I think I’ve figured out what I like to see in visual novels.
A lot of those really popular VNs are the opposite of succinct. I’ve complained about Grisaia no Kajitsu before, but I really dislike those kinds of visual novels where nothing of importance happens in the common route, just for the sake of establishing the characters. I also dislike the self-indulgent, fourth wall-breaking humour that Grisaia was so full of. I understand that the writing in visual novels tends to be so bloated because writers are paid per kilobyte of text, but it’s just not the kind of writing I value.
As a result, I often feel intimidated by the visual novels my readers frequently recommend me. For instance, my friends have been pestering me to play Rewrite for over a year now, but I’ll probably never play it, because it really doesn’t sound like the kind of thing I’ll enjoy. A while back, I started Devil on G-string, but all the tedious conversations totally wore me out. “When will you get to the point?!” I screamed internally. And as I’ve mentioned before, it took me almost a year to finish Grisaia.
However, this does not mean that I’ve written off the entire medium. Today, I want to talk about two visual novels I found engrossing enough to finish in one sitting. Saya no Uta and Analogue: A Hate Story are as different as chalk and cheese, but they grabbed me right from the start. They’re not perfect – Saya no Uta in particular is full of huuuuuuge issues – but both games afflicted me with a severe case of the feels, so I consider them both successes.
Saya no Uta
Remember how the premise of Haiyore! Nyaruko-san is that a Lovecraftian monster is actually a moe girl? Well, that’s also the premise of Saya no Uta, except instead of a silly otaku comedy, it’s a creepy gore fest.
Saya no Uta is brought to you by Gen Urobuchi, who used to have a reputation for SUFFERING and DESPAIR, but after Suisei no Gargantia, Kamen Raider Gaim and Aldnoah.Zero, it’s really impossible to stereotype him anymore. But holy crap, Gen Urobuchi in his early days was the biggest edgelord. You could cut yourself on Saya no Uta, or maybe hack your spleen open.
The plot of Saya no Uta revolves around a young guy named Fuminori who gets into an accident and wakes up with a completely different view of the world. Everyone looks like a hideous monster to him, except for one girl named Saya, whom he promptly falls madly in love with. As Fuminori loses touch with reality, his friends become concerned, but they are powerless to shake him out of his growing bloodlust.
Once you get past the shock value in the opening scenes, the plot of Saya no Uta revolves around a classic conceit: what separates man from monster? The theme of subjectivity is conveyed really well here through the art scheme. In any scene shown through Fuminori’s perspective, the backgrounds are awash with what looks like intestines. Although Fuminori’s actions are difficult to sympathise with, it’s easy to understand why he would feel utterly repulsed by the world around him and why he would take refuge in the one girl who looks “normal” to his eyes.
Of course, we the players know that in reality it’s the opposite: Saya is the abnormal one. But since we only ever see her through Fuminori’s point of view, it’s hard not to see her as human, even when she’s doing some truly monstrous things. Her childish petulance and loneliness come across as distinctly human traits. There’s a really fascinating scene where Fuminori explains that the reason why he can kill people without reservations is because he can’t actually see them as human. Empathy is only possible when you identify the other party as human. And to do that, you generally need to see (or at least envisage) a human-like form.
At its best, Saya no Uta has some interesting things to say about human nature. Unfortunately, it’s not always at its best. Some scenes are downright gratuitous. The sex scenes are the worst examples, especially because they’re written with such fetishistic prose. It’s like the game is framing these scenes as horrifying and disturbing while simultaneously inviting you to get off to them.
Even outside the sex scenes, characters sometimes do stupid things or act in plot-convenient ways. Yoh is the living embodiment of this. There’s really no point to her character at all except to provide fodder for some hentai CGs. And thus, for the sake of convenience, she walks straight into an obvious trap.
That all said, Saya no Uta is still a really good visual novel for one main reason: the oppressive atmosphere. It keeps the pressure on during every single scene. Even when I didn’t like what I was seeing, I couldn’t help but keep reading further, whether out of morbid curiosity or whatever. This story would probably have fallen flat if I had read it as a novel, but the art and music gave each scene a haunting aftereffect. It’s sci-fi horror schlock, but it’s memorable schlock. Nitroplus did some great work with the presentation here.
