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Essays 09 May 2019, 12:46

author: Mateusz Pytlik

Top 10 Visual Novels for (Adult) Bookworms

Have you ever wanted to read a good video game? Sounds strange, I know. But consider this: here are some classy titles to start with, straight from the Land of the Rising Sun. We have fantasy, philosophy, action, love, drama, mystery, and a lot more...

Visual novel is a video game genre that originates in America, but its modern incarnation is primarily Japanese. These games usually have little to no interactive gameplay (though there are exceptions to this), their main forte being characterization and storytelling, but they do not shy away from adult content, just like the books. As an ardent reader (both in English and Japanese), I’ve cooked up for you a selection of the best visual novels on the market. Although not all of them are officially available in English (some offer fan translations, others are either being translated officially or considered for translation in the near future), these are all superb games, perhaps even worth learning a new language for. The order in which the titles are presented is insignificant, so just sit back and grab a bite, my fellow bookworms.

Full Metal Daemon Muramasa

Story Outline: Dieselpunk-Noir-Mech-Samurai Flick

Adult Content: Explicit

Lenght: Long (50+ Hours)

"This is not a story of a hero. Those who would aspire to be such have no place here." - 2019-05-10
"This is not a story of a hero. Those who would aspire to be such have no place here."
FULL METAL DAEMON MURAMASA IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: Nitroplus

Platform: PC

Release Date: October 30, 2009 (Standard Edition); July 19, 2016 (Windows 10 Edition)

Availability: Japan Only

Full Metal Daemon Muramasa (not to be confused with the 2009 console title Muramasa: The Demon Blade) is considered to be one of the best adult visual novels. The title sports an intriguing alternative-history setting, in which 19th-century Japan (or Yamato), ruled by a fictional shogunate, was conquered and occupied by America under British rule. An essential, unique element of this quasi-historical background are the Tsurugi – flight-capable suits of power armor forged by smiths and donned by warriors known as Musha.

The story follows Minato Kageaki, a mysterious man snatched out of prison just to become the shogunate’s henchman – with the mission of taking down a powerful, rogue Musha, who tries to spread chaos throughout the realm. As meek and unfit for the job as he may seem at first, the protagonist has a dark secret that made him accept the shogunate’s offer – he pursues a quest for atonement using his personal Tsurugi, one of the few remaining masterpieces of old craftsmanship, the crimson Muramasa. The armor is said to be cursed and has caused a massacre in the days of old, making it no better than the one, which it is supposed to help killing.

Muramasa features three major paths – one for each of the female protagonists – and several endings. The storylines are dark, have a tendency to subvert heroic clichés and provide us with many opportunities to die, if we make a bad decision in one of the story’s numerous choices. This definitely isn’t a title for everyone, as it almost brutally deals with such topics as justification of vengeance, heroism, love, loyalty, and pursuit of justice at all cost.

Don’t let the looks fool you. The kid packs a punch. - 2019-05-10
Don’t let the looks fool you. The kid packs a punch.

One more thing that needs to be remembered is the fact that the developer Nitroplus usually does not shy away from explicit adult content in their titles – and Muramasa is no exception. So far, no official (or even fan) translations of the entire game have been completed, making it a gem available only to proficient Japanese speakers. Hopefully some western publisher will eventually venture to translate and release it for the Western audience.

Muv-Luv / Muv-Luv Alternative

Story Outline: High-School Romantic Comedy / Post-Apocalyptic Hard Military Sci-Fi

Adult Content: Optional – all ages edition available

Length: Very Long (~30 Hours – Muv-Luv; 50+ Hours – Muv-Luv Alternative)

„Achieve your mission with all your might. Despair not till your last breath. Make your death count.” - 2019-05-10
„Achieve your mission with all your might. Despair not till your last breath. Make your death count.”
MUV-LUV DUOLOGY IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: Age

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita

Release Date: February 28, 2003 (Muv-Luv), July 14, 2016 (Steam Edition)

February 24, 2006 (Muv-Luv Alternative), September 19, 2017 (Steam Edition)

Availability: Fan-translation patch (Complete); Steam

According to VNDB, the largest Western resource on visual novels, Muv-Luv Alternative is the highest-rated visual novel there is. As you might have noticed, there are two titles listed under this entry, but there is a good reason for that. The first game, originally released in 2003, is divided into two chapters (Extra and Unlimited) and together with Alternative, they were supposed to form a trilogy. Unfortunately, the sheer volume of content was too much for a single game, hence the division. They should, however, be considered a single piece of narrative.

