Private Nurse has the distinction of being a game that can move people to tears. People say that it has a powerful story, well-written routes, and unforgettable characters. The game even goes so far as to proclaim "It's great!" on the box! but is it really? Well, yes! here is why ;)
Our Protagonist, Hiroki Rikkido, has been sick his entire life, and nobody has ever been able to tell what exactly is wrong with him. It isn’t a deathly sickness, but it does mean that he can't attend any sports or activities, and faints a lot, so his mother hired a Private Nurse to help him get better. When Hiroki discovers that he gets pissed off, and tries to kick the Nurse, named Maria, out because he is scared of his private life being taken away, hates anything that reminds him of his condition, and you certainly wouldn’t want a nurse hanging around you all day lol. But knowing Maria won't leave no matter what, Hiroki decides to give her a one week trial. If Hiroki improves within a week under Maria's care, Hiroki will then accept her nursing for a while.
In addition to the nurse, many other people want to help Hiroki, including Ayano and Mio. Ayano is Hiroki's best friend and ex-girlfriend who believes that she can cure Hiroki of his sickness because she never gives up, never surrenders, and has the determination of a Spartan and the stubbornness of a Mule. Mio is the school nurse. There are legends about her doing all this amazing stuff at every school she's ever been to, like curing lots of students, stopping gang violence, and simply doing lots of awesome stuff. However, she is also rude, sleeps on the job, and is addicted to candy.
The story development and setting is very accurately arranged, from how you start the story as such a weak character, how you spend your sick lifetime, how Ayano first took care of you, how you met Maria, to the deeper and deeper story. The storylines themselves are fairly in-depth, and you could easily spend hours on each. The pace of the storylines is Initially slow,but it quickens gradually. The story has 4 possible routes; each can take around 3-4 hours, and it's well worth your time to replay the game multiple times to get all of them. And even AFTER you get all of them, you still have "The After Diaries", which is a feature unique to this game where you play ADDITIONAL side stories which become available once you finish Maria's and Ayano's endings. The side stories involve various characters that appear in the game, and overall they enhance the primary storylines of the game.
The(not many)H-scenes are also tastefully done,and one can easily view these sexual encounters as a maturation of Hiroki's relationships with the female characters. Indeed, in one of the four routes, you can go through the entire story without a single sexual encounter.
There is not a single bad song in this game. All of it sounds great and perfectly fits every situation. Many of the songs are just beautiful and feature some outstanding piano work. The soundtrack can help punctuate good moments, bad moments, and is a great soundtrack to accompany Hiroki's life. Also, the voice acting is quite well done, from Ayano's loud tone, to Maria's gentle voice, to all the other voices in the game.
13 whole years after Private Nurse's release, it is still a very good visual novel that can easily make you laugh in many parts of it, yet just as easily, make you cry in many other parts. Try it and thank us later ;)
Giniro Silver is a unique VN, in more good and bad ways than one.
It was released in Japan with the option to play it in either Japanese or English (with the menus all in Japanese). However, the option was actually either Japanese or extreme Engrish. Its Engrish was so bad that even I - who learned English as my second language and still make a lot of mistakes in it – found difficulty in reading it. However, beneath this bad translation and crude interface lays a true diamond and one of the most emotionally powerful and unique VNs I have ever read.
Its story dares to go deeper than any game has ever dared to go, featuring such main characters like a young slave girl who had her Achilles tendon cut so she doesn’t escape and got raped so many times for so long that her mind basically "dissolved" and returned to her childhood period. To her sad and poor childhood period.
Another character is a thief who, on the surface, seems like he is full of contradictions. He kills anybody he steals from yet he is good-hearted. He firmly believes that "The weak must die" yet he helps this extremely weak girl who cant even walk. He is also a guy who suffered many things in his life, not the least of which was being forced to bury his parents while they were still alive and begging him to help them. These two meet and embark together on an adventure. An adventure that will not end in them saving the world or finding a lost treasure. An adventure of simply trying to survive this harsh world.
Said adventure is one of many, as the story is divided into chapters and each chapter will, at first glance, look like it has its own characters and storyline, and the connections between the chapters will not appear to you until you delve deeper into the wonderful main story.
The art style is simple but charming and extremely fits the mood. The sound track is OK but a bit repetitive and the voice actors are good.
