It's all good in the hood for fans of visual novels. The story-driven games, which are the electronic equivalent of sitting down with a good book, may have been a little bit of a niche pastime for years, with most only ever seeing a release on PC - but it seems the genre's about to hit the big time on consoles, too. Buoyed by the runaway success of school based horror game Danrangonpa, and, to a lesser extent, the feudal Japanese romance of Hakuoki, we already knew there were a few big games on the horizon - anime tie-in Pyscho-Pass, much wanted Virtue's Last Reward sequel Zero Time Dilemma, and Steins;Gate 0 being arguably this year's biggest releases - but there's much more where that came from. With not one, not two, but EIGHT new visual novels hitting Playstation consoles soon, we'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to getting lost in a good story - and that's only the ones we've heard about! Here's a quick guide to what's on the horizon:
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World End Economica
If you've ever fancied yourself as a stock broker, then now's your chance! What is probably the world's first 'investment bank novel', World End Economica follows the story of a young boy called Haru, whose parents are part of a group of people who emigrated to the moon some sixteen years ago. As you do. Haru has a dream to "stand where no man has before", and for that he needs capital - and ludicrous amounts of it - which leads him to try his hand at the stock market. It's a risky gamble, but the only way he could become enormously wealthy in the process, providing he abides by the land's somewhat sinister rules - the first rule is to never take a loss. The second, is never to forget the first rule…
World End Economica is slated for a 2017 release for both the Playstation 4 and PS Vita, and in a rare move for a visual novel, will have a limited physical run as well as the usual digital Playstation Store release.
fault milestone one
A more static take on the visual novel genre, where there's little conversation choices or branching, fault milestone one (yes, it's all in lower case) follows the story of the Princess Selphine and her bodyguard Ritona. During a brutal assault on their homeland of Rughzenhaide (try saying that three times fast!), the pair are mysteriously teleported to an unknown forest. Full of plants they don't recognise, and little signs of human life, the pair begin a long, mysterious journey home - however, there's something a little bit wrong with the land they find themselves in, even if the pair are too startled to notice…
fault milestone one will be hitting the Playstation 4 and PS Vita at some point in the near future, although a specific release date has yet be revealed. On the plus side, as with World End Economica, there will be both physical retail and digital download versions of the game, so that's something!
A.W.: Phoenix Festa
Based on The Asterisk War anime/novel series, A.W.: Phoenix Festa takes things in a bit of a different direction, combining a dating sim with combat tournaments. Basically, a catastrophic event known as the Invertia destroyed many of the Earth's largest cities, and in order to help with the recovery, an organisation called the Integrated Enterprise Foundation is formed, rebuilding the remaining cities of the world. One such city, Rikka, also known as Asterisk, has six academies which hold tournaments - the titular Festas - pitting their students against each other. Your time is basically split between making friends (and potentially finding love) in your daily school life, and training your combat abilities for the 'Phoenix Festa' tournament, with branching story lines and multiple endings to play for too.
A.W.: Phoenix Festa will be hitting American PS Vitas later this month, on the 26th July - and while there's no official announcements for Europe as of yet, Bandai Namco Europe have recently trademarked the title, so we suspect it's only a matter of time!
Bad Apple Wars
The first of Aksys' Otomate games revealed at last weekend's Anime Expo, Bad Apple Wars is a romantic visual novel set in the afterlife. Following a fatal car accident on her first day at high school, the heroine wakes to find herself a student at Nevaeh Academy, where following the rules and managing to graduate will give her a second chance at life. However, things aren't quite as they seem, and depending on who you decide to trust you'll end up on one of two factions - the well-behaved Disciplinary Committee, or questioning everything as part of the Bad Apples Delinquent Team. Obviously, each of the two teams has their own selection of romanceable guys too, putting you on the path to romance as you try to unravel what's going on.
Scheduled for release on the PS Vita in 2017, Bad Apple Wars has only been confirmed for the USA at the moment - although previous Aksys/Otomate titles like Amnesia Memories and Code: Realize both hit Europe within days of the States, so we'd be surprised if Bad Apple Wars doesn't make it over here.
Collar x Malice
Another Otomate game, Collar x Malice sees Shinjuku in the grip of a brutal crime wave known as the X-Day Incident, where the protagonist, as a police officer, works hard to keep things under control. However, when she's attacked one night while out on patrol, her assailants place a collar filled with poison around her neck, and her only leads are five suspicious ex-police officers, all investigating the X-Day Incident on their own. With little choice but to join them in their investigations, she finds herself caught up in their stories as she works to get to the bottom of the case, remove the mysterious collar and potentially find love too…
Much like Bad Apple Wars, Collar x Malice should be hitting American PS Vitas some time in 2017, and while it's not confirmed, we wouldn't be surprised if a UK release follows shortly after.
The third and final of Aksys/Otomate's romantic visual novel offerings, Period Cube stars a young woman searching for her missing older brother. Her only clue to his disappearance is that he was playing an MMORPG called Arcadia, which she decides to try her hand at - only to find herself trapped inside the online fantasy world until she beats the game. Armed with a divine sword, she sets off on an adventure to get her brother back, meeting all kinds of people, some friendly, who'll help her along, and others not so friendly, intent on stopping her from finishing the game. And of course, somewhere along the line she'll fall in love, in traditional otome game style.
Period Cube will be landing on the PS Vita in 2017, again only confirmed for the USA - but we'd be very surprised if it didn't hit Europe at a similar time too.
What started as a high school romance story, the Muv-Luv series quickly morphed into an epic sci-fi saga complete with alternate worlds, giant aliens, mech robots and a kooky cast of characters. Technically several games in one, Muv-luv begins with a high school love story comedy, when Takeru awakes to find a mysterious girl sleeping in his bed - and must choose between her and his childhood friend. The sequel then sees the same Takeru stuck in a parallel world, where humanity is threatened with extinction by giant alien invaders, and he quickly finds himself enrolled in the army tasked with fighting off the aliens - wanting to protect the girl he's fell in love with over the course of the story. Finally, Takeru wakes up to find himself trapped in the same alternate world once more, doomed to relive humanity's destruction once more, unless he can use his knowledge of the future to save the day again.
From what we can tell from the game's (successful) Kickstarter page, the Muv-Luv trilogy will be hitting the PS Vita later this year - likely October/November time.
Ne no Kami: The Two Princess Knights of Kyoto
Ne no Kami is a romantic visual novel with a bit of a difference - both the protagonist and the potential love interest are female, making it a lesbian love story (and a bit of a risqué one at that). Once upon a time, a strange earthquake rocked Kyoto's northern district, causing all kinds of weird goings on, including a strange religious cult's emergence, and a spate of demon-sightings. Living her life as normal, high school student Ren's life turns upside down when she reunites with an old childhood friend, Shinonome, and receives an ominous message "Ren, you are going to abandon this town… and die - today". Thrust into a reality where the unusual has become the usual, the girls' lives are about to change forever…
According to the game's Indiegogo page, Ne no Kami: The Two Princess Knights of Kyoto will be coming to North American PS Vitas this autumn, likely October. Unfortunately, there's no details of a European release yet though. Sad face.
So there you have it - the latter half of 2016, and 2017 are shaping up to be all kinds of awesome for visual novel lovers, particularly if you're one of the five people (four if you include us!) who own a PS Vita. Yay!