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Visual Novels - Old or new, let's talk about them

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I'm genuinely curious what people get out of visual novels. Too me it is just inherently inferior to both normal fiction, and graphic novel/manga. I've watched a few playthroughs of them and thought, Why would I ever want to do this instead of just reading something. The art can't be as high quality or impactful as manga, since the sheer length of them, and the writing/prose itself is not impressive from my short experience watching umineko playthroughs and other stuff. I guess the only selling point would be the music and small gameplay elements?, but its kind of a stretch to just have that to justify the experience. They story itself might be good, but why do authors choose to write visual novel, why not just write a novel or manga? I don't get it.
Was thinking the same thing till I watched @lain is here 's video on it. As someone who likes reading, now I want to give them a try. About to start Narcissu. Wish me luck!
 

SomaSpice

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I'm genuinely curious what people get out of visual novels. Too me it is just inherently inferior to both normal fiction, and graphic novel/manga. I've watched a few playthroughs of them and thought, Why would I ever want to do this instead of just reading something. The art can't be as high quality or impactful as manga, since the sheer length of them, and the writing/prose itself is not impressive from my short experience watching umineko playthroughs and other stuff. I guess the only selling point would be the music and small gameplay elements?, but its kind of a stretch to just have that to justify the experience. They story itself might be good, but why do authors choose to write visual novel, why not just write a novel or manga? I don't get it.
If you really want to know what a visual novel can uniquely bring to the table, I recommend you read up on "Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi". It uses the medium to its best effect, involving visuals, music, and programatic elements to sublimely craft a metanarrative and directly adress the player as an agent on the story.

Another intereting example of unique story delivery is "Analogue a hate story", where the player gathers files that tell the overaching story through talking with an AI assistant and investigating the damaged computer of a broken down spaceship. The interactive elements and branching dialogue added in through code make it a more immersive and personal experience.

Muramasa has you solving a puzzle under time pressure to progress the story.
IMG_2809.jpeg


Most VNs do not do this kind of stuff that uniquely takes advantage of the medium, but that doesn't mean they're inferior in any way. Umineko has fantastic music and story. It may very well have just been a novel, and I think it was originally intended to be a play, but the fact that it is a VN doesn't subtract anything from the end product. It's just the medium.

Your question annoyed me a bit, because I found it as inane as asking, "why do people play guitar hero when they could be playing real guitar?"
 
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Sidewinder91

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They story itself might be good, but why do authors choose to write visual novel, why not just write a novel or manga? I don't get it.
I'm not really an expert or anything, but speaking as a pathetic wannabe:

Music:
If used correctly, music an be a very powerful tool and can really enhance a scene. The only novel I can think of that's come with a soundtrack is Shadows of the Empire, I'm sure there's probably at least a few more though. Pretty much every Visual Novel will have some form of audio track playing along. It might not seem like a big deal, but music can really enhance a scene and you will definitely notice when it's gone.


View: https://youtu.be/Tj-GZJhfBmI


Animations:

Not all Visual Novels make use of video files, but I know Visual Novel Maker has that option for sure, and I would *very* surprised if Ren'Py doesn't. I know hentai games tend to use them a lot, though with me personally I just animate space scenes in Blender.

Gameplay:

Visual Novel engines are generally not designed around RPG battle systems, but it's really not hard to make one if you want. Plus you can add in puzzles and other mini-games.

Player Agency:

Most Visual Novels do allow some form of player input. This can vary depending on the genre, I know it's not uncommon for VNs to have alternate paths where you romance other girls, but you can also do the Deus Ex thing where a story seamlessly adapts to the choices you made. Refuse to abandon Paul at the Ton Hotel, and he'll still be alive at the end of the game, for example.
 
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After now having finished Narcissu, I feel a constant awareness of my own mortality. Are we all that different from these two main characters who, suffering from terminal illness, don't have much longer to live; Aren't we all watching the clock tick till our final hour? Having thought they had given up, they still find themselves embarking on a spontanious adventure--their first and last. Nothing feels real to them anymore. Only because I may live to an old age (who knows), does that make any of things I worry about any more important? These two characters in a way realised that either way, even if their premature deaths near, their remaining life is still worth living. At the same time, being in a position considered on the whole, "still worth living", why do I feel like I have to jump into "living properly", to get involved with all this shit, everyday modern life I mean, career, a well-paying job, car, house etc. I don't care what I will do, I just need to fully experience, whatever it is in the end. And I feel this now more than ever; This story will stick with me.

