My 100th Completed Visual Novel and Why I’m Still Playing Them Now
Just the other day, I finally reached the 3rd page in my VNDB’s completed list, so that means I just finished 100 visual novels! (To be exact, 101, but for the sake of this post, I’ll just round it off to 100). It’s a special occasion, so to celebrate for it, I decided to write about visual novels and why I’m still playing them now.
I was first introduced to visual novels by a friend and forum-mate of mine (this was when I was still active in forums) and playing my first visual novel-Fate/Stay Night, my trip to a then half decade long journey of visual novels started from there. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but you can check this post if you want to know more about my history with visual novels.
Admittedly, it took me awhile to get used to a storytelling medium I never tried before, but once I settled in, I was able to appreciate it. I said this before, but visual novels to me are the ultimate storytelling medium, “ultimate”-not in the sense that they are the very best, in that it is a combination of every possible media of the Japanese anime culture-anime art, the transitioning effect from manga (although it uses sprites and CGs instead of panels) and literary of books and light novels.
Visual novels are like books, but at the same time, so much more with the abilities of visuals, sound and depending on the title, even motions, and one shouldn’t underestimate these little technical advantages. Good music can exceedingly bolster’s one emotions when reading a story, which isn’t something you can simply achieve from reading a book. Of course, you can try finding fitting music of your own to listen to but that is obviously incomparable to original music specifically tailored to the current scenes of the story. The “visual” part of visual novels-background art, CGs and sprites make your experience like that of reading a picture book. These technical elements improve one’s experience in investing in the stories, in particular, the immersion in visual novels is incredible, since you’re able to experience the story through the eyes of the main character as if they are your own, and these technical advantages bolster that immersion.
Visual novels are also interactive games to a degree-they are essentially choose-your-own adventure games. One thing visual novel has that no other media has, is the ability of branching outcomes and endings. This is where a lot of visual novel discussions on “X’s route” or “Y’s route” or “True End”, and so on originate from. Some anime like Amagami and Yosuga no Sora (both unsurprisingly anime adaptions of visual novels) have begun to attempt the “multiple routes” storytelling on anime by resetting a story back to it’s branching point after a few episodes-the attempt of course, is incomparable to visual novel-arguably the originator of the concept. The ability to influence a story’s outcomes depending on player’s choices is not an entirely new concept, but visual novels make it work with it’s immersive capability and unique mechanics. Being able to choose the outcome you desire and effect the story bolsters interactivity, and allows readers to feel involved in the stories-again, something which other media wouldn’t be able to replicate to the same degree-resulting in very unique titles which works best in visual novel format like Ever 17 and Steins;Gate.
Last but not least, visual novels have the advantage that books have-time. Unlike TV series or films, visual novels have the time to develop their stories and characters-and being able to dive into the character’s thoughts, monologues and soliloquies certainly help too. With a carefully planned pacing, it’s easy to be invested in the story and characters. Just by reading the story gradually, players would very naturally feel attached to the characters, which makes them even more empathizing once the drama befalls them.
When visual novels started, they were just a gimmick, but through borrowing concepts from other media, adapting and evolving itself over a period of time-the combination of different elements are blended together and had become it’s own thing. Visual novels are a fantastic, immersive, storytelling medium-an unique mix of literature, visuals, sound and interactive choices which can influence the story’s outcome. All these aspects of visual novels kept me coming back for more, even if I’m mostly an extremely slow reader for the most part.
And around half a decade later, I finally completed over a hundred visual novels… I think I will end this post here, let me bask in my meager success for now.
P.S: Might as well plug this while I’m at it. Last two years ago, I discussed a topic where I tried “distinguishing visual novels from games”, a topic which spawned 5 posts (+interviews from other visual novel players). Check them out if you’re interested.
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