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Visual novels that aren't full of romance/anime tropes?

Oct 19, 2012
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I haven't played a lot of games in this genre, mainly because most games in the genre are catered for the anime fans, but something deep down within me tells me that visual novels have the potential to deliver stories that are more interesting to experience in its gimmicky video game form than its written/audible medium counterpart.

And as someone who despises anime since a young age, it's really, REALLY hard to try finding a visual novel story that isn't told in a Japanese high school, doesn't have characters that are dressed in french maid costumes for some odd reason or, even worse, doesn't revolve around romancing a she or a he anime person. Every time I look for the proclaimed best VN games in the genre I see games that are FULL of anime tropes or is an actual teenage drama anime show.

What am I looking for? Something that I don't need to be an “otaku” to enjoy it, have some interesting and fun gameplay mechanics (like the Ace Attorney, Hotel Dusk or Another Code games), something that tries to tell a mature and interesting story or, at the very least, something as unsettling and disturbing as Song of Saya.

And please don't bother recommending Danganronpa to me, that game SCREAMS anime bullshit and have a vomit inducing art style.
 

jon bones

hot hot hanuman-on-man action
Jan 9, 2007
33,913
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Ghost Trick!

From the maker's of Ace Attorney... it's more adventure than VN but it's tremendous.

It's not "unsettling and disturbing" at all, but it does weave a great tale and features a charming cast of characters.

 

Stalk

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Apr 19, 2015
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Danganronpa is "anime" but I guess it's more of a piss take in some instance.

Everyone in this thread is going to shout that and Steins;gate at you.

edit: although that fringe involves someone in a maid costume but the setting is pretty neutral.
 

Corpekata

Banned
Jun 7, 2013
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You'd probably like 999 and Virtue's last reward. 999 is a bit heavy on the high school aged cast and there's a couple groan worthy character designs, but it's worth over looking, and VLR's cast is almost all college aged and older.
 

BroodShadow

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Feb 22, 2015
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Kara no Shoujo may be up your alley It's a Murder mystery that is grounded in reality for the most part ,it has a kind of drab art stlye with moderate use of color compared to most VN's I have read.The translation is pretty soild as well.

If you can read japanese you may want to give white album 2 a try It's a highschool drama where the characters actually act like humans rather than anime characters.
 

Corpekata

Banned
Jun 7, 2013
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Oh and Aviary Attorney, which is obviously inspired by Phoenix Wright.

Hatoful Boyfriend maybe, as it's mostly a sendup of typical VN bullshit.

Basically, if it stars birds, go for it.
 

HazySaiyan

Banned
Nov 19, 2013
5,600
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Danganronpa's fucking awesome, OP. You're missing out.

I don't even play visual novels and I got completely engrossed in it.
 

Korigama

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Jul 10, 2009
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You'd probably like 999 and Virtue's last reward. 999 is a bit heavy on the high school aged cast and there's a couple groan worthy character designs, but it's worth over looking, and VLR's cast is almost all college aged and older.
999's character design is considerably better compared to VLR, which had the same artist but went far off the deep end. The only high school-aged character in 999 was Clover, everyone else was in their 20s or older, whereas VLR marked the beginning of introducing at least one kid character in Zero Escape (which always struck me as odd, since the writer/director stated that he decided against including anyone under 18 in the first game as a result of the premise).

For someone with an (extreme) aversion to anime aesthetics such as the OP, Zero Time Dilemma will probably be the most likely one to avoid incensing a particularly irritable person. That said, since the OP already didn't like Ever 17, I have my doubts about ZE faring any better when more of that sort of VN is pretty much what they would be getting.

Either way, Ace Attorney is very "anime" itself in spite of the OP's distaste for such things.
 

Anteater

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May 22, 2010
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Narcissu 1st & 2nd

1st chapter has some light romance elements but not much, I really enjoyed 2nd's characters more, it's free on Steam.

Higurashi is also worth a try, it's a mystery/horror story, it has a lot of school stuff to endure through but I thought it was worth it
 

Madison Paige

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Jan 22, 2010
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I mean, I know that people usually know what they do and don't like and can judge for themselves if something is for them, but if you go into the medium already having the assumption that you can't stand certain things and that anything that has them can't be good, you're setting yourself up for failure. Especially in a medium like visual novels. You're most likely not going to find anything that doesn't suffer from being too "anime" or featuring romance in some way. It's a medium that usually knows its target audience and goes above and beyond to pander to them, which is sometimes a bit awkward, but is just part of what you can expect from the genre at this point. I had a similar frustration with them at first, but as I played them more, I got used to it and even began to appreciate it. I echo the various recommendations of Danganronpa. It's more "stylish" than "anime", if that makes sense, and it never ceases to be entertaining.

