What Is a Visual Novel?

I’d never heard of a visual novel until I read about them at mangamaniacafe. They’re incredibly popular in Japan but unknown elsewhere, and the simplified description is an on-screen Choose Your Own Adventure story with anime-style art.

I’d be curious to try one out, but with prices from $20-30, they’re a bit much for an impulse purchase for me. The problem seems to be determining which market they should start targeting… the product sounds too much like a book for gamers, it’s too much like a cartoon for readers… I think the best thing the company could do would be a saturation campaign of free samples. Allow downloads from popular manga and anime sites. Ship sample discs in magazines. Give them out at conventions. Get that word of mouth going.


  1. The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series (which has been exported, and which I’m very fond of) is fairly close to the description of visual novels here. It has the graphical style, though it adds a bit more free-roaming and more complex puzzles than the description suggests.

  2. My friend has recently made a visual novel herself if you want to try her demo – it’s a free download:

    They can be fun to play, I loved Pheonix Wright. It almost feels like watching a cartoon but at the same time gives you the feeling of reading a book… it’s interesting.

  3. That link gives “file no longer available”.

  4. This is a very old post, but if you’re still interested:

    FREE and very high quality, if on the short side because it was done for a contest. Not QUITE a visual novel – there’s some skills raising, and less branching choices, but it’s close enough to give you an idea.

    Length worth the $10, I can assure you. Good writing, more strictly a visual novel – though you have to solve a few puzzles. Art is not half as good as Re:Alistair but the plot is much more engaging.

    I also high suggest you look up Phoenix Wright. There’s an iPhone/iTouch port now available for $5! (a steal considering the DS version was $30, if memory serves me right).

    All these are very good, and strike different tones, which I think will allow you to see the range of visual novels.

    The appeal for me is the characters, artwork, and plot. Unfortunately, the only translated visual novels are all eroge and marketed towards boys. I prefer otome games – female centered, but they are simply not available except for one (Yojinbo). I get my fix from indie game designers like hanakogames. But they lack professionalism (voice actors, CGs, length), mostly due to cost. The situation reminds me of manga in old days, actually. People are so adamant there’s no market for women-targeted visual novels. I think no one can be sure until there’s a wide release.

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