero_Destiny

            Awesome, now I have to beat everyone here to it!!!!! lol Thanks

    • Hahaha, it’s more like when there’s news, there’s news. It just so happens that Steins;Gate and Ever17 were announced at the same time as John returned our MG interview. :)

      I love vnovels personally, and we try to push them on the site, but we have to be selective, since we can’t have tentacles crawling everywhere. We try to stick to SFW stuff or productive conversation. :)

      • Zero_Destiny

        I guess you can’t control the news. lol But I would like to see some more VN news. I know it can be hard to talk about (tentacles and all lol) but I’ve really been getting into VN’s lately and I know almost nothing about their releases except for the few DS games like 999 and the few MagnaGamer games. I’m starting to feel in the dark with this fandom. I’ve been surprised to find in these recent VN post that there’s more legal releases besides just those MangaGamer and the VN DS games.

        • I’d highly recommend if you’re looking for a nice database of vnovels, just to get a better idea of the different kinds of games out there. I’d like to cover more of these games, too, but again, we want to do it in a way that’s actually beneficial to people.

          I talk to MangaGamer precisely because they’re willing to talk openly about a lot of these issues, even if some of the more immature fans (even in this thread) choose to misinterpret what’s being said. That sort of direct communication is often what it takes for the trends to start making their way back to the Japanese publishers.

          We’ve talked directly to companies in Japan in the past, too:

          • Zero_Destiny

            Thanks :D Been getting many good suggestions. I’m glad most people are explaining these things. Hard to find anyone else on other sites willing to help you find this kind of stuff out.

      • M’iau M’iaut

        But Shuma Gorath opened the door!

        • Sadly, Shuma is part of our childhood. Many of us were taken in by his tentacles at that ripe young age where we were easily swept off our feet by pink octopus-blobs. :'(

      • irzbos

        yeah, I would love to see a steins;gate translation pop up at some time considering how much good press it has received. I’d actually buy that one.

    • Aoshi00

      Because Ishaan is a big promoter of VNs, one of his fav genre :)

  • M’iau M’iaut

    JAST is taking a stab at the all-ages market as well. This is the page for the coming all ages version of the PC RPG Aselia.

    Be careful going beyond this page, just about everything else they do is NSFW and possible NSFHome. You still can find a few Hirameki things from them, including the dl of the highly recommended Yo-Jin-Bo. It’s a reverse harem all ages, in the mold of 12 Kingdoms.

  • Xien12


  • amagidyne

    I’ve tried getting into a number of series (Higurashi, Tsukihime, Umineko), but it just doesn’t take like a physical novel or a game does (by which I mean I hated them and wanted them to die, even though they were software).

    It just seems like I have no idea how to play these. If you read them like novels you’ll get distracted by the writing style, the random sex, the out-of-fucking-nowhere misogyny and the slow text crawl (granted, you can usually choose text speed).

    If you try to play them like games you’ll quickly come to realize that they aren’t games. As in, there’s nothing about them that indicates they are games. You’ve put all these interesting and attractive characters in front of me, and forbidden me from speaking to them or interacting with them in any interesting way. You’ve even put in a completely personality-free blank-slate male lead for me to control. There’s just no gameplay. Sometimes I’ll wonder if it’s all just some absurdist gag, like I’m playing a game adaptation of ‘Waiting for Godot’.

    I would kill for an oldschool ‘Baldur’s Gate’-style dialogue tree in a VN, but for that to pan out I would probably have to go back in time and kill the creator of Nscripter.

    Which probably means this genre isn’t for me at all.

    • tr1gun1212

      They’re not for everyone.

      A Japanese friend once started to play my Toradora Portable, and played for about ten minutes, then turned to me and asked when the game started. I told him that he was already “playing”, and he looked at me like I must be joking.

  • Sure is Katawa Shoujo devblog in here.

  • Apache_Chief

    Strangely enough, I was thinking of this yesterday. The strangest thing to me is how they’re labeled and marketed as “games”. Even through this interview, he was calling them games like they had some kind of interactivity. Branching paths and choices give the reader a role to some extent, but if there’s nothing but text and you go an hour or more between each choice, that’s a choose your own adventure book. Even games like Ace Attorney or Hotel Dusk, which actually have gameplay, I keep in the “book” portion of my mind because they’re so story and character oriented with a lot of text.

    Even though I had a ds homebrew port, I never said to myself “I’m going to play Fate/Stay Night”, I would say “I think I want to read some more FSN”. I guess that’s because of what I want to get out of VNs. I followed a guide to get each ending on purpose (getting bad ends on accident sucks), and I would save before choices to see exactly what would happen even though I know I’m not going to actually choose that option. I prefer linearity; branching paths are fine as long as it’s early enough along and a significant portion of the story is different. I read VNs because I want to be guided through a story, even when Shirou does something retarded that I would rather he didn’t do.

    • Fate is notorious for its dead-ends… Sometimes, you don’t even know until the last minute because the plot keeps going like nothing’s wrong.

      • lurkingsalt

        The flow chard created by mirror moon was exceptional in design and really helped in avoiding ends you didn’t wish for. Also for all the chibi dojo endings it helped also.

