Ash Recommends: Visual Novels

Hello all! It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted on the blog hasn’t it? Although sadly this is not a figure review (I will get back to those in the future — honest!), it is about something that’s just as near and dear to my heart…Visual Novels!

You might be more familiar with the term Eroge and really the only difference between it and Visual Novels is Eroge is used for games that contain sex (aka ero) so you’ll probably see me use both terms in the article.

So what exactly is this post all about? Well, I guess you could call it a recommendations list of translated VN’s. While highly enjoyable, these games can take a significant time investment and as someone whose played…well let’s just say a considerable amount of them, I thought I would offer this list as a way to help ease people into the genre in the least painful way possible!

Now a few caveats before we start…For one this list is highly subjective. Now I know opinion in general is by its nature subjective, but to me VN’s invoke this more then anything else. So just because something isn’t listed here doesn’t mean I think it’s bad — tather it’s just wasn’t something to my liking (Kara no Shoujo is a good recent example of this). Also I don’t touch games before they’ve been fully translated so something like say…Little Busters (still waiting for the Ecstasy content to be translated) or Steins:Gate (still waiting for the translation to be properly edited and a few other things to be translated) so that would be why a few games you might know and love aren’t on here as well!

This list is going to be in alphabetical order and I will provide a link for each one to its respective VNDB link that can provide you with all the info you’d need (genre, story synopsis, places you can buy and/or translators site). So lets get to it, shall we?

Chaos;Head – VNDB

If you only know this title from the anime then you have my sympathies. Thankfully, unlike the terrible anime adaptation, Chaos:Head the VN is an incredible game in many regards. It sets you squarely in the mind of a paranoid NEET who has all sorts of delusions both pleasurable and horrific. The game is highly atmospheric and extremely immersive using several clever game mechanics like false computer screens as well as some beautiful visuals (much love for character sprites with mouth movement) to achieve this.

The downsides are it has no traditional “routes” for the girls only different endings. The story also gets a bit outlandish towards the end, losing some of the delicious psychological edge the story starts with, but these are minor flaws in an otherwise wonderful game!

Crescendo – VNDB

This is one of the first Visual Novels I played and still holds up as one of the best that I’ve experienced, even after all this time. The basic story is a fairly simple school romance setup, but the characters and their relationships with one another are extremely well written and deep, adding a very real human element to the story in a way that you rarely see in most stories of this type (aka generic harem with a spineless male lead).

Theirs very little if anything bad I can say about the game aside from the visuals being slightly dated and I’d wholeheartedly recommend it to just about anyone aside from maybe someone just looking for a straight up fap game.

Edelweiss – VNDB

While great drama is all well and good, occasionally a game like Edelweiss is a nice change of pace with it’s strong emphasis on comedy (although it does have a fair few enjoyable dramatic moments during the course of each girl’s route). While it does work off a school setting said school isn’t exactly your everyday VN, and again the strong focus on comedy helps set it apart from the pack.

That said, the comedy is of the low-brow variety and the somewhat fratboy antics of the protagonist’s friends (pictured above) might put some people off, but if you’re looking for a game with fairly interesting romance routes and a good laugh, this is a great game to play!

Ever 17 – VNDB

Ever 17 is…unique, to put it mildly. To go into more detail about this uniqueness would spoil things greatly unfortunately…I suppose the best thing to say is don’t take anything at face value in this game. Putting the non-standard elements of it aside the characters and writing in the game throughout are just superb with several very memorable and touching moments.

The later parts of it do get a bit…Well let’s just say even after you finish it you’ll probably be left with more then a few headscratchers haha…But all in all its an experience worth partaking in!

Fate/Stay NightVNDB

Much like Chaos:Head, if you’ve only experienced F/SN through the anime your doing yourself a grave disservice. I think almost everyone reading this knows of this series in one way or another, so all I’m going to say is if you want to play one of the finest eroge there is look no further.

Galaxy Angel SeriesVNDB

Now this is an odd beast of a series. While they do include traditional VN elements such as individual heroine routes chosen through text choices, it also incoporates 3d space combat missions as well. These missions aren’t the hardest things in the world, but they can get hectic towards the end of each game and are extremely fun to the point that they’ll make you lament the lack of space combat games released anymore!

