• Hey, guest user. Hope you're enjoying NeoGAF! Have you considered registering for an account? Come join us and add your take to the daily discourse.

An Introduction To Japanese Adventure Games pt.1 - What They Are and The Different Types


Introduction To Japanese Adventure Games Pt. 1
The Japanese adventure game genre is often misunderstood or overlooked entirely in western gaming spaces. A sad but understandable reality due to the fact that the most of these games, and therefore the genre's history, have been gated behind a steep language barrier and extremely sporadic overseas releases. Nevertheless this is a genre of long legacy, rich diversity, and fascinating stories -- stories contained within the games themselves and of the people who created them. There's a lot of ground to cover considering that Japanese adventure games go about as far back as you can go in gaming, so this thread will be split into 3 parts: Part 1 giving a general overview of the genre and the various different types of JADV, Part 2 going deeper into the history and spotlighting individual creators, and Part 3 discussing the current state of the genre.

So, without anything further, let's get started!

What are Adventure Games?
Adventure games are a narrative genre that focuses on exploration, story, and problem solving over action and reflex based challenges. Though there are various kinds, which is the focus of this section, a ubiquitous and defining aspect of adventure games is that their gameplay and narrative function inseparably. Whereas an action, racing, or puzzle game may have a story -- even a deep one that greatly enhances the experience -- story is not necessary for the core gameplay of these genres to function. Adventures, on the other hand, do require a narrative for their gameplay to function because their gameplay is an expression of the player interpreting that narrative. Take the example of finding a contradiction in Ace Attorney or sedating Elaine's guard poodles in Monkey Island. In both cases the correct interaction is only knowable by the player successfully understanding the game's story, and progress requires the player to communicate an idea to the game based on that understanding. Without a narrative context there is no contradiction to find, and there is no reason drugging a poodle equates to progression. Another way to think of this is other genres have story and gameplay, but adventure games have story as gameplay.


In Japan adventure games took a distinct developmental path compared to their western counterpart. Japanese adventures tended to be in first person, and use menu based interfaces, they were also heavily represented in the uncensored PC gaming space which lead to numerous 18+ erotic titles. However, the biggest difference between the two was that gameplay in Japanese adventure games typically focused on character interaction with problem solving taking the form of questioning characters, presenting clues to them, naming culprits, making choices to reach a desired route, or some kind of reasoning mechanic. Whereas gameplay in western adventures focused more on encountering physical roadblocks in the game world with problem solving taking the form of item use puzzles, manipulating the environment, riddles, or navigating mazes, etc. However, it is worth noting that despite this general trend there are numerous examples to the contrary in both western and Japanese adventures and the genres only diversify further as time goes on.


Factually untrue! Adventure games have been scientifically proven as BASED!​

Subgenres
In Japan you'll most commonly see all of these games simply called adventure games, often times abbreviated to ADV, but subgenre categories are also distinguished. The primary distinction between types of ADV being the game's system of interaction -- how the player engages with the game's world and its characters. The types of ADV with deeper systems of interaction (such as CMD Input, CMD Select, or P&C ADV) tend to have mystery/puzzle solving elements and the types with simpler systems (Text ADV/NVL games) tend to be casual experiences. While this is a tendency that holds true generally it is not ubiquitously true, nor a categorical distinction between the various types. There are some NVL games with mystery/puzzle solving mechanics like Shin Hayarigami, Trick x Logic, or Captain Love. Some NVL games use choice in deep or clever ways which becomes its own form of problem solving. Conversely there are numerous examples of the other ADV types with minimal thinking outside of repeatedly choosing obtuse commands. This is especially the case when you include the scores of 18+ erotic ADV games where the gameplay is a flimsy pretense to pad out time between H scenes. It's worth keeping in mind that regardless of anything else, the first and foremost distinction between these types of ADV is the system the player uses to interact with the game.

Command Input ADV- Where the player interacts via commands they input into a text parser. Interaction happens via simple phrases that combine verbs and nouns like "look at body," or "get key." This style, with rare exception, has been confined to the early 80s and is directly influenced by western adventure games from Infocom and Sierra. In particular titles like Zork, Deadline, and Mystery House.

