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.