Arbitrary numerical rating: 7/10
Analogue: A Hate Story
And now to Analogue: A Hate Story, an original English-language visual novel (OELVN) created by Christine Love. Analogue is also a sci-fi story, although it’s set in the far distant future where people have colonised space. You (the player) are asked to investigate an interstellar ship that went astray thousands of years ago. Everyone is dead now, so in order to piece together the story you have to read the logs and interact with the ship’s AIs.
The game has a minimalist design, but that works in its favour. The words written by these faceless characters speak for themselves. The only drawn characters, Hyun-ae and Mute, are unreliable narrators with fault lines in their memories and secrets of their own to cover. Their actions are left entirely to interpretation. The result is a game that takes full advantage of the player’s choices. How you choose to interpret the actions of certain characters has a direct effect on the ending.
If there’s one thing I took away from Analogue: A Hate Story, it’s “FUCK THE PATRIARCHY”. The game’s setting is based on feudal Korea, and just reading about all the horrible things that happened made me feel much more terrible than any gory picture Saya no Uta could throw at me. This story isn’t just about the physical violence against women’s bodies; it’s about the violence against their souls, against their right to even speak.
As always with sci-fi, Analogue says far more about the present than it does about the future. The question of why a ship with such advanced technology would be the home to such a regressive society isn’t directly explained in this game (that’s the subject matter of the sequel Hate Plus) but it is heavily implied that there was a political struggle, and that the reactionary ideologues were able to rewrite history. Indeed, such reactionary views about women are not so uncommon in today’s world, either. I’m reminded of Isis and the way they use social media to spread their truly repulsive ideology.
I think the most sobering thing about this story was reading this review by a gamer of an East Asian background, who mentioned some of her own life experiences:
I remember growing up with a constant sense of guilt. I didn’t learn how to cook till I was in my teens. I wasn’t adept at laundry. I spoke too loudly and played too many videogames. I wasn’t feminine enough. I would never be accepted by my hypothetical mother-in-law. One of my earliest memories is of myself as a little girl, sitting frozen in the backseat of a car, afraid that I would be beaten bloody again because I had, at a family gathering, accidentally spilled a glass of tea. I remember whimpering to my father, telling him that I had only made that one mistake, that I would never shame him again if he would only spare me. I think I was five.
Analogue: A Hate Story does an excellent job depicting the fault lines of a traditionalist society, but its true stroke of brilliance lies in the complexity of its characters. Is the Pale Bride a villain or a tragically misunderstood victim? I’d argue both, but why do I feel so inclined to forgive her for doing something which can only be described as evil? Surely no amount of suffering can justify the harm she caused. My emotional reaction must say more about me than it does about her.
In the end, Analogue: A Hate Story is a truly thought-provoking game that sticks with you long after you’ve played it. In fact, I finished it months ago and I’m still thinking about it. I still wonder what I would have done if I had been born in that society. Where does all that hate come from? What can you do when society pushes you down so hard it’s as if you live with a permanent scourge against you?
I haven’t played any OELVNs besides Katawa Shojo (which wasn’t my cup of tea, unfortunately), but if they’re as well-written as Analogue: A Hate Story, then sign me up for more!
Arbitrary numerical rating: 9/10
Both games took me less than five hours to complete, so try them out if you have time! And if you have any good recommendations for short and succinct visual novels, I’d love to hear them.
As always, if you want to leave a comment about either of the games discussed in this post, try to mark the spoilers for the benefit of other readers. Thanks!
Its nice to see that you have found something you like in the visual novel medium. Although I’m the type to marathon huge visual novels under a week I can definitely understand how some of the more drawn out parts could be annoying. Assuming you only sit down for a few hours at a time to make progress in getting through a large visual novel, I can imagine that it would be extremely frustrating to have days in a row where you are only reading parts where nothing relevant happens.
As for some of the visual novels you mentioned earlier:
Rewrite – I’m also not sure it’s something that you would enjoy. It has its moments (sometimes), But the multiple writers does leave it being pretty inconsistent, and for me, most of the routes seemed kind of flat.
