What do you look for in a visual novel?
I look for a grounded story with realistic characters. I’m not into the whole this characters the saviour of the world or what ever plots, because it does get into the whole this character is flawless etc… I prefer slice of life type stuff, because I can resonate with the characters and feel as though they are friends I know personally. That’s one of the reasons why I adore Tomoyo After, because I felt like I knew these characters personally, and were with them in their struggles, and all the high points and low points of their life. . This is a major plot point for Tomoyo After so do not click if you have not finished the game at all but I cried when I finished the game. Just seeing the overall message of the game be conveyed in a “It’s a Wonderful Life”, or “Life is beautiful” and relating the struggles of what these characters have gone through to us the viewers about how we can move on from something happening in our own lives, really resonated within me, given I lost a close friend a few years ago. I feel plots like this are why I’m soo much more enjoying VNs now, because they’re so unique in presenting their story. So, that’s what I look for in VNs! Good, realistic characters, just doing their everyday lives.
What’s the one thing you feel that visual novels need to have but most often don’t?
I guess, check points. I don’t know if it’s prevalent in later Key VNs, but in Steins Gate there are autosaves for each chapter, which I found immensely helpful in discerning which paths I haven’t taken, or what choices I haven’t taken. It really helps going through the VN, something which I found was a bit of a hassle with Clannad, given the amount of routes you are presented and choices, too!
What advice would you give to someone off starting their first visual novel or trying to make the best visual novel?
For those starting out with their first visual novel, I would highly recommend to take it slow! I found when I played Steins Gate the format was, literally, reading, with minimal choices. I was always tempted to increase the text speed and try and zip through everything. Do not do this! You’ll miss out on so much, and thankfully I rectified this! I find this format to be unique in that it is, literally, a novel that is visual, so of course the format is quite limited to just reading text and making minimal choices.
I don’t know if this is good advice, but I found playing the game blind works well for me, before getting a walkthrough. I like the idea of being engaged in this world and getting a bad ending, rather than going off a guide and just hitting check points. However, I contend there are some wacky choices which lock you out of good endings, so I guess, to each your own.
A good advice for those making a visual novel, try and make the characters people you can resonate with. They really do form the core part of what makes a VN engaging, as you are consistently engaging with them throughout the novel. I found world building to not necessarily be that important, unless you’re doing a show don’t tell type of scenario. Also, I like meaningful plots, not hamfisted dramatic stuff for the sake of it.