(Skip to the 3 minute mark for Combat)

The characters themselves are wonderful and while the writing might not be the greatest (The overall story lines in particular grow weaker with each progressive game) spending time with your chosen girl and blasting space ships out of the sky never gets old~

Katawa Shoujo – VNDB

Ah Katawa Shoujo…This one here is the only game on the list made by a western development team. But don’t let that dissuade you its story. writing, and art are far better then a great many forgettable Japanese titles I’ve played over the years I can assure you of that.

It takes place in a school that caters to the specific needs of the physically handicapped. You and all of the girls that you can possibly choose each have a condition that brings them to this place, but the story is concerned with more than merely exploit this unique premise and does an admirable job of making you care about these characters beyond simple pity for their situations. Truly an excellent VN, although due to how it was made some routes have far superior art/writing than others and of course, being made by a small western independent group, it lacks voice acting .

Kira Kira – VNDB

Ah Kira Kira. While a few joked that it was “K-On! The Eroge” it really has little in common with that show aside from school kids playing in a band. More specifically, these kids actually go out and do things beyond playing in the clubroom and having tea. One thing in particular that stands above the rest of the elements in this game is the music! The OST alone is worth playing the game as it is just that damn good!

Beyond good music, the characters are all fairly well developed and the story is fantastic. The one major flaw of the game is the fact that the “Common route” aka the one you go through before you can even begin romancing a specific girl is extremely long, but its also the best part of the game. Once the game settles into the actual routes and romancing the girls, it sadly loses a great deal of steam. So yea, play this one if you want to hear fantastic music and enjoy a great story, but don’t go expecting any amazing romances. The game is very much about the journey and not the destination.

Planetarian – VNDB

Play this game…Now…do it do it do it do it Now!

But seriously Planetarian is just an incredible game. Its fairly short and it has no routes (Key calls it a “Kinetic Novel), but it is just oooohhh so good~ Play it. Now. Do it!

(CHAG HIJACK) WTFBBQ, that’s the best thing you can do, Ashotte? UNACCEPTABLE. Anyhow, Planetarian is my quite possibly the best piece of media that I’ve ever interacted with. True, I may have a thing for robo-girls and I do love post-apocalyptic settings, but I truly think this is something that’d appeal to anyone who reads this blog. It is a very allegorical story that combines the great heights and depraved lows of human potential. Between Yumemi, a malfunctioning robot in an abandoned planetarium, and the blasted ruins of civilization through from which the protagonist scavenged for his entire life, the story creates a poignant contrast that cuts deep into your heart. The environmental message at the core of this brief ~4 hour long story is more effective than any guilt trips and stat-dumps that I’ve ever come across. If you are to follow any recommendations

Princess Waltz – VNDB

This is another Eroge that injects other game play elements beyond just simple text choices in the form of a card like battle game. While the system is fairly simple its also extremely fun to the point that I lamented the fact that there wasn’t more chances to battle with your cards.

As far as story goes, this is another game like Kira Kira where the common route is extremely strong and very memorable, but when the time comes to get into each girls actual route it feels very generic and all too short. But the game does have some of the most brilliantly written battles I’ve had the pleasure of reading since F/SN (ironic, since a lot of people call the main girl a Saber clone.).

Quartett – VNDB

Quartett is another unique game not so much in story but presentation. It’s really hard to explain without seeing it for yourself, but instead of seeing static sprites of characters on static backgrounds each scene is a series of hand drawn pictures sometimes over lapping one another. I included a short video below to demonstrate how this looks in-game.

It really is an exquisite game in every respect. The aforementioned system is incredible and acts as a giant showpiece for artist Ooyari Ashito’s artwork. The story isn’t quite as unique but its told in a pleasant manner with characters that have personalities that go beyond the standard anime/eroge stereotypes. I would say the only downside to the game is after you play it you may be sad to go back to the boring static graphic presentation of other Visual Novels, ahah.