  • Mystery House by Micro Cabin is the first Japanese graphic adventure game. It takes clear inspiration, but is a separate game, from Sierra's title of the same name. The objective is to puzzle your way to hidden treasure stashed away somewhere in the titular house.
  • The Portopia Serial Murder Case by Enix and designed by Yuji Horii is one of the most influential ADV games of all time. It spawned a wave of similar murder mystery/detective games. The player must navigate an open ended city and name the proper culprit to solve the case.
  • Will: The Death Trap II is an early work from designer Hironobu Sakaguchi. Its predecessor, The Death Trap, was considered Squaresoft's first big hit selling 100,000 copies. The Death Trap II was also well regarded for having more elaborate animation than its contemporaries.
  • Alpha is another early Squaresoft game where you play as a woman named Chris who's crash landed on a foreign planet. Alpha has one of Nobuo Uematsu's earliest soundtracks.​
  • Wingman Special by Enix is based on a manga by Masakazu Katsura, in it a boy named Kenta has a wished granted by a mysterious girl, to become a super hero named Wingman. There are occasional fight scenes with the characters at the bottom of the inventory.​
  • Madeleine was developed by Thinking Rabbit, a dev who were known for quality story telling in the early days of ADV. In it you investigate the memories of an old man in antique shop, revealing secrets of a 400 year old painting depicting the infamous princess Madeleine.​
  • Dezeni Land is a comedy ADV by Hudson where the player's goal is to make your way through the theme park's six attractions and find treasure. The game parodies numerous popular media characters like Superman, Batman, and HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • The Man I Love is one of numerous mystery ADVs by Thinking Rabbit. I personally recommend that you marvel at the discrepancy between the protagonist's in-game sprite and his appearance on the game's title screen.
  • Dwelling: Maou no Yakata is a horror ADV by Cross Media Soft, it uses a system that combines menu commands and text input. The story is about a college student rescuing his professor's daughter from Dracula's mansion, encountering many grotesque creatures on the way.
Command Select ADV- Where the player interacts via selecting commands from a menu. Verb and noun combinations are still utilized but some games would eventually streamline further by restricting the number of commands depending on the scene, or by only having verb commands with no subsequent noun menu. Some command select ADV games contain cursor interaction behind a "Examine," "Search," or "Investigate" command and could also be considered P&C ADV or a blend of both.

  • The Portopia Serial Murder Case's Famicom port popularized the menu-driven command select formula with countless similar home console ADV games adopting its system. The port was handled by ChunSoft who still make popular ADV games to this day.​
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney revitalized the popularity of detective/mystery ADV in the early 2000s with its initial release on GBA. Utilizing an innovative puzzle mechanic based on finding contradictions in witness testimony, it remains one of the most well known ADV games.​
  • Snatcher is a rare example of its era to be translated and released overseas. Developed by Hideo Kojima it garnered praise for its story-telling and cinematic qualities, taking inspiration from Hollywood movies like Blade Runner and Terminator.
  • Murder Club is the first game in the popular J.B Harold series. Developed by Riverhillsoft, their titles became known for being open ended and challenging. The game's scenario writer and director, Rika Suzuki, would go on to develop other ADV titles like Another Code and Hotel Dusk.
  • Hokkaidō Rensa Satsujin: Okhotsk ni Kiyu is Yuji Horii's follow up to The Portopia Serial Murder Case. There are many versions, the Famicom port perhaps the most well known, but the PC98 remake has a distinct art style featuring a borderless pastel aesthetic.
  • Girls Paradise by Great Co. is an 18+ comedy game about a warrior who forgoes slaying a great beast to spend time on an island full of girls. The Sharp X68000 version featured above has a cleaner art style than the PC-88 original.
  • Ogon no Rashinban is the 2nd game in the Todo Ryunosuke detective ADV series. Another Rika Suzuki directed game from Riverhillsoft, it utilized a P&C system for navigating the game's ship, knocking on doors, etc. Which are elements that would be later seen in Hotel Dusk.
  • Electric Device Marian is about an English aristocrat who becomes involved in a battle with all kinds of supernatural creatures. By developer Janis, it's an example of an 18+ game with a streamlined system that uses noun sub-menus contextually.
  • Princess Tomato in Salad Kingdom is one of the only JADV games of its era to get an NES release overseas. Like Portopia, the original version of Princess Tomato on PC was a command input ADV.
  • Stone Walkers is a PS1 ADV by Sunsoft, each command has an associated time cost and if you waste too much time you may receive a bad ending. The player is required to think carefully about which actions to take so they can successfully proceed.
  • The 4th Unit series are science fiction ADV games about a young girl named Blon-Win who fights crime with psychic abilities. The first two games in the series use a system where certain commands can be directly applied to the game's environment via a selection rectangle.
  • Imitation wa Aisenai is a remake of Jiro Ishii's Imitation City (he would go on to make 428 Shibuya Scramble and Time Travelers) . It's about a future where infertility rates necessitated the creation of "imitation women" who must now be hunted down due to infertility stabilizing.
  • JESUS by Enix is one of the studio's most beloved ADVs, which they were known for early on before focusing on RPGs after Dragon's Quest. It's about a mission to probe Halley's Comet gone awry. You must navigate the derelict space station JESUS solving puzzles to uncover the mystery.
Point and Click ADV- Where the player interacts via clicking various spots of the game world with a mouse cursor. P&C ADV games may also have verb commands but unlike command select games they lead to direct interaction with the game world rather than a noun submenu. While this system became the mainstream of western adventures, P&C ADV were far more rare in Japan, albeit with some highly revered exceptions. In recent years more games use this type due to the popularity of escape ADVs.

