Common characteristics of Galge

Galge do have very distinct structures that are rarely broken when it comes to the relationships between their male main characters and the group of heroines. Not only this, but they’ve set some other common practices like the existence of multiple routes in a VN.

This topic is meant to discuss these generalized matters within Galge, both those that you might like and those that you might dislike, and in addition, to propose and talk about alternative structures that could work in Galge but haven’t been explored either because no one has thought about them or because the way the industry works, such ideas would clearly hinder the VN sales.

1 Like

For those unsure what exactly we’re supposed to talk about here…

It all started in the chat when @Mogaoscar said

A boring personal opinion brought to you by mogaoscar with 0 potential to be expanded into an interesting post.

In the beginning, it was about why certain heroine types were more popular than others, like Kouhai vs. Senpai. Why do certain types appeal more to a certain audience?
Then it shifted to tropes, common practices and why they are still common.

For example, a typical galge route goes like this:

meet girl -> learn about her problem -> help her solve her problem while getting closer -> conclusion

So essentially, the protag would take advantage of a heroine’s weakness while proving his worth. What other approaches could be taken for a romantic relationship to begin and develop? And how about switching the roles: Making a protagonist with a problem which is the center of a route plot and having the heroines help him solve it?

Is there a way of making a galge that’s more respecting of women, for example by changing up the typical basic galge structure of heroines being “offered” to a consumer to fulfill certain expectations?

What other characteristics and tropes of galge do you think would make for a refreshing experience if changed and how exactly would you go about it?

Oh, and most of the things we discuss here could probably also apply to otome games. (I just can’t say for sure since I have no experience with those)

In case of “solving problems to get closer”, what bothers me is the feeling that you have to take advantage of someone’s weakness to win them over. This impression was particularly strong to me in the “The World God Only Knows” Manga/Anime, which is based on galge tropes. That impression would also make you conclude that if you can’t find out the exact thing a person needs and offer it to them, how can you ever become noteworthy, let alone special to someone?

But finding an alternative approach seems tricky, since “solving problems” is very effective in several ways. It creates a storyline, gives the characters a challenge to overcome, a reason to experience a wide range of emotions. It builds (or ruins) trust, encourages character development, reveals traits they’d rather keep hidden, etc. It simply accelerates all kinds of changes that you want to display in an interpersonal relationship which you want to show to your audience.

Without it, you’d have to take things more slowly. Build up a relationship with small, less emotional interactions. A common dating sim mechanic (I think?) is accumulating affection points by choosing the “right” dialogue options. Just make sure not to make the options polar opposites of each-other (like “soup is the best food” vs. “soup is the worst food”) - that would make the protag look either insincere or simply devoid of personality. But these small events usually already happen in the common route, so you need to up the ante, offer something more exciting…

To be honest, I’m kinda running out of ideas for an elegant solution right now :yahaha:


I’ve personally found (though this is apparently an unpopular opinion) that a large part of the problem comes from the overbearing inclination towards happy endings. Not only does this limit the variety we can see in the endings themselves, but it limits the possible narrative structures for the whole thing.

I feel that the problem comes from the idea that a complication must be solved, rather than just addressed, which I vehemently disagree with. First of all, as a general rule, stories do need complications, and given the general format of VNs - which, while also up for critique in this topic, I am not going to address here - it is very apt and easy to make the complication character based. However, if you make it protagonist based, as in One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e, of which the most common and scathing criticism is that each route is predictable because they have the same complication, there’s no real variety to the substance of each route. And it’s a common troupe that among all the eccentric weirdos and their eccentric problems surrounding him, the one with the biggest problems is the protagonist himself, which are usually solved either as a byproduct of helping the heroines solve their problems, or are the focus of a true route. Obvious examples include the Grisaia series, Cross Channel, A Good Librarian Like a Good Shepard, etc. I’d argue that most of the Key VNs fit that description too, but that’s a different discussion.

Anyway, I think that removing the expectation of a happy ending instantly solves most of these problems. And I’m not just saying that because I’m so sick of reading and seeing the same shit over and over again. I want blood. It means that the protagonist doesn’t have to have any power of the heroines, basically, it gets rid of the saviour complex throughout the Galge genre. It also gives a better opportunity to have the protagonist himself as the source of the complication without it always going the same way, as in One.

Again, I reiterate, the key difference is between addressing the complication and actually “solving” it. Obviously you can’t not address it. I myself have complained on Kaza about VNs not doing that. But the expectation of an ending that not only solves the complication, but leads to a better situation than the one at the begging, is too restrictive. Hate to just plug it here as I always do, but I think Rewrite is a good model in this regard. Another interesting study into endings is The Witch’s love diary, though it does follow the problematic structure in question, it at least has some balls when it comes to the endings, and I feel it’s only appropriate to mention it here seeing as it’s clearly something of a satire of the genre.