Muv Luv Extra is, at best, a decent, if a bit cliché, romantic comedy set in high school, featuring more or less stereotypical characters (class rep, childhood friend, quirky girl, high class girl, mascot, trap). You, playing as one Takeru Shirogane, may or may not enjoy it, but there are better stories out there, that’s for sure. To unlock the second chapter, you’re only required to complete the routes of the two main heroines, Sumika and Meiya. The remaining four are optional, but the story will reward you later on if you complete them as well.

Muv Luv Unlimited begins by dropping a bomb: the school romance is gone. You wake up in your bed, like you did yesterday, except the rest of your street is gone, the rest of your town is gone, most of humanity is gone, and there’s a military base where your school used to be. Also, there be mechs, lots of mechs. Unlimited chapter is a military SF focusing on the desperate struggle against an alien life form that invaded the Earth, and it borrows a lot from Starship Troopers in the process. The plot twist comes as a shock to both the protagonist and the player, as they have to become a military cadet, adapt to new rules, and learn the hard way that they are only a powerless pawn in the hands of the world’s generals and politicians.

3 years layer, Age released Muv Luv Alternative – the final piece of the puzzle. The protagonist once again wakes up in his room, the world is still a mess, and mankind is still on the ropes. Only one thing is different – the main character remembers everything: the peaceful world of innocent romance, the months of harsh military training, the despair of a dying world, and the regret of not being able to do anything to change the final outcome of the story. And so does the player. The final route of the story begins, answering all the questions we did not want answered, providing a glimpse into multiverse theory and paying homage to a myriad of SF classics.

Steam editions of both games have been funded through an extremely successful (over $1,250,000 collected) Kickstarter campaign.

White Album 2 Introductory/Closing Chapter

Story Outline: Young Adult Romance Drama

Adult Content: Low

Length: Long (~10 Hours – Introductory Chapter; 50+ Hours – Closing Chapter)

“We finally became friends. I've said everything I wanted to say. Now we know everything about each other. Though, from the moment we become friends, we'll never speak to each other again.” - 2019-05-10
“We finally became friends. I've said everything I wanted to say. Now we know everything about each other. Though, from the moment we become friends, we'll never speak to each other again.”
WHITE ALBUM 2 IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: Sting & Leaf

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita

Release Date: March 26, 2010 (Introductory Chapter); December 22, 2011 (Closing Chapter)

Availability: Fan-translation patch (Incomplete)

White Album 2 is, as the name suggest, a sequel. It has, however, little in common with the previous part and might as well be treated as a stand-alone for the purpose of this summary. The story told in White Album 2 is divided into two independently released chapters. Introductory Chapter is much shorter and works as a direct prequel, presenting the events that unfolded three years before the action of Closing Chapter, and setting up the premise for the main story arc. While reading is not required, it will help us understand the underlying situation of the protagonists.

The introduction focuses on the honor student Haruki Kitahara, a third-year high-schooler in the first chapter, whose hobby was playing guitar. His life becomes much more complicated, when he needs to recruit two girls – Kazusa Touma, daughter of a famous musician, and Setsuna Ogiso, a natural vocal talent – to save his club’s school festival concert from certain doom. In time, the three become friends, hoping to become something more. The feelings of the young protagonists experiencing their first infatuations lead to a dramatic climax.

