Distinguishing Visual Novels: Bonus Part – Interviews
I answered the long-winding question in our final part of the post. That, however was just my own
shallow thoughts. So in order to express the subjectivity of the subject, I decided to put up an interview and directed the very same question behind these series of posts to all the visual novel players I could find, and thankfully, I received a lot of interesting answers from my interviewees.
A lot of these answers remain unedited by me, the only things I did change are very minor ones like changing a capital letter to small letter, joining two sentences together or making a sentence flow better. They are not altered so heavily in a way that even their original content was changed.
Kai: I want an interview.
Visual novel is a medium, a form of presentation. (And actually, in Japan, Visual Novel (NVL) only refer to those games where the text covers all screen, like FSN; when there’s only a dialog box in the bottom is called Adventure Game (ADV). In the western community, however, they’re both usually called VN). Eroge exclusively refers to the existence of H content; most eroge are also visual novels. Those visual novels with no H content (say, Clannad) wouldn’t be; but they’re basically different categories; one speaks of the presentation, other of the content. Galge refers to games where there are several romanceable girls. Again, it’s about content; most galge are visual novels. It’s not just “wider” as a category than eroge, either; though it would include the aforementioned Clannad, it would leave out otome games (with a female protagonist and romanceable boys), or BL games. A dating simulation also has romanceable girls/boys, but the approach includes gameplay elements, like stats raising. Clannad is not a dating simulation; Tokimeki Memorial is.
So as I said, the category visual novel speaks of the presentation. According to vndb.org, the main point that distinguishes a VN from other kind of games is the existence of a continued narrative; that’s where the “novel” part comes from. There are, however, fringe cases. There are examples with gameplay that are clearly VN (Utawarerumono), but in other cases is harder to say if as a whole it’s a narration punctuated with gameplay or a game with just abundant text. And even then it can be used as a criterion when the gameplay is clearly distinguished from the narration; the simple choice system, that most VN have, is a form of gameplay, and some things can be thought as just having a very elaborated version of that.
So actually, is hard to define exactly what a visual novel is; there are many clear examples, but at the edges there are things that aren’t as clear cut. Trying to do a simple, general definition generally leaves out things oneself (or another person) thinks should really be considered a VN. Personally I think that, even if not as narration, the main component of the presentation should be the text for something to be considered a visual novel. That doesn’t mean that it must be or even should be the only relevant component; they’re after all VISUAL novels.
That is quite an interesting question. To me, a lot of it is based on the game engine and technical presentation. 3D sex games are definitely not visual novels, as the graphics utterly dominate the experience, and with the lack of plot or narration the word “novel” no longer applies. Dating simulations, where users have to build statistics and trigger scenes, is highly interactive, but solely for the purpose of getting the nameless and bland protagonist closer to the girl (ala Love Plus). In this case the game is selling an experience and not a story (I would also place many galges in this catagory), so I would hesitate also to call it a visual _novel_. Galgames, and eroges (its 18+ counterpart), are less interactive, and what replaces the interactions are planned storylines and a coherent narrative, which allow for foreshadowing and other various literary devices (something that is quite clearly lacking 3D sex games). I would consider both to be included within the VN medium. As such, I also consider text adventure games to be visual novels (I would include things like homestuck too, if it wasn’t for the fact that it encompasses so many different mediums).
Can you think of other examples that might be in the grey area?
As far as visual novels go I’m still relatively new to the idea as a whole, having discovered them only a year ago. Still, one of the biggest mysteries I’ve encountered are the people that use “Visual Novel” and “Eroge” interchangeably. For me visual novels are really the ultimate form of story delivery: they have the audio/visual components missing in books and the interactivity/personal connection missing from movies which come together to form an experience that is truly immersive. Of course, in my opinion, all of that means that something has to be story-focused in order to be called a visual novel, and the other classifications are all about the focus as well.
