I remember the first time I came across Visual Novels was about when I was roughly 14, or roughly 9 years ago
(oh god I’m old). It was a trial version of Ever17, and I was so intrigued by the medium after being only exposed to shallow anime at the time, it wasn’t long until I actually acquired my first set of HCGs *gasp* at a tender age of 16, and started playing all the English titles I could find. Being unsatisfied with the current collection of titles, I then started to look for more resources to play eroge while learning Japanese, which took me through various tools like ATLAS, AralTrans, AGTH, ITH, ezTrans, and VNR and Rosetta Stone.
Fast forward to today, when it’s been 7 years since I’ve dedicated to this genre. Obviously my review writing didn’t come until a few years ago with some conflict *cough cough* of its own, but I’m generally proud of my experience and expertise in determining what defines a good visual novel or eroge.
Even though I can be quite the pessimistic fuck.
As I occasionally receive some questions regarding VNs, one of them was the typical “What title did you like the most?”, or “What would you recommend?”, and while it’s easy to pick out some of the more memorable games I’ve played, it’s rather hard to single out just one.
I’ve only played like 200 titles you nerd. So instead, I just picked 10! I mean why not? I have 10 fingers. That’s good enough reason. SHUT UP IF I SAY IT’S A GOOD REASON IT’S A GOOD REASON
This is what I’d like to bring to my readers for the end of 2016; my (current) all-time favorite titles I’ve played so far. These titles have earned very high ratings, for which I’d like to repeat as well as a brief synopsis and my personal thoughts, as well as why I really enjoyed that title. I will mention that if the game does not or only has a very old review from me, I did not link it below. I will, however, produce a full-fledged review for each game upon request, so please don’t hesitate to ask for one! (It gives me a good
excuse reason to play the game anyways)
I’d also like to take this time to wish all my readers the happiest holidays and my personal gratitude for following me so far. The individuals who comment on my reviews make all of this effort worth it and it’s always great to see another person who enjoy the same medium as I do. Merry Christmas and I’ll see you again in 2017!
Let’s get with my post!
TOP 10 TITLES for Joyjason as of 2016
#10 — Inochi no Spare
The Bucket List Perfect title for Tachibana Mao fans
Overall Rating: 87/100
Brief Synopsis: “Oumonbyou” is an illness characterized by cherry blossom petal markings appearing on a victim’s body. There is no cure for this disease, and the person with it suffers from excruciating pain before dying. Ryuuji is a boy whose brother had this disease, and despite how he was able to donate his heart to potentially save the life of the person who loved him more than his parents, he was too scared to die. On the other hand, one of his classmates, Megumi, also has this disease but has a younger sister who is firm on dying for her older sister once Megumi becomes a legal age for receiving this transplant.
“Inochi no Spare” means an extra life. Would an extra life from a sacrifice of another really be worth it?
Personal Thoughts: Quite an impactful story, this game is a kinetic novel and thus only has one route. Despite being placed at #10 on my list, it is much better than what others might comment regarding it. Highly dramatic and climactic, I enjoyed some of the “attack” scenes which were almost nauseating to read through, the hints at sociology, and a serious discussion on life-and-death philosophy. Characters were vivid and unique, which included the protagonist who was like another character of the story and not actually a protagonist (though he worked well in that sense). The entire game has a very melancholic tone and proceeds with each event rather fluidly, and I admittedly found myself “shipping” these two characters purely for their immense amount of quality interaction and how each of them help each other with problems of their own.
#9 — Fureraba
Endingu ga mieru! Smee sucks with their games now tbh
Overall Rating: 74/100
Brief Synopsis: Kyousuke is now a 2nd year, and still doesn’t have a girlfriend. He definitely wants one and made some rather pathetic efforts to hit on girls in the past, but his personality prevents him from ever being successful. Instead, when his new semester starts, he goes in front of the classroom shouting that he wants a girlfriend, rallying all the rest of the male students in the process.
Despite all this, his potential partner might be much closer to him than he thinks. This might include his long-time friend Rina who is tomboyish, but someone he can relate to easily. His childhood friend Himari is back more beautiful than ever and seems foreign to the boy. The girl who seems to have two faces that he meets in the park previously is also his classmate and even sits near him. There’s even rumors of a super-high-class upperclassman who catches his attention. Who he pursues is unknown, but what we do know is that nothing will happen if you just wait.
Personal Thoughts: First glance at this game might give off the impression of a charage, but that’s not the only thing that this game has; it’s not #9 on my list for nothing. Starting with great, high quality humor, all of the characters including the heroine and the protagonist are colorful and quite the eyecandy. Subcharacters (which are mostly the parents) also greatly amplify the design of each heroine, and make them much more real and attractive. How you can share conversation with said heroines about various topics is also fun, considering you might annoy said heroine in an unexpected manner at times. In all, I sincerely appreciated that Fureraba was a light-hearted game which took itself seriously enough to entertain its readers, but also present many enjoyable characters to create a lasting impression.
