One of the things I remember most about my grandma – who moved across the country when I was young and passed when I was in my teens – was her book choice. Crosswords and romance novels, all the way. The romance novels are the ones I remember the most, and certainly remember giggling over as I got older and understood what the covers were showing.Still, she made it no secret she enjoyed them, and I still find myself remembering her when I notice them in book stores or at the library.
There’s still some impressively great – and sometimes funny – covers, by the way. Keep on keepin’ on romance genre.
I didn’t really get the appeal. I didn’t get it when I was a kid and I didn’t get it when I was a teen and I didn’t get it in my twenties, especially when Certain Romance Novels came out – I’m sure you can guess which ones. But I get it now, and it’s not because I actually sit and read the books my grandma used to pour over.
No, I have a guilty pleasure: visual novels.
Granted, visual novels as a whole aren’t always romantic. The game genre has been exploding lately with games that tell stories that barely have romance, if at all (though I don’t think I’ve ever come across one /devoid/ of romance completely, it just takes a major backburner). But I’ve sort of been sucked in, especially when I found out how weird some of these games are. It’s the good kind of weird, the kind of weird that’s both funny and sometimes incredibly endearing and well-written.
There’s also incredibly badly written and wince-worthy ones, but hey, just like books, there’s good and bad, right?
My own tastes really do lie in the odd ones. Not ones filled with porn, which obviously exist, but ones with ridiculous scenarios that somehow work. The most popular one I can think of is Hatoful Boyfriend – the pigeon dating sim – but there are others now that toe the line of absurdity in a wonderful way. There are ones that are basically parodies of VNs but still are written in a way that make them perfectly acceptable and fun to read VNs themselves.
I’m really heartened by the quality I’ve been seeing lately out of the VN community. A part of me wonders why I’m surprised – in the end, they truly are just short stories (or books, because some of these games boast a /hefty/ amount of words) that just happen to have pictures and branching paths. Now more than ever, it feels like people are turning to these things to tell a story that maybe wouldn’t fit neatly anywhere else. With easy-to-use software to make them, I assume the amount available will just keep going up.
I laughed them off for a long time. I don’t actually even remember the first one that really changed my mind, but it’s been a steady stream of weird and hilarious stuff since then. There’s really no shortage anymore, either. You can pretty much find these things anywhere, from consoles to your smartphone to, obviously, your PC. Some cost money – there’s a whole lot on Steam, in fact, with one going for something like forty dollars (and boasting a gigantic amount of text) to completely free ones that someone made as a fun project.
It’s almost a shame VN get a bad rap. The early days were undoubtedly full of stories that were flimsy and only existed for the X-Rated art, but it’s not really like that any longer, not really. Even the ones with the sexier footage contained within are starting to get bulked up more and more by actual decent romance stories, ones worth reading, where the story and build up comes first. You know, like every good romance story should have.
It’s that rap, though, that kept me quiet about liking them. Not anymore. No, there’s a ton of good stuff out there if you look for it, and I highly suggest you do. I have seen everything from a silly VN involving a cat cafe and characters that actually turn into cats to one that is a horror game involving really hard subjects to a VN that’s just a character dealing with college and the relationships he or she forms while in it. If there’s a subject you like, there is probably a visual novel that exists or will exist one day. Hell, there’s VNs you will find that you will go ‘I cannot believe someone thought of this’, they’re so out there.
I mean, after all, there’s already a romance VN where the girls are manifestations of tanks that is in terrible taste but exists, oh, does it exist. The sky’s the limit, folks.