As long as something has an erotic focus it stops being a visual novel and starts being an eroge, which to my mind is a contraction of erotic game (meaning that all of the other types of sex-focused games mentioned also come under the eroge tag). Now an eroge can come in a visual novel format, but that doesn’t make it a Visual Novel. Trying to use the terms as if they mean the same thing would be like calling a James Bond film porn just because it has a sex scene. Visual novels contain sex predominantly as a culmination of a relationship or as a story-telling device, though admittedly there are often random scenes plonked in to appeal to a wider audience. Eroge contain little to no literary value and if there is any character development it’s incredibly shallow, so I generally find it pretty easy to tell between these first two types of media.
Distinguishing visual novels from video games is a little more tricky. It’s very easy to say that a video game is focused on some sort of gameplay mechanic rather than the story, but then where do you draw the line? It’s a question I’m going to have trouble with when I go to write up reviews for things like Corpse Party (which is very good by the way). I think for the time being I’m going to take the easy way out: if it’s not on VNDB, it’s a Video Game.
Visual novels are a category. Galge, Eroge, Dating Sims are visual novels. Choose your own adventure games, especially if you remove the dice-rolling sequences are visual novels as well. These are all sub-categories of the visual novel family. Just like board games, video games, basketball and tennis are all “games”. To be frank, visual novels aren’t necessarily games, they’re more of a “play-activity” rather than a game. If you sit in front of something which tells you a story, I consider that a visual novel.
I actually don’t think of 999 or say, Persona 4 as bona fide visual novels, because they truly are games. The question is where the core focus lies, for me. If the focus is on telling the story, then it can be a visual novel. If the focus is on solving puzzles or playing an RPG, or a fighting game (BlazBlue story-mode) then it’s either not a visual novel but a puzzle game, fighting game, or an RPG, or it’s basically two different “games” that are combined together – a visual novel and an RPG that are joined into one game that can’t truly be defined as either, but as a game having elements of both.
I think of eroges, galges, etc. as subgenres of visual novels that I distinguish by the amount of porn they have. Nukiges have lots of porn, eroges have some porn, and galges have no porn. Dating sims can be any of the above, but require much more effort in clicking random text boxes and such. So no, I don’t really distinguish visual novels from them and instead think of them as the same entity.
Visual novels and graphical text adventure games sound like the same thing to me, but although I’m not familiar with the latter, I’ll hazard a guess and say that visual novels probably has porn as the distinguishing factor. Porn makes everything better.
On a technical level, Adventure game (ADV or AVG) do contain a fair amount of differences from their visual novel counterparts such as greater interaction in the world; whether it be solving problems or searching for clues. However, that difference is merely not as great as it seems and is more of an issue of category. Same thing for eroges/hentai games. While their are a great number of features that distinguish them, I personally feel that the base issue is the same. For example, when speaking of nukiges such as (oh, anything by Lilith Soft) the stories and characters themselves are not paid much heed or handle with care other than for the purpose of HCG and sexual content. This is not true for all nukiages, but playing them, it is usually going to be skimpy on the “novel” aspect. Conversely, titles like Tsuyokiss or Lamune usually have more emphasis on the story and characters rather than sexual content. They still contain some sexual content, but usually care and cater to telling a story and “treat” the reader to the adult content – if present.
That said, their are various titles that do not contain sexual content and achieve a brilliant level of what I expect a visual novel can be. Same can be said of the adult content ones. Ever designer/company/producer has their own philosophy on said product so the categories and division such as nukiges, nakiage, dating sims, etc can be consider under the umbrella of visual novels. Therefore, “visual novel” as a term of generalization, can encompass and include a wide variety of categories. After all, definitions do change over time.
The simple answer is no; not all eroge are visual novels and not all visual novels are eroge.
Despite subjective disputes of the use of such terms by fans, I believe they are all technical and should be clearly differentiated. True, these terms might have been coined by fans at the spring of their birth, but as far as I’ve seen, most if not all of them are technical. The differences they portray are technical. And there’s one more important factor many tend to neglect or simply aren’t aware of: most such terms were originally “invented” in Japan. You may of course agree or disagree, but their etymology is the main reason I believe they’re all technical and not actually subjective (putting aside the occasional subjectivity that appears when a fan has to draw the dividing line between two similar genres).