Mental Issues, Psychos, and People who are into Psychos The anime was so full of shit
Overall Rating: 83/100
Brief Synopsis: There are a lot of people that exist in the world today, and each of them have their own problems. It should be normal, in that case, for some individuals to falter with the obstacles in life or despair, running away to their “ideal world” that they dream of. However, running away by itself is not going to solve anything. There are family and friends waiting patiently for your return, and for others, your experience can mean a shining light to their dark past. We may not have wings, but we have not lost hope.
The Town of Yanagihara is almost like a normal place, except there are individuals are always struggling and trying their best in everything they can. Takeshi is one of them, who is often ridiculed by his friends, but very few know about his secret relationship with the school’s prettiest girl, or about his role in Greatergard. Only the Observer and Kobato knows about the other “brothers”, which is their deepest secret.-
Personal Thoughts: As literally the 2nd non-translated game I played during my career, Oretsuba was a game that really made an impact on me previously with its highly realistic themes and setting as well as a psychological disorder which was well displayed throughout the game. With all bias aside (as I did suffer from MPD in the past like the protagonist), the highly realistic setting with fighting, drugs, and gangs was a unique change in addition to how it worked in synergy to present the five brothers and their own problems, and then you present multiple heroines and subcharacters who play various roles in the game… It all makes a super-immersive and highly intricate title.
There’s definitely a lot of “reading between the lines” in this game, but frankly it’s not that difficult. Even if you have bad impressions from the anime (which was more of a fanservice genre to be completely fair), do not expect the same thing for this game.
#7 — [優] Suzukaze no Melt
Where after-stories > Main game Fucking games with PSP ported versions Kaibara Elena is bae
Overall Rating: 85/100
Brief Synopsis: Michiromachi has a very old tradition of sending in a miko every 10 years into the forest to serve this god called the Tochigami (土地神), with the wishes of the townspeople delivered by the shinkan. The god then grants said wishes as best as she can, and this allowed the town to grow and be prosperous.
Akihito is actually a “Shinkan” (神官) who is a descendant of the very old family who has served said Tochikami for hundreds of years. While this role seems to be super-ultra special to the town, this title really only becomes relevant every 10 years and otherwise, he’s just a normal student with relationships of his own.
This is until strange, unnatural things start to happen in Mishiromachi, and mystical beings appear out of nowhere. These are “spirits” that hold a special wish from someone in the past, and are only visible to specific people.
What could these spirits mean? What are they for? These questions plague Akihito as he and his group of friends work hard to return them to where they belong.
Personal Thoughts: Seemingly a rather normal game, the scores wouldn’t be this high without the “afterstory” for each heroine which is available right after the completion of their route. This afterstory was so high in quality and such a complement to the main game that the fatal flaw of the main game having shitty romance was effectively neutralized. For the most part the game is rather slow, but this “afterstory” has so much built into to the point it was almost a route in itself, and connects back to the main one. The themes of nostalgia, bonds, and wishes fill the game with warmth and the wide cast of subcharacters only worked to make the game much better.
As it stands, Suzukaze no Melt is easily one of the top 10 games I’d recommend to readers, purely because of how it presents it story. I highly encourage readers to NOT stop midway through playing the game because things get slow, because trust me; it will pay off.
Overall Rating: 86/100
Chuunibyou Zozo Ushio best tsundere Why isn’t there an imouto route
Brief Synopsis: Michiru is a transfer student who received an invitation letter which he opened to find a flutter of blue birds flying into the sky. While the meaning of this is unknown, he regardless comes to this mysterious academy only to be caught in some trouble and breaking a statue on the campus. He is soon
blackmailed assigned to join a special committee who is in charge of sealing off magical artifacts that go on a rampage.
Little does he know that this event, from the beginning, will pull him into the truth behind this school and the accident happened 20 years ago which is shrouded in mystery, as well as the relationships that Michiru has himself.
Personal Thoughts: The trilogy of games that I thoroughly enjoyed, I found myself finishing both the first and second titles within a matter of hours and writhing in pain as I wanted to know how the story ends. Fortunately, Unisonshift:Blossom was kind enough to release the last title before I
killed myself suffered any longer and I can say with confidence that this series is one of the more fun games out there that I’d like to highly recommend to readers.
The selling point of this game is that the game “tests” you based on how well you answer the mysteries of the game, and gives you a “ranking” at the end based on how well you did. It really makes you pay close attention to every word, sound, or image which very few games manage to do nowadays.