The main story takes place three years later. Haruki becomes a university student, but the events from the past cast a shadow even on the beginning of his adult life. He forms a new social circle, remains in contact with his good friends from high-school, and tries to move on with his life. As per visual novel standard, that’s the point when the player can deepen the relationships with potential love interests, leading on one of several available story routes. Things get complicated, however, when the protagonist learns that Kazusa Touma, a painful piece of his past, is coming back to Japan after having studied abroad...

So call me maybe? - 2019-05-10
So call me maybe?

Essentially a romance, White Album 2 presents a realistic story with convincing characterization, good dose of drama, and music-themed storyline, considered top-class among visual novels. Music plays an important role in the plot, providing a common ground for the three protagonists, and the game uses this opportunity to insert some really decent music tracks to complement the interactions between the characters. It’s also one of the reasons why the game is classified as a “nakige”, a tear-jerker. The story has the potential to punch you right through the gut if you let it. For the time being, there is no official translation available, but rumors are that some publisher will pick it up in the near future.

Baldr Sky

Story Outline: Post-Apocalyptic Cyberpunk Romance

Adult Content: Moderate

Length: Very Long (50+ Hours each)

“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation.”  - 2019-05-10
“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation.” 
BALDR SKY IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: Team Baldrhead

Platform: PC

Release Date: March 27, 2009 (Dive1); November 27, 2009 (Dive2)

Availability: Fan-translation patch (Dive1 Complete); Steam Edition announced by Sekai Project in 2016 – translation and editing in progress.

Baldr Sky is one of the relatively few visual novels that contain interactive gameplay – the game is an isometric arcade shooter.

The focal point of a bloody war that engulfed the world in the past was the existence of powerful supercomputers known as Baldr machines, a single one able to govern the infrastructure of entire countries with ease. The war was eventually won by an organic AI created specifically to counter them, and the devastated world was united. Since then, the AI has become a separate entity, much to the disdain of certain groups, and developed a supportive stance towards humanity and its attempt to move their lives to cyberspace, enabling the creation of advanced digital bodies to conserve Earth’s depleted resources. While there is still life beyond cyber, few would want to experience the world ravaged as it is, unless, like many, they are too poor to afford a decent life.

Wars and conflicts have also moved to cyberspace – soldiers and mercenaries employ combat digi-bodies, known as SMCRAM, installed as software and used in digital skirmishes and large-scale battles. That said, the best way to defend from a hacker attack is to physically pull the plug on your machine (unless, you know, Wi-fi?), and even the best pilot is helpless if you fill them up with lead – hardware remains a viable argument in a software war. All in all, the title draws heavily on the atmosphere of early cyberpunk classics, such as Neuromancer, having the player constantly shift in and out of the in-game cyberspace.

The game’s protagonist, Kou Kadokura, is a seasoned mercenary suffering from amnesia. He regains his memories across the six story routes, eventually discovering the fate of a certain figure from his past. The game is divided into two parts (Dive1 and Dive2), each containing three main routes. If we own both of them, Dive2 will support our saved game files and include the contents of the first part.

The game offers an extensive combat system, with dozens of unlockable weapons and melee techniques, which we can master and chain into devastating combos tailored to our personal style. You want a kicking melee build? Done. Or maybe a rocket/laser-spamming artillery powerhouse? Not a problem. The combo system is also quite intricate – we have access to 12 weapons/moves on the battlefield, with sets of 3 being available depending on the distance from the target and whether we are moving or not.

A western release of the game was announced in 2016 by Sekai Project. While the title is said to be under works to be released on Steam, it appears to be in hiatus at the moment. No firm release date has been given so far.

Steins;Gate

Story Outline: Quantum-Microwave-Conspiracy-Time-Travel Adventure

Adult Content: None

Length: Medium (30 to 50 Hours)

"Time is passing so quickly. Right now, I feel like complaining to Einstein.” - 2019-05-10
"Time is passing so quickly. Right now, I feel like complaining to Einstein.”
STEINS;GATE IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: Nitroplus & 5pb Games

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360

Release Date: October 15, 2009 (Xbox 360, Japanese); March 31, 2014 (PC, JAST USA); November 11, 2017 (Steam Edition)

Availability: Fan-translation patch (Complete); JAST USA; Steam

Steins;Gate is a high-profile title in the West, and it was translated rather quickly by industry standards; perhaps due to the anime adaptation from 2012.