All in all, if not for its Engrish, this game would have been extremely awesome. At its current state, it is a game that is certainly worth playing for anyone but grammar teachers ;).
Note: If anyone would like to help and work on editing and fixing its English so that we can release the fixed version as a patch and allow this game's story to become the masterpiece that it deserves to be then please PM me :).
Sharin no Kuni takes place within a civilization where anyone considered detrimental to society is assigned an “obligation”, which is an absolute restriction befitting their crime. These obligations aren’t only intended to punish or restrict, but also to shape the "criminals" into contributing members of society. As such, "crimes" aren’t only limited to typical examples like stealing or murder, but can also include severe personality defects, such as a consistently defiant attitude or extreme laziness. For example, someone who regularly wastes time lazing about all day every day may get stuck with the obligation of taking a sleep-inducing drug in order to limit the amount of hours they have per day, so the person would eventually value their time more, thus motivating them to become a contributing member of society. Once a criminal is assigned an obligation, they’re then kept under watch by a person known as a “Special High Class Individual”, whose job is to ensure that the criminal follows their obligation, while also doing what they can to guide and rehabilitate them. Those that are successfully rehabilitated get their obligations removed, while those deemed incurable are sent off to spend the rest of their lives working in hard labor camps.
In Sharin no Kuni, you assume the role of Morita Kenichi, a boy who’s aspiring to be one of these Special High Class Individuals. For his final test, he returns to the town in which he grew up, where he’ll need to watch over and successfully rehabilitate three different girls, each baring a different sort of obligation. There's Sachi Mitsuhiro, a rather energetic and outgoing girl, but also a constant procrastinator who avoids work at any opportunity, even with her obligation of 12 hour days; Touka Oone, a girl who’s kind to her friends, though also very outspoken and stubborn, and constantly butting heads with her mother, despite her obligation’s requirement for her to follow her mother’s every order; and Natsumi Hinata, a very shy and reserved girl, who’s stuck with the obligation of being forbidden from falling in love, which even goes so far as to forbid any physical contact with the opposite sex.
It is through the rehabilitation of these three girls that the story truly starts. Since the rehabilitation process requires constant monitoring of the rehabilitee around the clock, it’s typical for the Special High Class Individual to live with the criminal during the rehabilitation process. As such, you’ll wind up living with each girl one by one in order to fully monitor their lives, and hopefully rehabilitate them. As a result, there’s a good deal of slice of life and even comedy throughout, though when things get serious, the drama can be downright stifling. Kenichi’s constant involvement with these girls also allows for there to be some hints of romance at times, though whether any of the relationships ultimately get intimate is entirely up to the player. However, due to the story’s linear format, the choice to date doesn’t have much impact on the story; it mainly determines which epilogue you get, and whether or not you see any 18+ scenes.
While these three girls are certainly troubled, it soon becomes obvious that aside from their obligations, they all seem like fairly normal and warm-hearted people. Because of this, it can be easy to grow attached to these girls and start to feel some sympathy towards their situation. Nonetheless, Kenichi’s position forces him not only to prioritize their rehabilitation, but also to punish any transgressions – no exceptions, lest he be stripped of his rank and deemed a criminal himself. As a result, all that Kenichi can really do to help these girls is to make sure that their rehabilitations are successful, so they can continue to spend the rest of their lives living happily in society, and not slaving away in hard labor camps.
As you may expect, there will be some obstacles along the way. Of particular note is Kenichi’s superior, Houzuki Masaomi, a cold and intimidating individual who’s relentlessly dedicated to society, and demands the most out of others - in his eyes, those that fail might as well be dead. Houzuki also isn’t above manipulation to see the results he wants, so even if he may technically be on Kenichi’s side, he isn’t likely to offer the sort of help Kenichi wants.
In the end, Sharin no Kuni is a rather interesting mix of slice of life and drama. While at one moment it can be happy, lighthearted and comedic, when the drama hits, the emotions can get heavy, and even begin to feel somewhat depressing.
Cross Channel is a bit of an odd game to explain: Not only does it have many twists and secrets, but it also defies some standard VN conventions.
For starters, there are five main female leads but the game really only has one route: One that sees you, in some way or another, involved with each of the girls in turn. Already it sounds like a linear sex romp, but that is highly inaccurate. While the protagonist is a supreme pervert, he doesn't end up with all the girls as some form of conquest, but rather because of the game's unique temporal mechanics.
