1. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Visual novels.

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by CDRW, Apr 1, 2011.

    A couple of months ago I played Ever 17, which from everything I've heard is one of the best VN's you can find that doesn't have any porn in it, and ever since then I've been bouncing around the idea of making one of my own. I even have a pre-made story idea in mind for it and everything. I just kept thinking while reading it, "this is awesome and all, but the characters need better fleshing out."

    I just keep coming back to the idea that if this is the best they have to offer, then there's real opportunity for anybody to go in and make their mark. The medium is still relatively undeveloped.

    So, what's your thoughts on visual novels? Do you like them? Dislike them? What do you think is good and what needs improvement? What's some good titles?
     
  2. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I've had a couple of friends who were into visual novels (or at least had a bit of familiarity with them). They're also oftentimes adapted into anime, and I've had some experience with that anime too, so ultimately I'm well aware they exist and I have some understanding of them, even if I've never read through one myself. I really don't think a lot of people in the West know of these kinds of visual novels, and if they do, they're probably turned off by the typical romantic (oftentimes sexual) plots that occur. In fact, my friends who do know and have read visual novels are Asian, just to show how unknown it is the West (or, well, at least where I come from).

    As said before, typically the anime adaptations of the visual novels might get more attention here in the West, because there are more people into anime than visual novels, obviously, but I don't think a lot of people realize that such anime actually were visual novel adaptations.

    Anyhow, from what I know, the stereotypical visual novel always focuses on romantic or sexual plots. However, a few have shown themselves to prove what the genre is capable of, including (assuming you haven't heard of these): the Ace Attorney series (which is probably the most well-known visual novel series in the West) which concerns the adventures of an attorney (I think), Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni and Umineko No Naku Koro Ni (which are kind of like horror stories, with suspense and also mystery and mind screwing), and Fate/Stay Night (whose quality is more debateable, depending on who you ask, according to my friends). I've never read any of these, nor seen their anime adaptations, but they seem to be pretty exemplary of what visual novels are capable of.

    And there are even good romance visual novels, surprisingly or not. There were three visual novels made by a company named Key, namely Air, Kanon, and Clannad, that generally received positive acclaim, especially their anime versions; they are known for their supposed emotional plotlines and, well, yeah, basically being able to make people cry, supposedly. Out of those three, I think that Clannad is generally considered the best, since it also deals with other aspects of life other than romance, such as raising a family and that sort of stuff. I've watched the anime adaptation of Clannad, and it was pretty decent - if not amazing, though I am cautious in saying that - compared to a lot of the other oftentimes lackluster - if not outright pathetic - visual novel adaptations.

    Another romance visual novel adaptation well-known in the anime/visual novel community in the West is called Ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two. I've watched the anime adaptation (though, again, I did not read the original visual novel), and it was one of the most surreal (in an awesome, post-modern kind of way with insane amounts of symbolism and mind screwing) romance anime I've ever watched. Generally it was pretty decent and interesting, I guess, with some issues with the story, but I'd say it was a bit more mature than the three Key stories, particularly as the later parts of the overall story deal with themes and events such as sexual abuse, death and mortality, and so forth. Out of all the romance visual novels I know of, I think it is probably one of the more mature ones.

    I would also suggest you look at some not-as-good Visual Novels to get an idea of general stereotypes and problems that pop up in these Visual Novels, particularly the romance ones. Cliches and stereotypical characters abound in these kinds of Visual Novels, even in the good ones (even the ones I mentioned above). Anyhow, two of the more well-known (romance) visual novels that are not as 'good' but some I suggest reading to gain more insight into visual novels are: the Da Capo series (I watched the anime adaptation, and needless to say, while it was charming in a guilty pleasure kind of way, it was otherwise extremely frustrating to watch) which apparently are very, very popular in Japan, but contain, so far as I know, many of the standard archetypical and cliche features of the genre; and School Days, which is infamous for its possible violent endings and deconstruction of the romance visual novel genre (if you've heard the "Nice Boat" meme, this is where it's from). Or, really, if you want, you can just pick off any random (romance) visual novel. Chances are it's probably going to have all the stereotypes in there, somehow.

    Unfortunately, again, I have never read through any visual novels, have only watched the anime adaptations for a few, and otherwise know anything about them from my friends, so take my opinions and suggestions with a pinch of salt. An additional thing to consider when looking at visual novels is the fact that most of these visual novels we know of come from Japan, and thus take heavy influence from Japanese culture, naturally; even though I'm Asian, I'm not Japanese, so I'm pretty sure a lot of stuff I don't pick up simply because I don't know enough of the cultural contexts behind them. This, and the fact that a lot of them have porn in them, probably is why they have even less attention than anime in the West. Regardless, from what I can discern, the main problem with visual novels, at least and especially the romance ones, is that they generally have an almost frustrating common occurrence stereotypes and archetypes, to the point where personally I think that subverting and improving on such cliches, stereotypes, and archetypes is ridiculously easy that you can probably do it in your sleep.

