Visual novels have gained tremendous popularity in the recent years. Only ten years ago they were a small niche, except for Japan. Most people had simply no clue at all what kind of games they were. But as said, in recent times things have changed greatly, with visual novels becoming a popular genre and more and more players getting familiar with it. But you might not know at all what a visual novel is, so let's proceed in order.
A visual novel is like an interactive book, or better a comic/illustrated book. There's a story to read, accompanied by illustrations and other elements like music, sound effects and in some cases even voice acting.
The main difference however, is that a visual novel usually offers the reader (or in this case better to call it player) the possibility to change the outcome of the story. Unless you're playing a Kinetic Novel indeed, there will be choices throrough the game which will affect the story.
How much the choices have an impact? This only depends on the visual novel author, and can vary greatly: from only a few minor text differences to whole different paths. In this case, replaying the game becomes a real pleasure to discover all the other possible outcomes and events.
Like books or movies, visual novels can be of different genres: romance, drama, comedy, etc. Also of different settings: sci-fi, historical, detective, fantasy, horror and so on. There are really no limits except the imagination of the creators.
While not all visual novels have a romance element, most of them do, and in this case we can also talk about a 'dating sim'. As the name says, a dating sim is a game in which the goal is to date someone and possibly get in love with him/her.
A notable difference between visual novels and dating sims is that usually, dating sims have more gameplay elements. What are those gameplay elements? Well, while in a visual novel the game consists mostly in a story that you advance by clicking, and a few choices, in a dating sim there's more.
In visual novels, the only interactive element are the choices, usually presented under the form of a menu. A list of buttons with a text on it, descripting what happens when you click that choice, or what your protagonist says (the first sentence/words).
In dating sims instead there's a "weekly planner" which is very similar to a calendar app, in which you can decide what your playable character will do each day of the week. The details vary from game to game, but those games offer a way to raise "statistics" or "skills" based on the chosen activities. This adds an element of strategy to the game, since the statistics can unlock extra scenes or be requirements to romance certain characters. For example we could have a 'sporty' character and by picking corresponding activities you would increase your own athletic skills, thus unlocking extra scenes with that character or even possible love scenes and endings!
The LGBT community is well represented in visual novels, and for sure in Winter Wolves games. In such cases it's common to talk about the game pairing using acronyms like GxB (girl protagonist pursuing boys), GxG (girl protagonist pursuing girls) and so on. Other words derive from japanese culture are yaoi (gay romances) yuri (lesbian romances).
As you might have noticed, the vast majority of visual novels use manga artwork. This is because they were born in Japan, the home of this kind of beautiful art style. However, especially in recent years, there have been different art styles used in visual novel games: sometimes wester/comic art, other times full 3d art style or painted/rendered style.
While in definitive it's all based on personal tastes, the fact that the vast majority of visual novels use manga art is not casual: it's the style that people prefers mostly. One reason could be that many visual novels have a high school/college setting. Of course, a different kind of theme could benefit more from a different style, like for example an horror game could have a more dark style, and so on. The important is that the art style matches the game setting/mood.
If you're still curious to know more about visual novels, we at Winter Wolves Games have a big selection of this kind of games! So feel free to browse our catalog of titles, we're sure that you'll find something that suit your tastes. Happy reading!