Tag Archives: adventure

The Three Ages of Visual Novels

With this month’s Cover Game being one of the most influential, well-regarded visual novels of all time, it seems only right and proper to take a look at the history of the medium as a whole.

To date, there have been three main “eras” of visual novels that can be clearly distinguished through a combination of their visual style, thematic content, gameplay elements (if any) and breadth of appeal. Of course, things aren’t quite as neat and simple as that might suggest, with some modern works deliberately channeling older styles, or some older works being ahead of their time, but it’s a working hypothesis to start from.

And, since visual novels form an extremely important part of both Japanese gaming and Japanese popular media in general, it’s worth tracing the route things have taken to get to where we are today.

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Taito Essentials: Elevator Action Returns

Elevator Action is an established classic of the ’80s arcade scene, and saw a wide variety of ports to most of the popular computer and console systems of the period.

While the original game is still relatively well-known today, many people remain unaware that Taito followed it up with an official sequel in 1994, some eleven years after the original game’s release.

These people are, of course, also unaware that Elevator Action Returns is an absolutely awesome game, even from a modern perspective.

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PS2 Essentials: Shadow of Memories

The first game I ever played on the PlayStation 2 was Konami’s Shadow of Memories, also known as Shadow of Destiny in the States.

I’d wanted a PS2 for a while, but even back then, I felt like I didn’t want to pick up a game that I felt I already knew all about from reading about it in magazines. So I deliberately chose a game I knew absolutely nothing about as my first PS2 game, then sat down to play it and found myself utterly entranced by something quite unlike anything I’d ever played before.

Combining elements of traditional adventure games, visual novels and even open-world exploration, Shadow of Memories remains a highly noteworthy title in the PS2’s library, and well worth exploring even today.

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Puzzler Essentials: Hell Girls

We’re enjoying a bit of a puzzle game renaissance at the moment.

While we’re not quite at the same level as we were in the 8-, 16- and 32-bit eras, where puzzle games would happily share retail shelf space with 100+ hour RPG epics (Puyo Puyo Tetris aside), we are at least starting to see more and more puzzle games that aren’t free-to-play mobile titles primarily designed to repeatedly part you from your cash rather than providing a well-balanced, fun experience.

One interesting game that may well have passed you by owing to its low price and seemingly low production values is Hell Girls from Taiwanese circle SakuraGame. And you should most definitely give it a look!

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PS2 Essentials: Kuri Kuri Mix

Have you heard the tale of FromSoftware, dear reader? Legend has it that long ago, in the dim and distant past, these renowned scribes were more than just “the people who made Souls games”.

Joking aside, the company’s past output is quite a bit more diverse than you might expect if you only became aware of it in the last couple of console generations. In particular, the first two PlayStation eras represented FromSoftware at its most experimental, with its games running the gamut from Souls’ spiritual predecessor King’s Field to mech sim series Armored Core.

Perhaps the most surprising of FromSoftware’s games from this era, though, given their present reputation for “dark and moody”, is a rather peculiar PlayStation 2 game released in Japan and Europe as Kuri Kuri Mix, and The Adventures of Cookie and Cream in the States.

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From The Archives: Darkness and Scissors – The Horror of Corpse Party

If you have a PSP (or Vita) then you really owe it to yourself to pick up a copy of the magnificent Corpse Party from Team GrisGris, localised by XSEED. (Editor’s note: Since this article was written in 2012, you can now also get a version of the game for 3DS and PC, though note that these are slightly different to the version under discussion here.)

While initially resembling a top-down SNES-era role-playing game more than a traditional visual novel, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a game where story — and, more importantly, atmosphere – is king.

This article was originally published on Games Are Evil in 2012 as part of the site’s regular READ.ME column on visual novels. It has been republished here due to Games Are Evil no longer existing in its original form.

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