G-senjou no Maou – No idea how far you got in this but I can see what you meant about tedious conversations if you are talking about early on in the game. I remember I ended up liking it a lot by the end. Although it’s been so long since I read it that I wouldn’t be able to comment that well on what to expect. I think Silvachief is writing a review on it for the recent steam release so it might be worth checking that out before deciding whether or not you plan to continue it. Speaking of Looseboy though, you may like Sharin no Kuni, Himawari no Shoujo more. It gets to the point much faster than G-senjou does, and the concept on how its world deals with criminals is pretty interesting.
Comyu – I saw that people recommended you to play this on your ask account. I can’t imagine you liking this much to be honest, especially after hearing your opinions about the tedious parts of long visual novels. My opinion may not count for much though, as after Benio’s route was over, I steadily got more and more sick of the game as I went on. Between the repetitiveness and the seemingly pointless parts I found by the end I just didn’t care about it at all and was just glad it was over. So I’d probably take the advice of the recent anon on your ask, and use the content before the OP as a guideline.
Now as for the two visual novels reviewed in this post. I haven’t played either of them. Short visual novels for me ironically end up being stalled for incredibly long periods of time because I always start the longer ones instead. Saya no Uta is something I plan to get to eventually, along with Urobuchi’s other short visual novel, Kikokugai – The Cyber Slayer.
On the other hand, you make Analogue: A Hate Story seem somewhat interesting, even though I have basically no interest in OELVNs. (The only one I’ve even read being Katawa Shoujo and I never ended up finishing that.) That being said though, I still doubt I’ll ever give Analogue a chance though since it as it seems to be part of a trilogy and reading them all for completeness sake is slightly daunting. (Plus things which feature strong views on gender arguments make me feel uneasy. I think extremists from both sides have sort of completely turned me off the subject and make me automatically just avoid it in general.)
As for recommending you short visual novels. Kikokugai seems like a good choice since its another short Nitroplus visual novel written by Urobuchi. I haven’t read it yet but it seems like an obvious thing to try after liking Saya no Uta. Also from what I’ve heard of the soundtrack, the music is pretty great.
For short visual novels I’ve read personally. The only one I can recommend is Hanachirasu. While I don’t think it particularly has any profound meaning or anything, it really is a good read. As long as you don’t mind the majority of content being either world building related infodumping or sword combat related. (Also the h-scenes are barely existent, they don’t last for very long at all since they only really exist for the conversations between the characters involved.)
From what I’ve gathered you prefer to read visual novels in English rather than Japanese (especially for longer stuff) because you can read the text much faster and efficiently that way. I don’t know if it’s something you are interested in but it might be worth checking out some of the extremely well regarded untranslated visual novels, including the ones that are well written enough that most translators won’t attempt to touch them in fear of not doing the work justice. That way you get to avoid the often mediocre English translations.
I’ll also mention Subarashiki Hibi again. I don’t want to be annoying, but I really have heard nothing but good things about it. I’ve heard it’s extremely thought provoking and also on the level of ‘how is this even able to exist’. But anyway, I really shouldn’t be recommending something I haven’t read yet but I really want to see your thoughts on it someday if possible. I hope you give it a go after the English translation is released. (Or read it in Japanese if you’d prefer.)
Anyway, sorry for the excessive comment length. And I hope I didn’t make anyone who is reading this mad with any of my opinions.
I agree regarding Comyu. On the surface the exposition might seem appealing to some but the sheer volume of unnecessary thoughts is overwhelming…so i’m not sure it’d be for Froggy as you say.
Haven’t read Kikokugai, so no opinion there >.<
Gosh, thanks for long and detailed response! Particularly, I want to thank you for the recommendations and taking my tastes into account :) And don’t worry, I don’t think you’ve made anyone mad with your comments.
Kikokugai seems like the obvious choice now that I’ve played Saya no Uta. And that’s a shame about Comyu, because I heard Moogy saying good things about it. I’ll give it a shot up to the OP and see if the style of writing appeals to me, because I do want to be pleasantly surprised by a long VN. In theory, long VNs should be great because you get to spend more time immersed in the world and characters, you know? If a game has interesting themes and doesn’t spend too much meandering, then length shouldn’t be an issue for me.