You see, the game takes place in an eternally recurring week. Think "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray. No matter what you do, for good or ill, at the end of the week time resets and for the most part you forget what even happened. There ARE some ways around the forgetting part, which play a huge role in advancing the game.
There are a couple other catches too: For starters, aside from you and a couple of your schoolmates, every living thing on the planet seems to have simply disappeared. Also, Each of those schoolmates of yours have a unique personal "defect" that the government deems to make them unfit to be a part of "normal" society. Essentially, the school you went to (and still attend as a matter of habit even in the now seemingly desolate world) was little more than a place to round up societies misfits to keep them away from all the good honest folk.
Cross Channel is a game that almost demands a 2nd play through after you first beat it. From the very first scene in the game there is much foreshadowing: None of the characters you meet, least of all yourself, are what they appear to be at first. There are some truly strange twists and turns in this game,some of which touch on sensitive subject matter and may not be for the faint of heart.
While playing the game, you will get many a "bad end". However, since time resets each week, such screw ups, even fatal screw ups, are nothing more than learning experiences for you as the player and sometimes for the protagonist as well.
Yume Miru Kusuri: A Drug That Makes You Dream has a rather enigmatic title. In truth, only one of the three possible routes deals heavily with drug use. The key focus of the game is three high school girls, each dealing with their own personal problems: A seemingly perfect school idol/class rep type who is secretly collapsing under the pressure and expectations put upon her; a quiet, unassuming girl who is mercilessly bullied on a daily basis for no better reason than the fact that the people doing it can get away with it; and lastly, a strange "Fairy" troublemaker who hides something much deeper.
Though all 3 girls attend the same school as the protagonist, their routes have a very clear sense of separation. Once you have set off on pursuing one particular girl's path the story you get is far from a typical "High School Romance" style VN. In truth there is much strife and conflict to be found surrounding each of the possible romantic interests, and while sex is somewhat abundant, it does tend to be presented more realistically and never becomes the focus.
The route dealing with bullying really stands out to me as being the one most worth experiencing. The game does a good job in making it clear that simply standing up and doing the right thing isn't always that easy: Taking a stand against your peers, even for something that is clearly right, often means exposing yourself to as much harm as the person you are trying to help. Having the courage to make that stand may be noble, but it is the strength of will to fight for what you believe in that will determine the outcome.
While the game has some moments of humor, especially when dealing with cliches often found in English VNs, the core stories of each of the game's potential love interests have a good bit of weight behind them. YMK doesn't set out to make you depressed or cry your eyes out though. In the course of trying to resolve each of the girls troubles you will likely feel a broad spectrum of emotions: sadness, pity, contempt, anger, loneliness, and in one shining example, righteous vindication.
Crescendo follows a somewhat common theme seen in many VNs by being set during the very last days of the protagonist's high school years (junior college in the English translation).
Even so, only three of the five potential heroines are fellow students. You have the "obvious choice" crush who you never committed to who is now (with your blessing) dating your best friend; a quiet and awkward loner who barely manages to scare up the courage to confess to you; and rounding out the classmate choices, a girl you initially have little interest in who is best known for sleeping with anyone for cash. There is more to that than first meets the eye, though.
You also have a strangely warm relationship with the otherwise stand-offish school nurse that you can try to further as well as a very strained living relationship with your sister that you can try to repair. Truth be told though, there is one last route which verges on the supernatural, hidden away as a bit of a secret path.
As the differences with each girl should illustrate, each path varies wildly from the others. To follow one path, you have to break up a couple that is comprised of two people you call friends. Another entails you pursuing a girl whose every action you find reprehensible. Yet another requires confronting a very dark, mutually shared past with the last semblance of family you have. It is very different from many VNs set in a high school setting where you basically pick the best looking girl and make all the obviously nice dialog choices.
Admittedly, some of the routes are more dramatic or dark than the others. In the case of the shy confessor, she simply doesn't want to keep living the lonely life she has; something that is certainly emotionally compelling in its own right, but cast beside the school nurse's reason for keeping people at a distance and the high school prostitute's general life situation, there is a sharp contrast.