This doesn’t make the story nor the characters lose out, however, as you can see some great humor between characters including jealousy from Ushio or the running gag by Shizuka, the addition of characters in the 2nd titles add more
plot (the one that has to do with boobs) scenario to the mix and the final title finishes things off with a grand finale. If you have the time to play through all three titles (which is really the only con anyways), Tokeijikake should be on your list to play.
#5 — [優] Sakura no Uta
Took you 7 years Makura At least it’s good Sequel in 2022 subheroines > heroines
Overall Rating: 88/100
Brief Synopsis: Naoya’s father died, who was his last blood relative. With no other family left on this planet, Naoya also refuses his father’s inheritance of 150 million en (Roughly 1.5 million USD) and now penniless, he somehow still finds the leisure to mess around with his friend Kei. However, as the funeral in the forest of cherry blossoms end, Kei’s older sister Ai invites Naoya to live with them in return for making meals at their house, which Naoya agrees to.
It’s been so long since that unfortunate accident 6 years ago that left Naoya, a world-famous artist himself, refusing to draw again. Now with the innocent childhood friends all grown up, Naoya must move on from the death of his relatives and live his own life with the relationships that he has. However, little will he know that he’ll be the center of even more; more pain and suffering for the people around him. He’ll never understand until much later how much of an influence he holds as the son of the World-Famous Artist.
You know you’re getting lazy when you copy-paste the summary from your review
Another impactful game, the main selling point of this title was its highly poetic atmosphere combined with the huge amounts of foreshadows and allegories. The former elements made this game much more fun to go through, despite some introduction of subcharacters (such as the Nakamura families, Hakuki) being rather insignificant or at least spontaneous.
The game doesn’t rate any higher than what it has, however, since heroines are extremely lackluster outside of her route, and it’s really the true route that has the most value, symbolism, or protagonist action… where heroines are barely present. It almost felt as if the game added said heroines just to have H-scenes and the true game begins from Chapter IV.
There are rumors that this game is receiving a sequel, and frankly I’m rather hyped for it. Sakura no Uta has a lot of flaws, but the other good portions make this game worth your time
#4 — [神] Tayutama
Mashiro Best Waifu For your kemonomimi needs What animal is Mashiro representing anyway?
Overall Rating: 89/100
Brief Synopsis: Yachimata Shrine is run by Yuuri and his father, who has a long history of working as a priest in anything spiritual related. Like his father, Yuuri is the descendant of a family of shamans and priests who have worked in extermination of spiritual pests for years which includes the “Three Strongest” by Kikuramikaminohime.
One day, as Yuuri spends his youth managing his bicycle, he sees a large stone in the perimeters of the school “Flawless” and realizes that it belongs to the very goddess that his shrine serves; the Kikuramikaminohime. With the help of his friends to infiltrate the school at night, the goddess herself appears before him and explains to him her goal of co-existence of humans and tayutai, leaving behind an incarnation who Yuuri soon names Mashiro.
This story is about Yuuri and Mashiro working together to harmonize the relationship between Tayutai and the humans, and the vanguards of such mission which includes Yumina, Yuuri’s non-blood related sister, Ameri, Yuuri’s childhood friend, and Mifuyu, the head of the Flawless Academy.
Personal Thoughts: This was actually a game that raised my standards for visual novels and galge significantly. Previously, I had played games like Shuffle and thought it was like the best game ever, only to have my paradigms overturned as I finally saw how a “good game” should be presented.
The entire concept of Tayutai was something I appreciated. For me it represented a different race or basically “people” that have different paradigms, beliefs, or cultures. This led me to thinking there might be much misunderstanding stemming from stereotypes, ignorance, and bias, and how the main characters (Yuuri and Mashiro) even manage to fall in love even with such a difference was something I found romantic and exciting.
Just a protip however, that Tayutama 2, which is the direct sequel to this game, has much less value, only seeming to be good for its H-scenes, which truthfully made me salty as hell. It really goes without saying that Lump of Sugar is losing its standings as a competent galge producer as games after Hello, Good-bye have literally been pretty shitty.
#3 — [神] Mashiroiro Symphony
Baste in the glory of Izumi Tsubasu you plebians y u no Mutsuki and Sana on PC
Overall Rating: 95/100
Brief Synopsis: Shingo and his sister are of the chosen few to participate in a test program in an all-girl’s academy to see if making the school host both male and female students would be worthwhile. A new environment excites the two, though immediately on day one they find that the males are not welcome in this previously Yuigo all-girl’s academy.
Through the center of it all stands Sena Airi, a student who is the daughter of the superintendent and very much influential to the rest of the students. Her words of rejection for the male students resonate towards other students, and Shingo works hard to change that.