  • What? they’re trying to bring in Cross Channel?

    • No no…I just picked a bunch of games as examples. :)

  • The popular response that I read from the comments that ‘visual novels are not games’ is troubling. People can just think of them as interactive books. If people think of it as a ‘game’, they will really be put off by it.

    I’m also disappointed that people expect Nobel Prize-writing in visual novels. They are a niche product, even in Japan, most visual novels for the PC are targeted at otaku, even the most popular and recent ones. You know otaku churn out the most cash in visual novels, so they get to dictate what kind of visual novels are made.

    • malek86

      Ok, but if they should be thought of interactive books, and the writing is not good, what else is left exactly? :P

      • ‘Good’ and ‘taste’ is always subjective.

        What visual novel devs should aim for is objective acclaim. However, Japanese devs aren’t aiming for this. They’re aiming for something else, not something that can fly them to Sweden. Are the Western devs trying? Where are their new adventure games? Where are the award-winning, highly-acclaimed visual novels?

        Like most people said, if you want to read something profound, read a novel. So far, visual novels aren’t like that. Time will come when people will realize its potential.

        Visual novels are still a young medium with plenty of room to develop. I, for one, want to see it grow.

  • Yukito

    Damn 112 since I first saw the topic up? Well, here we go….

    I have read the whole thing earlier, but I couldn’t access Discus on my PS3. This news greatly interests me, and I would LOVE for them to push a VN to be localized on the PS3. The man is right about most of the things he has said, like the games being great for those who complain about grinding in JRPGs and the like, but I am not a PC gamer at all, so I won’t be able to be any sort of customer to them.

    As far as the “Anime” look thing goes, if that is such an issue, why the heck do we not have 428 over here yet?

  • PrinceHeir

    “Don’t judge a book by its cover,”

    so true. most westerners(not all) judges most anime and visual novel games by it’s cover and title alone. they really should play the game first before talking any nonsense. reminds me of the announcement of Arcana Heart 3. many people dubbed it a “loli fighter” and yet they barely care what the game has to offer.

    oh well i think Visual Novel games will always be a niche market. unless the the cultural differences between east and west are gone(which probably never)

  • PrinceHeir

    i just want to ask. since they did Kira Kira.

    is the game uncensored? since the pics in the site are censored. was hoping at least when you buy the game it’s fully uncut?

    • No linking to NSFW stuff! ;)

      The 18+ version KiraKira is uncensored. Looking at the link you posted, it says “Without mosaics,” which means it’s uncensored. The All-Ages version has the ero bits edited out.

      • PrinceHeir

        sorry about that ^^

        ahh yeah i see it. hell yeah i might buy this though. manga gamer rocks :P

        • I’d recommend trying the KiraKira demo if you want to sample before diving in. It’s really pretty meaty and it’ll give you a damn good idea of what to expect from the full game.

          • PrinceHeir

            oh cool. yeah i’ll definitely try it ^^

  • Can anyone please tell me where are image 2 and 4 from?

    • 2 is KiraKira and 4 is Cross Channel. :)

  • One of the issues I seem to find with visual novels is that they are aimed more at females then males. The people I seem to find talking about visual novels in the UK happen to be females and when I see a news story about a visual novel it covers one that is to do with romance or just seemingly is aimed at females. And a few sites I have been to that sell Visual novels offer nothing but these kind.

    Another perception is that Visual novels just aren’t dynamic enough. Many people will just say “well it’s just a still picture with a bunch of text before moving onto another still screen”. You can’t say graphic novels suffer from this because most of the pages have several frames, hence they are able to help the story and characters develop.

    Finally, it’s not marketed enough. It’s only thanks to sites like Siliconera and Kotaku (and sometimes random wondering on the internet) that I hear about these games.

    Saying its a case of westeners not wanting to read is a silly excuse. You just need to get people in the west to see past the anime trappings which some have a problem with, have different genres that appeal to many people and stop relying on word of mouth or niche websites.

    • You must live in some kind of strange parallel universe. The visual novel industry revolves heavily around male users, with females being a subgenre at best.

      • Well perhaps I do live in some parallel universe, but I don’t see many visual novels that revolve around the male user. Perhaps you can be of help and point me to some that do :)

        Unless you mean hentai visual novels ^_^

        • BTA

          Even the non-hentai ones are generally centered towards males. I’m not going to say there’s not visual novels made for females (in fact, it’s an entire genre: ), but I think it’s safe to say that most otaku are male, and therefore the audience these games are sold to are male.

          Also, you said “when I see a news story about a visual novel it covers one that is to do with romance…”. It is true that there are many VNs about romance, but those aren’t exactly aimed at girls. I think it’s pretty safe to say that unless you’re playing as a girl going after guys (or, well, a guy going after guys), the target audience is male.

          • Well see, that’s kind of leads to another point; Ignorance plays a huge part in Visual Novels still being a tiny niche (I’m proof ^_^) and a lot needs to be done to change attitudes.

  • As they say, the problem is not that people don’t want to read. That’s totally false.

    The problem with the reading is somewhere else entirely.