    Hope that helps.
     
  3. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've played part of Fate/Stay night, and it was pretty awesome, but definitely not my cup of tea so I didn't get very far before I quit. And of course I've seen the anime as well. I've been thinking about checking out Remember 11 or Higurashi and from what I hear they're both quite good. Thanks for the reminder about ace attorney too. I keep meaning to look at it and then promptly forget. From what I understand you play the titular attorney as he defends his clients during trial. It's an interactive courtroom drama.

    Good thinking on checking out some of the not so good ones. I just don't wanna do it! :p I just can't stomach boring stuff, especially the stereotypical romance ones. They're just so...yeah.

    It turns out there's even a pretty good ready made VN engine called Ren'Py. It's written in python so it works cross system, and it actually looks really easy to use. So really if I go ahead with trying to make my own it looks like I only need an artist and music writer. Man, I really want to try this now.
     
  4. Smoke
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    Smoke Contributing Member

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    How exactly do those things work? I keep thinking it might be "Choose Your Own Adventure."
     
  5. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, that's basically what it is, a "Choose Your Own Adventure" on crack, with music and pictures. They're actual novel length and depending on the genre and specific game will have choices ranging from three or four different stories each with several ends all the way on up to "harem" VN's where you can choose between dozens of different routes.
     
  6. cybrxkhan
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    If you want a romance one that isn't boring or completely run over by the stereotypes, I suggest either Clannad and Ef, or, better yet, both; while both still have the cute girls and what not, they do offer more than that, with the cuteness and so forth just as the icing on the cake, as they should be, instead of the thing that ruins the entire story. The former is generally commended for its ability to make people cry, and the latter is commended for its surreal and highly symbolic take on the story, as well as the mature themes as the story progresses and seeming lack of the typical romance cliches of the genre (as many claim, though I contest that and say that on a subtle level they still remain) - although I speak for the anime adaptations; I cannot really say much for the Visual Novels, besides from what my friends have told me. But those two are generally considered some of the best - if not the best - romance visual novel adaptations, and show what the genre is capable of in the right hands, and at least for the anime adaptations, I do agree.

    Still, I really do suggest you look through at least a few of the stereotype-heavy ones, just to make sure you don't repeat their mistakes. Yeah, it's painful, but if I can do it, so can you. (Da Capo was the most frustrating one, generally not because of its content, but because it was an 80 episode madness (well, technically you can say its two separate (but linked) stories, but still, that was a freaking long time). Also sometimes it's just fun to watch them just to see how stupid they can be.



    They're essentially Choose Your Own Adventure, yes, although how much choice the player has depends on the title. Some give the player quite a lot of choices, with many,many possible end results; others only give the player a few choices at key plot points, so there are only few results; and yet others (I think) have no choices for the player, or maybe only one or two, so it's just the same story.
     
  7. madhoca
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    Sorry to seem really ignorant, but by 'visual novels' do you mean the kind of 'bande dessine' like Asterix, or the manga stuff? I thought they were more popular in Europe and Asia.
    I love the above, btw. 25 yrs ago in Turkey there were lots of hero-style things like this, but there don't seem to be many around now.
    There must be a market for anything visual these days, although I don't know if the draftsmen are as talented as they used to be.
     
  8. cybrxkhan
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    They're not comics; I think you're confusing it with the term "Graphic Novel", which is (so far as I know) the more 'sophisticated' way of reffering to a comic or manga.

    You can think of Visual Novels as computer game versions of choose your own adventure books. Most of them (so far as I know) originate from Japan, and a number are adapted into manga and anime. However, they are not as well known outside of Japan as manga or anime; in fact, a lot of my friends have watched anime or read manga adaptations of Visual Novels, and didn't realize they were adaptations of such until I pointed it out to them - or, even more, they didn't even know what a Visual Novel was in the first place.
     
  9. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, right... Yeah, my daughter has some Japanese versions of this. I just asked her and she said not many of them are sophisicated enough to be properly interactive, and the characters were often cliches. But there must be room for development?
     