We’ve got terms like eroge (ero + geemu; lit. “erotic game”), galge (gal (+ get) + geemu ; lit. “getting-girls game”), nakige (naki + geemu; lit. “crying game”), nukige (nuki + geemu; lit. “ejaculation game”), utsuge (utsu + geemu; lit. “depression game”), and maybe some more. Ergo, all terms ending in “-ge” are Japan-made, as the suffix signifies the abbreviation of “game” as it’s spelt in Japanese. Oh, and one more, I believe the very term “visual novel” itself was invented in Japan. Now, you may have heard of other similar terms like “sound novels” or “kinetic novels” and probably other “X novels” to describe various genres. This part is completely subjective to me, but I think those “novels” terms are coined by foreigners (I’d guess mostly North Americans) to arbitrarily describe genres. If so, I believe the reasoning is wrong. Why? “Sound novels” was actually a trademarked term used by Chunsoft, way over a decade ago to describe a genre of their games (that were innovative at that time). If my understanding is correct, as the genre got more popular and more game studios started making such games, the term “visual novels” started to be used to avoid infringing Chunsoft’s trademarked use of the term “sound novels.” Whereas for “kinetic novels,” it’s not even a trademarked term, but a full-fledged child brand of Key’s parent company. Hence, I believe other “novels” terms coined by foreigners are totally subjective and should not have wide use at all. As it is, most fans tend to stick to Japanese terms (nukige, nakige, etc) if they know them.
Now that we’ve gone through a brief idea of the origins of those terms (according to my knowledge and my point of view, of course), let’s get on to differentiation. It should be rather clear as to why I see those terms as being purely technical if you see their etymology. As for the term “visual novels,” it should be… crystal clear that it and “eroge” don’t describe the same thing. To be utterly frank, only folks with not-so-open minds or lack of knowledge that there ARE non-erotic visual novels would think that they are the same. The term “visual novels” describes the genre of the gameplay. It is in line with other gameplay genres like RPG, RTS, FPS, fighting, board, simulator, etc. Whereas terms like eroge, nakige, nukige, utsuge, etc. describe the genre of the story, not gameplay. Let’s take some Western games as examples. The Elder Scrolls series: they’re action RPG by genre of gameplay, fantasy by genre of story. Modern Warfare series: they’re FPS by genre of gameplay, and military by genre of story. Generalising “visual novels” and “eroge” as the same thing is just like saying RPG and fantasy are the same thing; FPS and military are the same thing. I dare anyone to say otherwise. Unless they’re gonna argue that the term “fantasy” could be used to describe a genre of gameplay and not just story. Yeah, right. How do you play a “fantasy” genre? By… fantasising and imagining things? Sure. That’s just autism described in a softer, more sophisticated way.
Of course, there could be exceptions to this: eroge (well, RPG is also an exception as the term applies to both story and gameplay, but its scope is wide as fuck, so let’s leave it aside for now). As we all know, whatever the genre/platform/method/fetish/style it might be… sex sells. The popularity of games with adult content being played for the adult content (i.e. people playing something for the fap materials) is naturally seen by a golden opportunity by many businessmen. And lo, other forms of erotic games are born, regardless of the existence of visual novel elements in them. Are they exclusively visual novels? No, many of them aren’t. Are they exclusively not visual novels? No, many of them are. The term “visual novels” as a (sub)genre of gameplay is pretty much independent in regards to “eroge” as a simple distinction of games with adult content.