That being said, the VNs that most surprised me were the Zero Escape series, Fate/stay night, and Umineko. Zero Escape is an intense series that integrates even the structure of the story into the way it tells itself, and that makes it extremely captivating. The constant twists and turns are seriously mindblowing.

Fate has some sex scenes (there's an all-ages version called Realta Nua if you want those removed entirely, but in my opinion, the scenes in the first two routes are part of the experience and are part of an emotional arc, and removing them would take something from it; I haven't played Heaven's Feel yet, so I can't comment on the scenes in that route), features a Japanese high school but thankfully doesn't spend too much time there, and has a bit of anime quirkiness to it, but it's all very mild in terms of excessiveness of all of these things compared to other visual novels that I've played. It doesn't have much gameplay, just branching paths, but the action sequences in it are so superb that it never really felt like I was just sitting there reading something. Extremely engaging and definitely worth a try, at the very least. The romantic subplot is there, yeah, but it's only one part of a much larger, grander, and extremely wild rollercoaster that will truly take you through an emotional journey by the end.

Umineko is a murder mystery that later starts going kind of overboard on being "anime" in later episodes, mostly for comic relief purposes, and has a few risque jokes that made me a bit uncomfortable, but it is a story that is very deliberately a battle between the writer and yourself and your expectations of what a mystery should be. I will warn that the game starts off fairly slow, but the gradual build-up pays off. Umineko features no choices at all, but the point of the game is that each episode is showing you something, and the game is mostly played in your head as you try to take this mystery apart, examine its various components, and then put them back together into something coherent. It's all about theorizing about what the hell is really going on, and from what I've heard (I'm still on Episode 4, myself), it keeps this game up until the very end. Fantastical elements and some ridiculous "anime" stuff starts to show up heavily after the first episode, but the entire game is structured around you, as the player, denying that these fantastical elements exist. It's somewhat difficult to explain without spoilers, but if you like mysteries, I can't recommend it enough. You can play a demo here.

Also, gotta shout out Steins;Gate! It's seriously incredible and one of the craziest experiences I've ever had playing something in my life!
 

KPJZKC

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Dec 30, 2009
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OP, the Steins;Gate anime was created as a response to the success of the Visual Novel. The fact that you've already written it off, plus Danganronpa, and presumably also 999 and Virtue's Last Reward (there's no accounting for taste) makes me think that you're barking up the wrong tree. Find a different genre that isn't predominantly Japanese.
 

Wichu

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Jun 15, 2009
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Higurashi is also worth a try, it's a mystery/horror story, it has a lot of school stuff to endure through but I thought it was worth it
I doubt OP will manage to survive the first half. It's basically concentrated anime tropes of the worst kind up until after the festival. The second half is worth it, but yeah, the first half is god-awful.

Maybe try fault milestone one on Steam? It's a little generic, but it didn't really have any typical anime tropes other than the standard teenage cast. Also it's short and cheap so you don't lose out on much if you don't like it.
 
Oct 19, 2012
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Ghost Trick!

From the maker's of Ace Attorney... it's more adventure than VN but it's tremendous.

It's not "unsettling and disturbing" at all, but it does weave a great tale and features a charming cast of characters.

I remember playing the Gamespot demo way back then and immediatly fell in love with it mainly because of the gameplay. I have a sealed copy around but never had the chance to actually play the game.
 

bobawesome

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Nov 17, 2013
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Shitting on both Steins;Gate and Danganronpa? You suck, OP.

If you hate anime as much as you claim you definitely shouldn't be playing visual novels.
 

jon bones

hot hot hanuman-on-man action
Jan 9, 2007
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I remember playing the Gamespot demo way back then and immediatly fell in love with it mainly because of the gameplay. I have a sealed copy around but never had the chance to actually play the game.
rectify that immediately

no anime bullshit here, just a great game with tight gameplay and a compelling narrative
 

Mexen

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Aug 28, 2013
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But those tropes are what make VNs special, OP.