Saya no Uta – VNDB

Honestly the best way I can think of to describe Saya is its a very Nitroplus game but for someone new to this genre of game that doesn’t mean a whole lot haha…Ah…Saying basically anything about the story feels like it would be a spoiler. Lets just say it’s a very big mind screw that is incredibly well written in every respect (It was written by the same man who did Madoka and Fate/Zero).

It isn’t a story of happy endings or really happiness at all (Again guy did Madoka haha…) but it is one that will stay with you long long after you’ve finished it. Highly recommended unless you have a very weak stomach for horror and some gore.

Sengoku Rance – VNDB

And now for some raunchy porn! Ah yea Sengoku Rance more then anything else in this list revels in the “Ero” aspect of Eroge. Its protag specifically is as far as you can get from the average male anime harem lead and it’s an enjoyable change of pace to be play a character who knows what he wants and goes all out getting it! You basically control him on his glorious goal to have sex with pretty much every woman or otherwise in a fantasy version of feudal Japan.

To assist in this conquest the game has a substantial game play component in the form of a Risk-like territory conquest system that, while not that graphically impressive, is EXTREMELY addictive! I can’t remember how many times I would play until the sun came up without even noticing the passing of time. Aside from that the story mainly blends comedy and healthy amounts of sex with not all of it being consensual, so if that sort of things bother you then this game is probably not for you sadly.

Tears to TiaraVNDB

Tears is another combat heavy game (noticing a pattern in my choices yet?) this time employing a SRPG-type system that is surprisingly good. Aside from the interesting combat system the game also has one of the better male leads I’ve seen in recent memory, being a character with enough appeal and charisma to actually make the amount of women who fall for him feel plausible for a change!

The game like some others in this list doesn’t have traditional routes for each girl sadly, instead opting for the one path approach. Even though it does have a lack of choice to influence the plot, the story that you do get is quite excellent even including one of my favorite “Villians”.

Utawarerumono – VNDB

Utawa (or Underwater Ray Romano for some) is an earlier game made by the same people as Tears to Tiara. Again this game shares many of the same strengths and weaknesses of Tears. Just like Tears there is only one route but it is fairly well written…The male lead actually has a personality…Fairly enjoyable strategic combat.

Basically if you enjoyed Tears you will like Utawa or vice versa.

Yume Miru Kusuri – VNDB

And last but by no means least Yume! This game is just…Oh god so damn good. At the start it feels like your typical school romance Eroge, but as you dig deeper into the story you start to get a sense of how much depth there is to the characters and story in general. Even something like the Ero is treated as an integral part of the story as opposed to simple fan service.

Beyond sex the game also tackles subjects like drugs, bullying, and the various other mundane insanities of the characters lives and personalities. In addition to the fantastic story, the game has some really lovely heavily pastel colored art. Their really isn’t anything bad I can say about this one. Some of the subjects are handle in a fairly real manner and might hit close to home for some people but honestly its worth playing through any mild discomfort some of the subject matter might cause you.

And there you have it!

As I said this is not meant to be a comprehensive list by any means, but simply my own biased opinion on what the best English language visual novels are right now.

If there’s anything that you don’t see here and you would like my opinion on by all means leave a comment below asking about it and I will be more then happy to obliged!

Also going forward I wanted to solicit the opinion of the readers as to whether any of  you would have any interest in me possibly doing more full fledged visual novel reviews on the blog? This wouldn’t conflict with any future figure reviews or anything else since I play these games already, so it theoretically wouldn’t take too horribly long to do some write-ups of them.

So yea, is that something anyone is interested?

39 replies on “Ash Recommends: Visual Novels”

Oh, hey, someone else that knows about Galaxy Angel.

Hmm, I think I’ve only ever actually finished one actual VN, and it was only an hour-long doujin effort with no input really required by the “player” other than clicking through.

I wonder, at what point does a game stop being its actual genre and gets classified as a VN just because it has chatty scenes and romance/sex? I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone call a Persona game a Visual Novel instead of a RPG.

Haha indeed its a great game. God do I love Vanilla~

rofl. Well they aren’t for everyone so I can hardly blame you for that!

Mmm yea theres a lot of blurring of the lines when it comes to what to classify something…I guess it comes down to how its marketed and released (Aka a PC game you’d find on Getchu.).

Oh I didn’t expect that you would be more into visual novels.

