Tips and Tricks to (Finally) Playing That Visual Novel

Do you have an infinite backlog of visual novels? Here is some advice on tackling that issue.

Are you like the many visual novel enthusiasts who have an infinite and ever-growing backlog of visual novels? Do you even go as far as to bulk-purchase visual novels during Steam’s infamous sales, only for half of them to collect virtual dust? If that sounds like you, and you’re looking for a way to overcome this predicament, then you’ve come to the right place.

Make a List

VNDB

It sounds silly, but there are so many fantastic visual novels out there right now that it would be impossible for me to keep track of them without some kind of list. I started off using the Visual Novel Database, which is a very detailed database with thousands of visual novels listed (over 32,000, to be more specific). The only downside to using this site as your go-to for creating a database of your personal library is that, as a wiki, it doesn’t have every visual novel on there. You can add visual novels to the database if you’re willing to go that extra step, but if you’re playing a lot of indie titles, this probably won’t suit you.

Making lists on itch.io or Steam is helpful for the short term, but in the long run it doesn’t help me and ends up being a massive and messy pile of games that get lost in the abyss. Spreadsheets are a better alternative, but my top choice is The Backloggery, a quick and easy way to log your games all in one place. It’s a lot quicker to add your games here than in the Visual Novel Database because it’s more catered to your personal library rather than pulling from a selection in a database. I can easily track my game progress in The Backloggery, and it is not limited to visual novels. You can add any game to your personal log whether it’s retro or modern.

Prioritize

Cafe in the Clouds

You don’t have to play visual novels one at time and through completion before you start your next one, but there is a right way to go about it if you plan on juggling more than a handful of games at once. If you have a pile of short indie visual novels on your to-play list, it can be really easy to knock out a bunch of games that are under a few hours in length. I finished Cafe in the Clouds in under thirty minutes, and felt accomplished when I could scratch a title off of my 50+-title backlog.

After you make your list, choose the top visual novels you have been wanting to play. This can be any number, and I’d suggest keeping it under five for the week depending on the length of the novels in your library. The number you choose will also reflect how much time you have or how many visual novels you have on your to-play list in the first place. Once you make your selection, stick to them for the week, or more, until they are complete. Once you start finishing these you can rotate them out, and before you know it your visual novel catalog might be a little more complete.

Set a Schedule

C14 Dating

Setting a schedule to play your favorite visual novels may sound over the top, but if you have a mountain of games to play, it helps to have some kind of game plan. I’ll play my shorter titles throughout the week, and then for longer games like Code: Realize I like to squeeze in an hour or so before going to sleep. My last two hours awake are usually dedicated to games like those that require more of a long-term commitment. If you’re the kind of player who likes to enjoy games in bursts, that’s OK too. You can play for a dozen hours on Saturday and then sprinkle in shorter titles on different days.

I’ve also recently taken an interest in watching video game streams, visual novels included. You’ll find that a lot of streamers set a schedule for the games they are going to play. Obviously, it’s part of their job as a streamer to be consistent, but setting a gaming schedule is a good method for starting and finishing games. You should never force yourself to play or read something when you don’t feel like it, but setting aside time for specific games throughout your week really helps get a flow going. Overall, the game plan is the key.

Recognize Your Play Style

Monster Prom

Are you a completionist or achievement hunter who finds yourself needing to play through every single choice and explore all the endings? Or do you play more casually, perhaps only going for your favorite love interest’s route in romance games? If you are reading this and are overwhelmed by your colossal library of unfinished or untouched VNs, then you probably have at least a little bit of “the completionist” in you. Either way, knowing your preferred play style is important. I lean more toward needing to thoroughly finish a visual novel, playing every route and even all the different choices. This makes feeling “complete” complicated, so I tend to try to play a lot of visual novels that are short in length, have a small selection of visual novels over ten hours in length, and play only one or two lengthy VNs at a time.

There are certain games where I play more casually. Monster Prom, for example, is something I can play in a more relaxed way; I don’t feel the need to explore every single choice. Of course, I still enjoy doing so, but I love adding games like this to my list because they’re great for unwinding after a long day. I don’t have to be invested in an intense storyline. I like to play visual novels with heavier plot themes on days when I don’t have a lot going on and can really focus, because I don’t want to miss anything.

If all this organizing and getting punctual about playing isn’t for you, then don’t worry too much about it, because my last trick is the ultimate cure for getting in the groove and playing those VNs you have been neglecting.

Make It a Social Thing

Mystic Messenger

If you’re a fan of visual novels, then you’re playing (hopefully) for fun, and the best remedy for a clogged visual novel backlog is to play alongside friends. It’s true that most visual novels are single-player, but the most fun I’ve had with visual novels is when my friends are also playing those games at the same time as me. One of the biggest reasons I had so much fun playing Mystic Messenger is because my best friends were also playing, so we’d talk about the chat conversation events that happened or the phone calls we received from the love interests.

If you don’t have friends who play visual novels, then don’t worry about that either! There are a lot of visual novels that I played completely solo, and I didn’t know anyone else who would even be interested in them, because during that time my friends weren’t really playing visual novels or otome games as much as I was. But then I found a podcast of girls talking about certain otome games, Otomates, and I felt like my otome game experiences became even more enjoyable. If you’re an otome fan and you haven’t checked them out, you should, because they are hilarious.

Lastly, watching streams of visual novels can be just as enjoyable as playing them myself. Sometimes there’s a visual novel I can’t play at the moment, but I still get to experience the game by watching someone else and listening to their commentary. I get through my day by multitasking a lot, so if I have the appetite to play a visual novel but don’t have the time, I can listen to someone else read it while I go about my day.

Spooktober 2022 Visual Novel Jam

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