After all, some visual novel elements have become so popular (among Japanese games in particular; can’t say the same about Western games) that many games have them incorporated. If some of the easiest traits to describe a visual novel include lots of text, lots of consecutive dialogues, character sprites seen side-by-side when they’re talking, extensive use of text and conversations to progress through the story, etc… then yes, I’d say a lot of Japanese games, JRPGs in particular, do count as visual novels. Luminous Arc, Rune Factory, Hyperdimension Neptunia, Disgaea, Ar Tonelico, Atelier… you name it. Are they exclusively visual novels? No, they don’t have to be. And as it is, with the primary genres they individually have (RPG, turn-based strategy, etc), you’ll likely find them described using their primary genres instead and not as “visual novels.” While totally subjective, I can conclude that while visual novel might be a niche primary genre, it’s definitely quite popular — at least as far as Japanese gaming goes — as a sub-genre.
And then you have 3D sex simulators like Illusion’s products, Flash interactive videos, simple dressing up apps and other various genres with adult content. Now, I’d like to stick to my earlier conclusion that “eroge” shouldn’t refer to genre of gameplay (I mean, there’s no clear distinctions… it’s even more vague and broader than RPG), but then how should I describe the gameplay of those games? 3D sex simulators? Interactive videos? Uhh… now those sound pretty vague and not as common as the everyday gameplay genre you encounter such as RPG or FPS, don’t they? Well, why don’t we just describe them as adult games? Erotic games? Games having adult content? I mean, whatever the content is, we know what kind of people would seek them out, what their intentions would be to seek them out, and what they would consider when they seek them out (fetish, style, fashion… whatever). Right? You may disagree, but that’s my logic behind the reasoning that all those games of various kinds are all grouped together as “eroge”: it’s not necessarily a matter of “eroge” itself being usable as a description of genre of gameplay, but it’s a great convenience to just group those not-so-common games as “eroge,” “adult games,” or other similar terms regardless of their own gameplay.
As Wahfuu and I stated in previous posts on my blog, visual novel are “games” that involve the story being told through text (voice included most of the time, but that’s optional) and accompanied by “visuals”, either a back ground of the setting, sprites/artwork of the characters, or both. Eroges are games that *contain* sexual content, and while visual novels do tend to have H-scenes, not all of them have sexual content nor focus entirely on them. In fact, the ones that do have the story overtake them either way, and while the Japanese definition of eroge puts of those into the category of “eroge”, I choose not to.
Galge is a similar deal in regards to classification. Galge, short for gal games, are games that focus primarily on interactions with girls. Many visual novels contain loads and loads of female characters and the main character’s romance with them, but similar to how not all visual novels contain H-scene, not all visual novels focus around a female cast. Some visual novels are otome games, games that target a female audience and feature loads and loads of men and pretty boys. And obviously, horror visual novels like Imabikisou for the PS3 and the indie novel “The Noose” are not gal games.
Dating simulations… well, the interface when talking to other characters are, most of the time, similar, especially with Japanese dating dims, but the aim of a dating simulation and a visual novel are two completely different things. Visual novels center on story, while dating sims focus purely on increasing a character’s “affection meter” and starting a relationship with them. Dating sims are even comparable to an RPGs insome ways, unlike visual novels, you choose your main character’s stats such as his intelligence, looks, etc.
As for Illusion games, I never have them in mind when thinking about visual novels. Games like Sexy Beach 3, Rapelay, Schoolmate 2, etc. are purely endless sex games involving clicks of the mouse and nothing more.
At that end, some of them may overlap at time, some of them are incomparable.
Ace Attorney is a visual novel series of handheld games, as is 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. They both tell their stories through text and pictures. Some say Ace Attorney and 999 have gameplay… but so does Kamidori Alchemy Meister and Little Busters! (to an extent). They’re visual novels, and are considered so in Japan as well. Ace Attorney and 999 both have point-and-click elements (especially the DS remakes of the first three Gyakuten Saiban a.k.a. Ace Attorney games), but a large amount of the content still dips towards visual novel territory. I’d go as far to say they should be considered a bit of both, though. But anyone who says they aren’t visual novels are out of their mind.
