If you like VNs, you might enjoy these games
Personally, my main reason for reading visual novels are the engaging stories they tell. There are people who go more for the pretty-girl dating aspects; I still love this as well (and I just thought of Isuzu’s dere in Hoshimemo and hnnged,) but not to the point of excluding less character-oriented games with no sexual activity present.
What I’m going to list here are not necessarily visual novels; some kind of gameplay is present in most of them. However, they are text-heavy story-oriented games, and all good: if you’re anything like me, you should give them a go.
To the Moon
Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts are very special doctors. They use technology to give people another chance at life through their memories, basically granting their patient’s greatest wish. But due to the nature of having two lifetimes worth of memories, the procedure can only be done to someone on their deathbed. The doctors enter their patient’s memories and witness those memories until they reach their patient’s childhood, then transfer that wish over, giving their dying patient a new life all inside their head. The patient would then have a few moments of bliss before passing away. Our two doctors are answering another routine call for a man named Johnny, who has only hours left to live. They enter his memories to find out his greatest wish. The wish, is to go to the moon. The problem is, Johnny has no idea why he wants to go. It’s up to the two doctors to piece together the puzzle and fulfill his wish.
To the Moon is made with RPG Maker, but has no RPG elements. To advance the story, you walk around the area maps, looking for objects that piece together the particular memory you are in. It can be bought on Steam or Freebird Games for $9.99 and is absolutely worth it.
Actual Sunlight calls itself a story of “love, depression and the corporation”. Frankly, the depression aspect is perhaps the most important — but what reviewers have often failed to mention is the description of how the modern world’s multitude of distractions and easy pleasures can affect us. There are people who will, once exposed to them, completely fail to reach any long-term goals they may have — trapped by the latest game, book, or funny-list-site page. It’s not an easy read; the author considers it highly inappropriate for anyone under the age of 18. It depicts the hopelessness and fatalism a person suffering from depression feels very well; its dark humor and splendid prose is yet another reason to recommend it.
Oh, and it’s made in RPG Maker. Don’t knock it for that, please.
You can buy an improved version of (graphically with CGs and other art improvements, and with more writing and better music) Actual Sunlight here for just 5 dollars or 3.89 euros. Personally, all I have played was a beta version which the creator shared at the TvTropes forums.
Note that the download page contains both a 2d and a 3d version. Based on some gameplay videos I’ve seen of the 3d version, I recommend the 2d version — a sentiment I am sure will mirror that of a certain segment of the vn-reading population :P.
If anyone wants the beta version, I can provide a download for you. Contact me privately through one of the channels I use (check the About page for that).
For more analysis, you can see Rock Paper Shotgun’s thoughts on it.
No-One Has to Die
My absolute favorite visual novel is still Ever 17; the blend of hard science and drama with an awesome true end and mystery elements is absolutely delicious (you can find batman’s review of Ever 17 here).
While hardly at Ever17’s level, No One Has to Die has the same multiple route mystery structure, and an interesting premise. You’re trapped in a burning building, and through short sections of puzzle gameplay, you must sacrifice one person out of a cast of four until there’s only one left alive but you. In between gameplay, exposition is done visual novel-style; this is probably the most “pure” visual novel on this list. If you like this kind of story, I highly recommend it.
(Can you tell I like games about depression?)
If you’ve never experienced clinical depression, it can be hard to understand what it’s really like: how it closes doors in life, saps at your soul, and even causes physical pain.
Depression Quest is based on real stories of people who have had depression. It has quite a few choices, which influence your ending; perhaps it has paths as well (I haven’t checked this extensively.) This is reflected in a point system: as you start going deeper into depression, you’ll find more choices, more ways of getting out of the downward spiral, closed to you. However, unlike Actual Sunlight, there is hope in Depression Quest. Play your cards right, and you can recover, one step at a time. If you do read/play one of them, I highly recommend also experiencing the other one.
Depression quest can’t quite be considered a visual novel, but it certainly has some of the medium’s trappings: it’s heavily text-focused, has background music, and even has a little, changing picture at the top! I suppose the genre would technically be “interactive fiction”, something it shares with To The Moon.
Corpse Party is exactly what the title implies, a party of death. The story opens with a group of students at Kisaragi High School performing a friendship ritual for a friend who is moving out of town. The ritual goes wrong, and the students find themselves transported to an old, crumbling elementary school called Heavenly Host. The windows and doors to the school are sealed; there is no way out. As the students explore, they come across various spirits and traps. One by one, the students begin dying in gruesome, terrifying ways. They have to find a means of escape, before it’s too late.
The gameplay of Corpse Party is told in a VN format, with an emphasis on player choice. Everything can kill you, so walking into a room to look at a statue might anger a spirit who then rips your head off. Reading notes can kill you. Everything can, and will try to kill you. You can not make it out with everyone alive. Corpse Party is a tale of death and despair, and a damn good one at that.
You can find my full overview of Corpse Party here.
Credit where credit’s due: batman wrote the To the Moon and Corpse Party segments.
Oh, and our editor shcboomer worked in the shadows as usual 🙂
Posted on December 3, 2013, in Video Games, Visual Novel and tagged Actual Sunlight, Corpse Party, Depression Quest, No-One Has to Die, To the Moon, Video Games, Visual Novels. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.