Visual novels are games that involve lots of text, little action, and a mix of still images and animated cut scenes. Until recently, games of this genre were typically found only in Japan. However, more visual novels are receiving official English translations. The popularity of the visual novel is growing, helped by the success of series such as Danganronpa, AI: The Somnium Files and Western originals including Monster Prom and Doki Doki Literature Club. As the genre grows, several existing franchises should consider visual novel-inspired spinoffs or entries.
A few existing series have begun to draw inspiration from visual novels. Digimon Survive is one example, blending visual novel-inspired dialogue sections with combat and Digimon raising. With the rise of the “hybrid visual novel” format – a game that includes both visual novel and combat or puzzle-solving sections, such as 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rimor AI: The Somnium Files – it is possible that more franchises will begin to experiment.
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The Persona games already feature an extensive social element, with conversations known as Confidants or Social Links allowing the player to grow closer to and even romance a variety of characters. A Persona visual novel could focus exclusively on the Confidant element. It could even feature characters from multiple Persona games meeting, interacting, and bonding. Like Digimon Survive, Persona fusing and leveling could occur between visual novel segments. The story could also feature branching paths. For example, if the player reached a bad ending, they could wind up back in the Velvet Room and get advice from Igor before restarting their journey.
Like Persona, the Fire Emblem series has become known for its social elements. Recent Fire Emblem games have featured a robust system of Supports in which characters can bond between battles. If Supports are maxed out, certain pairs of characters can even end the game romantically involved. A Fire Emblem visual novel could bring Supports to the fore and could be a great way for fans who may be wary of the often difficult tactical strategy gameplay to get introduced to the series.
Other than romance, arguably the most popular genre explored via the visual novel medium is horror. Words can be used quite effectively to describe terrifying scenes, especially when paired with chilling still images of death, destruction, or even simple darkness. The cerebral, psychological horror of the Silent Hill series would fit perfectly into a visual novel medium, with each chapter increasing the sense of dread and claustrophobia as the player character advances further into the titular haunted town.
True to their name, visual novels draw a lot of inspiration from books with their focus on dialogue and narration and preference for still illustrations over animated cut scenes. As the Paper Mariosub-series also pays homage to literature with its epic fantasy storytelling and paper-themed, pop-up-book-like art style, it could be a natural fit for the visual novel medium. Players could utilize the paper-themed abilities of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Bowser, and other classic characters to travel through the chapters of a literal storybook.
One of the key elements of many visual novels is the player’s ability to make choices that result in branching paths and different endings, often cataloged via a flow chart. In the first Xenoblade Chronicles game, protagonist Shulk was able to receive visions of the future via his unique sword, the Monado. Sometimes, if the player acted on these visions, they could alter the outcome of events and change the future significantly. A Xenoblade visual novel could be centered around these visions, allowing for multiple paths and endings depending on whether the player chose to respond to each vision and attempt to change the future or leave things as they are.
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