The confusing bit about all this is that the terms can overlap. Eroge is often used interchangeably with visual novel, and in many cases this cannot really be challenged, as many visual novels do have sexual content. However, I find the terminology extremely misleading – take, for example, most story-oriented games, a well-known example being Fate/stay night. About 95% of that game is basically telling the story, while only the other 5% makes up the occasional porn scenes. In the eyes of many, however, visual novels are still being seen as merely “porn games” despite the fact that many of them tell deep and meaningful stories – having a term like “eroge” doesn’t really help matters, either. So in the end, to me, visual novels are primarily those titles that focus on telling a story of some sort.
Following from the above, I would make a distinction between most standard visual novels and dating sims on the grounds that the latter -as far as I know- focuses primarily on wooing heroines and not necessarily on telling any kind of a deeper story.
I wasn’t familiar with Illusion (honest!), but after 5 minutes of looking into them I can tell you that the term “porn game” or “eroge” would fit their products far better than any plot-focused VN out there.
I do consider games like 999 or Ace Attorney visual novels. The basic formula remains unchanged – it is merely extended with some level of interactivity, be it puzzle-solving or courtroom cross-examination. If I really wanted to be precise in my use of terminology, I could potentially call them VN/puzzle solver/whatever hybrids, but in the end, the most prominent aspect of such titles is still their VN-like narrative and storytelling technique, and so in my mind, they are indeed visual novels.
Eroge and galge are types of visual novels; eroge has H-content while galge is more about forming a relationship with the heroines. This step is taken further in dating simulations, where you gather points and unlock events while trying to charm other characters. To me, they have a contrasting feeling once you play them which makes them different from VNs. You also have choices but these are more complex, like picking which items of clothing the protagonist wears for a date and choosing which stats to raise. Visual novels aren’t defined by the genre of story they tell, so you can have ones which range from a love comedy to darker themes.
As for graphical text adventures games, I’d consider them as visual novels too since they are essentially made up of choices too, while allowing the player to have a greater degree of freedom but not as much as in a dating simulation, and focusing on the story aspect. It can be hard to define where the boundaries lie between the terms used above, since these differ from person to person.
I’ve started playing eroge since I was 16 (yes, I understand this was a bit early for a teenager, but I was pretty much filled with hormones and adrenaline back then XD) Playing eroge for four years, I admit that I’m still a beginner altogether when it comes to visual novels or eroge in general.
In order to effectively answer the given question, I would have to define a few terms. In my point of view, “Visual Novels” and “Eroge” have been modified to have very similar meanings, despite the fact that “visual novel” implies no sexual content, while “eroge” has the term “ero” in it, implying sexual or at least content that relates to such material. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll abbreviate “Visual Novel” to “VN”
This definition has been used towards games called “galge” or “dating sims”, but the two also have original meanings that does not relate to “sexual content”. Despite this, I believe the two definitions can also be grouped into the category, “Visual Novel”.
When it comes down to it, Visual Novels have a definite theme, setting, and plot. It doesn’t need to be the best elements, but the VN needs to be able to be converted back to a simple novel without the “visual” elements. Simply put, a person should be able to copy-paste the text from the game, and simply line it up in chronological order, and get a “novel”, that can be published and sold in your local bookstore.
Illusion games, I’ve seen. They’re pretty good, but in the end, they’re not related any way to VNs. Instead, they can be considered “Hentai 3D OVAs”. OVA, which means Original Video Animation, suggests a standalone series of “animated entertainment”, of which in this case, contains 18+ material. Now I do know that there are some Illusion products that are deceptively similar to the format of a VN (See Love Evolution), but I guess it’s my stubborn pride that allows me to accept it as one of them.
Lastly, the differentiating factor between VNs and “graphic text adventure games” is that for one, VNs contain two elements that graphic text adventure games don’t have: Voices and a COMBINATION of Character Sprites and VN-specific CG. As you know, games like Advanced Wars or Fire Emblem can have sprites, but no CGs. I also know of games that may have CGs, but no sprites instead.