Even then, it still has it's flaws. The prose was off--Maybe it was the translation, idk, but the story carried it. While I liked the presentation as a whole, the almost nostalgic 2000s art style being something I have a soft spot for, the backgrounds left something to be desired. However good it looks, and I'm sure this applies to the medium as a whole, the visuals in my head were better. In the right hands it could make for a great adaptation.

On the other hand, I managed to keep my focus all the way through. When reading I take ages, not because I read slowly, but because I become distracted by my own thoughts. Only rarely do I get into a proper flow state, but with this VN it came effortlessly, like when watching a movie; I have never had any problems watching anything--On the contrary I would say that movies and series, especially of a meditative sort actually ground me in reality; Propaganda for a conscious existence in a way. The paper book just can't compete with the screen when it comes to massaging grey matter. Although that might say more about my mental state as someone raised on the internet, than about the medium. Although if everyone is like this these days, @lain is here might be right in saying this is an unexplored way to deliver literary quality to modern man.
At the same time, I did read a VN without any direct story interactivity, so I guess all benifits of the medium weren't explored in the case of Narcissu, giving me a limited picture, however good the story was. Either way I agree the medium has potential and would like to give my thanks @lain is here for expanding my horizons. I would never have never considered checking out visual novels otherwise, having previously condemned them to the realm of the current artistically inbred otaku sphere.

I would like to finish off with a few general questions: For one, is the second part worth reading, in the same way the first part was?
And can anyone who's into classical literature maybe recommend me something worth checking out? With anime I often have the suspicion that the things people say are the "best" works are either considered such by those who either haven't discovered, or simply didn't understand the true masterpieces of the medium. For example, while I love Evangelion and consider it one of the best of the "mainstream" anime, Hideaki Anno is right in admitting that he will never surpass his greatest inspiration for it, Yoshiyuki Tomino's masterpiece IDEON. But that show doesn't even have a 7/10 rating on Myanimelist, the vast majority of the western audience in my opinion simply doesn't get it. I honestly haven't seen anyone get out of it what I did, I have never been touched by a piece of media like it before, except, say, Tomino's other work, or more important to the subject at hand: Classic Literature. This is how I got into reading in the first place, after having hated it from teen-age on. By a fluke I had somehow realised that this "thing", this feeling of being "got", this well of great emotion, that I thought no works apart from the greatest anime, possessed in long form storytelling, was present in everything I have read considered a canonical literary classic.
This may have turned into something of a ramble, but if anyone understands what I mean by this, had similar experiences, even if you don't read books, can you tell me and the others here about VNs that made you feel any way like I described? (No matter how obscure and "weird" they may be)

Edit: I just rewatched Lain's video and now realise how effective Narcissu's visuals actually were, in fact I didn't even notice how much they of the quality is owed to them and just subconsciously attributed their specific effects my the general impression of the work. I love when others can see things that I can't, see qualities I have ignored, be it in art or anywhere else. It makes me happy about being human, being able to share experiences, if that makes any sense.
 
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This may have turned into something of a ramble, but if anyone understands what I mean by this, had similar experiences, even if you don't read books, can you tell me and the others here about VNs that made you feel any way like I described? (No matter how obscure and "weird" they may be)
Ramble? I'd give yourself more credit than that. You deliberate your thoughts in a manner much clearer than I ever could, to the extent that your point about people not being able to get the same things out of IDEON that you did being very similar to something I've been trying to vocalize for a while--and of which all attempts have failed, leaving it as long trains of thought continuously tracking themselves around the real point I wished to express to myself.

Among visual novels, since it's the only one which I fully completed, I can vouch for AIR alone. As I read far more books than I do VNs (although only to the extent that my zoomerbrained analytical ability can allow me to) I thought it was rather interesting. You may very well not like it due to length and the seeming amount of filler (it seems to be around 10x the length of Narcissu) but it at least fulfills the story interactivity aspect in a very well done way--A way that I believe to be very well executed, and I say so coming from a place not entirely bound by the ignorance that comes from only being familiar with the mainstream otaku "media" sphere. Should you ever get around to it, I believe that it would be best to do so without any form of guide or outside knowledge--a condition which I think is best for all VNs, though this one among perhaps all others best benefits from it--and with the right mindset, at least for the first few attempts through the story.
 
