The Japanese Role-Playing Gamer

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My Descent into Visual Novels (Part One)

Higurashi visual novel

Most Americans have never heard of visual novels. After all, hardly anyone would have to play a video game just to read pages of text. Except for me.

I’m hooked on this ridiculous game genre, because they have some of the most bizarre worlds I’d ever seen.

My odd obsession began because one of my favorite anime shows, Higurashi, was based on a visual novel. I loved watching the anime, just to see all the cute children turn into deranged killers. I was so fascinated that I decided to learn more about the show on Wikipedia. I discovered that the show was actually based on a visual novel game for the PC.

At the time, Higurashi was only available at anime conventions. I never attended those shows at the time, but I kept watching more episodes. I couldn’t help it. I was addicted to that show. I especially loved watching the happy conclusion in the second season of Higurashi.

Unfortunately, most Americans never saw the second season. The DVD box sets didn’t sell very well in the U.S. The show gained a cult following, though. The manga adaptation of Higurashi became a top seller in North America.

And then the visual novels appeared as an iPad app.

When I first saw Higurashi in the App Store, I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. After all, the franchise still wasn’t especially popular. The first chapter was a free download, though. I really didn’t want to play it, because the drawings in the game looked terrible. At best, they looked like children’s drawings, with lots of shading effects.

Higurashi visual novel

I bought into it, though. The game’s atmosphere was horrifying. It included gory sound effects of knives hacking into bodies. The script started off as a silly kid’s adventure, but it grew shocking near the end. Each new episode costs about $8. I ended up buying the next two episodes, because I was a true Higurashi fanboy.

To be honest, the series is not perfect. The second chapter took a little too long to gain momentum. Some parts of the script were just plain childish. I didn’t think the little kids’ jokes about their teacher’s curry obsession were that interesting.

However, the atmosphere of the storyline stuck with me. The sound effects of the wilderness immersed me into the rural countryside of Japan. I felt like I was one of the kids in the game, partying at the summer festival. The horrible murders in the game frightened the living daylights out of me. It was a thrilling game that found strange, unique ways to make me feel like I was a part of everything.

After two episodes, though, I was tired of this story. I guess I didn’t care to participate in every single part of the main character’s life. I had grown too mature to care about the rambunctious adventures of these kids. I also didn’t think that visual novels were interesting enough to draw me into another novel.

Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of my obsession with the bizarre visual novels.

Images taken from various versions of the game