The visual novel reading club
What are visual novels?
Because many visual novels are interactive in nature, and also because for many years game consoles were their primary outlet, visual novels are often considered to be a subset of video games. This is not entirely accurate however, as the focus with visual novels is usually on reading and enjoying a story, not on playing a game. Thus, it may be more appropriate to consider the visual novel to be a medium in its own right. Visualising a two-set Venn diagram with one set being the video game and the other set being the visual novel may help with understanding this idea. The intersection between the two sets contains a large number of video games that are also visual novels, however there are also many visual novels that are not video games, just as there are many video games that are not visual novels.
At this point, it may be appropriate to give some mention to pornography. It is true that there are many visual novels featuring sexually explicit content. This is possibly surprising or even shocking to those unfamiliar with Japanese culture, but this isn't something to be considered unusual. These eroge (a portmanteau of "erotic game") include popular titles like Fate/stay night and Little Busters!, which were later adapted into other media such as anime. Even companies like Square and Enix made their starts developing eroge. It should be noted that for many of these visual novels, the erotic element is only a small part of the total experience. As such, this content is more of a bonus than anything substantial. Of course, there are also visual novels where sex is the main focus, just as there are visual novels that do not feature any sexual content whatsoever. In short, there is a visual novel for everyone, regardless of their preferences regarding porn.
TL;DR: Visual novels are like books. But better. And they live on your PC, game console or mobile phone.
How do I get started?
That's a good question. And we've got a good answer (we think). Here is a carefully curated selection of visual novels considered ideal for someone interested in trying out visual novels. All of them have been officially released in English. Please click on a visual novel to go to the appropriate website where you can acquire it.
We have attempted to select a diverse variety of visual novels. If you have any comments on these recommendations, please let us know in a reply.
- ADV — Short for "adventure". A type of visual novel where the text occupies a small box at the bottom of the screen, allowing for an unobstructed view of the illustrations.
- bishoujoge — Literally "pretty girl game". A game that focuses on pretty girls.
- dating sim — Statistical-based simulation game with the objective being a character's heart. Has almost nothing to do with visual novels.
- eroge — A game featuring explicit sexual content. Can refer to any game meeting that description, not just visual novels.
- NVL — Short for "novel". A type of visual novel where the text occupies most of the screen real estate, allowing for a greater focus on the text.
- The Visual Novel Database — details of more VNs than could possibly be read in a lifetime
- ErogameScape — similar sort of thing as the above, but in Japanese
- ErogeTrailers — as the name implies, it's a pretty comprehensive collection of visual novel trailers
- JAST USA — publishes visual novels in English
- MangaGamer — also publishes visual novels in English
- Sekai Project — also publishes visual novels in (you guessed it) English
[For argument's sake, our definition of a visual novel is equivalent to VNDB's, i.e. if there's an entry for it there, you're free to discuss it here.]