Read More

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:

Kotodama- https://www.amazon.com/Kotodama-7-Mysteries-Fujisawa-Nintendo-Switch/dp/B07Q847Z67/

Fate/Extella Link- https://www.amazon.com/Fate-EXTELLA-Link-Fleeting-Limited-Nintendo/dp/B07K3SM82H/

Senran Kagura- Peach ball – https://www.amazon.com/Senran-Kagura-Peach-Ball-Nintendo-Switch/dp/B07QDBVWKZ/

Post Comment

  1. TheBellTolls on August 11, 2019 at 12:07 pm said

    You could probably add the Phoenix Wright series to that list, as it’s basically a VN interspersed with mini-games and mild exploration.

  2. Ethan Dupras on August 11, 2019 at 5:02 pm said

    I think one of the things this type of story-heavy game always should have is an auto-text function for story scenes that aren’t technically cutscenes. When Trails of Cold Steel or Valkyria Chronicles (for two examples of spectacular games that fall into this subgenre off the top of my head) want me to watch an extended dialogue scene, but manually click X every time I’m finished reading or listening to a line, it becomes tedious. If there isn’t going to be any meaningful interaction on my part, let me put the controller down and just watch the scene.

    • Nicholas Kiger on August 11, 2019 at 9:44 pm said

      I agree, fortunately I believe all of the games listed here have that feature. It is definitely more common in modern visual novels.

  3. Sword Art Online
    Hyperdimension Dimension
    Bullet Girls
    Criminal Girls

    Just to name a few more.

  4. Where is the like button? And a link to fate/stay night pls 😀

    • Arthur Pendragon on August 11, 2019 at 9:38 pm said

      I would like fate stay night to be more accessible. Imagine if it was on the switch

    • Nicholas Kiger on August 11, 2019 at 9:45 pm said

      I wish I could provide a link to the original Fate/Stay Night. It is one of the best AND most inaccessible visual novels in the west. I only know of one person that has a copy, and it cost him hundreds of dollars for it.

    • TheBellTolls on August 12, 2019 at 3:15 pm said

      FSN you basically have to pirate if you want to play it. There’s no official English translation at all, so the only option is a fansub.

      It’s still a great visual novel, and the Fate franchise has swathes of merchandise and other products if you’re worried about not giving them money.

  5. I feel like pokemon is visual novel like

  6. deimios666 on August 12, 2019 at 6:12 am said

    Ah I see there is an abundance of gentlemen of culture.

    I present to you my findings on the 18+ Visual-Novel like genre. I played all of these in English on PC, in order of preference:

    Ar Tonelico 1 & 2 – Action RPG – PS2 emulator needed. Very interesting mechanics and world, phenomenal music. Not 18+
    Sengoku Rance – Strategic Adventure RPG – Kinda unique, think 4x map painter with HEAVY story elements
    Kamidori: Alchemy Meister – Tactical RPG – Think fire emblem
    Gadget Trial – Tactical RPG – Think Advance Wars, Not 18+
    Melty Blood – 2D fighter in the Fate universe. Not 18+
    Utawarerumono – Tactical RPG
    Eien no Aselia – Strategic RPG
    Eiyu Senki – Strategic Adventure RPG – Similar to Sengoku Rance
    Daiteikoku – Strategic RPG
    Galaxy Angel: Moonlit Lovers – 3D Spaceship RTS, Not 18+

    There are plenty more, but these are the ones I still have installed, and that are worth a look.

  7. Those are VN, what you dont understand is the story otherwise they won’t make it into another game. All those games (not the puzzle or jewel like games) are made by famoues VN studios, I think they know more about what is a VN than you.

  8. I don’t think these are good examples for your article, but Analogue a Hate Story and Hate Plus interesting variations on the topic. They’re definitely more vn than vn-like, but they’re very non-standard and probably as close as I’ve come to enjoying something like a VN.

  9. I’m not against the idea of this sort of sub-genre, but I think this highly depends on how large of a part the game are Visual Novel segments. If we ignore that then nearly every JRPG would qualify since they often use this style to convey a lot of the story. For example I can agree that some of the Senran Kagura games like Peach Ball and Reflexions fall into that category, but for others where the gameplay is the main draw like in Peach Beach Splash, Bon Apeitit and all the Versus series.

    Kotodama on the other hand I would classify as a straight up visual novel with minor gameplay elements. You’d maybe get 7-8 minutes of the minigame for every chapter and there’s also the fact that the story is the main draw of the game.

    Then there are cases like Fate Extella, where I felt that I was playing 2 completely different games, with an hour of visual novel content following 20 minutes or so of combat gameplay.

    Overall I think that this sub genre could be a useful descriptor, but we have to be specific about what it includes.

  10. Sengoku Rance, Kamidori Alchemist Meister are also some extremely good games.
    Gotta mention that they are strictly 18+ and Rance also has depictions of rape, which might not be to everybody’s tastes, but both games are great purely from the gameplay perspective, the story is also really strong!

  11. While I agree it’s its own genre, I think the -like suffix should be reserved for roguelikes and soulslikes. It’d be kind of silly to add it to everything. The reason for the term roguelike and soulslike is that Rogue and Dark Souls/Demon’s Souls spawned their own genre of copycats. This isn’t a case of a certain game spawning a genre like with roguelikes and soulslikes. It’s just a fusion of genres.
    I also think we should come up with other terms when possible. I’m glad we don’t use the term “minecraftlike” to describe games where you try to survive and build things, and instead came up with the term “survival-crafting” games. I can’t really think of a great term for this genre, but maybe something will evolve eventually.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *