Since March, I’ve been showing you a range of translated Japanese visual novels, from the popular Fate/Stay Night to the barely-known Collage. But this fortnight, I’ll be showing you a variety of titles from somewhere closer to home – the Western visual novel scene!
It’s a great time to be interested in the visual novel medium and how it’s developing, with more great titles being brought over by localisation companies or re-released on new platforms. While I’ve been writing about Japanese visual novels for most of this year, the English-developed visual novel scene has been similarly growing, expanding to iOS, Android and even Steam. As I practically stumbled into Western visual novels years ago, I figured I would share with you a handful of Western visual novel groups (in alphabetical order) and some of their recent works to help you discover something new and, hopefully, something you like.
With two visual novels under their belt and two more on the way (not including a new secret project), Cyanide Tea is a powerhouse of just two people bringing their ideas to life with artistic flair and writing passion. Their current large project is Break Chance Memento, but the team has released other titles, including otome-esque VN Ristorante Amore and noir-reminiscent mystery The Elevator, both of which are free and available for all computer operating systems.
With their recently announced Halloween game, Nachtigal, coming out soon, Cyanide Tea always has something to look forward to and releases visual novels with a range of genres.
So far, Dischan has made VNs that centre around science fiction settings, accompanied by the distinctive visual style of the main artist and strong soundtrack provided by the resident musician. They have a small range of titles, from the episodic Dysfunctional Systems series to the large in-progress VN Cradle Song. While the group has mostly released titles that are part of a whole (Cradle Song preview included), Juniper’s Knot is their first self-contained title, and is available for free on Windows, Mac and Linux, as well as iOS.
With their recent success in Steam Greenlight, Dischan is a group to keep an eye on, especially if you’re interested in titles with a strong visual design and lengthy story.
Hanako Games is one of the better known English developers for otome and girl-friendly visual novels. With games that are more pure visual novel such as The Royal Trap, to more simulation-heavy games such as Long Live The Queen, Hanako Games has a pretty big range. They too have found success on Steam, with Magical Diary and Long Live The Queen making in onto the store.
The group has a number of games in different styles and settings, so you’re sure to find something you’ll like.
Christine Love (now the mastermind behind Love Conquers All Games) has been making visual novels for years, but her most recent efforts have received a lot of attention, including Analogue: A Hate Story becoming the first visual novel on Steam. Most of Christine’s games – including Digital: A Love Story, Analogue: A Hate Story, Hate Plus and Don’t Take It Personally – explore themes of life, love and technology in worlds where human interaction is partially or completely handled through machine.
While each game has an amount of comedy and light-heartedness, they are something to look into if you are searching for visual novels that aren’t afraid to make a point and explore serious issues.
MoaCube is a new studio to the Western visual novel scene but isn’t by any means weak. Their first visual novel, Cinders, showcased what the studio could do, blending stage-like dialogue and complicated choice system with strong artistic talent and a colourful soundtrack. With that experience informing their work on future titles, the group is soon upon release of their second title, Solstice.
The group prides itself on its interactivity, with Cinders having hundreds of choices that enable you to influence the main character’s personality as well as find out certain information. If you are looking for a highly interactive visual novel with a diverse cast of characters, MoaCube is for you.
SakeVisual is a long-standing visual novel group and is often many people’s first experience with visual novels in general, if not just Western visual novels. A lot of SakeVisual’s titles are free, with otome game Re: Alistair++ and short game Ripples being very easy and fun looks into the medium. The group is also working on a fully voiced mystery series, with Yousei being the latest release in that line.
SakeVisual has released a number of visual novels (both free and commercial) and is a very accessible look into the efforts of the Western visual novel scene. There is always something in development, so always something to look forward to.
Winter Wolves is quite a prolific developer, producing a number of titles a year, ranging from otome visual novels to more RPG-centric games. The group has a number of games with different visual styles, mechanics and stories, though many of the more popular titles have sequels or expansions.
As the developer posts frequent updates, art previews and future plans, you’ll always know what you’ll be getting.
The groups listed here are only a small part of the Western visual novel scene but will introduce you to some diverse works from developers outside of Japan. I think that the range of visual novels here and the diversity of talent proves that everyone has the potential to make something fantastic. Of course, I have left out a number of groups, particularly some who are currently working on their first game and are showing promising previews, but also groups like Four Leaf Studios, IDHAS Studios, Studio Super63 and Zeiva Inc. If you are interested, do look around; there are so many more projects out there and so many more great things to discover and enjoy.
Please forgive the author for her bad banner editing.
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- Visual Novel Spotlight: Sakura Swim Club - September 15, 2015