The story focuses on a group of friends led by the spirited protagonist Rintarou Okabe. He’s also an otaku, an amateur physicist, a believer of global conspiracy theories, and a self-styled mad scientist calling himself Kyouma Hououin. The group, named Future Gadget Lab, initially includes only his childhood friend and a computer whiz, and is based in Akihabara – Tokyo’s famous district of otaku culture and cheap electronics. Their current “research” project is to experiment with a method to achieve time travel by sending a text message to a specially modified microwave.

On July 28 in-game, Kurisu Makise, a genius girl, university graduate at 17, acclaimed in the scientific community for her research on brain’s memory retention system, is giving a lecture, which Okabe attends. Their discussion about the possibility of time travel leads to a heated debate, after which the protagonist is politely asked to leave. Sometime later, he finds the young scientist dying in a pool of blood. Shocked, Okabe texts his friend about the morbid discovery. And that’s when their time-travel experiment succeeds... In time, the group is joined by a gallery of peculiar characters, and the protagonists must face both an actual global conspiracy and the numerous convoluted timelines they’ve created through the infamous butterfly effect.

The game follows a branching storyline divided into eleven chapters. Several of them offer a side route which can become an ending dedicated to one of the characters. To reach the true ending, we must keep to the main storyline and make correct choices along the way. As the story revolves around otaku culture and text messages (the player’s choices are implemented as cell phone interactions), sending or not sending some of them will yield different results within the story.

The visuals are certainly unique, but are they that bad? - 2019-05-10
The visuals are certainly unique, but are they that bad?

There are several English editions available on the market, with the latest Steins;Gate Elite reusing the footage and voices from the anime series in place of the original graphics, which, as they were rather unique, have met with mixed reception. A sequel, Steins;Gate 0, was released on Steam in 2018.

Clannad

Story Outline: Coming of Age Drama / High-School Comedy

Adult Content: Optional – all ages edition available

Length: Long (50+ Hours)

“All you have to do is find other fun and happy things. It's not so hard.” - 2019-05-10
“All you have to do is find other fun and happy things. It's not so hard.”
CLANNAD IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: Key

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch

Release Date: April 28, 2004 (PC, Japanese); November 23, 2015 (Steam Edition)

Availability: Fan-translation patch (Complete); Steam

Clannad is an all-time classic, which gained a cult following both in Japan and among the Western community. The game is a respected coming-of-age drama, but also a comedy, whose striking themes are finding one’s purpose and happiness in life, enduring hardships, the importance of family, and making lemonade no matter what kind of lemons life offers.

Tomoya Okazaki is a high-schooler who verges on being a delinquent, after his promising sports career as a baseballer was cut short before it even started due to an arm injury. His relationship with father, his only living parent, is strained, and he begins a new school year with little hope and even less perspectives for the future. Nagisa Furukawa is a high-schooler who had to skip some years in school due to poor health and lost her chance at joining the drama club, as all of its members have graduated.

They meet with the beginning of a new semester on the road at the foot of the hill, on which their school is located and, by a chance, begin to climb together. Having found a kindred soul, Nagisa ventures to restart the drama club, recruiting Tomoya, his friend Youhei, and several other characters in the process.

The action of the game takes place mainly in high school and is divided into several routes, each dedicated to one of the several possible romance interests, which the protagonist can meet during his high-school years. The routes explore various themes and characters, some of them being full of humor, but each of them generally culminating in a touching finale that tackles serious themes, such as terminal illness, loneliness, isolation, the importance of having a family, or becoming a responsible adult despite our shortcomings. What is considered the main storyline, focuses on Tomoya and Nagisa, following their lives throughout high school and into adulthood, when they have to face new challenges and tragedies as they become a family.