  • Fushigi Deka by Capcom is a comical murder mystery ADV where the player controls a cartoon dog in a colorful land full of bizarre creatures. The player advances by solving physical item use puzzles rather than the deductions that are typical of most detective ADV.
  • Another Code: R - A Journey into Lost Memories by CiNG is about a girl named Ashley uncovering lost memories of the time she spent with her deceased mother at lake Juliet. It's another game written and designed by Rika Suzuki and features unique wiimote based puzzles.
  • Doukoku Soshite... is a game by Data East about a group of teenagers seeking shelter from a bus accident that find themselves trapped in an abandoned house. It uses a "Trap Divergence System" where the game branches based on how the player solves certain puzzles.
  • Isaku is an 18+ ADV game by Elf about a group of students who are trapped in an old school building by a psychotic janitor named Isaku. The player advances through the school by solving Isaku's riddles. Making the right choices will prevent any of the characters from being assaulted.
  • YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of this World is a science fiction/fantasy ADV by Elf that features a complex branching system called "ADMS." The player uses collectable jewels to travel between various spots on a flowchart, using items/info from one point to another.
  • Policenauts is Hideo Kojima's 2nd science fiction ADV, it explores themes concerning the limits of humanities' space faring ambitions. Like Snatcher, Policenauts also has occasional shooting gallery sections.
  • Tokyo Twilight Busters by Wolf Team is a mix of command select sections where the player follows leads on a non-linear map of Tokyo, and P&C sections with a real time component and control of multiple characters.
  • Urusei Yatsura: Dear My Friend is a Sega CD game by Game Arts based on the anime and manga series by Rumiko Takahashi. The player progresses by solving item puzzles, the game's characters feature significantly more animation than to other titles of its era.
  • Virus by Hudson is an ADV for the Sega Saturn where you play as Serge Shadix, an investigator of cybernetic crimes. In addition to solving puzzles there are shooting gallery sections reminiscent of Snatcher, but with a bit more depth.
  • Dead of The Brain is a horror ADV by FairyTale about a scientist accidentally causing a Zombie outbreak with his experimental reanimation serum. At certain points throughout the game there are timed sequences, the player must interact with a scene in a particular way to avoid death.
  • Aegeankai no Shizuku by Illusion Soft is one of the few Myst inspired ADV games to be produced in Japan. The PlayStation version used pre-rendered 3D graphics similar to Myst, but the PC98 version features a less bizarre looking anime art style.​
  • Ms. Detective by Data West is a mystery ADV game that utilizes full motion video, albeit on a rather small window. You play as Chisato Higari and determine whether or not your client's missing father is really the corpse that was recently discovered floating down a river.​
Text ADV/Novel Game- Where the player interacts by reading text and making narrative choices. This streamlined type of adventure game takes the dwindling options of late era command select ADV and simplifies further to just a few contextual choices at key moments. Novel game's also tend to focus on branching paths and became the most prevalent type from the mid 90's through the 00's. Although they are often referred to as visual novels in western gaming spaces (a term that is also incorrectly applied to all types of JADV game) the term is not commonly used in Japan. There "visual novel" exists mostly as a marketing phrase associated with the Leaf "Visual Novel Series," which is itself a derivation of ChunSoft's "Sound Novel Series." Some developers like Type-Moon specifically invoking Leaf's style use the term, but the common use terms are Text ADV or Novel Game.

