If you’ve been a part of the visual novel world for awhile, then you’ve probably noticed that there are a number of people who don’t like visual novels or maybe just haven’t taken an interest in them. Chances are they haven’t given them a shot. Even if they have, visual novels might not be for everyone, and that’s okay! But they’re still a very powerful storytelling medium, and here’s why.
Visual novels are a combination of multiple storytelling methods.
The amazing thing about visual novels is how they can be more than just a book, a game, or a movie. They can resemble all of those things in one! Some visual novels have fully animated cutscenes and realistic sound effects, like the fault series. Others have more prominent gameplay elements within them, like Stand By Me, an RPG Maker VN, or Date Warp, an otome game with puzzles that unlock the story.
Choice-based visual novels are interactive! Depending on the game, you can decide the course of the story, choose the characters you romance, and sometimes even decide the protagonist’s personality. This level of interactivity gives players a more intimate experience than other forms of storytelling. I’ve always said that playing visual novels feels like watching an anime, except I get to be involved in the story too.
Visual novels defy traditional linear storytelling.
Books and movies have a beginning, middle, and end, rarely deviating from this linear narrative form. Have you ever watched a movie or read a book and asked yourself, what if this had happened instead? Visual novels can satisfy that curiosity. They often have multiple endings and an array of choices that branch the story into different directions. This storytelling technique gives a lot of replay value to visual novels, because we get to explore different versions of the same story and even potentially unravel more of the overarching plot.
There’s plenty of room for creativity.
Visual novel developers are very creative with storytelling, and it seems that as time goes on, that level of creativity continues to evolve. A great example of that is Stillwater, an entry for the Spooktober 3rd Annual Visual Novel Jam, which tells the story with unique animations and transitions, like black squiggly lines over the characters to convey urgency and emotion.
There’s something charming about them!
At the end of the day, visual novels are undeniably unique. It’s no surprise that there seems to be more and more people taking an interest in them. I think everything I’ve mentioned above gives visual novels their charm and unique flavor.
If I had to choose one aspect of visual novels that gives them an edge over other storytelling mediums, I’d say the branching paths and different endings are the biggest appeal. We’re naturally curious about various possibilities and different endings in movies and in life, so it’s fun to be able to explore that curiosity in visual novels.