In conclusion, I’d like to list some of the elements present in a visual novel:
1) Character Sprites, with multiple “clothes”, poses, and facial expressions.
2) Definite Setting or Theme. It is actually surprising that even some of the nukige nowadays contain a background setting or a theme
3) Normal Novel elements, which include conflict, drama, and resolution.
4) While not necessary, most Visual Novels involve the unity of the protagonist and one of the heroines
5) Also not necessary, but multiple “routes” or variety in story.
In order to explore the relationship between visual novels and other oft-related terms like eroge, it is important to define what a visual novel is, a task that is surprisingly tricky. The broadest possible definition is “a game that tells a story”, which, as I’m sure we’ll all agree, encompasses most modern computer/video games, as the demand for a decent plot in most game genres grew wildly over the years. Therefore, we need to set at least some tentative boundaries that separate VNs from other genres:
A visual novel has to be Japanese or Japan-influenced. It would hardly be correct in this day and age to restrict the genre to titles made in Japan. The budding OELVN (Original English Language Visual Novel) scene already had its first big hit in Katawa Shoujo, and while original Western titles are not yet prominent enough to be a major factor, we can’t exclude titles like KS just because of their country of origin. Nevertheless, I choose to exclude the few dating-sim titles and numerous adventure games NOT influenced by Japan from the VN genre in order to produce a more clear definition. Indeed, if we decide to consider that, say, old LucasArts titles like the Monkey Island series are in fact visual novels (they certainly are in the broadest sense), we open a whole can of worms and ultimately end up broadening the term way too much. It is also important to note that there should be a clear distinction between the meaning of the words “visual novel” and the genre that we’re trying to define. A retelling of any story combined with accompanying visuals is a “visual novel” in the former sense, but that does not necessarily mean that it falls within the genre. Just like pretty much every video game out there is actually a role-playing game just because you do in fact play some role, but nobody goes around calling Pac-Man an RPG, so there’s that. As for the nature of “Japanese influence”, it is also tricky to define, but the most common areas of such influence are manga/anime-like character sprites and ADV/NVL stylistic presentation. For those not in the know, ADV is the most common presentation style, in which text is displayed in the box (usually at the bottom of the screen), and NVL is a less widespread variation, in which text is displayed over the whole screen. And finally, in visual novels containing gameplay, the “story parts” must be prevalent over actual gameplay, – a restriction necessary to separate visual novels from JRPGs. Some prominent visual novels are very gameplay-heavy (Kamidori Alchemy Meister is a prime example), but the gameplay part should not be dominant. This particular line is especially blurred, and the term “H-RPG” springs up quite often to describe adult visual novels with extensive RPG elements.
Bearing the genre boundaries in mind, let’s consider where terms like eroge or dating-sim fit into this. With the term “eroge”, we have a completely different reference point: the presence of adult content AKA H-scenes. In the vast majority of cases, eroge are for all intents and purposes visual novels, and there is really nothing to “distinguish”. If the game tells a story presented in ADV/NVL style, contains anime/manga-like graphics, and meets the other criteria outlined above, it is a visual novel. An important thing to point out here is that the actual quality of the plot is absolutely irrelevant. It may be just an uninspired excuse to tie H-scenes together (as is the case with many nukige VNs), but that’s something for the critics to judge. A pulp romantic novel filled with sex scenes is still a novel, and we all have our own vision of a good or bad story, but when we try to define a genre, those personal opinions must be set aside.
There is, however, a relatively small niche of games that focus on sex almost exclusively, usually provided with 3D sex simulation graphics and no story to speak of. While certainly falling under the term “eroge”, these titles hardly qualify as visual novels. The line can be blurred in some cases, as some sort of dialogue and plot may be present, and it can be argued that these games can also be considered VNs, but speaking personally, the 3D presentation is quite often the line that separates sex sims from visual novels for me.