Thx for the recommendations, I will pick one of these titles for sure.

Galaxy Angel Series seems to have cute characters, but I guess I might suck at the space battles XD
I already heard of Katawa Shoujo, the artstyle looks quite nice, but no voices is a bit 🙁
In terms of characterdesign Kira Kira is the most appealing one to me, I might pick this one at first, but also Tears to Tiara seems like a lot of fun with the rpg system. Planetarian and Yume Miru Kusuri also look and sound nice.

Im a little surprised that these many titles are available in English, I thought there were only a handful of such translated VN’s. Unfortunately Figu@mate never was translated, from my few VN expeditions this one is my absolute favorite ^-^

Yeah, that was an interesting post, I would like to read more about that stuff.

Yea I’ve been big into them for many years probably because I value story over gameplay ahah.

Lemme know which one you pick curious. :p

Haha well the space combat is extremely basic so even someone that’s not good at that stuff should be fine.
Ah yea I had played several games before it without voices so I guess it doesn’t bother me as much and honestly I’d take a well written game over one that has voices any day.
Yea Overdrive games have some nice character designs indeed, but Tears is a lot of fun as well sadly the PC version is kinda crummy looking compared to the later Playstation re-release. >_< Yea there's a helluva lot more out there as this is only a fraction of the ones I've actually played. Oh right Figu I remember the figures from that... I'll keep it in mind. ^_^

I didn’t know you were an avid VN… player? reader?

To tell you the truth I haven’t played through that many VNs. Though the ones with different combat mechanics and such that you listed look interesting. Galaxy angel looks really interesting with that space combat thing going on.

Of your recommendations I’ve only played Chaos;Head, Saya no Uta and Sengoku Rance. All great, Chaos Head had some of the best voice acting, you could almost feel the insanity in the main guy’s voice. Saya is the biggest mindfuck in VN form I’ve played. And Sengoku Rance is so damn entertaining, the combat, the dialogue, the sex scenes, it’s all pretty damn great.

The one I’m interested most right now is FullMetal Daemon Muramasa, because of the sexy elf girl maid figure that I’m getting soon. Though there doesn’t seem to be much of a translation of it. The elf girl also doesn’t seem to be a big character in the game haha.

I think it would be interesting to see more about VNs, mostly because I know very little about them apart from the select few I’ve played through. I guess the interest level depends weather the VN is interesting or not.

Haha player I guess would be the right term since they are technically considered games even the ones without choices oddly enough.

Yea combat tends to spice things up nicely although the storylines generally aren’t as deep in such games sadly.

Yea I was really surprised how good Chaos was since I had watched the anime first. Haha indeed Saya is that…Good ol’ Gen. Mmm outright addicting is what it is.

Ah right Muramasa. Well you can’t go wrong with Nitroplus honestly. :p

Heh I’ll keep it in mind…Might just give a go at it and see if I like how it turns out myself and whether it feels like its interesting to read or not.

Yay for new commentors!

Oh yea played that one. It is beautifully done and I quite enjoyed it but I guess I’m more of a light hearted kinda guy (Although I guess I did list a few heavier ones didn’t I…). Hmmm I suppose the way to phrase it is I don’t mind more depressing or somber VNs if it has a fantasy element to it like say Saya or Planet.

Ah yea this is why I put that disclaimer on the front haha…So many objectively good VNs out there just my personal bias that kept me from loving them as much as they perhaps deserved. ^_^

Nice list! I think I played through most of the games on your list of recommendations, save Galaxy Angel… not too much of a fan of sci-fi-based VNs. That’s why I still haven’t touched Daiteikoku.

Katawa Shoujo is absolutely phenomenal for a doujin game. I was reluctant to play it at first, ’cause of the somewhat bizarre setting and character designs, but man… that doubt drifted away minutes after I started playing. Lily’s story drained the soul out of me for days, in a good way 😉

There are countless terrific VNs that remain unknown to Western gamers… if only there exists a bigger fanbase and market for this genre of games in North America. Have you checked out 999 on the DS yet? It’s written by the same author who wrote Ever17, but with a much darker and intense atmosphere. Aksys is gonna bring its sequel to the 3DS and Vita, it’s going to be a day one purchase for me.