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Ramble? I'd give yourself more credit than that. You deliberate your thoughts in a manner much clearer than I ever could, to the extent that your point about people not being able to get the same things out of IDEON that you did being very similar to something I've been trying to vocalize for a while--and of which all attempts have failed, leaving it as long trains of thought continuously tracking themselves around the real point I wished to express to myself.

Among visual novels, since it's the only one which I fully completed, I can vouch for AIR alone. As I read far more books than I do VNs (although only to the extent that my zoomerbrained analytical ability can allow me to) I thought it was rather interesting. You may very well not like it due to length and the seeming amount of filler (it seems to be around 10x the length of Narcissu) but it at least fulfills the story interactivity aspect in a very well done way--A way that I believe to be very well executed, and I say so coming from a place not entirely bound by the ignorance that comes from only being familiar with the mainstream otaku "media" sphere. Should you ever get around to it, I believe that it would be best to do so without any form of guide or outside knowledge--a condition which I think is best for all VNs, though this one among perhaps all others best benefits from it--and with the right mindset, at least for the first few attempts through the story.
Thanks, I will consider it!
 

shinobu

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I'm genuinely curious what people get out of visual novels. Too me it is just inherently inferior to both normal fiction, and graphic novel/manga. I've watched a few playthroughs of them and thought, Why would I ever want to do this instead of just reading something. The art can't be as high quality or impactful as manga, since the sheer length of them, and the writing/prose itself is not impressive from my short experience watching umineko playthroughs and other stuff. I guess the only selling point would be the music and small gameplay elements?, but its kind of a stretch to just have that to justify the experience. They story itself might be good, but why do authors choose to write visual novel, why not just write a novel or manga? I don't get it.
I don't know why but I read them anyway.
Perhaps I just have a small hope inside me about the medium of VNs, and I try to see if it will be satisfied with each new VN I try (though it helps that I like reading stories regardless of the medium, so even if it's the same ol' thing I at least have an interesting story to read).
Earlier this year I had a small discussion with @lain is here about VNs as a medium. We approached it from opposite ends, so we had different views, but it was an interesting back-and-forth. The thing is that videogames are a very young medium, and we haven't even explored 1% of it. And visual novels are an even younger subset of games, so they've been explored even less. We may have a "canonical VN" in mind when we think about them, but when you keep in mind that a videogame is ultimately an extremely flexible simulation of another reality, and you can have an insane amount of control in this. A visual novel is a specific constraint on all possible games (if you think about it like an interactive comic which shows you one panel at a time, and plays music and has animations). But if you relax these constraints, these restrictions, in different ways, you can go into wildly different experiences.

I'm not going to rewrite the argument here but maybe I should make a separate thread for new discussion
 
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Boxerdog

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I'm genuinely curious what people get out of visual novels. Too me it is just inherently inferior to both normal fiction, and graphic novel/manga. I've watched a few playthroughs of them and thought, Why would I ever want to do this instead of just reading something. The art can't be as high quality or impactful as manga, since the sheer length of them, and the writing/prose itself is not impressive from my short experience watching umineko playthroughs and other stuff. I guess the only selling point would be the music and small gameplay elements?, but its kind of a stretch to just have that to justify the experience. They story itself might be good, but why do authors choose to write visual novel, why not just write a novel or manga? I don't get it.
I am 3 ways of mind about it, I think that if a vn its:

Basically a glorified book/hentai with hard forks = shit (ace phoenix, 99% of the hentai ones)

If the vn its a choose your own adventure type book where most endings are bad depending on your choices(divi-dead, corpse party, remember 11) = OK to Good, Execllent in rare cases.

If the vn its a choose your own adventure type book where most endings are bad depending on your choices AND you have some sort of gameplay that affects it and can soft lock and/or hard lock you from reaching a good ending dependent on exploration(Caucasus:nanatsuki no nie), player skill(Root Double) or stats(true love) = Excellent

If its made for people to coom there is a 99% chance its gon be shit, and if its just a manga I rather just read a physical manga.
 
