Before we begin this list an ‘honorable mention’ is it order because I was planning to put Backstage Pass from SakeVisual on this list. However, earlier this week it was announced by Ayu Sakata and her team have basically finished the game. It is still listed as Early Access on Steam, but us media types are free to discuss it, so it’s officially off the Most Anticipated list! Congratulations to the SakeVisual team and you can find out more on their big project here!
2016 is clearly shaping up to be just as busy as last year. Expectations are high not only for the English Visual Novel developers’ community, but also for what will be coming from Japan courtesy of such groups as Sekai Project and MangaGamer. Because of that, I’m not restricting this particular list to just EVNs since my anticipation covers the spectrum this year! Oh, and one final caveat. We have ten of these things to cover, so I’m going to try and not be my usual long-winded self. Let’s see how well that works out!
With all of that said, here are the top ten visual novels I’m anticipating will be released in 2016…in no particular order!
Since the early years of this website, I’ve been fascinated by the works of Moacube. Cinders was a fantastic game in its own right, but it has been Solstice that has rested on the edge of my mind for the past few years. It unique world, despite being very dark when you think about the implications of slavery and oligarchy, feels immediately inviting and gives the casts a depth that many titles often struggle with. The mystery is very promising and both of our protagonists, Galen and Yani, are very fun to play as. What makes this so much more intriguing for me is that this is only Moacube’s second visual novel. They’ve worked on other games, but the past four years have been put towards Solstice’s development. Whether or not Cinders was lightening in a bottle will be determined by what they do on Solstice and I cannot wait to see the answer in a few more weeks when Solstice is released to the public.
Exogenesis: Perils of Rebirth (Kwan)
This is probably the only title on this list I have very little to say about. The first time we all heard of this title was during its initial Kickstarter when it was featured over on Channel Awesome. It has a very interesting premise and style, but has also been very quiet since it was successfully funded. The team has apparently had to deal with some personal issues and mistakes on the development team, but haven’t stopped working on the game and Kwan recently stated they are shooting for a full release this year. I’m not sure of the current state of the game and I honestly don’t know what to expect when it’s all said and done but I certainly wish them look and look forward to their completed work.
Umineko: When They Cry (07th Expansion/MangaGamer)
In the English Visual Novel community, there are a few common inspiration points. Outside of Japanese VNs, those points tend to run through the fields of anime and manga. If you stick to EVNs inspired by JVNs though, a couple of games usually get frequently mentioned. One that is often brought up is Umineko: When They Cry. I haven’t been that curious to play anything from the When They Cry series, but Umineko’s appeal as a murder mystery and its supernatural setting is more than enough to pique my well-know, sinister interests. I’m very grateful to MangaGamer for bring this and the entire series to the West and I’m looking forward to a chance to play it sometime this year.
The features I’ve done on demos here have rightfully gained a reputation for being a frank step above my usually blunt reviews. Very few times do a put down a demo and am still excited for the full game it previewed. In 2015 however, that happened with one upcoming visual novel: Walkerman. The setting is fantastic on its own, but the deeper story of the prologue that featured the relationship between the main character Jorgen and his father that is executed very well and invested me in his journey. It is supposed to be an episodic visual novel, so there are still plenty of pitfalls than can befall it. But I am still excited to see what Scalemail can do and I’m hopeful for a full release of at least the first episode.
Memory’s Dogma (LizArts/Sekai Project)
Those who have followed this site for a while know that my history with Sekai Project is shaky at best. But I honestly cannot think of a better project to start on than this one. A good deal of that is because the synopsis honestly fits into my preferences: a young man riddled with guilt looking for solace in his recently departed friend’s memories thanks to new technology that has preserved them. It’s something familiar with a lot of cyberpunk stories and can be told very well. There is a danger that they follow recent anime trends (hello Asterisk War) too closely and write themselves into a wall, but that doesn’t eliminate my curiosity for the final product.
VA-11 HALL-A (Sukeban Games)
I love the concept behind VA-11 HALL-A. A classic cyberpunk tale told through the mechanic of bartending. It’s amazing how quickly the characters feel three-dimensional and, for lack of better words human, thanks to a few drinks. It is something that five to ten hour visual novels struggle with and something they can definitely learn from just by playing the prototype and the demo. And speaking of that term, many readers here will balk at me talking about VA-11 HALL-A since it isn’t a visual novel as we understand it. That is definitely true, but I am still going an eye on what Sukeban is doing. This type of non-traditional storytelling has a lot to offer and I hope this community fully embraces waifu bartending when its time comes.
Sunrider: Liberation Day (Love in Space)
Admission time: Sunrider is my guilty pleasure visual novel series. Is it good as I define ‘good’ on this website? No. Not by a country mile. But as a noted Gundam fanboy, I cannot say I haven’t had fun with the series, its tactical gameplay, and even a few of its less obnoxious characters. I also think that they are one of the few EVN groups that have adapted the best to their sudden popularity. So far they’ve made wise financial decision, have been honest and upfront with all of their backers and seem to be putting their best foot forward with Liberation Day; so kudos to them on that one. I have no real expectations for Liberation Day other than to just have a fun time. But if LIS can go a step beyond and deliver something more, I’d be a very happy JP.
World End Economica Episode 3 (SpicyTails/Sekai Project)
In a sane and just world, SpicyTails’ trilogy would be the flagship for Sekai Project. While I never actually talked about it, Episode 2 is one of my favorite visual novels of 2015: successfully merging an intelligent financial thriller with an intimate Slice-of-Life story. While the main cast, including Haru and Lisa, do an excellent job and all bring something interesting to the table in this second installment, it’s Eleanor Schweitzer (the blonde in the picture) who brings a spark and scope to the story and pushes Episode 2 over and above many of its contemporaries. Isuna Hasekura has cemented himself as a master of storytelling with this series and I cannot wait to see how it all ends in Episode 3.
Cave! Cave! Deus Videt! Episode 1 (We Are Muesli)
One of the continued arguments is about the day English Visual Novels gain appreciation and international recognition. Some say it’ll never happen and other says that it’ll come once the community has matured. If you have been following this website for the last few years, you already know that the international recognition part happened in 2013. Since it won the International Bosch Art Competition, Cave! Cave! Deus Videt! Episode 0 has been showered in recognition, featured in gaming conventions across the globe and won a humble EVN of the Year award from this particular website. To be honest, I am highly anticipating everything the fantastic We Are Muesli are working on, but I am very curious to see how they executed Episode 1. I cannot wait to dive back into the ‘Art-Fi’ world they’ve created and I wish them luck on all of their work this year.
So what are you looking forward to in 2016? Be sure to let us all know in the comments! JP3: OUT!