Then we have the terrible bastard term “dating-sim”, which really should be allowed to rest in peace. Most visual novels include some form of dating (they don’t even have to be adult VNs, – who says there can’t be a title about dating without explicitly showing sex?), but the term is mostly used to grossly over-simplify the eroge genre. If it absolutely has to be used, the term “dating-sim” should be applied to the few VNs that actually ARE mostly about dating (Casual Romance Club is a great example and a somewhat underappreciated VN, I enjoyed it a lot for what it is). Applying the term to eroge that doesn’t focus on dating leads to fan annoyance and general misinterpretation. Tsukihime a dating sim? How about Saya no Uta? Sengoku Rance? Ridiculous to say the least.
However, it must be noted that unlike the terms “visual novel” and “eroge”, “dating-sim” has a wider application when we talk about original Western games. There have been a few rather poor attempts at games about dating not much unlike Japanese visual novels. Luckily, the very first genre-defining criterion I set above eliminates those games from contention. So while they’re certainly dating-sims, they are not visual novels.
The last part of the original question is the most difficult for me to answer. I haven’t played either of the examples listed, but from what I’ve seen of Ace Attorney, it can qualify as a visual novel. Even after setting all those boundaries, it’s really hard to pin some games down as one genre or another.
To sum up this wall of text: I don’t believe that terms “eroge” and “visual novel” should be considered separate, as most eroge fall under the visual novel category. Same with “galge”, which usually denotes a visual novel about romantic love. The term “dating sim” should be used for games that not only involve dating, but also focus heavily on the actual process.
Illusion soft games are just porn simulators. The term “visual novel” is a broad one, but not that broad. There is some overlapping meaning between these terms so it becomes important to remember the novel part when making a distinction between something that is or is not a visual novel. It comes down to the interface and the way the story is told. A visual novel tells its story with a visual novel interface. A game or 3D porn simulator won’t do that. For example: If the story in an RPG is told through cinematic cut-scenes, with the game engine or otherwise, that is not a visual novel. There are basically two interfaces for visual novels. One is a straight up text overlay. The other involves text boxes at the bottom of the screen. Some visual novels switch between those, but basically anything that uses one or both of those interfaces to tell it’s story is something I consider to be a visual novel. The content itself isn’t that important. A visual novel full of sex and little else is still a visual novel if that is how it is presented.
A visual novel can also be an eroge or dating sim. Galge is a term I never see anyone use outside of anime so I can’t say much about that one. It’s really all about the interface. If the story is told with a visual novel interface then it is a visual novel. Dating sims and eroge can also be visual novels because those terms don’t imply a specific interface. An Illusion Soft porn simulator is still an eroge even though it’s not a visual novel. Persona 4 is dating sim even though it’s not a visual novel. On the flip side Ar Tonelico is a visual novel even though it is also an RPG. This is because of the way it uses a visual novel interface to tell its story.
If you want to make a distinction between different types of visual novels you need to start looking at genres. Many VN genres are as easy to define as they would be for any other novel. Scifi, fantasy, drama etc etc. With visual novels there are also a few genres which don’t really exist anywhere else. Nakige, nukige and utsuge are three terms that anyone getting into visual novels should probably memorize. A Nakige is basically a crying game, something made to stir up sad emotions in the player. Clannad or Ef a Tale of Memories are popular examples of a Nakige. Nukige basically means the emphasis is on sex first story second. Mangagamer’s Softhouse Seal titles are and example of nukige. Utsuge is similar to a nakige except the focus is on being depressing. Kana Imouto is an example of an Utsuge. There are also darker nukiges and many terms for those as well, but they are all visual novels.
How do I distinguish different visual novels from each other? More or less using Getchu as a main source of tagging. If I were to use my own discretion, it would be based on the official home page of the visual novel and what the content is all about. Most visual novels have their own site to have a look around what the visual usually contains. This can be found under system or even stage. Most cases, anything related to actions tend to be RPG or action based VN. More story based with choices on what story you’re diverging from goes down as ADV. Date Simulations tend to be something like building character stats and choosing the right choices throughout the visual novel.