On the subject of Analogue: A Hate Story, the game is standalone so there’s no need to play any of the other games in the trilogy. (I actually haven’t played any of the other games myself yet.) Also, as I mentioned before, everything in the story is open to interpretation, so it’s not really shoving any particular ideology down your throat. I focused on the women in my review since they’re the main characters involved, but if you read the logs, you can tell the men had a rough time of it as well.
As for G-Senjou no Maou, I think I got up to that first scene about the mafia…? I can’t really remember since I stopped playing months ago and forgot where I was in the story. (Part of the reason why I uninstalled it… lol.) But I am still willing to try the Steam version because I can read faster in English, provided the translation isn’t too dodgy. On the other hand, Sharin no Kuni sounds more interesting because of how you’ve described it to me.
Again, thanks a lot for the insight and input!
Once again, thanks for the link!
There’s certainly something to be said for shorter VNs and i’ve encountered a fair few people who aren’t into the long build-ups features by most titles. If I were to recommend some for you simply due to their length, they would be Hanachirasu and Phenomeno. While they don’t really have the feels you describe, I think you will appreciate Hanachirasu’s no-nonsense storytelling and character motivations, while Phenomeno is a very short but very enjoyable horror novel. The other shorter VNs I can think of don’t strike me as being ones you would enjoy.
For longer VNs that don’t muck around and have meaningful message to convey…well, that’s tough XD FabledHunter’s suggestion of Sharin no Kuni is good so long as you can see past the protagonist’s initial personality (i’ve a review up, if you’re interested in hearing more (it’s one of the first I posted, now that I think about it, so maybe don’t read it)). I think you’ll find the setting to be uniquely interesting and it has some of the best twists in the medium.
When I read Saya no Uta I think I was too busy lamenting what it could have been to appreciate what it was. My lasting impression is that without its focus on shock value it could have developed its characters and story a great deal more. Analogue: A Hate Story was a good read, though I one I completed before I started reviewing so the details are hazy in my memory…I plan on playing it again before moving on to Hate Plus at some point.
Regarding G-Senjou no Maou…it’s actually a visual novel that I would unhesitatingly recommend for you personally. The depth of its characters and commentary on human/societal nature are things I think you would enjoy. Compared to VNs like Grisaia, the down-periods are negligible compared to the highs so I can’t suggest strongly enough that you give it another go. As FabledHunter mentioned I’ll have a review up tomorrow (which I should be writing right now…oops…), so if you’re still not sure hopefully i’ll be able to sway you with that.
If you do get back to it, follow a guide to get through the routes in sequence and don’t worry about the bad ends.
Thanks for the recommendations! You can probably tell you’re, like, my go-to guy when it comes to VNs :’)
Well, as I said to FabledHunter, I’m not averse to giving G-Senjou no Maou another shot, so I look forward to your review. I’m particularly interested in what you think of the Steam release, which basically appears to be a re-released version of the fan translation and which also charges extra for the Japanese audio. That’s… a bit of the ripoff…
I’m absolutely flattered ^_^
I’ve had a couple of people ask me about that now. While I can’t remember the fan translation especially well, there -have- been some changes and i’m not sure to what extent things have been altered. In general the translation is well done and I only have a few nit-picky complaints.
There have also been some changes to the CGs (as detailed here http://community.muvluv.moe/index.php?/topic/117-an-example-for-degicaage-to-learn-from-avoiding-landmines/) to allow for alteration of the aspect ratio, though they didn’t affect my reading experience. Censorship is limited to scenes containing nudity, though sex is still referred to. None of the “real” content has been touched.
As for the extra cost for audio, I don’t like that it’s been done but I can see the reasoning behind it. Licencing costs for Japanese voice acting are really, really expensive, so in order to release the VN in full the higher cost is necessary. However, they want to reach as many people as possible and have gambled that some individuals will be willing to pay for the cheaper, voiceless version that wouldn’t pay for the voiced one. My preference would have been for the full version to be released on its own so that people are forced to experience the real deal =P That said, I know some people that intentionally turn voices off when they read VNs, so it’s a fair decision.
