Our Editor, Pete, has written up a lovely collection of sexy titles you can grab with money off them right now as part of the Steam autumn sale, and I’ve been itching to cover what I also deem as worthy recommendations you should consider buying before the 1st of December hits.
Here’s a fine selection of the splendid titles under the visual novel tag that have the biggest savings whilst being real gems worth enjoying. They’re solid deals you shouldn’t ignore, so will you be picking one (or more!) of these up?
There’s something to be said for how long it’s taken me to consider recommending this title — its explicit content has been my main worry in doing so. But within the psychological horror genre that Salthe falls into lies some of the very greatest, most gruesome eroges available — Euphoria and Saya no Uta to name just a couple. And whilst Salthe certainly does not reach the heights of these, what it does present is a more condensed tale of the complexities of living, and the unfairness of life itself.
But alongside this emotional and tragic story is a magnitude of hardcore material, mostly inflicted onto the player by choice through downloading its external patch. And be warned, it’s extreme, with content such as gore and non-consensual sex often appearing back-to-back. If you can stomach the excessive H-scenes — or, if you don’t think you’re up to them, simply do not go out of your way to download its patch — Salthe offers a surprisingly underappreciated narrative with astonishing twists and turns that not enough players within the fandom seem to have experienced yet.
When going into the game, its opening quote should be kept in mind throughout its runtime: “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.”
Salthe explores Charlie Chaplin’s words with its story and progression of its titular character exclusively, presenting a dark, depressing and macabre perspective despite the gorgeous visuals and character design. It’s got the juxtaposition alright!
There is an continuous sense of mystery of discovering who Salthe is and uncovering the truths about the confusing world she has found herself in; she’s both dead but also still alive as she attempts to rediscover her memories of how she passed on.
The writing, themes and narrative make Salthe an underappreciated gem of the genre, but at the same time it can be a hit-or-miss recommendation depending on how you feel about some of its more extreme content. But for better or worse, the game will stay with you for life, making it a worthwhile pickup in the Steam autumn sale!
AI: The Somnium Files
Another Steam sale, another opportunity to bring up AI: The Somnium Files for the fourth time here on Rice Digital. Still haven’t acquired it yet after all our gushing about it? Fear not, I’ll cover the details of it once again for your benefit — and encourage you to take the plunge and buy it at such a worthwhile price!
AI: The Somnium Files puts us into the shoes of the pervy amnesiac Kaname Date, an investigator tracking an elusive serial killer. With a sprinkle of point-and-click mechanics, a dash of time-limited puzzle solving within the dream world portions, and questioning persons of interest, AI: The Somnium Files is a thrilling ride from start to finish. It’s near on impossible to put the game down before you arrive at its grand conclusion and primary plot twist — so do yourself a favour and play what I consider 2019’s best game at a discounted price right now!
Also, if you play it right now, you’ll be just in time for its sequel to release next year!
Ah, Monster Prom. Where would we all be without the existence of a dating sim that validates all the monster lovers out there? That’s a tragic timeline I’ll avoid speculating about! Monster Prom is exactly what it sounds like — you are a monster in a monstrous high school looking to pick up a monsteriffic date for the upcoming monster-tastic prom. But you may (or may not) have competition.
For anyone who is partial to good dating sims and visual novels, Monster Prom should not be missed — and there’s a list of reasons to explain its widespread appeal. You can date any romanceable character your heart is set on, stumble onto countless amounts of dialogue and humorous events depending on the items you end up obtaining through purchases and managing your stat levels — and easily its best selling point is that it’s a dating sim that can be played with up to four players!
For solo players, the game still offers hours on hours of content considering its massive amount of achievements, hidden dialogue and characters, and a jaw-dropping amount of endings. At such an affordable price in the Steam autumn sale, you’ll be missing out if you turn this one down. Or better yet, for 51% off, grab the franchise bundle!
As far as classic visual novels go, one that gets brought up here and there is Symphonic Rain, and it is for good reason. Symphonic Rain puts music at the forefront, with a highly emotional story invested in its main character, who is a student at the famous Piova Communal School of Music — and it even features a rhythm game to break up its visual novel segments. Whilst the game is quite a slow burner, the end result is well and truly worth the steady, uphill journey — particularly at the price you can nab it for as part of the Steam autumn sale.
Each character is memorable and significant, with each being a part of the game’s multiple routes that always cover shocking revelations and lead to unexpectedly poignant conclusions. Its ambience, whilst melancholic due to the constant rain within its small town, is effective in roping you into its world and storytelling through an oftentimes comforting and calming atmosphere.
Symphonic Rain has solid progression in its romance department and features a brilliant script with emotionally captivating themes. Its core takeaway is its uplifting messages about overcoming one’s demons and finding a purpose in life; with these in mind, Symphonic Rain is a visual novel I’m glad I finally got to experience.
And perhaps most importantly, this title was the only visual novel its music composer and writer, Ritsuko Okazaki, was a part of before her sudden passing in 2004. If you’re going to give the title a go for any reason at all, do it for Okazaki’s legacy. Her involvement on the title really makes the OST an outstanding one here — one that I believe challenges and, at times, exceeds, the likes of the classic OSTs from Clannad and Angel Beats!
Considering the skyrocketing of prices for Vita titles, Steam releases make for a great alternative to purchasing former handheld exclusive otomes such as 7’scarlet at a much fairer and more affordable price. Whilst the title is not one I often consider as an example of the very best the genre has to offer, for the mere price of basically a fiver, any otome fan should pick this up if they haven’t already.
