Thanks to the efforts of companies like MangaGamer, there has never been a better time to be a fan of visual novels. MangaGamer, the world’s first legal download site for English translated visual novels, have been tireless in their efforts to bring these titles to the Western Market. This has resulted in numerous Japanese titles getting translated and exposed to a larger audience and more Japanese developers realizing the potential of selling their products to English audiences. One such developer is Circus, a long time partner of MangaGamer, and creators of the Da Capo and Dal Segno series. However, Circus and MangaGamer are now taking things one step further by partnering for the launch of Space Live. What makes this such a noteworthy event is the fact that Space Live will be a Japanese visual novel that is developed primarily for the Western Market
Omega Pattern is a visual novel where you follow the story of a young man named Shaiel who is on the run from a ruthless organization called Bioagora. His psychic skills make him an important target for Bioagora, who has a history of turning gifted people into brainwashed agents to do their bidding. The game doesn’t just tell the story of Shaiel in the present, but also features plenty of flashbacks where you actually get to make choices that influences the route you take to the ending. This gives the game some nice replay value and the different routes are actually quite different and not just minor variations. Unfortunately, Omega Pattern is also quite short and since it is only the first part of the full story, it ends in a “To Be Continued,” which might annoy some fans.
Gameplay: The story is genuinely intriguing and the choices you get to make actually impacts the story, which is a nice touch.
Graphics: Nothing really special, but gets the job done.
Sound: No voice acting, but the soundtrack is really solid
The NEKOPARA series has consistently delivered entertaining kinetic novels with great visuals and audio, so it is no surprise that volume three does the same. This time the story shifts to Maple and Cinnamon, the only catgirls left at La Soleil who have not yet had their chance to shine. While the story spends a lot of time with these two the other catgirls also make regular appearances, so no matter which ones are your favorite, you’ll get to experience more of their cuteness. Like volume one and two, this game is available in censored and uncensored versions, with the former costing less and the latter including explicit h-scenes. Whichever version you choose, you’ll find a story that is packed with adorable catgirls, plenty of humorous situations and some of the best visuals in the genre.
Gameplay: NEKOPARA Vol. 3 is still a kinetic novel with no choices to make, but the story is entertaining all the way through.
Graphics: More stunning artwork by Sayori and more animations courtesy of the E-mote system.
Sound: The soundtrack sounds a little too familiar at times, but still has plenty of great tracks and some stellar Japanese voice acting
A Butterfly In The District of Dreams doesn’t quite live up to its mysterious premise, but as far as visual novels goes it still has a lot to offer. The pace of the story is very slow and relaxing, which is great for players in search of a calming experience. It is refreshing to play a title that doesn’t rely on fan service as a crutch, but due to the slow pace it is also a title that some players will find a little boring. With three main heroines, each with multiple routes and different endings, this visual novel is definitely not lacking in content.
Gameplay: The pace is fairly slow, but the slice of life drama still manages to be captivating once you get hooked.
Graphics: Beautiful character sprites, but the backgrounds are fairly limited.
Sound: Full Japanese voice acting and a great soundtrack
Lily of the Valley is a great update of the free visual novel released by ebi-hime in 2014. In addition to some stunning new artwork and a great soundtrack the story is still as unique as it is captivating. Don’t let the visuals fool you, this novel is not as lighthearted as it first appears and thanks to some great writing the story is a lot more memorable than expected. The game is short enough to complete in a single sitting, but still manages to have a bigger emotional impact than stories that are ten times longer.
Gameplay: Pretty much a kinetic novel with only a single choice, but the story is so good that it is hard to stop playing.
Graphics: The updated artwork looks really nice, but the option to play with the older visuals is a nice touch.
Sound: The hauntingly beautiful soundtrack is definitely a highlight
Help Cassandra Winter save a small New Zealand town from a monster in this engrossing Visual Novel by Bionic Penguin. Instead of romance or fan-service, this title places the emphasis on action and intrigue. It is a little on the short side, but the unique setting and fascinating lore ensure that there is never a dull moment. Three different endings also provide the game with some replay value, so if you are a fan of the genre then this is definitely one to add to your library.
Gameplay: The story will have you hooked from the start and never lets up.
Graphics: Great character designs and good use of color.
Sound: No voice acting and the music frequently just stops, but the sound effects are excellent
PSYCHO-PASS: Mandatory Happiness is based on the popular anime series of the same name, but this engrossing visual novel isn’t afraid to carve out its own path. It features a very memorable setting, interesting characters and plenty of content to explore. The story is a little darker than most visual novels on Steam, which is a good thing and familiarity with the anime series isn’t required to enjoy this title. Any fans of the genre looking for something that will keep them busy for a while should definitely add PSYCHO-PASS to their collection.
Gameplay: Features an engrossing storyline, two protagonists, a branching storyline and plenty of different endings.
Graphics: Great character designs and backgrounds, but not much in the way of animations.
Sound: Full voice acting for all the characters and some nice background music too
Join Haruki, the protagonist of NEKO-NIN exHeart, as he suddenly finds himself with two catgirls on his doorstep claiming that he is their new master. Haruki is understandably dubious about the whole situation and not entirely keen to accept responsibility for the two ninjas, but eventually warm up to their cuteness. This visual novel is a lighthearted affair with beautiful artwork, but the story isn’t’ exactly memorable and it is all over without much really happening along the way. Fans of cat girls will definitely enjoy it, but everyone else should probably try the free demo first.
Gameplay: Only two choices in the entire game and not much in the way of character development, but still enjoyable.
Graphics: The artwork is beautiful and the moving cat ears are as adorable as advertised.
Sound: Nice Japanese voice acting for all the girls, but the music isn’t exactly memorable
The Sakura series heads into space for a yuri adventure with this release by Winged Cloud. Players get to experience what happens when Captain Shika and her crew of mercenaries stumbles across the bounty of a lifetime. Although it might look like you have choices in the game, it plays out more like a kinetic novel, but offers some entertainment nonetheless. We would recommend sticking to the uncensored version though, as it offers a bit more content.
Gameplay: There are some interesting story elements, but the focus is mostly on the ecchi escapades of the girls.
Graphics: The artwork by Inma is gorgeous as always, but the cast is small and the locations limited.
Sound: No voice acting and decent, but unremarkable music
In Sakura Shrine Girls you step into the shoes of Toru, a young priest-in-training, who gets more than he bargained for when following in the footsteps of his grandfather. Toru has always been a skeptic, but when he encounters two guardian sprits at the shrines he is supposed to maintain his whole world is turned upside down. Sakura Shrine Girls features decent art, but the story is fairly predictable and the characters not that memorable. It is still an entertaining read and you can pick which one the girls Toru ends up with, but don’t expect to be blown away by anything.
Gameplay: Not bad, but unfortunately quite predictable.
Graphics: The artwork is lovely, but sprites and CGs are limited to only two characters.
Sounds: No voice acting, but the soundtrack is quite good