  10. cybrxkhan
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    I believe the Visual Novel medium is capable of many things, and there is definitely tons of room for improvement and development, but it seems that few are taking it in that direction. The stories are generally not that interactive because they are, well, just stories, which is why naming them "Choose Your Own Adventure" is kind of misleading - I think it's better to view them as "Choose Which Story to Read" more so. Of course, thing is, though, most of us (I presume) are viewing this from a non-Japanese perspective, so I'm not sure what the Japanese actually think of Visual Novels.

    But so far as I know, the Visual Novels themselves aren't as problematic as people would think they are - it's the anime adaptations that are the most problematic, particularly the harem-romance Visual Novels. In the original VN, the protagonist (often your average, male high school student) gets to choose a path to take with one potential romantic interest out of, say, 3-9 different romantic interests, and he sticks to that girl's 'path' for the rest of the story. When the VN is adapted into anime format, however, the producers oftentimes have to appease fans of each girl by horrendously and sloppily meshing together the stories of each girl into one storyline, often with insanely annoying - if not outright handbangingly frustrating - results. Whereas in the original VN the protagonist only had one, maybe two or three girls at most like him in one storyline, in the anime, he'll have ALL of the girls display romantic interest in him at the same time, and, as you can see, this turns quickly from a decent-to-mediocre romance aimed for a male audience into some laughably idiotic romantic fantasy.

    This is made worse by the fact that many of these stories, both anime and VN, have the same kind of cookie-cutter, cliche-archetypes characters for the females every single time. In fact, the expected character types are so expected it's possbile to rant off the common girls found in these 'harems' (note that it is possible to combine some of these together); for instance, a few of them, off the top of my head:

    • Tsundere: the girl who is more assertive and aggressive and the rest, but is really nice and feminine deep down, and has usually a difficult time expressing her romantic interest in the male lead. The term "Tsundere" comes from "Tsun", whose meaning I don't remember but it's something like angry or disgusted or irritated or something of the like, and "Dere", meaning sweet. You can think of it as bipolar, sort of.
    • Childhood friend: girl who barges into the guy's house freely because she's known him since they're 2-10 years old, although it's possible to have friends from Middle School or earlier years in High School fill this role. Stereotypically, the male lead usually thinks of her as a sister and not a romantic interest.
    • The Weird Energetic Girl who Barges into the Guy's Life out of Nowhere: Pretty self-explanatory. In stories where she appears, her storyline is always often the "main" storyline.
    • The Sister: Yes, in some stories, it's possible for the guy to start a romance with his sister. Sometimes they're not blood-related. This can also include a female character who is a surrogate sister to the male lead, including female cousins, childhood friends, and so forth.
    • Token Loli: The girl who looks 10 years younger. Can be smart, can be cutesy, can be both.
    • The Refined Girl (I think the term in Japanese would be "Yamato Nedishiko" or something): the girl who can cook, do the laundry, etc. etc., and is generally pleasant and polite - i.e. the kind that would make a good housewife
    • The Maid: Self-explanatory.

    And there are even more. As you can see, the fact that I can name off the common reoccuring characters and the common storylines and plot/character elements involving them - even though I haven't read any of these Visual Novels, and I haven't watched that many of the anime adaptations - shows how blatantly in your face many of these cliches and stereotypes are.

    Still, as stated in previous posts, there ARE Visual Novels that are decent stories in their own right, even if they rely on some of the cliches and stereotypes. And many people who are aware of Visual Novels find it hard to believe that there are VNs that AREN'T romance-based, too. Unfortunately, however, so far as I know, at least here in the West, Visual Novels will still be defined by the romance Visual Novels that have these blatant cliches and stereotypes abound.
     
  11. Smoke
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    There was once a text-adventure game that was bundled with a creation engine. It was really beautiful and I wish I could find it again. One of the "win states" was to bring an object out of a dream. Another "win state" meant that you had to lose your object of significance, but that was okay because you did something grander for the kingdom.


    It seems like the internet is a good tool for branching stories. Do you want to read the story where the hero saves the world by sacrificing himself, or do you want to read the story where he loses his true love?
     
  12. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    The stereotypes get really bad, and that's actually my main motivation for wanting to make my own visual novel. I want to try and make one that has consistant, real, and much more subtle character development. It's understandable why the stereotypes are so heavily entrenched. Even a novel where you only have a few choices makes it much harder to keep characters consistant in their personality and the easy remedy is to just make their traits so generic that they can fit into any story.
     
  13. JTheGreat
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    I played the released chapter of Kawata Shoujo. I read it moreso for the concept and characters, which is why I'll prolly bow out of the full version, which is like, kinda pronographic. Or I'll download the clean version, if they have one. It's the only visual novel I've read, and I've got to say, it was a pretty cool experience. It's nice to take a break from just words on paper.
     

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