Anyways, the localization effort is decent and if I hadn’t already been given a review copy i’d happily pay the requested price. Still, that’s only because i’ve played the VN before.
Glad you enjoyed playing the Analogue series! I like to think that I was the one who gave you the incentive to play it since I linked their steam page on your ask.fm account as an anon some months ago (*boasting*).
Anyway, one thing I really enjoyed about those games was how they implemented one of my favorite tropes in media (“Lonely together”), especially the second one. The way you read the diary entries of the ship while your companion commented on them was really fascinating, and a mechanic in gaming that I’d like to see once again since it really makes you feel besides them. Heck, I even made a cake and sent the photo to the creator of the game to not feel guilty (I didn’t want to lie to Hyun-ae) .
Regarding other OELVN, I know one named Without within which is really, REALLY short (it almost feels like a kinetic novel). The same author even made a sequel for it and another VN, which should be a little longer (I didn’t play it).
Yeah, it was probably you who got me to play it. Thanks for that – it really was a great game and it’s made me curious about Love’s other work.
“Lonely together” is one of my absolute favourite tropes as well, so it’s no wonder I took a shine to Analogue. Looks like we might have some similar taste in media. Do you have MAL or anything?
Also, I promptly downloaded Without Within thanks to your comment. It looks so cute! I’ll play it tonight :)
Regarding the other games made by Love, she said that she didn’t really like them, but they’re free so it shouldn’t be a problem (I still have to play them).
Yes, i got that! http://myanimelist.net/profile/Sephixer
Looks like our taste in media is a little different, and you also watched more things! I didn’t really use it that much because I had to add too many anime to the list, but I already had plans on completing it so the list should grow. Another thing I wanted to do was also opening a twitter account since I always read some anibloggers posts everyday.
Another VN I remembered just now is “Narcissu”, it’s quite popular and it’s free (not a OELVN though).
I’d be interested to hear your impression of more novel style visual novels such as Kira Kira or Kana Imouto. Those types of visual novels are far less dialog driven and more like traditional novels. Saya no Uta is also in that format I believe. I wonder if instead of length maybe you just don’t like the typical format? Something like Grisaia is more like a play and almost entirely dialog driven. The two types can be dramatically different.
I don’t think there is anything particularly special about the way visual novels do lengthy storytelling. There are unique nuances for sure, but the whole long visual novels = bad writing is an annoying myth I think. The play type visual novels are typically split into many smaller skits, usually with some common theme. They are like the bastard love child of epic fantasy and 4-koma. The problem is that you need to like several dozen different stories contained inside one larger story to really get the most out of them. Epic fantasy is the same way really.
Yeah, this could very well be the case. I mentioned this to FabledHunter in one of the above comments, but in theory length shouldn’t be a detracting factor for me. The problem is the lack of consistency with the writing. With long VNs there are often multiple writers handling different routes, so that’s definitely a factor. I’m with you that it’s probably intentional to a degree and that it’s not necessarily “bad writing”, but as I said in the post, it’s just not the kind of writing I value.
I’m not sure it’s the same as epic fantasy. Even when epic fantasies are long and feature multiple genres, they usually still have a consistent theme and plot. Or at least the mixture doesn’t feel so slapdash. I guess Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is kinda like a VN, though, in the sense that each book offers something completely different despite being set in the same world.
There was a blog post on the lessons learned in the process of making Katawa Shoujo and one of the comments on things to do differently was about the value of having a single writer. I don’t remember the exact context so don’t quote me on that. With If My Heart Had wings – which had a fairly terrible localization – I could tell that Amane and Kotori’s routes were written by the same person as the common route and they were the best part of the story. With something like Fate/Stay Night the whole thing is written by Nasu. I believe most of those longer VNs recommended by FabledHunter are primary written by one writer. A quick google search tells me that Grisaia’s common route as well as Amane and Makina’s routes are all written by the same person. Visual novels like that end up being several main stories with a few side routes for other heroines.
I attended the first mangagamer panel I was at some fans were talking about how all the best VNs are primary written by a single person. That isn’t necessarily the word of god on the topic, but I’ve seen that same opinion many times since then. If the little bit I’ve seen of VN fandom is indicative of the industry as a whole it’s well known that the optimal way to create a quality story in a VN format is with one primary writer.