I’m surprised that the fan translation groups never bothered with the Memories Off series. It was one of the best VN series I’ve played to date and it has a solid fanbase in Asia.

But Daite has space Nazis!

Haha yea I think that small amount of doubt happens to most of us (me included) when you hear that the game is about “cripple girls”.

I have read reviews of 999 but sadly I don’t own a DS and can’t really see myself buying one solely for one game as I have about piss interest in anything else on the system honestly haha…Maybe I’ll get a Vita or a 3DS if either comes out with a killer game that I really just gotta have.

Ah I’ve heard Memories off mentioned before, but seeing as I know jack-all Japanese and refuse to play a game machine translated never had the pleasure of playing one sadly.

Whoa… I sure have watched some of the Anime version mentioned above… But what interest me most is, is the VN pictures seems to be very sharp, uuuuu candy to my eyes hahaha. 🙂
Hmm witch one first, I’ll try the Planetarium first hehehe.

Yea VNs are one of those thing they love to turn into anime. Haha well I may have picked the best promo pictures I can find… :p

OOo good choice! Hope you enjoy it.

I find it odd, I have a hard time getting into VNs when I should really, really like them given I like the material, the settings and reading. Even more so when I played games on the DS which are essentially VNs. Perhaps is the need to replay it multiple times for the different routes, or the need to keep track of the routes, I’m not sure. That is not say I haven’t played some before.

Like Chaos;Head, man did I get captured by the atmosphere of this game right away, having a silly otaku protagonist was quite interesting to me as well. Add to that the delusions that Takumi has. I stopped shortly after began playing though since there was a game crashing, save data corrupting bug that occurred in the early chapters. Before I got back to it, I ended watching the anime which single handedly made me want to not deal with it ever again.

Ah, Saya no Uta, the one VN that I have finished completely. The lovecraftian setting, the rather interesting relationship between Saya and Fuminori, the eldricth abomination undertones, all the weird things things that are hinted at.

I did see some interesting picks, perhaps I should give the ones that blend other more interactive elements a try.

The solution is to play single route ones! Haha but yea the replay isn’t too bad on non-gameplay ones because you can just fast forward…Probably the reason why a lot of gameplay ones only have one route.

Interesting never encountered any problems with it. Yea the anime is pretty shit…Thing had a terrible budget just like Steins sadly…

Yea its a great short-ish game that if it wasn’t such a downer and so weird I’d probably recommend to people as much as I do Planetarian haha…

Indeed adding some other gameplay elements is always a big plus even for people like me that like to play just straight up text ones.

Ooooh, I’ve played one of those! Crescendo! But I barely remember anything from it, haha.

Still have to finish Sengoku Rance sometime. I’m 2/3 of the way through the first route and its awesome so far. Rance is one of my favorite protagonists of all time. Kenshin figma is coming out soon so I’d better make some time….

Zai made me promise to play Planetarian too. It sounds interesting and I really like the fact it only takes 2-3 hours. From the sounds of it, this sounds like it should be a marathon thing.

I’ve always wanted to play Wind ~a Breath of Heart. I loved the art and the op sequence of it but it took so long to get translated. The anime for it was meh and that kinda turned me off playing it. But that was only 1 route so the others might be better.

Haha well it was released quite awhile.

Man such a slow player!!! :p

Well everyone should play it at some point in their life so good on her to give you that push!

Minori is really good at making intro movies because of Makoto Shinkai does them but the game itself…ehhhh…Its OK but nothing that great. Ef is ok as well, better then wind, but I don’t give it quite the universal praise it seems to generally receive.

“lovely heavily pastel colored art” Any other games that has that value Ash?
Hahah I treasure art and “art” too much that I often turn a blind eye to the storyline.
But nevertheless, if there is a good storyline, that is a plus.

Oh, and thanks for creating this wonderful list.

Wondering if we could contact each other through other mediums? Or you usually are around here?

Hey man good list give g-senjou no maou a try if you haven’t already (I’d be surprised if you’d excluded it from your list!)

Do you know any other VNs like Saya no uta? not so much the gore or loli but the mindfuck story?