*She's looking my way, oh man, I can see her tongue. Why did this happen to me? She's so close,I can almost... *

> Kiss her

> Give present

> Offer advice


Serious answer, I am in the middle of Danganronpa and I enjoy how I don't have to romance the NPCs. I gave Ghost Trick a try and loved it so I will play that next.

Edit: Give it another chance. Danganronpa is really good. But to each his own.
 
Jun 19, 2013
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DEVICE 6 from Simogo is a cracking interactive visual novel. As you mentioned you liked CiNG stuff (Hotel Dusk, Another Code) I think it'll be your kind of thing.
 

SolVanderlyn

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Oct 14, 2012
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I agree with you OP. The genre has a lot of potential.

But no, it has not really graduated beyond what you describe.
 

xzeldax3

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Oct 8, 2014
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You better genuflect right now


Time Hollow is pretty good. I enjoyed Banshee's Last Cry a lot too (even though most people didn't like the westernization of the localization).
 

mclem

Member
Jan 16, 2007
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YMMV on whether you think it counts, but 80 Days?

(I'd list a bunch of pure text games here, but I'm unclear how attached you are to the 'visual' side of VNs, or if you're just after a good interactive story and unafraid of reading much of it. Still, I'd suggest Photopia - or taking a look at something like Rameses)
 

StereoVsn

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Nov 14, 2014
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animeistrash.gif. I have nothing to offer to someone who chooses to skip one of the most brilliant time stories told in any media because of couple of tropes (that's Steins;Gate).
 
Dec 5, 2009
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If you really despise anything "anime" (though given some of the games you listed, I don't think you do as much as you think), most Japanese adventure games will not appeal to you since they rely on art styles and story settings that are typical for Japanese pop culture. You could try one of Chunsoft's older sound novels, such as Kamaitachi no Yoru, translated as Banshee's Last Cry on iOS.
 

Sakura

Member
Feb 13, 2012
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I haven't played a lot of games in this genre, mainly because most games in the genre are catered for the anime fans, but something deep down within me tells me that visual novels have the potential to deliver stories that are more interesting to experience in its gimmicky video game form than its written/audible medium counterpart.

And as someone who despises anime since a young age, it's really, REALLY hard to try finding a visual novel story that isn't told in a Japanese high school, doesn't have characters that are dressed in french maid costumes for some odd reason or, even worse, doesn't revolve around romancing a she or a he anime person. Every time I look for the proclaimed best VN games in the genre I see games that are FULL of anime tropes or is an actual teenage drama anime show.

What am I looking for? Something that I don't need to be an “otaku” to enjoy it, have some interesting and fun gameplay mechanics (like the Ace Attorney, Hotel Dusk or Another Code games), something that tries to tell a mature and interesting story or, at the very least, something as unsettling and disturbing as Song of Saya.

And please don't bother recommending Danganronpa to me, that game SCREAMS anime bullshit and have a vomit inducing art style.
I don't think you have to be an "otaku" to enjoy stuff like Ever 17.
If titles like Ever 17 and Danganronpa are too anime for you, and you also want fun gameplay mechanics, then honestly I don't really think there is much that can be recommended to you.
 
Oct 19, 2012
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I mean, I know that people usually know what they do and don't like and can judge for themselves if something is for them, but if you go into the medium already having the assumption that you can't stand certain things and that anything that has them can't be good, you're setting yourself up for failure. Especially in a medium like visual novels. You're most likely not going to find anything that doesn't suffer from being too "anime" or featuring romance in some way. It's a medium that usually knows its target audience and goes above and beyond to pander to them, which is sometimes a bit awkward, but is just part of what you can expect from the genre at this point. I had a similar frustration with them at first, but as I played them more, I got used to it and even began to appreciate it. I echo the various recommendations of Danganronpa. It's more "stylish" than "anime", if that makes sense, and it never ceases to be entertaining.
Sadly, it's true that I might not find what I hope to get, but like any other genre in the medium you might find something that doesn't necessarily cater to the majority of its targeted audience.
 
Aug 24, 2012
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Gifu, Japan
YMMV on whether you think it counts, but 80 Days?

(I'd list a bunch of pure text games here, but I'm unclear how attached you are to the 'visual' side of VNs, or if you're just after a good interactive story and unafraid of reading much of it. Still, I'd suggest Photopia - or taking a look at something like Rameses)
80 Days is a good call, I'd say.

