The Most Popular Digital Lit You’ve Never Heard of: The Japanese Visual Novel. What is a Visual Novel?. Similar to Interactive Fiction, Visual Novels utilize simplistic computer code engines to engage a reader in an interactive story.
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The Most Popular Digital Lit You’ve Never Heard of:The Japanese Visual Novel
Higurashi and Umineko
What makes these two series most interesting is that each ‘chapter’ of the work was released bi-annually at Comiket. Convention goers were able to purchase the ‘first episode,’ which would be a self-encapsulated VN; however, each Comiket would bring a new disc, containing a new episode.
Every episode would portray a sequence of events that were all related, yet separate—the first 4 of each series were ‘Question Arcs’ while the final 4 were ‘Answer Arcs,’ with the 8th Episode being the ‘True Series of Events.’ Readers who paid attention and followed the story from all episodes would be able to slowly uncover the truth for themselves.
Ryukishi would also give out TIPS, as well as snippets on his blog, in order to continue the air of mystery between episodes.
As the medium of VNs became increasingly popular, they have expanded beyond PC engines to those of portable systems, like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.
These VNs generally focus on detective style mysteries, or Closed Room Murders.
Also, they have much more interactive game elements, to give players a sense of accomplishment and agency as the stories progress.
This answer was “no” until two months ago. However, born from a desire to create something of their own, a group of Western programmers created the first ever OEL VN, “Katawa Shoujo.”
Katawa Shoujo focuses on being a dating sim type game at its core. However, the story’s focus—girls with disabilities—is extremely unique, as most “dating sims” focus on only “perfect” girls.
If anything, the creation and completion of Katawa Shoujo is interesting simply on the fact that it is the first OEL VN to be completed on a level similar to its Japanese counterparts, perhaps signaling a desire for more expansion in the field in the West.
VNs are an increasingly interesting way to experience complex narratives. Also, VNs are generally created as personal projects and sold directly to consumers. They are created out of a desire to tell stories first, money later. As the medium continues to mature past its Eroge roots, the VN will continue to be an intriguing aspect of digital lit.