The visual novel genre is a very niche genre in gaming. Enthusiasts of visual novel games are mostly gamers who love story-based games and those who are into anime shows, manga, and Japanese culture. And there are several reasons why most gamers don’t have a taste for visual novel games.
Chiefly, visual novel games typically include walls of texts and dialogue for players to go through. Not everyone has the patience for that. Gameplay is also minimal. Many visual novel games don’t even have any in-game activity for players to do other than pressing a button to advance the story.
Interested in buying visual novel games and giving the genre a try? Check out these visual novel games for the PS4. The list is rather short because not many developers make and localize visual novel games for home consoles.
1. Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is the third main installment in the Danganronpa series. It’s the first main game in the visual novel series to land on home consoles – Danganronpa 1-2 Reload arrived on PS4 two months after Danganronpa V3 debuted in Japan.
The gameplay in Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is like the offspring of Persona and Ace Attorney. The game is split into two phases: School Life and Class Trial. In the former, players mainly read walls of text and progress the story by interacting with other characters. In Class Trial, players debate and try to unmask the culprit behind a murder encountered during School Life.
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is one of the more interactive visual novel games out there. It includes mini-games where players can do stuff other than advancing text boxes. For big fans of the social simulation element seen in Persona games and the case-solving gameplay in Ace Attorney games, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony is a must-play game on PS4. It’s considered by many as the best the series has to offer so far.
2. Steins;Gate 0
Steins;Gate 0 is the fifth main entry in the Science Adventure series. It’s a direct sequel to 2009’s Steins;Gate, taking place several years after the events in the first game. We recommend that you play the first game or watch its anime adaptation before touching this game. It will give you a better understanding of the story and characters.
Compared to the first game, Steins;Gate 0 has a more somber and darker tone, though it still has its fair share of light moments. It features multiple character viewpoints and two major story branches with multiple endings on each path. The story is a little too padded with unnecessary scenes. But the beautiful background art and excellent music during scenes make up for it.
Like most visual novel games, Steins;Gate 0 features very little gameplay. Pressing a button to advance text boxes and picking options during conversations are the only activities players can look forward to. But again, the high production values make slogging through endless text boxes worth it. For players looking for a pure visual novel experience on PS4, Steins;Gate 0 is the way to go.
3. Hatoful Boyfriend
Hatoful Boyfriend is probably the weirdest visual novel game out there. It is set on an alternate Earth where sapient birds are the dominant species instead of humans. Players control a human female who enrolls in a school populated by birds. To finish the game, players need to successfully romance one of the male pigeons in the school. No, really, Hatoful Boyfriend is about getting into a relationship with pigeons.
But don’t be fooled by the bizarre premise. Though the pigeons come off as character stereotypes seen in anime shows, each pigeon has a well-developed storyline, making it actually interesting to get to know them. It also helps that the dialogues are well-written and filled with humor and bird jokes. Players can only end up with one pigeon, which translates to multiple endings. Not all endings are really worth it, though. Some endings feel truly rewarding while others simply feel bland and uninspired.
The gameplay in Hatoful Boyfriend is faithfully visual novel style. Players only need to advance text boxes. However, players need to really pay attention to conversation choices as passively picking dialogue options can easily result in a game over. The game punishes players for dawdling too much and not committing to actively pursuing a romantic partner. For those looking for something wildly different in the visual novel genre, Hatoful Boyfriend, a bizarre yet genuinely fun game, fits the bill. You can purchase it here.
4. Danganronpa 1-2 Reload
Some players got their first taste of Danganronpa on home consoles through Danganronpa 1-2 Reload, which arrived six months before Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony launched on PS4 in North America and Europe.
Danganronpa 1-2 Reload is a compilation of the first two main games in the series, Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Both games have standalone stories, which means players don’t necessarily need to start with the first game. Players don’t need to worry about missing out on anything important in the second game if they chose to play it first.
The core gameplay in both games is exactly the same. It centers on two distinct phases that players go through to advance the game: School Life and Class Trial. School Life is the visual novel side of the gameplay, where players explore the environment and interact with other characters to advance the story. After discovering a crime during School Life, players will need to start searching for clues and evidence, which will be used when Class Trial begins.
Class Trial plays out in a similar fashion to the courtroom trials in Ace Attorney games. During Class Trial, players try to determine the identity of the perpetrator using gathered clues during School Life. Both games incorporate interactive mini-games in the gameplay. Overall, Danganronpa 1-2 Reload is an excellent starter pack for those looking to get into the Danganronpa series.
5. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games
Next up, we have another compilation of two visual novel games. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games includes the first two games in the Zero Escape series: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.
The Zero Escape series is similar to the Danganronpa series in that it incorporates two genres – visual novel and adventure – in the gameplay. Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward have the same core gameplay, which is separated into two sections: Novel and Escape.