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After now having finished Narcissu, I feel a constant awareness of my own mortality. Are we all that different from these two main characters who, suffering from terminal illness, don't have much longer to live; Aren't we all watching the clock tick till our final hour? Having thought they had given up, they still find themselves embarking on a spontanious adventure--their first and last. Nothing feels real to them anymore. Only because I may live to an old age (who knows), does that make any of things I worry about any more important? These two characters in a way realised that either way, even if their premature deaths near, their remaining life is still worth living. At the same time, being in a position considered on the whole, "still worth living", why do I feel like I have to jump into "living properly", to get involved with all this shit, everyday modern life I mean, career, a well-paying job, car, house etc. I don't care what I will do, I just need to fully experience, whatever it is in the end. And I feel this now more than ever; This story will stick with me.

Even then, it still has it's flaws. The prose was off--Maybe it was the translation, idk, but the story carried it. While I liked the presentation as a whole, the almost nostalgic 2000s art style being something I have a soft spot for, the backgrounds left something to be desired. However good it looks, and I'm sure this applies to the medium as a whole, the visuals in my head were better. In the right hands it could make for a great adaptation.

On the other hand, I managed to keep my focus all the way through. When reading I take ages, not because I read slowly, but because I become distracted by my own thoughts. Only rarely do I get into a proper flow state, but with this VN it came effortlessly, like when watching a movie; I have never had any problems watching anything--On the contrary I would say that movies and series, especially of a meditative sort actually ground me in reality; Propaganda for a conscious existence in a way. The paper book just can't compete with the screen when it comes to massaging grey matter. Although that might say more about my mental state as someone raised on the internet, than about the medium. Although if everyone is like this these days, @lain is here might be right in saying this is an unexplored way to deliver literary quality to modern man.
At the same time, I did read a VN without any direct story interactivity, so I guess all benifits of the medium weren't explored in the case of Narcissu, giving me a limited picture, however good the story was. Either way I agree the medium has potential and would like to give my thanks @lain is here for expanding my horizons. I would never have never considered checking out visual novels otherwise, having previously condemned them to the realm of the current artistically inbred otaku sphere.

I would like to finish off with a few general questions: For one, is the second part worth reading, in the same way the first part was?
And can anyone who's into classical literature maybe recommend me something worth checking out? With anime I often have the suspicion that the things people say are the "best" works are either considered such by those who either haven't discovered, or simply didn't understand the true masterpieces of the medium. For example, while I love Evangelion and consider it one of the best of the "mainstream" anime, Hideaki Anno is right in admitting that he will never surpass his greatest inspiration for it, Yoshiyuki Tomino's masterpiece IDEON. But that show doesn't even have a 7/10 rating on Myanimelist, the vast majority of the western audience in my opinion simply doesn't get it. I honestly haven't seen anyone get out of it what I did, I have never been touched by a piece of media like it before, except, say, Tomino's other work, or more important to the subject at hand: Classic Literature. This is how I got into reading in the first place, after having hated it from teen-age on. By a fluke I had somehow realised that this "thing", this feeling of being "got", this well of great emotion, that I thought no works apart from the greatest anime, possessed in long form storytelling, was present in everything I have read considered a canonical literary classic.
This may have turned into something of a ramble, but if anyone understands what I mean by this, had similar experiences, even if you don't read books, can you tell me and the others here about VNs that made you feel any way like I described? (No matter how obscure and "weird" they may be)

Edit: I just rewatched Lain's video and now realise how effective Narcissu's visuals actually were, in fact I didn't even notice how much they of the quality is owed to them and just subconsciously attributed their specific effects my the general impression of the work. I love when others can see things that I can't, see qualities I have ignored, be it in art or anywhere else. It makes me happy about being human, being able to share experiences, if that makes any sense.

