JP3’s Top Ten Best VNs of 2017
End of the Year Lists

JP3’s Top Ten Best VNs of 2017

9) The Letter (Yangyang Mobile)

Whenever someone asks me about horror games released this year, there are two games that I point to that rightfully defined the subgenre in 2017. One I will get into shortly, the other is right here: Yangyang Mobile’s The Letter. Borrowing from such horror classics as Ju-On and The Haunting, we follow an ensemble cast into a haunted house with their survival on the line against the vengeful spirits. From there, it essentially becomes chess as you go through separate routes, building relationships and watching a lot of potential favorites get horribly mauled to try and unlock all of the endings.

This type of narrative and gameplay strategy isn’t new. It was a staple for Cyanide Tea back in the day and also a vital feature of the Jisei series to understand its larger story. Here though, the repeat cycle of life and death is tied to a story that only gets darker with time. The game’s true ending isn’t a happy one and can only be brought about through cold calculation. It simultaneously makes it difficult to fully connect with the cast and impossible not to connect with them. We want (most) of them to survive, yet that want goes so against the grain of the game’s design, we can’t help but feel for the eventual tragedy.

It’s a sense of horror that’s hard to replicate: the cruelty of it. It is a well-written meat grinder of a visual novel that doesn’t sacrifice its premise or the chemistry between its characters to be so. If anything, that fidelity to its story makes it far more interesting as they fall in one by one.

Written by JP3 - December 31, 2017

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  • P January 2, 2018 at 11:43 am

    Almost half of those aren’t even VN… Story rich isn’t doesn’t always mean VN you know. Some of this are way closer to a point & click or just and adventure game than a VN. Though there’s still debate over what a VN really is, I don’t think A Mortician’s Tale, Herald, Detention and Old Man’s Journey are even close to being visual novels. Maybe they’re great games, but not of the VN kind.

    • VNsNowGuy January 17, 2018 at 2:26 am

      Hello! While I understand your point-of-view, I clearly disagree with it. If your argument is simply that there is more gameplay involved with those titles in particular than just a static image and narrative, I would remind you that the following games are marketed and accepted as visual novels that feature similar gameplay elements:

      – Danganronpa
      – 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors
      – Hotel Dusk: Room 215
      – The Silver Case
      – Symphonic Rain
      – Policenauts
      – Sakura Wars

      Now, outside of that, all I can tell you is that on this site, we have seen both Japanese and English creators evolve the formula. You may not see them as VNs and that is fair enough. However, none of them are without precedent and, if anything, should be commended for not sticking to a strict formula and giving us something still in the visual novel medium, but also uniquely their own thing.