A visual novel (Japanese: ビジュアルノベル, Hepburn: bijuaru noberu), often abbreviated as VN, is a digital fiction game originating from Japan. It is often a game with a branching narrative that can be navigated by making certain decisions. Many (but not all) visual novels will often be structured in such a way that the main goal is to enter the routes of major characters, often for romantic or sexual reasons. However, visual novels are diverse and possess a wide range of structures and goals, and may possess only some or even none of these elements, such as with kinetic novels.
Visual novels commonly feature static character images (sprites) that are moved around on backgrounds, with narrative text and dialogue overlaid on these images and accompanied by sounds and music. Players navigate using a Graphical User Interface. Some visual novels have associated media, such as patches, downloadable content, fan-made mods, and other fanworks.
The inception of visual novels is often accredited to Portopia Serial Murder Case, an adventure game first released for the PC-88 in 1983. With Western adventure games as primary inspiration, visual novels that followed after developed in a similar vein and lacked the "sprite-on-background" presentation now familiar today, instead sequencing most visuals shot-to-shot like in manga. Erotic adventure games (eroge) also existed around this time, with Tenshi-tachi no Gogo by JAST (1985) being notable for being the first with anime visuals and dialogue choices. It was not until the release of games like Doukyuusei by elf (1992) and Tokimeki Memorial by Konami (1994) that visual novels began to form into what we're familiar with today, with features such as the pursuit of romantic/sexual interests with storylines and a sprite-on-background presentation style.
- Main article: Genre
Various genres of visual novels are often referred to by fans using a variety of Japanese loanwords and terms based on loanwords, such as "nakige" or "moege".
Generally, players progress through a visual novel by clicking on the screen or pressing a key to advance to the next block of text. Players are sometimes asked to make choices, which often lead the story in different directions.
Outside of simple click-to-advance gameplay, some visual novels have elements that involve more significant interaction. These include:
- Timed choices, where a timer counts down to when the game will make a choice of its own
- Quick Time Events (QTEs), where the player is tasked to click the correct button at the right time
- Point-and-click/scene examination (ex: the [VNDB] series and [VNDB])
- Full mini-games, such as match-3 (ex: Huniepop), or interactive segments (ex: poem writing in [VNDB]).
Many visual novel purists tend to dislike games with heavier gameplay and claim that such games are not visual novels. As such, you may wish to consider enabling some way to skip gameplay for those players, especially as some industry sites/blogs won’t cover games that “aren’t VNs”. Such a feature can also provide accessibility benefits. On the other hand, VNs are generally considered more marketable to non-visual novel players if they include game-like elements.
- Main article: Development
DevTalk, and this wiki, are dedicated to the development of visual novels and other story-based games.
- Crimmins, Brian (2016). "A Brief History of Visual Novels". 2016-01-07. Retrieved 2022-06-16
- "Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken". The Visual Novel Database. Retrieved 2022-06-17
- "Tenshi-tachi no Gogo". The Visual Novel Database. Retrieved 2022-06-17
- Binimbol, Huann (2021). "What is Galge (ギャルゲー)?". 2021-06-09. Retrieved 2022-06-17
- "Doukyuusei". The Visual Novel Database. Retrieved 2022-06-17
- "Tokimeki Memorial". The Visual Novel Database. Retrieved 2022-06-17
- "「Kanon」や「CLANNAD」「Angel Beats!」など…「泣きゲー」からアニメ原作まで、美少女IPを仕掛け続けた28年！ ビジュアルアーツのユニークなブランド戦略と経営思想を馬場隆博社長に聞いてみた" [Kanon," "CLANNAD," "Angel Beats!" and more... 28 years of setting up bishoujo IPs, from "nakige" to original anime titles! We asked President Takahiro Baba about Visual Arts' unique brand strategy and management philosophy] (in Japanese). Den Faminico Gamer. 2019-11-05. Retrieved 2022-06-17