Novel is exactly similar to the School Life phase in the Danganronpa games in which players interact with other characters and advance the story. Dialogue options sometimes appear during conversations, which affects the ending. Multiple runs are required in order to fully reveal the entire plot. But unlike in Steins;Gate 0, getting specific endings in Zero Escape is a lot easier and less confusing because of the story flowchart.
The main gameplay is found in Escape sections. Escape sections are triggered when the player ends up in a confined room, which they must escape by finding items and solving puzzles in the room. It’s similar to the gameplay found in point-and-click room escape games. After escaping the room, the game returns to the Novel section. Rinse and repeat until players get to the bottom of the plot.
Zero Escape: The Nonary Games includes a new mode for Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors called Adventure Mode. Adventure Mode presents interactions with animated and voiced characters, similar to the latter two games in the series.
6. Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness
Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness is based on the anime show Psycho-Pass, taking place during the first half of Season 1. It tells the story of a dystopian future Tokyo where a personality scanner called the Psycho-Pass can identify people with a high potential to commit a crime, who are then preemptively imprisoned. Fans of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report might find this setup familiar.
The gameplay in Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness merely involves pressing a button to advance texts and choosing conversation options. The story is the only thing that matters. It centers on main characters Nadeshiko Kugatachi, an emotionless female Inspector who always sees things logically, and Takuma Tsurugi, a male Enforcer who runs primarily on emotions. Players pick one character at the onset, an incentive to go through the game at least twice.
Compared to Steins;Gate 0, Psycho-Pass: Mandatory Happiness lacks style in the visual department, which might disappoint players who actually watched the anime show and came in with understandably huge expectations. It has a budget game vibe, so don’t expect to be wowed with gorgeous background art during scenes. The only thing that makes the game worth picking up is the story, which is really good.
7. The Silver Case Remastered
The Silver Case was first released for the original PlayStation console back in 1999 – but only in Japan. The remastered and fully English localized version was released last year for PC, and the PS4 port of that version, which was handled by NIS America, arrived last April.
Set in 1999, the game takes place in a Japanese city called 24 Wards, where a series of murders prompted the city’s police department to investigate. The game is separated into two scenarios in which players control two different characters. Because each scenario was handled by different writers, each comes with a distinct writing style and unique gameplay.
In the Transmitter scenario, players control an agent from the police department’s High-degree Murder Division. The Transmitter scenario mainly focuses on exploration and puzzle-solving with little focus on character interactions typically found in visual novels. Because of this, the unnamed agent lacks character development and feels more like a sidekick sent to do all the dirty work.
In the Placebo scenario, players are placed in the shoes of a freelance reporter, named Tokio Morishima, who’s out to write a report on the murder cases. The Placebo scenario is where players get to read walls of text, a staple in every visual novel game. There’s zero gameplay involved during the Placebo scenario – but it offers more insight into the story, courtesy of Morishima’s journal.
The Silver Case Remastered on PS4 includes two new scenarios, Yami and Whiteout Prologue, which both take place after the game’s events. The former serves as a conclusion to the story while the latter serves as a bridge to the sequel, The 25th Ward: The Silver Case. The PS4 port also includes remixed music tracks and two new music tracks.
8. Root Letter
Developed by Kadokawa Games, Root Letter is a visual novel game set in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture in Japan. The story is about a male protagonist who goes to Matsue to investigate the disappearance of his former pen pal, named Aya Fumino, who went missing without a trace for 15 years.
In Root Letter, the player spends most of their time finding and interrogating Matsue residents whom Aya described in her numerous letters to the protagonist. The game is separated into chapters, and in-between chapters, the protagonist recounts his prior interactions with Aya. It is during this section that players are presented with questions. How players respond to these questions affects which of the multiple endings they get.
Root Letter offers a thought-provoking murder mystery for players to solve. However, the way the game is presented brings down the tension, which affects the mindset of players looking to put on their Sherlock Holmes hats. The visual style is simply too vibrant and colorful, which contradicts the grim nature of the plot. But perhaps that’s what the developer intended to highlight the gorgeous sights in Matsue because somehow it works.
Another issue worth noting in Root Letter is the shoddy English translation. The texts are grammatically correct. But it has serious issues when it comes to pacing, exposition, and sentence construction. The game lacks the level of detail seen in Steins;Gate 0 and Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony and feels like it never went through intensive editing. For players who have lots of patience when it comes to badly translated games, Root Letter is a good pick-up.
Choosing which visual novel game to pick up depends on what you’re looking for. Do you want a game where you simply read texts and pick dialogue options like Hatoful Boyfriend? Or do you want a game where there’s actual gameplay like Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony?
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