Even with visual novels that has a element of Tactics or Strategy tend to fall under as either SLG or RPG. More or less there’s a lot of visual novels that blend between the story and actions within the game that makes it interesting. So many visual novels to me can come under multiple tags.
Visual novels, in my opinion, are more text-based, while simulation or adventure games involves more gameplay. This doesn’t say that visual novels only offers button-clicking, choice picking and a lot of reading, but they’re generally less engaging in terms of gameplay and system.
Technically however, adventure games ARE visual novels, but I’m used to Japan calling them “adventure games”. Adventure games generally have more than just reading, because most of the time they want you to solve puzzles or visit various locations in order to move on with the story.
I consider visual novels and pure sex games (Illusion) different. Just as the name says, visual novels are mixed-media novels. The main point is the story and not the sex. Sometimes they do give heavy focus on the latter, but that’s not the only thing the game has to offer.
~by Sabishii Miruku
Well, frankly, if anything, I wouldn’t discern visual novels from eroges, galges, and dating simulations. In fact, I couldn’t. I’ve always viewed the aforementioned categories as individual subcategories to visual novels. In short, I’d say they’re all visual novels. However, I am not to be confused as one who is ignorant to refer to all eroges, galges, and dating simulations as visual novels. There are some that lack what I would call the “novel” portion of a visual novel. Those in itself, cannot be considered a true visual “novel” as there’s no reading; just choices between different sexual outcomes. Thus, if anything could be said on what could serve as a definitive marker between plain eroges, galges, and dating simulations would be that visual novels in itself has the prerequisite of being a “novel”, or at least, contain a substantial amount of text.’
What I mean is, for a visual novel to be an eroge or galge or anything else entirely depends on how the visual novel’s plot goes. Say, if you played a high school male trying to date classmate(s), then it would be an eroge. If you flip the sexes around, it would be a galge. However, then where does dating simulation come in? Well, generally, I’d say a dating simulation is just a fancy Western term for eroge or galge. The reason why they can be considered visual novels is that they have “plot” and that there’s text to read.
Now, having established that eroge/galge should be considered a subcategory to visual novels, I believe that other visual novels, that are not erotic in nature, are still legitimately visual novels. After all, there’s no requirement for a visual novel to have mature content. However, though we don’t have (I think) a name for such visual novels, I still believe that they deserve their own subcategory.
Thus, I’d feel that while many people have their own categorizations and beliefs, it would still be fair to view that visual novels can be eroge/galge/ dating sims, though it doesn’t always apply the other way around. However, with visual novels of non-sexual nature, I’d say they’re still visual novels too, albeit a different “subcategory”.
Visual novels require text to tell their story. The other things don’t require text. Some games like 999 and Ace Attorney have a good number of text and they use it to tell so they’re VNs.
Visual novels are a medium, but the term “visual novel” itself is just an umbrella word. Kinda like how Republican’s an umbrella political party consisting of crazy people/Tea Party, libertarians/Ron Paul fanatics, racists, gun owner maniacs, Independents who want to look cool by saying they’re Republicans, and closet Democrats.
Let’s use an analogy: paintings. One doesn’t say abstract art and Renaissance art are the same, but they are art styles used in painting. They also can be used in different mediums like literature and gay poetry. So it will be silly to say all abstract and Renaissance art are paintings.
Same with visual novels. To call VNs just silly 90s dating sim eroges is p. silly. Conversely, not all dating sims, erogays, and galges are visual novels.
Distinguishing Visual Novels
Distinguishing Visual Novels: Part I – Introduction to Visual Novels
Distinguishing Visual Novels: Part II – Origin of Visual Novels
Distinguishing Visual Novels: Part III – Deconstruction of Visual Novels
Distinguishing Visual Novels: Part IV – Differentiating Visual Novels from Games
Distinguishing Visual Novels: Bonus Part – Interviews