I'm really happy to hear you gave Narcissu a try and enjoyed it so much! Your first impressions of it remind me a lot of my own when I first finished it. I remember not being able to think about anything else for an entire week, as it really helped put my whole life into perspective. I was going through some difficult things at the time. But experiencing that one way road trip with those two really allowed me to understand how insignificant my problems were. If you're curious, I did a blog post/analysis of Narcissu shortly after reading it which I published here: Narcissu and Death. The image links are all broken now, and it's something I wrote when I was still in High School, but if you're interested in what my thoughts were after a week of digesting my first reading of Narcissu, you can find it there.

Regarding VN recommendations, by in large you're going to have to be forgiving of prose for the most part. Most good VNs I could recommend have serviceable prose, but rarely are they truly literary. Rather it's in the story, characterization, and music where the experience usually excels. On that note, I would encourage looking into the following titles (which all have English translations):

1) Saya no Uta: A shortish (8 - 10) psychological horror VN. I don't want to say too much about it, but you can read the vndb page I linked for more info.
2) Swan Song: On the surface it's essentially a post-apocalyptic story, but I would say the real essence of the story is exploring the idea of redemption in a world that has gone lawless.
3) Yume Miru Kusuri: A story about growing up and being forced to develop as a person. As opposed to 99% of most romance VNs which take place in high school, YMK is focused on telling a (mostly) grounded coming of age story rather than deliver a fantasy of an ideal high school life.
4) Katawa Shoujo: Also a coming of age story, but quite different from YMK. If YMK is about being an average person who is seeking something more from life than the inertia of everyday existence, Katawa Shoujo is about coming to terms with your limitations and finding the beauty in them.

The above VNs are ones I feel comfortable recommending to somebody who isn't necessarily familiar with or enjoys anime/manga/otaku culture tropes.

As for whether the prequal to Narcissu is worth reading or not. I would say yes, but with a major caveat. It sounds like what you liked about Narcissu is very similar to what I appreciated about it, and personally while I liked Narcissu Side 2nd, I don't think it matches up to the first. If Narcissu is great, then Narcissu Side 2nd is good. So one step below.
 
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Whelp it's me again, eager to necro this thread.

ONE ~To The Radiant Season~ is getting a remake, and I'm really looking forward to it. ONE is the precursor and spiritual older sister to many KEY visual novels, as many of the people who worked on it went on to find KEY as a company. If you read ONE you can clearly see many of the areas that it influenced KEY's earlier titles, in particular Kanon. If you ever enjoyed Clannad or any of the other Kyoto Animation and KEY collaboration anime, it never would have happened without ONE.

I always adored ONE as a concept. It's themes of chasing and being seduced by the comfort of Eternity is one I always admired. There are a lot of things I appreciate about ONE, but ultimately I think it's a work where its parts are greater than the whole. The ideas, the music, and the characters are all compelling, but as a whole VN I honestly find it kind of meh. All the same I always wanted to like it, because those parts which do have substance, betray a lot of potential beneath the work. That's why I think it's perfect for a remake. The original showed lots of promise, but I think ultimately didn't deliver. Promise, that often got developed and polished in KEYs earlier VNs.

Often the problem I have with remakes, is that they are seeking to tamper with what is already perfect or near perfect. There's rarely any improvment which should be done imo, as even the outdated aspects of older works tend to have a unique charm. Such that glossing them over with updated graphics and sound design rarely adds anything, and often detracts from the soul of the original. It's precisely because ONE is a flawed work that has many good ideas and sound elements within it, that I think a remake which revisits it, can really bring out its full potential.

The title will change from 「ONE」to 「ONE.」, the fullstop meant to emphasize that this will be the definitive version. Here's the trailer, and I got to say I love it:


View: https://youtu.be/LLTQA5yiZ6s


If you're curious, here's what the trailer for the original VN back in 1998 looked like:

View: https://youtu.be/KoNy6_ONQ44

There's also an OP exclusive to the PS1 release that I'm really fond of:

View: https://youtu.be/Okr_6e_nlZE
 
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mesaprotector

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If you read ONE you can clearly see many of the areas that it influenced KEY's earlier titles, in particular Kanon. If you ever enjoyed Clannad or any of the other Kyoto Animation and KEY collaboration anime, it never would have happened without ONE.

I always adored ONE as a concept. It's themes of chasing and being seduced by the comfort of Eternity is one I always admired. There are a lot of things I appreciate about ONE, but ultimately I think it's a work where its parts are greater than the whole. The ideas, the music, and the characters are all compelling, but as a whole VN I honestly find it kind of meh.

