Visual Novel Spotlight: VNs on Steam

 Visual Novel Spotlight: VNs on Steam

Steam expanding its visual novel library is great news for everyone. While older games get the ‘official’ remake treatment for the glorious transition to 1080p, Greenlight allows us to see games in English that may have otherwise been lost in the depths of the internet. Whether it’s an old favourite or something new and interesting popping up, it’s worth a browse.


With Greenlight opening doors for many English visual novel developers, and publishers like Sekai Project and MangaGamer dipping into the potential of the platform, Steam is quickly building its library of visual novels. And where there’s a bunch of games, there’s always a handy list of what’s on offer. This is that list.


So, in the spirit of branching choices, what do you feel like playing?


I Want To Date Everyone

Dating is important. But what’s more important is fawning over cute or cool fictional characters and trying to win their favour. Whether you want to grind your culture stat to impress dates with random movie trivia or whether you want to learn the deep secrets of cupcake mixing, Steam has a fairly reasonable selection of dating-centric games for a range of different tastes.


Magical Diary

Magical Diary, following the Harry Potter-esque journey of You, allows you to experience the magic of the fantastical boarding school you never got to see when you were eleven. Magical Diary is an interesting title where you can customise your avatar’s body type, chase after boys or girls, and feel comfortable in a generally accepting environment where faries, demons and catboys get along just fine.


For more of a stat-heavy dating game, Always Remember Me offers a challenge in addition to winning over the hearts of cute boys. After selecting your difficulty level, it’s either an easy ride to your preferred route or a mad scramble to keep your stats in check while gaining affection. It’s definitely more of a numbers game than an investment in a story. Combining the kind of stat raising system of Magical Diary with about the same level of story as Always Remember Me is Spirited Heart Deluxe, another game where girls can chase guys (or other girls).


Backstage Pass

Of course, you can also chase a different kind of tail with Sakura Spirit and Hatoful Boyfriend rounding out the more unusual dating games. Sakura Spirit is the kind of mindless fun your mother warned you about whereas Hatoful Boyfriend (previously reviewed here) is casual fun with an interesting dark side if you care to delve deeper.


And if you want to give up your peaceful fantasy life for the fast lane of celebrity dating, Backstage Pass gives you access to a whole host of fabulous men and women as you try to drag yourself through college while thinking about which spring outfits go best with your two metre-long legs.


I Need The Adventures of Ordinary Life

Perhaps the most thought of option when it comes to visual novels, the Slice of Life part of Steam isn’t lacking in games at all. From a half-hour stroll through the Chinese Purple Mountain in Shan Gui to a look into the careers of those living in utopia in Dysfunctional Systems: Learning To Manage Chaos, there’s plenty of games that might suit you.


Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos

You can take a second look at classic stories like Cinderella and Goethe’s Faust when playing Cinders or Soul Gambler. Cinders’ art style and theatre-like direction give it that storybook feel while you influence the story by roleplaying Cinders (Cinderella) into different roles which change the course of the story. Soul Gambler’s more comi— er, graphic novel presentation lets you see things play out as you explore a fairly limited reinterpretation of the original play.


If you want to branch out a little more, Go Go Nippon! (covered here previously) lets you explore popular attractions in Japan with two cute girls. If that’s not enough, you can travel the high seas in all three Heileen games, completing quests and winning hearts, or you can peer into the lives of three strangers in Fault -milestone one- as they try to find their way after an attack against the capital of mana crafting.



Fault -milestone one-


And if you’re keen on the genre, of course you’ve looked at Narcissu 1st + 2nd and Planetarian, right? (If not, we have you covered for Narcissu 1st here, Narcissu 2nd here and Planetarian here.)



But really, who doesn’t like space? Surely not you when there’s moon stock trading to do in World End Economica episode.1. Surely not you especially when a lost generation ship needs your help to uncover the past in Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus. Surely, surely not you when you meet an escaped robot in the fully-voiced Bionic Heart or when defending a human outpost (in space!) in Planet Stronghold. But of course, everyone loves visual novels in space when there’s some tactical fighting mixed in, as it happens to be in Sunrider: First Arrival.



Sunrider: First Arrival


Kind of Want Genre-Benders

You don’t need to tell me that a lot of games with visual novel elements are kind-of-not-visual-novels. And with Steam tagging, anything with character portraits and some text can be seen as a lengthy novel, so why not taste the farmer’s life with Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook or Winter in Fairbrook? Or roam the school and fight weird aliens in Science Girls.




Flower Shop: Summer in Fairbrook


Fading Hearts and Infinite Game Works Episode 0 lean on simulation elements but explore genre, by letting you choose what kind of story you want to lead in Fading Hearts, or playing with the bare bones of what makes a dating sim in IGW.


RPG-heavy Loren The Amazon Princess can set you back on the path of story-heavy turn-based battles, while Long Live The Queen can get you the once-in-a-lifetime death simulator experience. Or you can plunge even deeper into the visual novel tag and dig up the short RPG-ish Vlad the Impaler and surprisingly fun party game, The Yawhg.




The Yawhg


I Just  Want To Wait Forever

Waiting for upcoming releases is a valid option, especially considering some greatly known visual novels are making their way to Steam in the near future. You too can soon legally own your own copy of Clannad, or Higurashi When They Cry, or Grisaia no Kajitsu. It’s perfectly fine to wait for Cho Dengeki Stryker or World End Economica episode.2, or the rest of the Fault series, or Eden*, or even Paca Plus. With so many games looking to secure a spot on Steam (bringing with them not only updated art, but a good chance of being able to play the games on Mac or Linux), it’s a great time to get into or revisit some of the greats.


Of course, there are many, many more visual novels – with English options – that are out right now, for PC, Mac, Linux or a variety of consoles. With Steam just beginning to get some large titles in, it’s definitely something to keep an eye on, but, as with anything, there’s a lot more out there for you to discover.

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