I think that is what makes the game so compelling: Each story has its own weight and every route has a sense of emotional impact to it.
By a fitting coincidence, I just discovered that I am writing this on the first anniversary of me reading Kanon for the first time, a VN that helped change the way I look at VNs, and gaming in general, forever.
Kanon is the first VN from KEY, a VN company that is famous for making classics like Clannad, Little Busters, and this little gem. It is a VN that simply got all emotions right. From the funny moments that make you laugh your heart out, to the sad moments that make you feel like said heart is being stabbed by a knife, to the mystery moments that make you wonder what is actually happening, to all the other great moments you could think of.
The story begins in a simple way. You are Yuiichi, a high schooler who is returning to his hometown after a 7 year absence and entering his new school there. However, it will quickly branch in many interesting ways. There are some plot twists and hidden truths that you will never see coming. Said plot twists are mean. They attack you near the endings after you have formed a lot of emotion for your girl and rip your heart out in sadness.
One of the Key (intended pun ;) features of this VN that sets it apart from other VNs is the abundance of decisions that shape your character. While VNs normally only have a small to moderate number of key choices, this one has hundreds of different decisions in it. This really makes you feel like YOU are Yuiichi and can decide your life however you like. This makes an already long VN (+40h at least to finish all the routes) even longer as it gives it great replay value through discovering all the choices and what each choice leads to (I am currently re-enjoying it for the 8th time :).
Each character in the game is unique and three dimensional. while you might think at the beginning that they are simple cliché characters, you will quickly discover that you couldn’t be further from the truth. You will get extremely emotional with them (Sometimes without you even noticing it). You will laugh with (or at) them, feel sad with (or for) them, and generally enjoy life together with them.
The soundtrack is very good and each track extremely fits the situation you are in. Simply hearing some tracks after beating the game will invoke feelings of happiness/sadness/etc from you. The art style is also unique and, while dated, is still extremely memorable.
Also, trust me when I tell you that, after finishing the game, "Promises" will mean a LOT more to you ;).
Ever17 tells the story of a group of people trapped 153 feet under the water’s surface in an underwater theme park, after a mysterious accident caused it to go into lockdown. While there are enough supplies scattered about that they can live comfortably at first, the accident also caused half the facility to completely flood with water. External water pressure continues to assault the facility’s walls, so it’s only a matter of time until the theme park implodes completely.
Depending on a choice at the end of the prologue, you’ll play as one of two protagonists: The first is a college student named Takeshi Kuranari, who was simply enjoying himself in the park with some friends, while the other protagonist is a young teenage boy with amnesia who can’t remember anything about himself, much less his name, so he’s simply referred to as “Kid” by the others. As for the rest of the cast, there’s Tsugumi Komachi, a mysterious young woman who’s reserved and aloof, and shows little interest in the others; Sora Akanegasaki, a sociable yet professional tour guide at the park, who seems just as in the dark about the incident as everyone else; You Tanaka, a rather outgoing teenage girl who was a part-time worker at the theme park; Sara Matsunaga, a cheery and somewhat playful high school student who was visiting the park as part of a field trip, and lastly, Coco Yagami, a strange girl with a childish and sometimes odd sense of humor. While these characters may seem simple on the surface, each and every character gets a good deal of elaboration and development through the course of the game, and a few of their backstories can be fairly dramatic. The game is divided into 5 different paths, with the 5th only being unlocked after getting the good end for each of the initial four paths. Although each route is capable of standing on its own, they all share an overarching plot, and each route brings up certain global mysteries that exist in the game world. While some of these mysteries are elaborated on within the initial four routes, there are a fair amount of details that remain a mystery until the final route, so as a result, it’s absolutely imperative to play all the paths if you want to learn the entire story.
While Ever17 is ultimately a story of mystery and drama at its core, it also has some slice of life and romance thrown into the mix as well (this romance contains no 18+ scenes, for those wondering). In addition to offering a bit of a break from the tension of the survival situation, these scenes can also work well in familiarizing the player with the various characters, and getting the player more attached to them. The survival situation is ever-looming though, so the tension and urgency of the situation will gradually increase as each route progresses. The game also has quite a few emotional and exciting moments throughout. This especially goes for the final route, in which the many mysteries and unanswered questions brought up in the initial four paths get answered, leading to some of the most thrilling and emotional moments I've ever seen in any video game.
