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April Fools – Genre Deep Dive


Pallas_Raven

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This is a condensed version of the full article which can be found on my Main Blog Here.

 

That Time of The Year

 

Once a year people come together to pull pranks or other humorous activities on each other in an effort to lighten up their lives and visual novels have become a vessel for this practice resulting the birth of a genre. The games which spawn from it are parodies of established titles or series where their essence is exaggerated for comic effect while keeping the qualities that made them so popular in the first place. They also embrace their short form and throw away nature to explore one shot style narratives not possible within the main series. All of this is in service of something that is more than just a simple joke, but instead a humorous celebration of what the games have achieved both inside their play time and beyond to their real world success. This analysis will consider titles which fall into the spirit of this genre rather than simply those released in or around April 1st since the genre has grown well beyond its confines. Let’s subvert expectations and dive into the weird world of the April Fools visual novel.

 

One Trick Pony

 

Being a self contained title which exists only for a single humorous purpose is by no means the drawback it at first appears. Choosing to embrace the nature of a one shot offers a chance to be something a little different from the established ideas of the series and present a vision of an alternative path. Obviously this is played up for comic effect but the underlying examination of what the games mean and how they came to be, works wonders to add a nice background texture to what is otherwise light entertainment through the contrast with what came before. Keeping this in check is important as the game does not want to stray too far away what drew people to the original and while a novel concept might initially delight, people are still here to see the something reflecting the old ideas and may lose patience with this new angle. A short play time does a lot to mitigate this issue through its low demand on player and it helps make the prospect of playing something slightly different more appealing. 

 

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The Art Of The Parody

 

Simply pointing and laughing at the flaws and absurdities of the original work is a fast way to form a disconnect with your audience who have invested in that title. Such is the struggle of the parody, which must balance its reliance of the original game for the source of its humour and the dangers of taking the joke too far. The solution many parodies have found is to find the core of what made the original appealing and take it then refine it into its purest essence. From this starting point they can use the inherent absurdity born from the exaggeration caused by the refinement and play off it for comic effect. In doing this the parody can also leverage the player’s own love for the original since what attracted them to it is on full display in the parody yet it drawing a line between the old and new while offering a similar feeling to it, albeit through a less serious lens.

 

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Take VA-11 Hall-A KIDS for example, this spin off the cyberpunk bartending simulator abandons most these elements in favour of what is truly important, its characters. They are the part of the original game people resonated with and built an attachment to rather than the world itself, so KIDS chose to focus on them in order to draw out the core of what made the game great. It places the cast in a school setting to get as far away from the original as possible and allow the characters to shine while showing off what made them fun in the first place. Through the silliness of the shift in setting, KIDS has a somewhat whimsical tone and plays into this by making the events the characters are involved in be low stakes to avoid any player potentially feeling offended when it pokes fun at the original game.

 

A Celebration of The Game

 

Comedy might be at the core of a parody, but to leave a lasting impact it needs a form of sincerity baked into it so the title can stand on its own. Often this involves being a celebration of the game’s heritage rather than just its core ideas. The path that the developers and the players have walked down together to reach this stage is a common touching point between the two parties and allows for a form of dialogue when used within a game. By showing that the developer is aware of this through the aspects of the series they include within the parody, they can transform something which was previously only a simple joke into an appreciation of the players for keep the series alive. 

 

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For The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog this is created through giving each member of Sonic’s ensemble some screen time to snapshot why they are beloved. It is they who best represent the sprawling franchise Sonic has become with its toes in many types of gameplay, narratives and consoles. The characters have been built up over time and this results in players having many memories with them so invoking them in this manner acts as a nod to the player that this series they love has come a long way. This is capped off with the whole cast coming together to defeat the threat and reach a peaceful resolution just as they have countless times before, but here it hold a certain nostalgia due to the prior focus on the past while still wrapping up with a sense of future adventures ahead for the cast. Playing into these strengths allowed The Murder of Sonic the Hedgehog to be well received beyond its status as an April Fools game and is remembered in a positive light by Sonic fans.

 

Conclusion

 

Making a simple joke is an easy task, but having it leave a mark in people’s memory is quite another. The quirky visual novel genre of April Fools games merges parody and earnestness in an established series and puts it in a unique position. On the one hand these games are one shots by their very nature and tend to lean into that trait in order to offer a completely different angle on the ideas which came before. On the other they must not make their humour and subversion come at the expense of what player’s liked about the original or they might become offended and lose interest. Alongside this runs an understanding of the series' heritage shared by player and developer alike and in turn the game is often shaped as a celebration of what the games has achieved. Creating an April Fools visual novel is a process which requires an excellent knowledge of both your own titles and your audience’s expectations for them, something to keep in mind if you plan on making your own addition to the genre.

 

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Well honestly in the recent time I've seen more of April Fools events in the manga and anime scenes, although turned out there are surprising amount of April Fools VNs. Other than those three, there are the other two that are particularly stick out to me, Shakadou-san no Jun'ai Road and Seventh Coat. For more elaboration, Seventh Coat is the April Fool VN for Fata Morgana with the developer change the genre from fantasy to science fiction, while for Shakadou VN it's the parody of Tsujidou with Shakadou (One of the antagonist in Majikoi) as the MC. Note that the developers for both put some efforts into those VNs, with Fata Morgana writer tried to make Seventh Coat writing as good as possible while Minato-soft hired Hanakana of all VA to voiced the main heroine of Shakadou (Kugenuma Sakura).

I think that's all for what I can comment in regard of April Fools VNs.

Edited by littleshogun
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