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Choices in VNs

maefdomn

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blog-0435756001425165083.pngYou know ? These text boxes that you clic and who guide you towards an end rather than another.

I've always wondered why we are given that false sense of liberty, because in the end, you'll complete the entire game and go through all the route, won't you ?

Would that mean that they are only relevant during your first playthrough, is your first route run down the true experience of actually playing a game ?

I don't think so, it's pretty random.

First reason being you don't always go down the route you want to despite trying your best to.

If you've been to nice to girl A and triggered her route, either going for girl B is useless, or the game won't even let you. Ah, dark memories of me trying to go for Rin without a walkthrough... it's too hard not to be nice to Lily !

Second reason, maybe you'll just happen to get a shitty route, you know, it happens ... sometimes ...

And that's only possible when you have the choice to go for what you want.

Yeah, it's an unspoken rule in Visual Novels :

Never go for the seemingly important characters first

Risks being :

- losing your time cause it's unlikely it's even reachable.

- losing your time cause it's unlikely that it's easily reachable if it is.

- doing it wrong, cause it's unlikely you'll like the game if you learn the most important stuff at the beginning.

I'd advise to go crescendo, when you have the choice, and this is where it becomes problematic. What seemed at first like you controling the fate of your character is actually you being guided by the story.

A Visual Novel is not a dating sim, so you do not build your character and do not have any influence on his personnality, but then why does the game give you choices in the first place ?

When the system is too easy, we wonder why it's even there, when it's too complicated it's a pain to play, then why ?

I d.o n.o.t k.n.o.w

But let's turn the question on its head, would Visual Novels still be as entertaining and good without these choices ? Lets remember than they are not a vital core of the genre. For example, Umineko has no choices, you're just reading, watching and listen but do not play.

Personnaly, I view them as something that adds dynamism to the whole thing. Like a goal to reach, some kind of check point. My, my the happiness of finally chosing after going through hours of fluff *cough* Grisaia * cough*.

Or maybe it's just what makes VNs games rather than image books.

These where my spontanious cloudy thoughts. Feel free to give your impressions.

Will be edited when I get more ideas :)

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I'd say choices are a legacy of the origins of VNs, i.e. textual adventure games, and their closeness to dating sims. 

I've talked about that before but, basically, I think the VNs that exploit the best the choice system are those with tons of choices that give you the impression of "exploring a given setting" rather than "choosing between several stories". Strongly advise playing Kagetsu Tohya for that, half the fun of the game is its choice system.

 

But overall it often indeed seems like a useless artifact, "we put them there because it's what we always do".

With that being said, wouldn't non-linear (rather than interactive, in this case) fiction be a bit less immersive if the choices were done on a more "meta" level, outside of the story, through a menu that directly lets you choose a route?

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I clearly recall a few, although older, VN's with a bazillion and a half choices, that end up affecting an altogether total of two unimportant dialogue boxes.

 

What are your thoughts on these?

Personally, these usually mean I won't choose half of them. Even when replaying the game, I simply do not have the patience to choose new choices when making use of the awfully convenient 'skip' button.

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While choices are not core, some might add a bit of spice to the story. Going through Ayakashibito was fun because of those but only a few of them actually mattered. In fact, some of the routes only had one possible end, so the choices were more like deciding which scenes you wanted to see. I kinda like it that way, since going through ten thousands of choices that lead to the same scenes (I'm looking at you, Tsukihime) is a bit boring. 

 

Now with that said, I still kinda enjoyed both Tsukihime and Fate/Stay Night despite the ridiculous amount of choices and bad ends, simply because there was something else other than a simple: "Bad/Dead End" on the screen after you die. Tiger Dojo's were really funny, as well as Ciel sensei's lessons. I believe that more games could or even should approach choices like that, as even dying becomes kinda rewarding.

 

Though games like Grisaia where the choices are really straight-forward to which girl you're getting and which end you'll have, those are still fun decisions to do. It somewhat makes you feel more immersed in the VN, but I'm not sure if this feeling is the same for everyone. 

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This will sound kind of weird. I think that choices add an awesome dynamic to a story when they are done right, as they present the reader with "what if" scenarios. What if MC did A instead of B. When these choices have a significant impact on the narrative, I believe that choices in VNs are noteworthy and should be held in a high regard. 

 

That being said. I actually prefer VNs without choices. A good kinetic VN can feel just like you are reading a really good piece of fiction, only with music and visuals. Like, I REALLY enjoyed Eden* and it really drew me into its narrative. That also being said, a kinetic novel lives and breathes by its words... and if they are sub par.. then the whole thing is sub par. I would much rather play a VN with a few really awesome routes and the rest all being "bad" than a whole kinetic that is sub par.

 

HOWEVER (XD) I would rather play a sub-par kinetic than a completely sub-par normal VN. And if they are both bad... well... I probably won't touch either one.

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