That’s bleak... - 2019-05-10
That’s bleak...

Clannad was one of the first high-profile visual novels to be released on Steam, becoming a breakthrough on the market. The game’s publisher, Sekai Project, funded the release via Kickstarter, collecting almost 550,000 dollars. Up to that point, such games were available mainly through fan translations or niche publishers, whose portfolio also included numerous cheap-quality porn games.

Fate/Stay Night

Story Outline: Heroic Urban Fantasy Adventure

Adult Content: Optional – all ages patch available

Length: Long (50+ Hours)

Fate/stay night did battle royale before it was cool. - 2019-05-10
Fate/stay night did battle royale before it was cool.
FATE/STAY NIGHT IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: Type-MOON

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 2 (Realta Nua Edition); PlayStation Vita (Realta Nua Edition), Android (Realta Nua Edition)

Release Date: January 30, 2004 (PC); April 19, 2007 (PS2); May 29, 2015 (Android)

Availability: Fan-translation patch (Complete)

Fate/stay night is a bona fide adventure game in the same sense as Stevenson’s Treasure Island is an adventure novel, and a good one at that. The story takes place in a modern urban fantasy setting, where magic is real and powerful, but hidden from the society. It’s got a well-defined (but damaged) protagonist, it’s got beautiful girls you’d be willing to fight and die (you know, the thing people do when they are killed?) for, and it’s got you set up as an unwilling underdog in a battle between powerful mages and even more powerful mythical heroes, so tread lightly. On the bright side, you get a sticker every time you kick the bucket, so there’s that.

The game’s protagonist, Shiro Emiya, is a young man with a knack for mechanics, living alone after the death of his foster father, who saved the boy from a catastrophic fire that befell the city 10 years ago. The plot twist is that his savior was also an infamous renegade mage and an assassin, who participated in a magic battle-royale contest known as the Holy Grail War, which took place in that very city and was the cause of the fire he saved the boy from. The old man was understandably unwilling to teach his son the tricks of the trade, even though Shiro had a great respect for his foster father. Due to the lack of formal training in the art of magic, the boy’s only decent skill is a seemingly useless ability, which he nevertheless practiced throughout the years. His normal life continues, until one day, a magical brand appears on his hand, heralding the beginning of a new Holy Grail War...

The game is divided into three routes, branching early on in the story, which need to be completed in a predefined order: first “Fate”, then “Unlimited Blade Works”, and finally “Heaven’s Feel.” In theory, all of them are just alternate retellings of the same story, but due to the choices we make, their plotlines diverge so much, that each of them becomes a unique scenario. The one thing that binds them together is the discussion about what it means to be a hero and an altruist in the context of dealing with survivor’s guilt.

Originally released in 2004 on PC, the title was translated to English by the fan community. So far, no official translations of the game have been released. As the upgraded PlayStation 2 edition became available, various teams have ported visuals and content such as adult scenes, which culminated in the Ultimate Edition 0.9.1 patch, released in February 2019, enabling us to access graphics, music, and languages from all available editions of the game in a single complete package with widescreen support.

Wonderful Everyday ~Diskontinuierliches Dasein~

Story Outline: High-school Wittgenstein Study with Hints of Cyrano de Bergerac

Adult Content: Explicit

Length: Medium (30 to 50 Hours)

How would a 2-dimensional being perceive a 3-dimensional world? - 2019-05-10
How would a 2-dimensional being perceive a 3-dimensional world?
WONDERFUL EVERYDAY IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: KeroQ

Platform: PC

Release Date: March 26, 2010 (PC, Japanese); August 30, 2017 (Steam Edition)

Availability: JAST, Steam

“Good morning, Alice. Thank you for choosing the galactic railroad as your rabbit hole operator. We will send a confirmation to your dead friend’s cell phone on July 20, right after the predicted end of the world.”

Makes no sense? No worries, Wonderful Everyday can (and will) get you confused like that at first. It’s a difficult story and an ambitious game to tackle, but believe me – it will make you think.