Also impressive is just how well-crafted Ever17’s plot is as a whole: There are many little hints and seemingly insignificant details scattered about the various routes that will likely seem unimportant when you first come across them, but that will take on new meanings when you have all the answers. To give an example without spoilers, I remember an action by one character that seemed insignificant initially, but turned out to hold a lot of emotional weight and meaning when I viewed that scene with further insight later on. There are quite a few small details like this strewn about, so it really shows that the writers put a lot of time into planning out the story in advance. Those who are especially perceptive and actively theorizing may pick up on some of these little hints and details, though most will likely overlook many of them unless they replay the game later on; I certainly overlooked quite a few of them, myself.
All in all, I’d say that Ever17 is one of the most interesting and well-crafted stories I've ever had the pleasure to read, so I urge anyone who has an interest in mysteries, emotional stories, or story-driven games in general to check it out.
(As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that the game’s English translation has a fair amount of smaller typos, though there’s a fan-patch that fixes most of those errors, which can be easily found with a quick search.)
Ef - a Fairy Tale of the Two is a romantic drama encompassing the stories of 5 different couples. These tales are as follows:
Tale 1: Hiro Hirono is a High School student who shirks school in favor of his part-time job as a manga artist, much to the disapproval of his childhood friend Kei Shindou. On Christmas Eve, Hiro encounters Miyako Miyamura, a rather whimsical girl who lives her life in the moment. As a result, she also has a habit of skipping school, though for different reasons than Hiro. The two then spend the rest of the night walking around town and chatting with each other before eventually parting ways. From then on, the two begin to get romantically involved with one-another, though this relationship may have more obstacles than either would imagine.
Tale 2: Kyosuke Tetsumi has had a passion for cinematography ever since he was young, and always carries around a video camera in search of the “perfect shot”. On Christmas Eve, he sees a girl across the street who enraptures him with her energy and grace. He begins filming her, though a truck then passes by which obscures his shot, and in turn, the identity of the girl. Thereafter, his thoughts continue to be consumed by this girl, so he decides to shirk the rest of his obligations in order to search for her.
Tale 3: Renji Aso likes to head to an old, abandoned train station after school in order to read books in solitude. One day, he sees a mysterious girl with an eye patch reading alone on a bench. While Renji and the girl are both more on the quiet side and somewhat shy, they soon become fast friends due to their love of books. The girl introduces herself as Chihiro Shindou, and the two make a regular habit of meeting each other at that station every day. However, unbeknownst to Renji, Chihiro suffers from a condition that would make a simple friendship, let alone a long-term romance,with her very difficult.
Tale 4: Shuuichi Kuze is a famous violinist who has cut all ties with his friends and family after being diagnosed with a potentially fatal medical condition, and now spends all his days in solitude. He used to be a romantic and a bit of a womanizer, though he’s since given up on love; his only remaining passion is in playing his violin. Kuze eventually encounters a very outgoing girl by the name of Mitsuki Hayama. While Kuze is hesitant to form even a simple friendship due to his condition, Mitsuki’s persistence and general cheeriness makes her hard to turn away, and the two soon become friends. This friendship eventually begins to turn to romance, but can the two find happiness with Kuze’s condition in the picture, or will they both be burned in the end?
Tale 5: The main tale. On Christmas Eve, an older gentleman by the name of Yuu Himura enters a rather ornate church house to meet with his lover, Yuuko Amamiya. The two then begin to reminisce about the past, from the people they’ve met and influenced, down to the details of their personal lives. These two will appear at various points throughout "Ef – A Fairytale of the Two", and are the main link between the various tales. What is the story of this mysterious couple, and what are their motivations for helping the other characters with their troubles?
While the general mood will vary from story to story, Ef is a romantic drama at its core. Whether each story ends in happiness or tears varies from tale to tale, though not a single romance comes easily for the protagonists; they all have their obstacles, with many emotional ups and downs along the way. The game’s presentation values are also quite high, and do well to set the mood. The art is overall very well done. The character designs are very polished and well-drawn, and their designs are fairly distinct from one another. Lighting is also wonderfully utilized, with the entire scene often being enveloped in warm glows and deeply saturated hues, which can give the game a bit of an airy, dreamy vibe, befitting a romantic fairy tale. The soundtrack is also wonderfully done, and accompanies the game quite well; the music varies from calm and saccharine classical pieces to more melancholic violin melodies that swoop between high and low, much like the character’s emotions.
