Visual Novel-Like: Coining a Subgenre
The journey to write this article began, unbeknownst to me, six years ago with my exposure to a niche Nintendo 3DS title, Senran Kagura Burst. I found the design of this game to be unique in the way it delivered its content to the player in short bursts.
The narrative was delivered with the familiar design of a visual novel, consisting of text set against a background or slightly animated characters. These segments gave way to a round of hack-and-slash gameplay, before returning to narrative delivery to set the stage for the next gameplay bit.
I found this design pattern to be perfect for a handheld game, as it delivered satisfying samples of both story and gameplay in a way that was easy to pick up and put down. I played the game to completion, then forgot about this strange design scheme as I became busy with university work. Fast forward to today, and we now have many games that are designed in this way, stuck somewhere between a visual novel and interactive video game.
The purpose of this article is to call for the recognition of a new subgenre I’ve dubbed “visual novel-like.”
The games in this subgenre fall somewhere in-between a typical visual novel and a traditional interactive video game. For the purpose of this exercise, I am presuming that visual novels are recognized as video games themselves, but that could be debated should a person be sufficiently bored.
One might also argue that the games could simply be categorized based on the gameplay paired with the visual novel style. I do not believe this to be effective, because it does not raise awareness of the often unavoidable visual novel content. Imagine buying a game labeled as a third-person shooter, only to discover the game has 10 minutes of dialogue front loaded on every single mission. That would be a nasty surprise for many gamers, and this new subgenre tag might help prevent it.
There are numerous games available today that demonstrate the qualities of a visual novel-like game. I’ll be quickly referencing a few of my favorites to provide evidence of the sub-genre, though there likely many more than I’m aware of. I’ll finish this article with a full list of the games I’m aware of that would fit into the genre.
Senran Kagura Peach Ball (2018-2019)
The vast majority of the Senran Kagura games fit neatly within the visual novel-like subgenre, and rightfully so, as they are widely responsible for my stumbling upon the genre. In the case of Peach Ball, the game is divided between visual novel segments and rounds of spicy pinball.
Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa (2019)
Pqube’s (pronouced pee-cubes) ecchi foray into making Nintendo switch games is essentially a visual novel combined with a PEGI -12 rated version of Huniepop.
Seven chapters of visual novel content are delivered interspersed with gem-matching puzzle gameplay. This game could’ve been better, but gem-matching games are a personal weakness of mine and I liked it well enough.
Fate/Extella: Link (2019)
The Fate/Extella games are an extension of the universe of Fate/Stay Night, one of the most popular visual novels ever.
This third game in the series combines elements of visual novel design with gameplay similar to the Dynasty Warriors games. Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star and Fate/Extella: Link are both worth your time, if you can manage to find a copy of the now elusive games.
While there is, in my opinion, enough evidence to warrant the coining of a subgenre, one might wonder what the point of such an endeavor might be.
For me, the point of creating something new, or in this case, merely pointing out the rise of a new niche subgenre is found in the merit of creation itself. Making new things, or pointing out new things, can be a very positive thing to do. Unfortunately, positivity is all too rare within the space of game industry journalism. As a writer featured here at Exclusively Games, I believe gaming sites are as capable of creation and positive industry coverage as they are of destructive and divisive behavior. I hope we can all work together to create, rather than do something crazy like claim metroidvania isn’t a proper genre.
As promised, here is a full list of the games I’m aware of in the visual novel-like genre.
Senran Kagura (8 games), Fate/Extra, Fate/Extella (2 games), Kotodama: The 7 Mysteries of Fujisawa, Daganronpa (Multiple games), Valkyrie Drive -Bhikkhuni-, Gun Gun Pixies, Gal Gun (3 games),
Amazon Links to game examples:
Senran Kagura- Peach ball – https://www.amazon.com/Senran-Kagura-Peach-Ball-Nintendo-Switch/dp/B07QDBVWKZ/