  • Otogirisou is the first in Chunsoft's influential Sound Novel series. The game's presentation consists of mostly still images overlaid with text accompanied by atmospheric music and sound effects, hence the term "Sound Novel." Otogirisou codified the novel style of ADV games.​
  • Machi is the third Chunsoft Sound Novel, the player controls many characters with intersecting fates, switching between them and making choices which lead to various good or bad outcomes. It was ranked the 5th best adventure game of all time on a Famitsu reader poll in 2017.​
  • Shizuku by Leaf is the first in the "Leaf Visual Novel Series." The game's style is very reminiscent of Chunsoft's sound novels, but greater emphasis is placed on visuals over atmospheric sound by incorporating large and defined character sprites with multiple expressions.​
  • Fate/Stay Night by Type-Moon about a young mage named Shirou who is entered into a death tournament fought between reincarnations of historical figures. The game uses an affinity system where certain choices between the various heroines are necessary to reach the true ending.​
  • Ever 17 is a science fiction novel game by KID, it's an early work written by Kotaro Uchikoshi who would go on to direct the Zero Escape series. The game features 11 different endings and the player must navigate multiple routes to understand the full details of the plot.​
  • Steins;Gate is described by developer 5bp as a "hypothetical science ADV." It uses a "phone trigger" system where the player can ignore or respond to text messages, specific words within the messages are highlighted blue and the game branches based on the player's selections.​
  • Raging Loop by Kemco uses player choice to act out a werewolf style social deduction game called the Feast of the Yomi-Purge. Certain choices reward the player with "keys" enabling a greater number of options at other points in the story.
  • Trick x Logic by Chunsoft uses a system where the player picks pieces of information from the story and arranges them to form various hypothesis, which can then be selected in sequence to solve the mystery.
  • Captain Love is about a teenage boy turned super hero who increases his love power by interacting girls. Enemies you confront make arguments while your selection of counter arguments appear 1 by 1 in real time, the player must choose the right counter argument to succeed.
Search/Exploration ADV - Where the player interacts by directly controlling a character which explores the game world. A type of ADV seen in rare cases of fully 3D ADV games and side-scrollers, but more frequently in top down ADV with graphical styles that are similar to JRPG games. This type of ADV is popular among independent developers who upload their works to Japan's free gaming portals like "Freem" or NicoVideo's gaming section, but recent years have seen numerous retail remakes of the popular freeware titles.

  • Ayumi by Game Technopolis still uses the command select style of interaction, but can be seen as an early example of this style because of its top down exploration in between key environments. The story revolves around the titular Ayumi saving a parallel world terrorized by a Warlock.
  • Asatsugutori by NIS is a mystery ADV about a group of young girls trapped in a mysterious facility undergoing experiments to trigger PSI abilities within them. The player explores the facility collecting items and information, then used to reason through the dilemma.
  • Corpse Party is a horror ADV by Makoto Kedoin and Team GrisGris. It has garnered a cult following and seen numerous remakes since its initial '98 release. The story is about a group of high school students who are transported to a run-down school building in an alternate dimension.
  • Nanatsu Kaze no Shima Monogatari is a side-scrolling ADV by Givro Corporation which features highly detailed 2D art. The player controls a dragon named Gaupu who collects items, interacts with other characters, and utilizes seven "legendary winds" to overcome challenges.
  • Shadow of Memories is a time travel ADV directed by Junko Kawano, who is known for her work on the Suikoden series. You play as Eike, as he is presented with various scenarios of his own death, and must travel through time solving puzzles and making choices to prevent them.
  • Echo Night is the first in a trilogy of first person ADV games by From Software. You play as Richard Osmond who is attempting to uncover the truth behind a ship that mysteriously vanished. Richard is sent into the past by ghost passengers and must solve puzzles to resolve their issues.
  • Twilight Syndrome is the first in a series of mystery/horror ADVs by Human. You play as teenage girls who investigate paranormal rumors, finding clues and choosing options for dialogue or physical actions. Numerous bad ends can be triggered if the investigation goes poorly.
  • B.L.U.E. Legend of Water by CAProductions is a 3D ADV game about a woman named Maya exploring the underground ruins of an ancient civilization with her Dolphin partner named Luka. Luka can be issued various commands to help solve puzzles.
  • Ihotovo Monogatari by Hect is a Super Famicom ADV game released in 1993, and as such a fairly early example of exploration ADV. It is inspired by Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa, the main goal of the game is to collect items related to Miyazawa's fairy tales.
  • Angels of Death is a psychological horror ADV by Makoto Sanada about a man and woman, Ray and Zack, who find themselves in a mysterious facility and must begrudgingly work together to understand their circumstances and escape.
  • Yuuyami Doori Tankentai by Spike is a side-scrolling ADV where the player collects rumors at school for 5 minutes in one part, and investigates them for 10 in another. Outcomes vary depending on the character you select, rumors you find, and choices you make during investigation.
  • The Casebook of Arne is a mystery ADV by Haru Murasaki where you play as a vampire detective named Arne, alongside his assistant Lynn who is a nobleman's daughter. You collect various clues and solve deduction based puzzles to resolve mysteries involving inhuman creatures.
 
