Top Visual Novel Studios
While I do not count myself as a veteran visual novel player, over the years, I did played quite a number of visual novels. Some of them really stood out for me, and I was able to appreciate the inspirational creators behind these wonderful masterpieces.
Type-Moon is known for their intriguing plot and it’s clever storytelling, which drags it’s readers and help them immerse into the plotlines itself. It is not too exaggerating to say that Type-Moon may be one of the best breakthrough visual novel company ever.
Originally just a comiket circle, Type-Moon developed Tsukihime, a doujin game and a widely proclaimed vampire visual novel. Due to positive reception, Type-Moon, now, with more resources and budget, produced the phenomenal Fate/Stay Night, the widely acclaimed visual novel which every visual novel players around the globe should have seen or heard of. Fate/Stay Night is a more professional work, which entails the story of Emiya Shirou, and the mysterious Holy Grail of War. Its these two main titles which made Type-Moon as popular as it is today.
Type-Moon also has a recurring pattern in which all of their releases are universally related to each other. Long time fans of Type-Moon can enjoy the relation of other pieces of Type-Moon work when playing their games. For example, when playing Tsukihime, veteran fans of Type-Moon can appreciate the fact that Aozaki Aoko (who unmistakeably had some kind of F/SN-like magi power), has a sister in Kara no Kyoukai, who looks unmistakably similar with the same red hair. Type-Moon’s latest visual novel, Mahou Tsukai No Yoru will focus on these two siblings. It is most interesting to see and detect just how each media relates to one another as it feels the studio is joining every releases they made together as one.
Nitroplus is known for it’s specialty in creating gore, dark and twisted atmospheres. In a good way, making a scene “nasty” and “bloody” out of nowhere is a child’s play for them. The studio had made countless bizarre masterpieces, like Steins;Gate, Zanmataisei Demonbane, Kikokugai and so on. However, the most twisted and grotesque of them all, and probably the one which delivers the most impact ever, is Saya no Uta, which even incorporates organs and intestines as part of their storylines and visuals. Some other classic Nitroplus titles are on par with Saya no Uta; bloody, gore, and visually destructive, though Saya no Uta still triumph them all in that department.
Currently, Nitroplus tend to have toned down with their bloodiness and grotesqueness, but they are still one of the best VN developers in integrating dark elements into their stories.
Key is the polar opposite of Nitroplus. While Nitroplus applies the use of dark elements, Key relies on their unique charming point; tranquility and warmth.
In Key’s path to fame, it is known to make good use of it’s “traditional formula” from past to present: Slice of Life + Romance + Tearjerking drama + A bit of Magic = Masterpiece. From newest to the oldest visual novels, this fixed pattern had worked wonders, even to this day. Using no complicated stories or confusing plot twists, Key uses the simple strength of slice of life drama and a bit of magic to obtain that fairy-tale like ambiance, while at the same time creating an atmospheric pristine serenity. Following them, many other slice of life visual novels uses almost the same pattern which Key had revolutionized. Key is indeed one inspiring visual novel company and it proved one simple fact: simplicity is the best magic.
Notable Key Visual novels: Air, Clannad, Kanon, Little Busters!, Rewrite
There are still a lot of other studios who deserves honorable mention; and some includes AkabeiSoft2, kid, Eushully, Alice Soft, Leaf, Light and so on. Perhaps, there might even be various other undiscovered gems which I most probably haven’t come across yet and hopefully, I would expand my visual novels horizon much more in the near future.