Maybe the epic fantasy comparison is a hard sell. What I mean specifically is that VNs and epic fantasy both take advantage of their first half to throw curve balls in the point of the story before the ending portion and after the core of the world building is finished. It’s like a pallet of paint that was is built up in the first part. In a good story it means tons of little details that can be pulled from to make amazing things happen. Those details do tend to be used better by the original writer, but I’m sure that isn’t a 100% rule.
I have a whole lot I can say on the topic, but I don’t want to rant your ears off so to speak. I think fiction is an acquired taste in a general sense. The more elements to a story the more to acquire. My first experience with a visual novel wasn’t positive either and it was one of the most popular VNs on the market… F/SN. I ultimately came to like it when I read the second route, but I HATED the first route. Once I beat the uphill battle of understanding what I was getting myself into I started to really love the kind of writing in the more popular VNs on the market. You may or may not have a similar experience.
I myself only have the same problem of yours if it happens in the character routes. I’m totally okay with common routes where nothing happens, because everything is new and it’s what I usually expect.
Like you, I really HATED Grisaia’s common route (like, worst common route ever), but Rewrite, on the other side had my favorite common route.
There was some interesting foreshadowing, the protagonist was very cool and I had fun with him (the same kind of fun I have when reading Hachiman’s monologues), the heroines were also good (there was Lucia that was on a supreme level of awesomeness!), and the characters had a good group chemistry. It was just so fun to read. I took 6 months to complete Rewrite, but even when I sit and nothing happens, it was really fun and pleasant. I guess you should at least read half of the common route, if you don’t like it, then drop it.
Now, as I mentioned before, I can’t stand useless crap in the heroine routes. Grisaia suffered a little from this (like Makina’s route, but Yumiko’s route was still the worst), and Konosora suffered a lot from this. Even worse when there’s tons of ichaicha, which I usually dislike. Rewrite routes (not counting Moon or Terra) were the best set of routes I’ve ever read. They didn’t have useless crap at all; they were all very focused in the conflicts and “the heroine”. (I myself prefer when the game shoves the other heroines aside in each route that isn’t theirs, rather than having them present with absolutely no purpose).
If I have to point out a major flaw in Rewrite, it’s Terra. It’s boring, it’s useless and long. The ending didn’t give justice to its story. But I still think you should give Rewrite a try. It’s way better than Grisaia imo. That review wasn’t fair. The reviewer spent the whole thing talking about the story and just A SINGLE paragraph, for BOTH soundtrack and art, when those are present in the whole game. Yes, Rewrite does fail in proportions sometimes, but their art is still Key’s best up to now imo. Many agree that Rewrite was Hinoue’s most ‘mature’ fase. Besides Rewrite’s CGs were ‘special’ like Key CGs are to me: they are notably different from the sprites/backgrounds, which really makes those moments in which they appear remarkable, as seeing the a Key CG becomes something very pleasant and unique. It’s kinda hard to explain, but I’ve never found the same ‘magic’ of Key CGs in other VNs… They’re just… Special.
So, to sum it up, you should try Rewrite.
Glad you enjoyed Rewrite so much. I get the impression that its sense of humour either clicks with you or it doesn’t – and it didn’t click with Silvachief, so that’s why he didn’t get into it.
I can give Rewrite a try, but I doubt I’ll ever find the time to finish it, so that’s why I’m a bit hesitant to start it. On the other hand, I do agree that the CGs are very nice to look at. So maybe I will give it a shot one day.
Thanks for the comment ^___^
I can’t be the only one who guessed all the Analogue plot point in the first minutes (so it became repetitive for me). By the way C. Love also have some freeware VNs, Digital, wich barely qualifies as one so I’ll leave it for now, and Don’t take it personally babe…, similar to Analogue, but i’ve found it worse, without spoiling the game let’s say that it tries to to hit too many themes, but misses the mark in most of them.
Personally, I thought the point of Analogue is less about what happened and more about why it all happened. I mean, it’s evident right from the start that everyone was killed, and it’s not hard to put two and two together. It’s more about getting into Hyun-ae’s head and seeing her as a human being first, so that when she finally addresses the elephant in the room, you instinctively respond to her crimes in a completely different way than you would if she told you at the start.