It's precisely because ONE is a flawed work that has many good ideas and sound elements within it, that I think a remake which revisits it, can really bring out its full potential.
I'm only familiar with Clannad, and only the anime at that. Lovely story that I should probably revisit one of these days. Posting in this thread to get notified for the future.

As to the earlier discussion on why VNs exist, music is a huge part of the emotional response to things, so of course book + music + character/background art would be a fun medium.
 

Walk in the Rain

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Little Lilly Princess is really comfy. It's like reading a Victorian children's story but turned into a VN (For better or worse lol), albeit the yuri. I'm surprised by how tasteful it is. It's by the same people who did Long Live the Queen, and the gameplay in here is a very light version of that game. In fact the gameplay it's so light that it makes it kind of pointless. Will probably do a review once I finish all the routes.
 
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i sat at my desk and tried to play a vn but it wasn't as cozy as i hoped. so instead i read higurashi manga snug as a bug in bed. currently on the very last arc
The Higurashi manga is kino. If you like it, you should check out Umineko next. The manga for that is also really solid if you prefer reading manga. Just blast the ost in the background to simulate the full experience

Here's a sample of one of my personal favorite tracks if you want a taste:
 
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RIG

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The Higurashi manga is kino. If you like it, you should check out Umineko next. The manga for that is also really solid if you prefer reading manga. Just blast the ost in the background to simulate the full experience

Here's a sample of one of my personal favorite tracks if you want a taste:

this makes me just wanna read the vn, wish i could read vn snug as a bug in bed
 
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mesaprotector

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this makes me just wanna read the vn, wish i could read vn snug as a bug in bed
I read the Umineko VN while stuck in a room up in Alaska in mid-winter. It was extremely cozy. Job apps in the morning, a quick lunch of rice and chili or the like, then witches, metafiction, and Knox's Decalogue all PM until the snow, darkness, and hum of the heater lulled me to sleep. (Though Higurashi is still my favorite in that series. I think in VNs where you have a choice, playing without voice acting is preferable since the atmosphere hits different. Of course more true with NVL than ADV types.)
 

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Whelp it's me again, eager to necro this thread.
I mostly lurk this site, but I'm always happy to see this thread getting new posts. Feel free to necro it whenever you feel like it!
ONE ~To The Radiant Season~ is getting a remake, and I'm really looking forward to it.
Same here, I'm super excited towards this! While I'm personally not big on the new artstyle I think I can grow on it. I hope we'll get something similar for MOON. one day.

Often the problem I have with remakes, is that they are seeking to tamper with what is already perfect or near perfect. There's rarely any improvment which should be done imo, as even the outdated aspects of older works tend to have a unique charm. Such that glossing them over with updated graphics and sound design rarely adds anything, and often detracts from the soul of the original. It's precisely because ONE is a flawed work that has many good ideas and sound elements within it, that I think a remake which revisits it, can really bring out its full potential.

I also heard that we'll be getting a remake of Never7 and possibly one of Ever17 too in the future. I'm honestly not too sure what to think about this development. I think it's not particularly bad if the old version of the games are well preserved, like on DLSite or other storefronts, but Tsukihime Remake was a particularly bad case of this. Tsukihime is practically abandonware, and the Remake is only available for PS4/PS5 and the Switch (although I saw that the new TYPE MOON Times does indicate a possible PC port in the future, but it seems we're not so sure about that yet). The YU-NO case was very problematic too, but I'm glad the community cares about preserving the old works.

Also, @lain is here any thoughts on https://www.craftwork.media/Geminism/ ?

this makes me just wanna read the vn, wish i could read vn snug as a bug in bed

You can get Umineko Project on an Android device, or try to see if it works with ONScripter interpreters on Android. I haven't really read VNs on my phone so I'm not sure how exactly that all works, but I can imagine it's worth looking into if that's your sort of thing!
 

manpaint

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this makes me just wanna read the vn, wish i could read vn snug as a bug in bed
Well you could always grab your phone and read a commentaryless playthrough of it. That's what I did with Higurashi and Umineko (although most of the time I was watching it on my computer).
 

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