The action of the game takes place in Japan, beginning on July 12, 2012, and touches upon various themes, beginning with internet social media, through religion, psychology, perception of the world, and all the way to testing your knowledge of western philosophy and eastern literature.

Yuki Minakami is a high-schooler who likes to read on her school’s rooftop, smoke and play piano at a bar. Not the most diligent, but certainly not a bad person. She couldn’t care less when her school becomes abuzz with rumors of Web Bot, a computer program able to predict the future (which really is a thing), who prophesizes that the end of the world will come on July 20. Instead, she focuses on her peaceful everyday stuff with her two friends and Zakuro Takashima, a girl she recently met. Subsequent chapters take a very different turn, as a dark mystery involving many other characters is slowly revealed. To disclose anything more at this point would be a crime, so let’s just say that later on, the prophecies of Web Bot become disturbingly accurate as teachers and students start dying as predicted by one of Yuki’s classmates. Startled by such turn of events, Yuki decides to get to the bottom of the classmate’s identity and the secret behind the Web Bot Project.

„So that white expanse up there is really made up of stars?” - 2019-05-10
„So that white expanse up there is really made up of stars?”

Storywise, the game is divided into seven chapters, focusing on a different retelling of the story and featuring different protagonists, each with a limited perception of the world, which tends to add to the general confusion. Access to subsequent chapters is unlocked by completing previous sections, which enables us to gain a new perspective on the events we have witnessed earlier. It needs to be said that this isn’t a game for everybody; the adult content can be disturbing, sometimes gratuitous; certainly not everyone will enjoy references to 19th-century philosophy books.

An official English release appeared on Steam in 2017 after a successful Kickstarter campaign, joining the few really good visual novels that were officially translated in the West at that point. What is available on Steam is the first chapter of the story, and a free adult content patch is provided, expanding the game to its full version.

Umineko When They Cry (Umineko no Naku Koro ni)

Story Outline: Analytical Witch Hunting Murder Mystery

Adult Content: None

Length: Very Long (50+ Hours each)

How to switch a witch – the video game. - 2019-05-10
How to switch a witch – the video game.
UMINEKO WHEN THEY CRY IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: 07th Expansion

Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, iOS, Mac OS, Android

Release Date: August 17, 2007 (Episodes 1-4); July 8, 2016 (Steam Edition as Question Arcs)

August 15, 2009 (Episodes 5-8); November 18, 2017 (Steam Edition as Answer Arcs)

Availability: Fan-translation patch (Complete); Steam

The year is 1986, Kinzo, the dying head of the affluent Ushiromiya family invites his offspring to the secluded island of Rokkenjima to an annual family meeting, where the family members plan to divide family assets between themselves. The island is inhabited by Kinzo, three other members of the family, his personal physician and five servants, in addition to the eight Ushiromiyas who will come to the conference.

But there is one more person rumored to live on the island. According to family lore, a Golden Witch known as Beatrice lives in the dense forest of Rokkenjima. She is said to have given Kinzo 10 tons of gold to restart the Ushiromiya family after the 1923 Great Kantou earthquake. Her portrait is exhibited in the entrance hall of the family mansion, along with a puzzling epitaph. The story goes that whoever solves the mystery of the witch’s epitaph will receive the gold and become the next heir. Soon after the family members assemble, a typhoon traps all parties on the island. Not long after that, mysterious things begin to happen and six persons die in quick succession. According to the epitaph, if its puzzle cannot be solved, more people will die and the witch will revive, which is exactly what happens.

Battler, the game’s protagonist and the only surviving member of the Ushiromiya family, is a realist who doesn’t believe in witches or magic. The resurrected witch challenges him to a twisted game of logic where he must attempt to explain all of the mysterious events on Rokkenjima, from the standpoint that they are caused by a human, and Beatrice attempts to explain everything with witches and magic. One of the recurring motifs is usage of the locked room mystery, and several logical arguments are presented to explain the mysteries including the Devil's proof, the Raven paradox, and Schrödinger's cat. If Beatrice can get Battler to ultimately surrender and accept the supernatural, Beatrice wins.

