Developer Blog

English vs. Japanese Visual Novels

Here's something I wrote a while back but didn't post anywhere. Enjoy:

If I'm playing a Japanese VN I can pretty much assume it's at least decent. I don't question the author's intentions. But for English ones, everything is criticized because we don’t think very highly of English authors. You wouldn't find typos in a professionally finished work. Using words that seem unnatural could be used for character development instead of remnants of the author's mistaken grasping of the English language. Deviations in the visuals follow the same rule; if the author does something that isn’t standard we merely wonder if it was supposed to be done on purpose or not.

The reader no longer trusts the author of an English VN. The reason for this, I have to conclude, is the close network of communication between author and reader. I have almost no knowledge of how Japanese VN makers communicate to their fanbase, but I get the feeling the problem does lie in the community. Not saying that the community is full of bad people, but that the openness to discussion – allowing readers to influence the creator via direct feedback – is a negative thing. Not in terms of constructive criticism, but in terms of the EVN being a game to be played by the reader. By communicating with each other, the EVN becomes less like “a game to be played” and more “a game made by this person to be played and commented upon by myself”. Of course, most makers would say they are VN hobbyists and do not consider themselves professional -- hence, they do not try. And as a result, we get a considerably different product than our Japanese counterparts.

For EVNs, the author somehow influences the story just by being known as the author; the story loses credibility somehow, and it loses its immersion... and that's something I want to fix and get right. When you read a Japanese VN, you don't question things like that. The main reason is graphics and presentation –all the graphics, music, writing, and programming are highly polished, leaving the only criticisms up to the story itself. For English VNs, you get horribly plain default textboxes and MS-Paint cave-drawings half the time. Not to mention the same stock music (or blatantly STOLEN music) but I would say the visuals have more of an impact. And from that moment, from the very moment the art doesn't seem reliable, the moment the game LOOKS bad, the thought gets in your head that it MIGHT BE bad, and you question that while playing -- you constantly critique in your head, and there's no escaping that; the story has been doomed by its own author.

I don't know how else to explain it. I guess I'm just sensing a lack of trust in the EVN scene, which might be appropriate due to the lack of professionals in the field. I don't blame teenagers for wanting to dive into video game making -- in fact I did the very same thing at their age. But I do wonder sometimes: how could a person possibly think this is good? A common occurrence of this is making the game unreadable due to extremely poorly-chosen colors for the font and textbox. How could someone consciously do this? I mean, they must've TRIED reading their game before sending it out, right? Then why keep the unreadable font?! But the point is that I can't focus on the game anymore; instead I am caught up wondering how intelligent the author is. If this happened once, it might be a mishap. If it happened twice, I might still not think much of it. But when things like this are in just about every EVN out there, when games worthy of being played are akin to diamonds in the rough -- I start to wonder if Japan is simply made of diamonds.


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