What makes a visual novel?

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Awiola
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What makes a visual novel?

#1 Post by Awiola » Wed Jul 17, 2019 2:18 pm

So I want to experiment with the genre just for the sake of it and am wondering what exactly makes a game a visual novel because the definition isn't really all that clear. I mean, when you see a proper vn you can easily tell what it is but it's not the case when coming across a more hybrid-like game. For example Persona belongs to rpg [kinda dungeon crawler] category with vn elements and it's obviously not the same. A whole lot of jrpgs are similar, actually.
Anyway, if you'd happened to play a graphic adventure with music, sprites, mostly linear story and all that, would you consider it as a visual novel or just a bit unusual something? After all there are a lot of point-and-click games which allow the player a bit more of interactivity than just making a few choices and advancing the story [e.g. something like Danganronpa, Ace Attorney et caetera, even though they're not exactly what I just said...].
Another example - Miwashiba's game 1bitHeart was done in Wolf RPG editor and the player is able to more or less freely travel [only horizontally, which is pretty important, I'd say] between certain locations. However it's about only pixel-rpg-like alement [excluding the menu] and you do a lot more through the text and choices resembling those in vns. So if you focus even more on the story and a bit less on the mechanics [leaving about only the free traveling], would it make the game a bit unusual visual novel or not really and it's just a text/story-focused game?
You could also make an interactive comic [kinda like Quartett! or these comics in Danganronpa], make something resembling a text adventure [Digital - a love story] or just epistolary-like [Analogue: A Hate Story]. There are a whole lot of options. In some games you're expected to 'time travel' to get all the endings, die a few times or are clearly shown the flowchart and are bombarded with fourth wall breaking lines... I couldn't even possibly list everything.
Taking that into account, what are your thoughts on the topic? What would you still consider a visual novel? Would you be interested in playing these hybrida-like games? Or maybe you just want to share some insight with ignorant masses us?
My english is pretty horrible c: Honest Critique


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Re: What makes a visual novel?

#3 Post by Awiola » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:09 pm

I've to say it was quite an interesting read and certainly answered some of my questions, even though my russian isn't really all that well, so thanks for these links.

Nevertheless, and it's pointed more towards all the people who'd visit this thread later, I'd like to hear more opinions on the topic from, let's say, modern users. What are your thoughts considering the way visual novels are now? Would someone who's not in these almost only for story and don't really care about everything else or this old, crappy graphic like me still be interested in playing them 'seriously' [like any other game] and not only cause it's weird [like playing Hatoful Boyfriend just for birds]? Just wanted to hear from lemma community.
My english is pretty horrible c: Honest Critique

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Re: What makes a visual novel?

#4 Post by trooper6 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:52 am

Genres are fictions created by people--fans, creators, and marketing people. Genres are about gatekeeping and also community building. Two games that are completely the same...one might be called a visual novel and the other called something else...just depending on any number of factors that have nothing to do with the game itself.

Cause of Death was a Western Visual Novel that played like all the other visual novels, not hybrid...but full on visual novel...but was rarely called a visual novel. Why not? It was Western, didn't use anime graphics, and more importantly? Wasn't marketed as a visual novel. The creators were not aiming for a visual novel audience...but for a much larger mobile game community. Because the fans of that game were not the traditional visual novel audience, it is often not called a visual novel...even though it is exactly the same as so many visual novels you can find here.

I don't care. I don't care about the gatekeeping and arguing if Telltale Games stuff should be considered a visual novel or not. Or if Long Live the Queen isn't, but Phoenix Wright is. I find the arguing to be suspect and tedious. I just want to play good games. If I think the game is good, I'll play it regardless of if it is called a visual novel or a hybrid, or whatever.
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Re: What makes a visual novel?

#5 Post by Katy133 » Fri Jul 19, 2019 6:48 pm

There's a great video essay about this by Innuendo Studio, but on adventure games. But you can apply the same line of thinking with visual novels:



TL;DR: Instead of there being a clear line of rules as to what a VN is or is not, there are (Innuendo Studio speculates) different traits that lead to "VN-ness." The more a game has "VN-ness," the more they resemble a VN. And those traits (gameplay mechanics, etc) will change as the genre evolves. It is also valid to argue that a VN is a VN because it "feels" like a VN.

Hope this helps!
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Re: What makes a visual novel?

#6 Post by gekiganwing » Fri Jul 19, 2019 10:17 pm

Awiola wrote:
Wed Jul 17, 2019 2:18 pm
So I want to experiment with the genre just for the sake of it and am wondering what exactly makes a game a visual novel because the definition isn't really all that clear.
A visual novel should just be a story told through words and pictures, using a computer / video game format. It shouldn't be defined as a story focused on romantic relationships or academic settings. That said, I admit that sometimes it's tough to separate content from format. (A comic should also just be a story told through words and pictures. It can be on paper first or online first. I admit that it took me years to realize that a comic didn't have to be just funny animals or just guys punching each other.)

A few offbeat / experimental VNs to possibly inspire you:
* Burly Men at Sea has a Visual Novel Database entry. Few characters in this story have names, and they're all portrayed through minimalist illustrations.
* Bury Me, My Love is more or less an epistolary story, and it's based on real events. It was designed for mobile phones, but it will work on computers and consoles.
* Radical Dreamers was designed for the now-discontinued Satellaview. The graphics don't often show the characters. It has occasional combat, kind of like Fighting Fantasy books.
* Hotel Dusk was a detective story set in the recent past with a muted color palette. It was a Nintendo DS exclusive, but theoretically it could be ported to other devices...

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