    In the West, people don’t want to read ON THE PC OR WITH A CONSOLE. And even there it’s arguable.

    However, I think that there is something new that can help VN to start to be popular in the west: Tablets.

    People in the West are starting to get the habit of reading e-books, and tablets have what it takes to show VN properly.

    I dunno, I think this is the way to go.

    About the manga/anime style and tropes, I can’t say much about the US, but in Europe those aren’t that a big a deal. Actually, Europe is more open to the manga style than the US, so maybe VN could have a better chance of success over here.

    Things like “Professor Layton” insane popularity, the fact that some anime series are more popular here than in Japan itself, the European releases of games like “The Last Window” and “Another Code R” (though this last one flopped big time), are indicators of that.

    The tough part is that if you want to have a significant presence, you need to go at least to FIVE countries (the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy). At least. That means you MUST localize the text to several languages (just English won’t get you too far) and market them to several countries, and that ain’t cheap.

    In any case, like they say, VN aren’t really games at the end of the day, so maybe they should stop pretending they are. Maybe they should start being marketed as their own thing. Something different from video games and something different from regular novels.

    That’s not something bad, and may attract more people being like that.

  • With the craze of e-Books going about, I’d like to see visual novels made for e-Readers. I doubt it can happen at this point, but I’m sure it will!

  • WyattEpp

    Interactive. Fiction.

    Remember text adventures? They used to be king, you know…

  • I find it hard to find a VN with a good story. But luckily I found Narcissu because of the nice song someone posted on youtube :D And that was my first VN! My second was BIbleBlack(i know right?) which i heard was good and uhh i didnt like it! IDK but i think too much VN is base on high school students and not that i hate it but I want a different stand point. OH and i played the demo for Kohime Musou and I thought the battle system was so useless and annnoying i just wanted to read the rest of the story BUT thats just me

  • lollybird

    Honestly, I think the possible potential market for VNs is just too small for larger companies to put effort into localizing them. Despite a lot of people here saying they’d love to play more VN games, we really are a very small part of the greater scale.

    I do think the aversion to anime style and desire for instant gratification in gaming are key factors as to why VN games aren’t really marketable in the west. I like anime style, but a lot of VN games have an over the top, shiny-overload anime style that can be a bit off-putting. For instance, while I do like Higurashi’s story, I found the art style of the original games unappealing and unfitting for the darker tone of the story, so I gave up on playing them.

    Furthermore, WildArms mentioned earlier that a lot of the success for VNs in the Japanese market stems from H-scenes. Coupled with the fanbase for voice actors and “moe”-factor in Japan, I can see how even poorly-written games can sell in the east. It’s just kind of a cultural difference thing?

  • kactaplb

    I don’t see commercialized eroge in its pure form ever making it to the west.

    On the Japan side, eroge and its content are unapologetically Japanese – everything from the language idioms, culture, cliches, setting, characters, etc. They are made in Japan for Japan audience only. Elitism formed by the Japanese themselves? Yes, but a truth that is hard to dispute. I can’t blame them. The rapelay incident proved that much.

    On the other side, Americans don’t like reading in their media. Try mentioning subtitles and foreign films to your average American. And, there is nothing comparable to eroge in the west – they aren’t even viewed as games. I find it laughable that some people here are strongly opinionated, for or against, when they obviously haven’t ever touched a visual novel.

    Which brings me to the next point. The legal releases in the west are pathetic. DCIF? Koihime? Shuffle? While a fan, I cannot bring myself to recommend any of these as being “good”. Even eroge such as fsn or ever17 can’t be used to compare with recent eroge releases. Far too old. Thus, western gamers get the wrong impression at best. Not even putting into account the hardcore/mindless eroge that tends to get more localized, one can’t blame the stigma surrounding this genre.

    I laud mangagamer for trying. But the ingredients for your recipe for success is nigh impossible.
    1. Remove western stigma and morality.
    2. Localize better and newer eroge. but… licensing issues/costs, along with Japan xenophobia
    3. Akihabara.

  • Roses4Aria

    Well, I happen to like the anime artstyle, though I realize I’m probably in the minority when it comes to western tastes. These days I think artwork like Kazuki Yone’s of Hiiro no Kakera fame is absolutely gorgeous, but I can remember when I was younger and dismissed games like Tales of the Abyss because anything with anime art was an automatic turn-off. When I think about it now, I just want to smack myself at all the great games I missed out on because I was so close-minded.

    I’ve always felt like the publishers were missing out on a good bet with the book loving crowd. I realize that the numbers of avid readers in the west are dwindling more and more all of the time, but they ARE still out there. If they would try marketing VN’s to them, it might expose a whole new crowd to these games. They could start out advertising something like, say, 999 to mystery and horror readers. Then gradually start introducing more straightforward VNs in other genres. After all, everything has to start somewhere. Look at the success of Persona. Yes, I realize its gameplay element makes it entirely different from a straightforward VN, but I’m talking about its initial niche appeal. Who would have dreamed just a few years ago that it would balloon and be so well received over here.

  • ToSeektheChosen

    Obviously people don’t buy it on the west, if they wanted to read, wouldn’t they just read a manga or novel?

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