Along the way, he forms relationships with others, including the master-less maid Angelina, an upperclassman Miu, and even with his own younger sister Sakuno.
Personal Thoughts: Probably one of the best games in terms of romance, I really appreciate games which have a romance-themed storyline introducing a setting specifically for that theme (i.e. Previous all-girl’s academy becomes a hybrid -> Causes gender conflicts), and maintains that “romance” theme throughout the game even when it comes to personal problems and finally forming of the romantic bond.
It’s quite a bonus that as a realistic game, the protagonist’s personality, attitude, and ideals become “role models” for us readers (at least it was like that for me), and even makes various suggestions regarding how to approach and interact with the opposite sex.
Easily considered a kamige in my dictionary, I was more or less disappointed there are small kinks here and there stemming from personal bias, but otherwise find this game easily ranking in the top 5 of my all-time favorites purely due to how much bittersweet romance it contains.
One thing that I’d likely complain about is that some of the routes or heroines seems rather archetypical, but that might be because I played this game 4 times in total until now and can pretty much recall every line and scenario from memory.
#2 — [優] White Album 2
Fuck you Haruki totally not an overzealous Korean drama y so srs
Overall Rating: 92/100
Brief Synopsis: Snow is a beautiful thing; its pure color blankets the cold asphalt or the mud and transforms an ugly reality into a fantastical wonderland. However, as with anything beautiful, once the snow melts, it reveals the once-ugly nature of reality and may even make it worse due to the melted snow mixing with the mud that it was covering.
Haruki’s club was in peril of disbanding, but one day as he plays his guitar, he hears both an angelic voice as well as someone who was playing a heavenly melody on a piano in an enclosed room. His persistent efforts allows the three of them to form a band, but none of them could figure out that this was only the beginning to the harsh relationship that would inevitably hurt all of them.
Personal Thoughts: Think of the most dramatic Korean drama involving love triangles and that’s pretty much this game except slightly different in some fields (such as the characters are college students). Vague may describe this game, but lots of foreshadows, twists, and attention to even the smallest details allows the readers to be that individual who has an idea of pretty much everything that’s going on. Combine this with the impactful scenario involving painful love triangles (and let’s be honest; this game presents this element the best) and this story is quite the read. Characters feel very much alive and real, and readers may even come to feel anger, sympathy, or affection for some of these heroine/subcharacters, which is immersion to the highest extent.
The one thing that would turn off readers is ironically Haruki himself. As the center of all the love triangles you’d expect him to be a bit more protagonist-like which didn’t happen. However, considering this was supposed to be one of the more realistic novels, his character is well defined as that 17/18 year old who was “rejected” by his first love and his struggles with relationships afterward.
#1 — [神] Sekai de ichiban dame na Koi
Why the fuck does this not have a remake/anime adaptation
Overall Rating: 100/100
Brief Synopsis: Osamu is a very unlucky man. After being forced a divorce with his wife and finally laid off at his job, all he wants to do is lie down and die. However a kind act by an unknown woman brings him back to his feet and the following Spring, he visits that woman lives in order to propose to her.
Turns out, Osamu does not meet this woman, but instead a younger girl in her teens that he somehow manages to insult and get slapped. Her name is Mitoko, who owns this very old inn and runs it by herself. He finds it in himself to feel sympathy for the girl who seems to only get 4 hours of sleep a day, and offers his help. However, the girl insults him instead, calling him “Mr. Laid Off” and claiming that she doesn’t need his help.
Personal Thoughts: Pretty much what I would consider the “perfect game”. Great and original storyline filled with loveable characters and subcharacters who really play their role by supporting the heroine and the protagonist. Osamu himself seems rather bland at first, but the game slowly displays him as a protagonist full of justice, morals, and integrity that readers may come to admire this unlucky man.
The storyline which takes the reader through each “chapters” of scenario never broke immersion by keeping all the heroines relevant and present through all of it, and there’s just so many foreshadows, plot-twists, and easy-to-see implications that allowed the story to unfold without the writers having to spell it out to the readers. None of the plot is boring, and a lot of the love-triangles formed are bittersweet and climactic (and sometimes humorous). Add on a heartwarming finale to all of this and you pretty much have the visual novel which is flawless in so many aspects I’d kill to have a visual remake of this game someday.
And there you have it! My top 10 list of visual novels (for those who might be curious about it) which is current for the year of 2016! Obviously I’m hoping there will be alterations to this list within the next year, but we’ll see if that happens or not… The 2016 titles have been relatively disappointing so far however.
As with the previous years, it really helps me and encourages me to write these reviews if there are more people who comment on them, debate with me, and hopefully disagree with some of the things I say. It helps me improve as writer and as a critic, and I’m aiming to provide even higher quality reviews for my audience in the year 2017.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!