Last edited:
Design Trends/Style - In addition to categories based on system of interaction, you will also commonly see subgenres based on design trends or style. These consist of similar traits shared between ADV games such as common influences, themes and game mechanics.

Detective/Mystery ADV- An enduring style of adventure game since the early 80's after Portopia's influential release. In these game the player commonly examines scenes to gather clues, questions subjects, and presents evidence to relevant characters to progress the narrative. There will often be a reasoning based puzzle mechanic, such as answering questions about the case, combining clues to make deductions, or exposing contradictions in witness testimony -- a system popularized by the Ace Attorney series.
  • Detective Jinguji Saburo - Before the Light Fades is a CMD select detective ADV by Data East using a time mechanic which requires you to think carefully on where to investigate and when. You can also issue commands to your assistant to investigate leads you may have missed.
  • Detective Jinguuji Saburo - Kind of Blue is a CMD select detective ADV by Work Jam which implemented the "Talk Profile" system where the player obtains information from suspects with a tailored approach such as threatening them, exposing a contradiction in their stories, etc.
  • Amagoushi no Yakata is a CMD select ADV by FOG. Interactions like questioning suspects, examine a scene, or arranging clues in your time table have a cost on the action gauge. You solve in-progress crimes and can prevent murders by discovering the culprits next target successfully.​
  • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc is a P&C ADV by Spike that incorporates timing based challenges in its mystery solving, and also includes social sim elements reminiscent of social links from the Persona series.​
  • Mikagura Shoujo Tanteidan is a CMD select ADV by Human that uses a "deduction trigger" mechanic where certain objects or pieces of testimony can be identified as suspicious/related to the case. You must select relevant information, avoiding red herrings before running out of points.
  • THE Kanshikikan series are CMD select ADVs which began on the PS2, receiving sequels for DS and 3DS. You solve cases by using various forensic techniques like fingerprint dusting, luminol spray, or DNA analysis.
  • Detective Conan & Kindaichi Case Files: Chance Meeting of Two Great Detectives is a CMD select ADV by Spike which features a scenario written by Kazutaka Kodaka from before the Danganronpa series. It has many forms of mystery solving where wrong answers drain "logic points."
  • Cross Tantei Monogatari is a CMD select ADV by WorkJam that is highly revered as one of the best mystery games. To avoid brute forcing, the player is required to manually input mystery solutions and culprit names. The game's overarching story was sadly left incomplete.
  • Missing Parts The Tantei Stories is a cult classic trilogy of CMD select ADVs by FOG. It's more open ended than most other ADV and time progresses as you act, so the player must think carefully to solve the case. A grade is given out based on your success after each chapter.
  • Diamond and the Sound of a Gun Shot is a novel game by Zerner Works where you play as a hostage negotiator and must manage the culprit's stress levels to succeed. In addition to making the right selection, the timing of the selection is also important.​
  • THE Negotiator is a CMD select ADV by Affect where the player must bargain with suspects, consult the advice of their team, and investigate the situation via spy cameras to gain leverage and solve each case.​
  • DS Nishimura Kyōtarō Suspense: Shin Tantei Series - Kyōto, Atami, Zekkai no Kotō: Satsui no Wana is the first in a trilogy of DS P&C mystery ADVs. It shows multiple angles of your investigation in comic panel format and features reasoning sections with your detective assistant.​
  • Buddy Mission BOND is a CMD select/3D ADV by Koei Tecmo. The player moves between various locations in a game board style presentation, you must select the right locations & buddy to gather key info. Afterward you infiltrate a number of facilities in 3D, making choices and solving puzzles along the way.
Escape ADV- ADV games where the player puzzles through a closed environment have existed in Japan since 1980's Mystery House, but they weren't established as a distinct subgenre until the early 00's with popular web games like The Crimson Room. This style of ADV has gameplay similar to classical western adventures, making frequent use of item based puzzles, riddles, deciphering codes, and P&C interaction. Although the initial games of this type focused on the player escaping a single room, many escape ADV branched out to incorporate less restricted structures, "escape" is sometimes used as a catch all term for any ADV with this style of gameplay.