If we're going down the text adventure route, Counterfeit Monkey has a much more "gamey" appeal to it than many others I've played, with very interesting mechanics.
 

AlucardGV

Banned
Aug 23, 2011
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hmm they are void of gameplay but i guess you can try Higurashi and Umineko.
as pointed above higurashi has lots of "slice of life" parts so probably won't really work

and reducing ever17 to "full of anime tropes" is a great disservice to the novel itself.
 

Moronwind

Banned
Apr 22, 2013
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The Satellaview exclusive mini sequel to Chrono Trigger, Radical Dreamers. You're just infiltrating a manor to steal a treasure, so it's not the most complex story, but it oozes atmosphere like few other games. It's got none of the high school stuff and they barely show the characters at all, so it's not very anime-esque.
It's very short though, as one might expect from a downloadable game for the SNES.
 

bomblord1

Banned
Sep 6, 2014
9,616
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You're not going to find a visual novel lacking the tropes used in the country they are being produced in.

You might be better off looking at point and click adventure games. Like Mist, Grim Fandango, Broken Age, or Tales of Monkey Island. While not true "visual novels" they are a lot closer to what you are looking for.
 

tokkun

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Jan 29, 2007
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What am I looking for? Something that I don't need to be an “otaku” to enjoy it, have some interesting and fun gameplay mechanics (like the Ace Attorney, Hotel Dusk or Another Code games), something that tries to tell a mature and interesting story or, at the very least, something as unsettling and disturbing as Song of Saya.
How exactly does Hotel Dusk have "interesting and fun gameplay mechanics"? Almost all of that game is just walking around, backtracking to rooms you have already visited to see if an event is occurring there now.

I'm not bringing this up just to shit on the game, but it seems like you are trying to carve a niche out of a niche. There are few VNs that contain no anime bullshit or romance to begin with, and also requiring interesting mechanics shrinks the options even further. Even your examples of what you want don't completely fit your criteria.

999 and Danganronpa both have anime bullshit character designs (but so does Ace Attorney, and they have more mature stories than it does). Policenauts doesn't have fun and interesting mechanics. Ghost Trick isn't really a VN. You should try them anyway.

If you actually want to find stuff to play, I would suggest that you adopt a less shallow definition of what constitutes anime bullshit. Steins;gate is an example of a game that devotes a considerable amount of its story to otaku pandering. I can understand avoiding that game if you find this intolerable. I would not apply that to 999 and Danganronpa, though.
 

Veldin

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May 27, 2013
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You're robbing yourself of some of the very best visual novel experiences, OP. Have a nice day.
 

Sora the Cat

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Oct 3, 2014
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OK guys, I'm not the OP but you convinced me, I want to try Danganronpa. How are the steam versions for playing on a TV and wich one should I play first? I'm guessing Trigger Happy Havoc?
 

hank_tree

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Dec 11, 2008
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Steins;gate is an example of a game that devotes a considerable amount of its story to otaku pandering. I can understand avoiding that game if you find this intolerable. I would not apply that to 999 and Danganronpa, though.
What? Danganronpa is literally filled to the fucking brim with that stuff.And it only gets worse in the sequel.

I love those games but there's no need to be lying to people about their content.
 

Langdon Alger

Banned
Nov 9, 2014
3,441
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I don't think Danganronpa qualifies as a visual novel. It has a bunch of mini games. I've played two Danganronpas and I still have no idea how that rhythm mini game works.
 

mclem

Member
Jan 16, 2007
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80 Days is a good call, I'd say.

If we're going down the text adventure route, Counterfeit Monkey has a much more "gamey" appeal to it than many others I've played, with very interesting mechanics.
Yeah, I was steering away from the more puzzle-heavy titles deliberately since I generally assume people asking about VNs are after the more CYOA-type approach, but there's a heck of a lot of potential in that field if the OP does wish to branch out.
 

Kaisos

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Feb 16, 2014
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I dunno what to tell you, OP. Visual novels as a whole are kind of based around the romance sim concept even if most of the better ones branch away from that.

If you want something that doesn't -look- particularly anime though, there's the upcoming (in English) House in Fata Morgana.

and reducing ever17 to "full of anime tropes" is a great disservice to the novel itself.