By Josh Speer / February 18th, 2019
Editor’s Note: There are no previous winners listed since this was not a category we voted on last year.
One of the newer categories for the oprainfall Awards this year is that of Visual Novel. It’s a bit of a unique one, since there was no voting done to establish a clear cut winner for this category. Mostly because we felt that would be incredibly arbitrary and instead decided to share our favorite Visual Novels of the year with you that we’ve also reviewed. So here are 4 Visual Novels that made an impact on our writers in 2018, covered by the authors that reviewed them and listed in alphabetical order.
Death Mark (reviewed by Josh Speer)
NA Release Date: October 31st, 2018
Platform(s): PC, PS4, Switch
I’ve only recently gotten into the Visual Novel genre, thanks to series like Danganronpa. Death Mark is a thoroughly creepy Visual Novel that strongly reminded me of 999 with some elements of Danganronpa thrown in for good measure. The premise is that a group of people are stricken with a strange mark that will cause supernatural death to come to them within a few days, as well as erasing their memories. It was equal parts terrifying and mysterious, and though I did need to follow a guide at times to get through it with the best ending, it was quite enjoyable. The music was menacing and the art was tremendous. I’m not sure who they had do the animation in the game, but they did incredibly detailed and harrowing stuff, and even some art more on the sexy side of the spectrum. Paired with a clever take on the amnesiac protagonist and a couple of really great twists, it’s easily the best VN I played all year!
Evenicle (reviewed by William Haderlie)
NA Release Date: June 28th, 2018
If we were submitting only pure Visual Novels to this list, my entry would be different. More than likely I would choose Trample on Schatten!! as my Visual Novel of the year selection. It had a story that didn’t always click with me, but amazing art, theme song, and innovative mechanics more than made up for that. However, Adults Only games are also folded into the general Visual Novel category (because there is no other good way to fit them in, and there aren’t enough good examples every year to make up a category all their own). So my favorite game across all Visual Novels and Adults Only games has to be Evenicle. Not only is it my AO game of the year, but it might be my favorite of all time.
But it is about as much of a Visual Novel as the Hyperdimension Neptunia games are. In other words, it has Visual Novel style sequences, but it is first and foremost a JRPG. Surprisingly it is more solid of a JRPG than many other mainstream games that have come out recently, and also markedly more than the previous Alicesoft games I reviewed were. That being said, the Adults Only content is also really good and satisfying, and the hero is much easier to root for than the Alicesoft mainstay Rance is. So for the story, art, and gameplay mechanics, Evenicle has to be my AO/VN Game of the Year. I cannot recommend this game enough for anyone who likes a good JRPG and enjoys Adult content.
Island (reviewed by Chris Melchin)
NA Release Date: August 23rd, 2018
ISLAND is a wild ride, starting out relatively straightforward but developing into an emotional rollercoaster, especially once you progress past the regular character routes and get into the main overarching story. Even if it has a relatively small number of romanceable heroines with only Karen Kurutsu, Sara Garando and Rinne Ohara, all the characters are likeable and well-written. The story is incredibly engaging as it gradually peels back its layers and throws one red herring after another at you, constantly keeping you guessing where things will be going. There’s also a myriad of bad endings to find, as well as a handy in-game flowchart to help you keep track of the maze of choices and what scenes you’ve seen so far. Otherwise, the bright and appealing visuals, likeable characters and exciting story all make ISLAND one of the best visual novels of 2018.
Newton and the Apple Tree (reviewed by Steve Baltimore)
NA Release Date: August 15th, 2018
2018 was a great year for Visual Novels in general. There was a ton of games I could’ve chosen as my favorite for the year, but in the end there can be only one. I decided to go with Sol-Press’s release of Newton and the Apple Tree.
The story follows Syuji Asanaga and his childhood friend Yotsuko Utakane as they are tracking down Syuji’s grandfather that has turned up missing. The duo ends up traveling to Tenbridge University, and accidentally travel 300 years into the past. They meet an adorable flat girl that would turn out to be the famed Sir Isaac Newton! Syuji didn’t realize it at that moment but he had erased one of the greatest scientific discoveries in human history!
This game really gave me a lot more than I expected. The team over at Sol-Press did an amazing job bringing these characters to life and giving you a basic science lesson at the same time! The girls are all equally fantastic, though Alice was my personal favorite. You can’t put an adorable Tsundere with blond twintails in a game and expect me to choose any other girl! In all seriousness, I would recommend this one to anyone that loves great characters, fans of romance and especially those folks that like alternative takes on history.
Thanks to Brandon and Brodie for the awesome Featured Images
2018 oprainfall AwardsDeath MarkEvenicleislandNewton and the Apple TreeVisual Novels