But I can understand why the game would feel repetitive to you. It is pretty unsatisfying from a “whodunnit” point of view.
On the subject of Hyun-ae, I love how with perspective her crime becomes much more grey. Especially given the circumstances and the extremely high likelihood the colony was going to dwindle into nothingness anyways her crime, while still definitely a crime, becomes much more ambiguous. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been playing through Tales From the Borderlands (there is an event in which a lot of people die) but I’ve been wondering how much intentions matter where loss of life is concerned. When the end result is the same, strangely, I feel that the details surrounding the event become much more important. I could probably write a whole post around something like that.
In any case I can’t say that I wouldn’t have done similar in her situation. It’s great to have games that make you think. There is a spectrum and sometimes it’s nice to have games you can play mindlessly, and sometimes, especially in the case of VN’s, it’s nice to be invited to ruminate.
Man your experience with VNs sounds exactly the same as mine. From enjoying Saya no Uta apart from some very serious reservations to how it treated the sex to being turned off the whole medium by the annoying wordiness of it all, even down to the horrible back breaking straw being Devil on G String. Unlike you though, I got turned off the whole genre because so many VN fans said something along the lines of “well that’s just how visual novels are”. It was why I didn’t want to touch Katawa Shoujo with a 10 foot pole because it was attempting to emulate Japanese VNs right down to the length and format.
I don’t understand the appeal of Katawa Shoujo. Granted, I didn’t get very far in it and it was my first visual novel, but the prose was just so overwrought it was unbearable to read.
I think you might like Analogue: A Hate Story, though. It falls into none of the trappings of the VN “genre” (probably because it was written in English and therefore aimed at a completely different niche) and it has some neat ideas. I can count the number of visual novels I’ve played on two hands, so you should believe me on this one.
One noteworthy thing about Katawa Shoujo is that all of the routes were made by different people, so maybe you just happened to choose the one with the prose that you would’ve liked the least. That said, I only played Rin’s route, so I don’t really know if it changes that much.
Pretty much the entirely of katawa shoujo is poorly written. Can’t say I expected otherwise, though… it’s what happens when you have writers attempting to imitate the prose they’ve seen in poorly-translated VNs :\
I’ll suggest you a few vns, that are short (relatively, up to say 3-5 hours from a few minutes), and that I liked.
magical realism, scifi dystopia, 3h, japanese, doujin, linear, some beautiful dialogue, very sad, well drawn
fantasy, philosofical, an hour, english, branching, short stories with overarching, several quite good, some good art but mostly very simple
dark fantasy, romance, multiple endings, eng, 2 h for satisfaction, very western with a japanese coating, simple art style, nice
music, very very short (seconds), doujin, no point in further descriptions
trollish otaku stuff, less than 1h, doujin, multiple endings (absurdly various), you want to try this one – for postmodern reflection and lulz
tragic realistic(ish), half hour, japanese, linear, kordramaesque terminal illness, very emotional, simple graphics
dark fantasy, 2h, english, branching, unusual art style,
supernatural, half hour, english, linear, minimal art assets
cyberpunk, several hours (5?), japanese, urobuchi, very dark, quite a lot of fetish sex, martial arts, very good setting, pacing, music, atmosphere etc
VA-11 Hall A
bartender, few minutes, english, branching, a little gameplay, awesome dialogue, nice graphics
post-apocalyptic, romance, key, 7h (yeah a bit long but not so much), pretty linear, good world building and atmosphere
read only memories
cyberpunk, 10h, english, branching, retro, point and click like gameplay but presentation and story very vnnish
more trollish otaku stuff, short, has (trollish) gameplay though
Also just check the Insani site, it has translations of a lot of small doujin games, many interesting, some of which I listed here.
If you’re still looking for short visual novels, I think Narcissu would be a great one if you’re also looking for feels-inducing VNs. Keep in mind that I haven’t actually play it myself (should probably get to it soon). Another VNs I would recommend had probably already been mentioned. You can try out Dra Koi too for some pure ridiculous fun, but not sure if that’s your thing-it’s pretty short though.