7’scarlet easily made it into my recommendations for mystery visual novels because its main theme (beyond its otome formula) is its central thriller story of finding the main character’s missing brother, a suspiciously eerie town, and local legends hinting at supernatural involvement in a number of disappearances. The title can be effectively summed up as the female gamer’s equivalent of World End Syndrome thanks to its ominous atmosphere of spooky location designs, a penetrating score, and tragic/emotional routes.
Its only downside is with its uninspiring and poor main character , but as we know, they don’t always make or break a game. For its asking price as part of the Steam autumn sale, our heroine is forgivable thanks to a strong love interest pool, and its balancing of mystery and romance.
Ray Gigant may be the biggest question mark of my Steam autumn sale picks here, but let me defend it with every fibre of my being before you judge prematurely. The game, being a mix of both visual novel and JRPG, manages to deliver to us a more casual RPG experience, whilst providing a story enjoyable to anyone who seeks some good old shounen tropes from its characters and narration. In both cases, it may not be for everyone, and that’s understandable considering its predictable story — that and the fact its dungeon-crawling gameplay never really gets complicated or challenging enough until its final hours.
Its developers, Experience Inc., are the same team behind the much better received Stranger of Sword City, but Ray Gigant’s art is one of its strongest aspects in which it actually outshines the company’s other works. Where this really delivers is not with simply attractive character designs, but their implementation and animation within fights, similar to that of how Nexomon plays out.
Gameplay mechanics are interesting, ranging from a finishing attack by playing a rhythm minigame, every action being made by using up a stamina gauge, and a levelling tree skill system that requires infusing items to increase your skills and stats.
And once again, grabbing the title while it is on offer in the Steam autumn sale makes for a much more viable option over finding its physical release on the Vita.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly
As the second mention of Aksys’ “Summer of Mystery” otome releases from back in 2018 (and you already know we’re recommending all three here), Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is easily the best of the bunch — let alone one of the finest otomes available in the west.
When we discuss dark subject matters within otomes, this one is bound to make an appearance. The game encompasses death as its main theme, with its routes subtly tying to the stages of grief. It even goes so far as to tie the bad endings of the routes to a sense of the characters not accepting their fates or circumstances.
Foreshadowing is also exceptionally pulled off here, giving the game even more than the typical “play through each route for the best ending” as replay value. You’ll be wanting to relive the experience of Psychedelica for these subtle hints and exploration of how trauma affects its main character and love interests alike.
As far as how it already is a stand-out for the otome genre, it also sets itself apart with an unusual mechanic to reflect the recollecting of its main character’s memories through a shooting minigame, similar to that of Collar x Malice.
Simply put, if Piofiore: Fated Memories and Amnesia: Memories were not enough, you need to play this one. Actually, scratch that — anyone who enjoys visual novels should give this game a shot as its story and themes transcends its otome tag. With emotional highs coming from its twists and revelations, excellent character development, and impressive world-building, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly should already be in your library. And if it isn’t, this Steam autumn sale is the perfect opportunity to rectify that.
Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk
You can’t have a sequel without its prequel here, and especially not when both are being offered for the same price. While it is not my favourite of the three, the title is still one of the greatest within the localised otome offerings. Ashen Hawk scratches that specific shoujo itch of a girl disguising herself as a boy, but in this world, it’s the difference between life and death for the main character. And what a world we find ourselves in, where a feud between powerful families is only the starting point to multiple plot threads, later involving a missing artefact, mass killings, and an eternal winter.
So despite being an otome, its romantic aspects are rather shunted to the sidelines in favour of its main narrative being the primary focus. This simple fact makes it ideal for any visual novel fanatic who is not too invested or interested in the romance aspect of otome games — and a great starting point for exploring otome titles in general. It also has a unique way of progressing the story for the genre, where players select locations on a map to advance plot-points and see seemingly unrelated conversations, encounters and events play out.
These bite-sized events also manage to highlight its characters, no matter how much of a supporting role they are. They are given more depth and characterisation than others in the same genre, and with a cast as loveable as here with a non-linear and jampacked narrative, Ashen Hawk never runs out of steam.
Zanki Zero: Last Beginning
Once again much like my last coverage of a Steam sale, Zanki Zero is an obligatory recommendation, especially at this absurdly cheap price as part of the Steam autumn sale! The game packs a ton into it to make it undeniably unique, with gameplay progressing its story through dungeon crawling, and a point of view that changes character with each chapter. There are even survival game mechanics such as resource management and item crafting.
You know it hits right when Danganronpa’s creator was behind the creation steering wheel, delivering characters who are as eccentric as you can expect — and a story hiding deep and dark secrets. Its main mechanic of its characters having a 13-day life span that requires them to be cloned again and again leads to discovering plenty of bonuses depending on how they die (known as Shigabane). It’s a wild and mind-bending time worth much more than its current asking price.
Hatoful Boyfriend Complete Pack – 84% off
We come to what I believe to be the best bang for your buck as far as Steam’s visual novel offerings go. And no, I’m not kidding. So, ever wanted to play one of the weirdest dating sims out there that masks tragedy, depressing backstories, and meta-writing underneath it — all while appearing as nothing more and nothing less than a comedic parody? I knew pigeons had a lot more to get off their chests all this time.
That’s all that should be said to convince you, but as a reminder — It’s only £3.81 for the complete pack containing the original title, Christmas themed sequel, and DLC for both entries! Bargain.
Are you picking any of these up? Any recommendations of your own? Let us know down in the comments or via the usual social channels! And don’t forget, Steam’s autumn sale concludes on December 1, 2021, so get in quick if you want to take advantage of these deals!
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