The developers describe the game as a sound novel. What differs it from a typical visual novel is the fact that the game requires no player interaction, comprising only text dialogues. The title focuses on sounds and atmosphere rather than visuals, which explains why character designs and artwork are simplified, compared to most other representatives of the genre. The ultimate goal is to solve the multi-thread mystery, determine where the gold is hidden, figure out a solution in which everyone survives, and discover who the true murderer is in each chapter and whether it is due to supernatural events, or human actions.

Fan community has prepared patches that add voices and port visuals from the console version to replace the modest graphics of the original PC release. Can’t say I blame them.

Which one do you prefer? - 2019-05-10
Which one do you prefer?

Ever 17 -The Out of Infinity-

Story Outline: Time Travel Underwater Escape Adventure

Adult Content: None

Length: Medium (30 to 50 Hours)

“When you close your eyes, I disappear.” - 2019-05-10
“When you close your eyes, I disappear.”
EVER 17 IN A NUTSHELL:

Developer: KID

Platforms: Dreamcast, PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Android, iOS

Release Date: August 29, 2002 (Dreamcast); December 20, 2005 (PC); December 3, 2009 (PlayStation Portable)

Availability: Fan-translation patch (Complete); Localized by Hirameki International (out of print)

The title focuses on six (or is it five? or seven?) individuals who are trapped within the underwater marine theme park, LeMU, 51 meters below the surface after an incident places almost half of the facility underwater. The path to the surface and all communication lines are cut off. In addition, severe water pressure is constantly damaging LeMU’s structure, limiting time to find a means of escape to 119 hours. Escape is not the only concern, as many questions arise as to the legitimacy of the accident and whether or not those trapped inside the facility were brought there for a purpose. As the end of LeMU grows nearer, the mysteries and relationships forged by the situation grow deeper. Ultimately, it is up to the characters not only to survive, but to discover the truth behind LeMU and themselves as well.

Ever 17 is an adventure game, whose story is much more than it first seems. What appears to be a plot directly inspired by The Poseidon Adventure, eventually turns into a convoluted time-travel story with quantum physics and sinister pharmaceutical companies in the background, making it one of the biggest mind screws among visual novels.

The plot is told through multiple storylines that ultimately intersect. The player must reach the "good ending" for each of the initially available storylines in order to unlock the final storyline that weaves the previous stories into a single narrative. The game has two main protagonists, Takeshi and the Kid, each of them having a unique path through the game, featuring four different storylines and several endings in total. Obtaining each of these endings relies on making the correct choices throughout the scenario. After the player has completed all four of Takeshi's and the Kid's endings, the final path of the game will open.

It’s like the Poseidon all over again! Only with infinite loops. - 2019-05-10
It’s like the Poseidon all over again! Only with infinite loops.

Ever 17 was one of the first ever visual novels to be officially translated and released in the West, by the now defunct publisher Hirameki International. Unfortunately, the English 4-CD version of the game is very hard to acquire legally at this point (there are some copies floating around Amazon or eBay from time to time, but they can cost from $60 upwards), making the fan-made translation patch along with an imported (for a dozen dollars or so) Japanese copy of the game the only sensible option for someone who’d like to read it. That’s the one title GOG.com should be interested in, if you ask me. The fact that the original English translation had its share of mistakes is a whole other can of worms.

As there are scores of good visual novels out there, some of them translated and some of them not, it was really hard to fit into the ten best titles limit. In fact, I had to write off some of my personal favorites to do that. If you have your own suggestions for the best visual novel, feel free to share them in the comments.

 

Mateusz Pytlik | Gamepressure.com

Steins;Gate

Steins;Gate

Fate/stay night [Réalta Nua]

Fate/stay night [Réalta Nua]

Clannad

Clannad

Muv-Luv Alternative

Muv-Luv Alternative

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