As for Saya no Uta, glad to see you like it. Saya no Uta’s oppressive atmosphere is definitely great. It’s all around an extremely apprehensive experience which would otherwise fall short in other media format. I haven’t try Analogue yet, as OEVLNs are normally not my thing.
Ah yeah, I downloaded Narcissu ages ago but haven’t played it yet. I heard it’s pretty good but not, like, amazeballs or anything. I am looking forward to trying it, though! I’ll be sure to give Dra Koi a look too.
Oh, I forgot to say-Dra Koi’s translation is extremely… “interesting”.
Hadn’t heard of Analogue, and I think I’ll try it when I find time. Can’t say I’m not skeptical about the writing, though; pretty much every OELVN I’ve seen has driven me mad in that regard. I do have a bit of a backlog to get through, though, so we’ll see when that is :P
On an unrelated note, do you have any LN recommendations that aren’t overly difficult? Preferably something w/o a popular anime adaptation, as I don’t usually enjoy re-reading stories.
I assume by “overly difficult” you’re talking about the Japanese writing? I think Ore to Kanojo no Moeyo Pen is easy to read (no English translation) so go read that.
If you want good LNs with an English translation, Gekkou and Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou are my favourites. Obviously, you can still read the JP versions and use the English translations to help you out if you have trouble following. I’ve also been reading The Isolator by Kawahara Reki, which is pretty okay in Japanese.
Hope that helps!
Tell ya what, Saya no Uta was the first VN I ever played many years ago. Recommended by a friend.
It gave me so much despairs. I heard VN was all lovelylovelynyan~ or something.
And what the *meep* I spend so many hours playing it again and again trying to fund a decent ending and found none.
In despair I googled it and saw….There is no ‘good’ end.
I got traumatized and until now I have never played any single VN anymore.
I can assure you that not many VNs are like Saya no Uta.
Also what are you talking about Saya is an adorable character and she is definitely very lovelylovelynyan
Since you can read Japanese, let me suggest a few short VNs you might want to try out:
1. Subarashiki Hibi – It’s been mentioned above so I’ll put it my thoughts: a lot of people call Subahibi a “deep” work, but I’ll go and say the opposite – the goal of Subahibi is not to be deep, but to simplify the philosophies discussed by the game so that the average reader can understand it. It’s hard to describe exactly “what” Subahibi is – I guess “Lucky Star yuri fanfic that tries to explain Wittgenstein’s philosophy” is a decent description, but it doesn’t really do justice to the amount of ambition behind it. In any case, I believe it’s a VN that should be tried by everyone who has any interest in the medium.
2. Sakurai Hikaru’s Steampunk Series – Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning was released last December; you might have seen the name going around Twitter. The Steampunk Series is an ongoing series of loosely-connected stories set in a shared world. Think of the series as Utena meets Lovecraft in a Steampunk alternate history setting. Sakurai basically rewrites figures from the 19th and 20th century into a colorful hodge-podge of characters. The series is especially notable for its depictions of female characters, to the point that its games are basically touted as otome games.
3. Sekai de Ichiban dame na Koi – I’m not sure of your opinion on Fumiaki Maruto, but this is one of his games. It’s an oddity in that the protagonist is a 29-year-old salaryman who just lost his job. He finds refuge in an apartment run by a high school girl whose mother is missing. As you can tell by the title, it’s about the “ダメな恋” aspect of the relationship that forms between them, and the real-life consequences that comes with it.
I can suggest a number of longer VNs, but those are some fairly short ones that I really enjoyed. I hope I helped!
Hey man, thanks for the recommendations. I’ve had Subahibi recommended to me a few times and my plan was to wait for the English release, but considering the hit-and-miss nature of English VN translations, maybe it would be a better idea to try it in Japanese first. Is SCA-JI’s prose distinctive enough that its flavour would probably be lost in translation?
I have some trust in the people in charge of the translation; I think Subahibi would actually benefit from an English translation considering some of its motifs – Emily Dickinson’s poem in particular – were originally in English! SCA-JI’s writing is pretty simple to understand so I don’t think it would lose too much appeal in a translation.