While most of the stories have their good points, of particular note are Renji and Chihiro’s tale, and Yuu and Yuuko’s tale. Renji and Chihiro’s relationship starts out as a classic sweet and innocent romance, though Chihiro’s condition is a very interesting curveball that changes the situation entirely. While Chihiro’s a normal girl in every other regard, her condition is very debilitating, and strikes hard at many of love’s foundations to the point that only the truest love has any chance of survival. As for Yuu and Yuuko's, what begins as a normal high school romance soon turns more complicated. Yuuko is a cheery and carefree girl on the surface, but she’s harboring some darker secrets that can easily put a strain on any relationship.
In the end, "Ef - A Fairy Tale of the Two" has a lot of moving moments, both dramatically and romantically. While the tales aren't all equal in their impact, the storytelling works far more often than it doesn't, and has enough standout moments to make for a very memorable and emotionally moving experience as a whole.
Kana ~ Little Sister has a title that, by virtue of belonging to a genre of games that is closely associated with adult subject matter, tends to evoke less than pure images in a person's mind. The English version's back-of-the-box text blurb doesn't miss the opportunity to make this misconception a selling point either.
What lies within however is a story of love, mortality, frailty and what the meaning of family really is. You play the part of the titular Kana Todo's older brother, Taka, a young man whose little sister has spent the vast majority of her life hospital bound as she struggles with an almost certainly fatal illness. Through his eyes you see Kana grow from a small child that he once resented into a beautiful young woman he cares dearly for. Whether you smoother her with affection or try to help her accept the reality of dying is up to you as the player. You may even try desperately to save her life, but no matter what path you take through the game it is hard to come out the other side not feeling genuinely moved.
The story is told both in the present and as a series of flashbacks, some going back to when both you and Kana were still quite young and often at odds with one another. This look back at both your and her formative years really gives you a sense of watching her grow as a person. Though at first Taka can be crass and abrasive towards Kana, as he matures so does his outlook towards his younger sibling. While the game does primarily center around Kana through the course of growing up, going to school and many visits to the hospital, other people come into play in both your and her life. Some are fleeting while others are more determined to stay a part of either your or your sister's life, the latter of which present themselves as potential romantic interests to both characters.
If there was a single VN that I'd recommend to anyone even remotely interested in the genre, this would be it.
(Conclusion By Ajogamer)
And with that, this list draws to an end! As you can see, there are quite a few emotionally moving stories in the world of visual novels, from sad and depressing tear-jerkers to emotional rollercoasters. Hopefully visual novel newbies and veterans alike found the list enjoyable to read! As a collaborative project, this project did run through a few rough patches in trying to get a consistent team together, though we had fun putting together the list and chatting about visual novels, and I think the list turned out well in the end.
As with most top 10 lists, there were also many games we couldn’t include on the list for some reason or another. Many were excluded due to having a weaker focus on the emotional aspects, or simply not being as emotionally charged as the games in our top 10, though there were also a couple that may have suited the list well, but that none of us working on the list had played. With that said, here’s our list of 10 honorable mentions, in no particular order:
- Any game by the company Key (We listed Kanon as Key’s representative on the list, but all of Key’s other games also fit the list’s theme very well)
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni
- Hoshizora No Memoria
- Kikokugai - The Cyber Slayer
- The Muv-Luv series (Muv-Luv Alternative is where most of the heavy emotional content lies, but the previous games are important for backstory and buildup)
- Narcissu Side 2nd (This also contains the first Narcissu game, which is a tearjerker as well. It’s also freeware, and was recently released on Steam.)
- One ~To the Radiant Season~
- Symphonic Rain
- Wind -A Breath Of Heart-
- Yosuga no Sora
The leader of this collaboration project, FFTHEWINNER, also has plans to write additional visual novel focused top 10 lists in the future, so if anyone wants to help in making those lists, or simply has any questions or comments regarding this list or any future list, feel free to send him a PM. Of course, you can also make a post about it in the top 10 list forums, or send a short message through the recommendations button below!
List by FFTHEWINNER (06/05/2014)
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