Chapter Two - Visual Novels
The next "big thing" for the computer was the introduction of....hard drives. This was the era where no USB nor IEEE1394 existed. Nor was any connectors were on the machine board itself. What you had to do back then was to buy a SASI/SCSI interface card and add the hard drive externally. And, it wasn't as easy as just hooking up the cable - you had tons of driver tweakings and jumper settings to work around with "just to get it work right."
Still, people wanted the hard drive even though it was pretty confusing to set up.
One theory exists is that the driving force was once again, ero-games.
As mentioned in the previous post, "Dokyusei" was a big hit. The game came in eight floppy disks. This game can be played in two different ways:
A. Copy and install the files onto your hard drive
B. Play it from the floppy itself.
If you didn't have a hard drive, you were forced with a very annoying pop-up screen like the following:
1. You go into a house in the map screen
2. "Please insert Disk H into DISK DRIVE 2"
3. Nothing was in the house, and you leave
4. "Please insert Disk D into DISK DRIVE 2"
5. Back at the map screen.
Irritating, ain't it? Supposed you accidentally went into a place where you know nothing was in there. You are constantly told to change the disk in drive 2 for each and every time you go somewhere new. Aaagh!!!
By the time the sequel, "Dokyusei 2" came out, the game data expanded itself into a whopping 13 floppy disks!
By then NEC finally realized the necessity of CD-ROM drives, and started including them in their latest PC-9821 model, boasting 256 displayable colors from 16 million available colors.
Around this time, a Super Famicom game called "Otogirisou" was getting much attention. This was a simple adventure/mystery story with an added twist - multi-endings existed in this game. And as the player progressed by completing each ending, a new selection pop-up appeared where there wasn't. Combining background pictures and music, you read the text on the screen and moved the story foward. ChunSoft (the company that made "Otogirisou") called this revolutionary idea as a "sound novel."
One relatively new softhouse, Leaf, thought that this might be a good idea to introduce into the ero-game market. With its previous two games being a flop, they decided to gamble by experimenting with the success of the sound novel genre. Leaf decided to take one step further by adding the characters and their facial expressions in addition to just the background and the music and called it a "visual novel."
You (the consumer) read as you are the main character (Nagase Yuuichi) of the story, as you dwleve deeper and deeper into the psychotic world of "doku denpa" (roughly translated as "poisonous electromagnetic waves") brain-washing girls into suicide and mass rape.
Leaf had another story in mind to go along with Shizuku. If their visual novel experiment failed, they decided to disband. If it was successful, they left its next idea aside so they can release it as soon as their experiment was successful.
Obviously, "Shizuku" did fairly well in its sales - at least they didn't have stockpiles of returned games as they did in their previous two flopped games.
So Leaf immediately released "Kizuato," their second installement in their Visual Novel series.
You (the consumer) once again read the story from the standpoint of the main character (Kashiwagi Kouichi) who dreams that he is going around murdering people. Then, the murder that he dreamt last night came to be the real thing on the news he say the next day? Am I the killer? Am I going around murdering people in the night!?
To Heart (1997)
The third installment of Leaf's Visual Novel series established themselves in becoming one of the leaders of the current ero-game industry.
180 degrees different from its previous two visual novels, "To Heart" was a heart-warming high school love story.
You (the consumer) read the story from the standpoint of second-year high school student, Fujita Hiroyuki. During the course of the spring semester, you meet different girls - all of whom have something special and you choose to fall in love with one of them.
Perhaps the biggest hit was the extremely heart-warming story of one cute little maid robot named HMX-12 Multi. Multi's hard work, the sad good-bye, and the dramatic ending where they meet once again ran tears down many eyes. Interestingly, the main heroine of the game was supposed to be Kamigishi Akari, but fan overwhelmingly voted Multi as the most favorite character in the game. Multi, in fact, has established itself as an iconic figure in the otaku world.
The CD-DA vocal music that was used in this ero-game (unprecedented at the time) was such a dramatic hit that it was selected to be a song to be sung at karaoke machines (also, unheard of - karaoke machines have the latest hit songs, but never was a vocal music from an ero-game ever introduced into karaoke tracks)
The success and effect of Leaf's gamble was immediately recognized. Many have been pondering "what is the best way to have consumers enjoy ero-games and have them play a good game at the same time?" The answer was what Leaf had just done: Visual Novels.
A. This system is rather simple and straight foward game, yet open to limitless possibilities
B. All you need is several great pictures, good music, and a great storyline.
C. No need for mind-boggling high-level programming or to think about game balances
D. If you have the right staff, a great game can be made with little investment
Hence, many softhouses began to take this path. Visual Novels have arrived.