Whether you are an anime fan starting out, or whether you are a full-fledged otaku, you will definitely come across a game genre called Visual Novel. If you have not heard of these ‘gems’, or are still unsure of what they really are, I hope that this guide here will help answer most of the questions that beginners Visual Novel players encountered.
What Are Visual Novels:
For most of the gaming titles out there, such as Pokemon or Nier: Automata, these games are what I would like to call ‘user interactive games’. This means that users are able to control the characters and they are mostly free to do what they want within the game, such as going to different locations when you are not supposed to, etc…
Visual Novels is a unique gaming genre due to it being mostly a medium for story-telling rather than gaming. Rather than moving a character or fighting a boss, players will mostly click on the screen to advance the story, or ‘text’. The dialogue and story are usually followed by a visual representation of some sort, usually in the form of the character and the scenery/background.
When you first purchase and launch a visual novel, there are some MOST COMMON game settings that you should be aware of.
- Message Speed: This setting determines how fast the text appears consecutively onto the dialogue box. (usually horizontally)
- Auto-mode Speed: This setting determines how fast the text appears consecutively onto the dialogue box during auto-mode.
- USUALLY does not affect the in-between appearance time of a newer dialogue
- Skip Mode: This setting determines how you wanted the Skip Mode to activate. There are usually 2 choices:
- ‘Read Only’ meaning that you can only skip the dialogues that you previously read.
- ‘All’ meaning you can skip all the dialogues regardless of whether you previously read it.
- Skip Voice: This setting determines the after-voice effect. I am referring to when the character speech dialogue moves on to the narrative. There are two outcomes to this setting:
- OFF means the character’s VOICE audio will continue even during the narrative dialogue – if it hasn’t finished
- ON means the character’s VOICE audio will be cut-off, regardless of whether it has finished or not.
- IN the case of a SPEECH moving onto another SPEECH, then the audio will be replaced with the newer SPEECH, regardless of whether the previous audio has finished or not.
- Sync Voice: If ON, the character audio speech file will attempt to match the dialogue speech of that character. This usually means a faster or slower text appearance rate in order to compensate for the duration of the audio.
- Screen Effects: If ON, players will see visual effects such as resizing, rotating, cropping, flashing, and others. This is usually allowed for a more vivid method of story-telling.
This section here might seem technical and difficult to understand at first. However, the more hours you rack up with a visual novel, the more you will gain an in-depth understanding of what each of these settings does.
In addition, I would like to state that the names of these settings could change for different visual novels. There are also more ‘advanced’ settings for visual novels that do support them. However, those settings are usually UNIQUE to that specific Visual Novels and are generally not UNIVERSAL across most of the Visual Novels you encounter.
Main Types of Visual Novels:
Although there might be many genres and sub-types of Visual Novels, there are only two main types of Visual Novels: Kinetic and Non-Kinetic, in which the sub-genres will be in one category or the other.
- Kinetic: A kinetic visual novel usually does not contain story choices that the player could make
- Non-Kinetic: A non-kinetic visual novel contains story choices that players could make. This is generally the more common type.
A user choice dialogue pop-up will usually look like this:
A Non-Kinetic visual novel usually contains multiple endings in which the player could replay to get an alternative ending. Vice versa, a Kinetic visual novel usually contains only one ending as it does not contain choices that players could choose to branch off from the main story.
Asides from these two types of Visual Novels, there are some key terms that you as a newer player must know:
- Routes are affected by the player’s choices and are usually less obvious to the player initially. Generally, you are in a ‘route’ if there are no longer choices, and the story is seemingly focusing on ONE specific character or event.
- You might have heard the term ‘you raised a flag’. Flag are choices that you as the player make to improve your standing with a character, therefore making it more likely to be in their ‘route’.
- Sound Novels:
- Sound novels are essentially visual novels where most of the characters are voiced instead of just text. More modern visual novels tend to be sound novels as well.
- This is a sub-genre of a visual novel where the story contains explicit sexual content but is not the main focus.
- This is a sub-genre of visual novel where its content contains MOSTLY explicit sexual content.
- Dating Sims:
- This is a sub-genre of visual novels that simulates dating experience. The difference between Dating Sims and common Visual Novels is that dating sims usually allow more freedom (dating multiple characters, cheating, etc..) Think of it as an RPG Visual Novel.
- This is a sub-genre of visual novels where the protagonist is a female. Their general goal is dating male anime characters.
- This is a sub-genre of visual novels where the protagonist is a male. Their general goal is dating female anime characters.
- This is a sub-genre of visual novels where its main goal is an emotional yet happy ending: make its players cry.
- This is a sub-genre of visual novels where its main goal is both an emotional and sad ending: make its player cry (more depressed)
- A sub-genre of visual novels focusing on the romance between boys (boys love).
- A sub-genre of visual novels focusing on the romance between girls (girls love).
Gameplay Tips: (For Non-Kinetic VN)
For beginners, the gameplay mechanics of visual novels could often be daunting. It might be easy to play towards your first ending. However, in order to get all multiple endings, you as the player must employ different techniques and strategies in order to further ease the gameplay.
Sure, you could simply restart the entire game and pick different choices from there, however, this is not usually not efficient. Choices in Visual Novel often branch off further and further, making it complicated to remember all the choices you made.
In addition, some Visual Novels could take the players up to 80 hours or more to complete. There must be a more efficient way of completing a VN, and this is usually through multiple saves.
Below is a list of KEY techniques/tips and tricks that I usually use to reach MOSTLY ALL Visual Novel endings without a guide:
- SAVE BEFORE EVERY CHOICE:
- Enough said!! This is done as a checkpoint so you could return to a specific choice quickly without replaying an entire chapter of the game.
- Give your current playthrough a separate SAVE PAGE
- This is so you don’t mis-click a choice-save for your main-save
- It also helps you visually organize choice-save better (easier to go back to)
- Use the comment features for SAVES
- Comment your saves and never accidentally delete an important checkpoint AGAIN!!
- Some visual novels might not have this feature
- Backtrack choices when reached an ending
- Probably the most important trick I can teach you. When you are finished with an ending, go back to your most recent choice and pick the alternatives. RINSE AND REPEAT!!
- You will almost magically always get MOST of the sub-endings. (most TRUE endings are more tricky to get, even with backtracking)
- REMEMBER not all choices matter
- A different choice can still lead you to the same ending, although its dialogues and occurrence would still change.
For longer and complex visual novels, it is sometimes essential to use a guide in order to reach the TRUE ending; as their requirements can sometimes be somewhat random and minor. Some of the more complex Visual Novels I could think of is Stein; Gates, Chaos; Child, and Kara no Shoujo.
Now that you know all this, it is time to go out and experience some Visual Novels for yourself. It might be frustrating at first, but your goal here is to have fun. Don’t stress over it too much!!