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 Night – VNDB
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 Series – VNDB
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 Tiara – VNDB
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?