By Benny Carrillo / April 20th, 2015
Part 1 – Senran Kagura is not an Eroge
“…these types of visual novels that have adult content …”
I stare at my screen in disbelief, rereading that one sentence fragment, again and again. I ask myself, “Did someone who is a representative for Twitch just call Senran Kagura an Eroge, let alone a Visual Novel?” It’s at this point I truly realize no one seems to know what this game is or what it stands it for. So, that’s what I want to do here, everyone. I want to explain what Senran Kagura is and why that one sentence fragment makes absolutely no sense.
So what’s this all about?
First off, let me set the stage here. As many of you know Mr. Hassan Bokhari, who works for Twitch, was responding via e-mail to an inquiry as to whether Senran Kagura: Estival Versus, which was recently released in Japan, was banned from being streamed on the site. The response was… puzzling, to say the least. Here’s the full quote:
Our rules of conduct are pretty cut and dry. We do not allow games of this nature on our platform. If you would like to look for other streaming platforms to stream these types of visual novels that have adult content, then please feel free.
This is not something we will allow on our service.”
~ Hassan Bokhari, April 6, 2015
I won’t go into detail about my feelings on the ban, or what it could mean. Our own Joe Sigadel wrote an opinion piece that does a very good job of that from the perspective of a long-time Twitch broadcaster. What I will focus on, though, is disproving the assertion that Senran Kagura is either a Visual Novel or an Eroge.
Now, to be fair to Mr. Bokhari, he is not the bad guy here. He’s just trying to do his own job and respond to the various inquiries he receives. In fact, we don’t know who actually banned the game. For all we know, Mr. Bokhari is merely looking at a database entry someone made that lists the game as banned and lists the reason as it being an “Adult Visual Novel.” He honestly could just be the unfortunate messenger here, so I’m more than willing to give him a pass on the matter. However, it’s apparent that someone at Twitch doesn’t know what an “Adult Visual Novel” is. So, let me explain that.
One last thing before we begin. As of April 10 there has been an update from Twitch that states the following:
“Senran Kagura: Estival Versus is permitted for streaming, but you still must adhere to our Rules of Conduct when doing so. Per our rules regarding sexually explicit acts or content, the sexually suggestive scenes in this game should not be the focus of your stream.”
~Aaron M. Clay, April 10, 2015
Does this change the purpose of this editorial? No, the mistake still should not have been made in the first place, and I’m going to try and show just how “sexually suggestive” this game actually gets.
With that said, let’s first tackle a simple question.
What the heck are Visual Novels?
First let’s define a Visual Novel.
A visual novel is an interactive fiction game, featuring mostly static graphics, most often using anime-style art or occasionally live-action stills (and sometimes video footage).
~ Wikipedia, April 7th, 2015
OK, so, Wikipedia isn’t exactly an academic source, but you get the idea. One could make the argument that these aren’t games, but akin more to interactive “Choose your own adventure” type experiences. Steins;Gate, as well as the Ace Attorney and the Zero Escape franchises are probably the most common examples of a traditional Visual Novel experience, where the gameplay is second to the story and characterization.
However, what we see more commonly here in the West are games that have Visual Novel elements. In particular, these games take the storytelling style of a Visual Novel, namely the use of beautifully-done backgrounds and having the characters converse with each other either through still images or models. Oftentimes, they will also borrow the Visual Novel’s emphasis on decision making to help drive the narrative down different paths. Games like this include the Shin Megami Tensei, Hyperdimension Neptunia and Sakura Wars franchises. The key difference here is that these games have solid foundations in other genres and use the effective storytelling style of the Visual Novel to help drive its narrative. It’s in this latter category that Senran Kagura fits due to its core game mechanics revolving around hack-and-slash combat.
So is Senran Kagura a Visual Novel?
No. But, like the others, it does heavily use Visual Novel elements. However, with its focus on action-based combat, Senran Kagura is not a Visual Novel.
So, now that we’ve settled that issue, join me on the next page as we tackle the question as to whether or not Senran Kagura is an Eroge.
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