I have played G-Senjou but I unfortunately didn’t enjoy it that much. I liked the fact that they were trying something different from the norm, but it never really clicked with me. Just couldn’t bring myself to like the characters that much and I found the unfortunate choice of generic eroge style for the visuals really undermined the story for me (Lol immersion heh…).

Mmm well nothing is as outright Mind screwy as Saya which is probably why it still stands out from the crowd to this day. Things with some element of mind screw though? Chaos;Head, Kara no Shoujo, and of course Higurashi play pretty fast and loose with sanity.

What story arc did you play because Usumi’s is the only one that brings a conclusion to the main antagonist ‘maou’ which is just amazing. If you did and still don’t like it here are some voting poles that disagree with you. Majority Rules!

http://vndb.org/v/all?q=;fil=tagspoil-0;o=d;s=pop
http://www.squidoo.com/top-visual-novels-list
http://www.gamefaqs.com/features/top10/2412.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwMIpszBD9Q
http://deluscar.wordpress.com/all-time-favorite-lists/all-time-favorite-visual-novels/

Yea I was mostly on her route as she interested me some, but yea I just couldn’t get lost in the game like the ones I’ve listed above.

Haha well that’s nice to see so many people have written about VN as well it gives me hope that theirs a decent sized audience out there for this sort of thing, but I am a stubborn opinionated bastard and I likes what I likes! :p

I’m not going to disagree with you with that statement but neither can I blame you as I hated Chaos;Head and that is considered one of the best also. I guess some times tastes differ with popular opinion.

Maybe you just disliked the Akabeisoft2 style. Lucky for you they have broken up their company and now work for other popular visual novel companies. Personally I’m a big fan a nitroplus (excluding Chaos;Head which if you were interested why I’m open for discussion). I’ve just downloaded a program to create my own VN, have already written the text, have an cg artists for the characters and backgrounds and a brilliant musician for the music.

Oh is that so? Interesting to know.

Hmmm I can see why you wouldn’t like Chaos as it has a fair share of faults, but I thought its atmosphere and over all execution overcame most of them. Really would love to play the expanded console port.

were do u get these games do u download or do u buy them
if u download tell me were
they all look awsome 🙂

Google is your friend. ^_^

I buy the ones that are worth buying that I know will actually support the makers and not some 3rd party scalpers.

Hi there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the images
aren’t loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.

I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.

Hi there, I’ve been playing VNs since mid-2011 and I’m still a newbie for the genre. I’ve played only a couple games from your list but also some other related titles, like “Never7” to “Ever17” and “DearDrops” to “Kira Kira”.

You ask if there is interest in you reviewing more VNs, I say yes, also I think general interest in VNs is growing in the West, with home titles like “Shira Oka Second Chances” or the superb “Katawa Shoujo”.

I’m from Spain and of course there is nothing much going on here as we have a big problem with art being practically obsolete (the series you catch on TV are terrible, or terrible and ALSO a poor attempt at imitating American ones). Still people are keen on anime around here so there could be a potential audience for these games, especially given the downward quality of today’s Eastern cartoons.

Once or twice I’ve hit a Spaniard blog talking about some Eroge, but they seem to be more into the pRoN aspect of it.

Keep the good work and there is always a chance for us gamers to refill the fridge with sites like ErogeDownload and RenaiUs.

*absurdly late response*

Sad to hear art is dead in Spain!

Haha well I do love Porn in Eroge! But it needs a good story and characters to make you actually interested in said porn as well. :p

Thanks for the well wishes though!

Is there another VN that is very similar to Edelweiss. That has comedy and idiotic & pervert friend.

Haha most “standard” Harem Eroge/Manga/Anime have an idiot pervert best friend…Whether their good or not is up for debate…

But with a comedy focus? Not many actually…I’d say Shuffle! and Clannad. Plenty of other games that have a pervert friend, but sadly very few that have a comedy focus as well I’m afraid.

Other games that would fall into that have that sort of friend character would be say Yume Miru, Period, School Days or Duel Savior but they aren’t comedies. :/

Clannad has the best idiotic-friend of the male lead: Sunohara! He’s the most amazing when it comes to comical relief xD

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