The endings don’t necessarily need to be “bad” - I just mentioned WLD, where the route endings are bittersweet and the true ending is just fucking metal - but the expectation of a better situation than the one they started in is, I think, a key part of the problem.

1 Like

Just a random though I had yesterday, can’t even remember how I got to this conclusion. In VNs, it feels like a lot of choices aren’t choices as they’re described. You’re reading along as you always are, then you get to a point where multiple options pop up on screen. Once you pick one, that becomes the only possible outcome, and everything prior was always leading to this outcome and no other. In the moment of the choice, you weren’t in the character’s head; once the outcome has been determined, the character may not even think there was a choice because they just did what they always planned to do.

Before the choice occurred, the possibility of all outcomes existed at the same time. That doesn’t mean the characters was actually considering all their future options. It just means they have an empty spot on their character sheet that will be filled once the choice is made. Now retroactively, they were always thinking of that option and always had that action in mind.

I’m sure this connects to quantum mechanics somehow. You know a number of points a photon can travel past. You have one measuring device, and once it’s placed at any point, the photon was only ever heading for that one point: that kinda thing.

1 Like

Maybe I simply missed something important here, but isn’t what you’re describing just… bad writing?

Key VNs usually do point out that the choices the player makes are indeed choices. A certain Rewrite heroine points out how uncharacteristic it was for the protagonist to pursue her out of all people when you get on her route. There’s also VNs with a “true route” that ties all the other routes together, saying ALL of the choices have happened. In Da Capo 2, going out with a certain heroine in her route can lead to a happy ending, but accepting her confession while on a different girl’s route gives you a bad ending but it’s very much a conscious choice and the consequences are obvious.

Characters are free to say and think “this was destined to happen”, but if the narration implies that about something that was only one option out of many and denies the existence of other options retroactively, it’s probably bad writing. Yes, some VNs only want to tell one story and the other routes are just tacked on to help it sell, and give the player more waifus, engage them for a longer time or simply to tell more about a heroine than the main story gives you space for, but if the VNs is too obvious about it, it just breaks immersion and feels cheap. Even 5-lines bad ends like “Run straight at the monster without preparations” -> “you die” can be meaningful if used correctly. For example, to point out the danger the characters are facing and how much of a tightrope walk their predicament is.

What I also dislike about pretending that a choice was not a choice (but still happens often enough to be a common characteristic) is the clear lack of jealousy in most VNs. Only in rare cases do heroines react to it if you try to pursue more than one romance at the same time. Surprisingly, among the VNs I’ve played, only Fureraba has a systematic approach to it. But most of the time, during the common route, girl A behaves exactly the same no matter how close you are to girl B and once you get onto one heroine’s route, everyone else is friendly and supportive, as if they’ve never had any interest in the protag at all. And nobody points out that he may have been trying to be a playboy.

I’d have to disagree. Vehemently. I’d go so far as to say it’s the only option to avoid terrible writing.

There’s no other way for the protagonist to maintain any agency in a system where we control their choices. I’ll hold off on the protagonists that are just blank slates for me to project my ego on to, thank you very much. Most of the choices we make in our everyday lives aren’t exactly nail-biters, most of the time we aren’t even consciously aware of them as choices. Going out of the way to acknowledge the other options would just be unnatural, and that’s what I would consider bad writing.

You might say that this makes the protagonist inconsistent, that they make different decisions for seemingly no reason between routes, but people are like that. Put the same person in the same situation on a different day, and chances are good they’ll react differently. There’s nothing strange about that. That argument just doesn’t hold up. There’s just no reason for the protagonist to act like a damn robot awaiting our input so it can give the specified output with no will of their own factoring into it at any point. And yeah, when we make a choice, we tend to think it’s the only one we could have made at that time, because it’s the one we made. We don’t live multiple lives, and (usually) neither do the protagonists of VNs (even when they do, they’re not aware of it), and this is only an argument that can even occur to you because you’re looking in from the outside, from the perspective of someone who knows that other options are on the table. The protagonist doesn’t have your omniscience. I just can’t think of any angle where acting otherwise leads to better writing.

The only point where I’ll agree with you is to your last point, how the behaviour of the other characters aren’t really at all responsive to how the protagonist behaves, and that really shouldn’t be the case. I’d call that maybe not necessarily bad writing, but lazy writing.