  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is a P&C ADV by Chunsoft and perhaps the most popular example of escape ADV. The protagonist finds himself locked in a sinking ship and made to participate in a death game, solving numerous puzzles to make it to the end.
  • Parascientific Escape - Crossing at the Farthest Horizon is the third in a trilogy CMD select ADVs by Intense. In addition to item based puzzles and riddles, you use the protagonist's mechanical arm to manipulate time in isolated spaces.
  • Your Turn To Die - Death Game by Majority is a freeware P&C ADV with over 4 million plays on NicoVideo's gaming portal. You must puzzle through numerous deadly scenarios, and utilize negotiation mechanics such as matching character's statements against one another.
  • Revive... ~Sosei~ is a P&C ADV by Data East and the sequel to Doukoku Soshite..., although it released before the escape ADV trend was established, it's scenario of escaping from a marine research facility and numerous item based puzzles could make it a proto-example of the genre.
  • Yotsume God - Reunion - is a P&C ADV by SEEC you play as a girl named Mai Sahara who finds herself trapped in a shrine by paranormal forces. She must puzzle her way through the various areas of the shrine to uncover its history and her family history as well.
  • THE Bakudan Shori-Han is a P&C ADV by Tomcat System where you play as a member of a bomb disposal unit. Taking on various cases, you use items to solve puzzles, diffuse bombs, and make accurate reports back to your superiors under threat of penalty.
  • Tasokare Hotel is a P&C ADV by SEEC about a hotel where spirits caught between life and death go to remember their lost identities. It combines the typical escape ADV puzzling with Ace Attorney like contradiction gameplay, where you uncover the true identity of the spirits.
  • Uuyuriih's Prescription is a P&C ADV by SEEC about a college student named Matsuri who is dragged into a fictional otome game (romance game for women) where he's forced to violently compete against other men. The player must solve puzzles to return to the real world.​
  • L the ProLogue to Death Note: Spiraling Trap is a P&C ADV by Konami that takes place before the Kira investigation depicted in the manga. The player escapes a dangerous building by solving puzzles and disarming traps, while L provides assistance on the top screen.
  • Shingeki no Kyojin Shichi Kara no Dasshutsu is a P&C ADV by Koei based on the popular anime/manga series of the same name. It uses less item puzzles than typical escape ADV, the main system is about managing "affinity" and "despair" between you and your partner character.​
  • Kurayami no Hate de Kimi wo Matsu is a P&C ADV by Witchcraft is about high school students trapped in an a school building. It combines escape and otome game elements, a map screen displays the location of each character, reactions change depending who you spend time with.​
  • Dasshutsu Adobencha Akumu no Shinigami Ressha is a P&C ADV by Intense and the third game in the aptly named "Escape Adventure" series. The main character, Tokino, investigates a spooky train that's the sight of several mysterious phenomenon.​
Branching/Choice Based ADV- ADV games that emphasize player choices and branching scenarios, novel games make up the bulk of these but this design trend has frequent overlap with all types of ADV. Unlike western adventures that tend to use branching as a way to tailor the game's story to an individual player, which results in most alternate scenarios going unseen, Japanese games typically require the player to complete many or all routes before they can see the "true ending." Routes are often tied to specific characters, but another popular form of branching uses it to convey a science fiction or meta narrative concept, an approach popularized by the time traveling "ADMS" system of YU-NO.
  • To Heart is a novel game by Leaf, the third title in their "Visual Novel Series." It features a high school romance story and popularized the branching style based on routes for each heroine character.
  • 13 Sentinels Aeigis Rim is a 2D exploration ADV/RTS by Vanillaware, during ADV parts you use a "thought cloud" system to perform actions and make choices which result in branching outcomes. The branching is also used to explore the ideas of time travel & parallel worlds.
  • 428 Shibuya Scramble is a novel game by Chunsoft, it is the spiritual successor to their earlier sound novel "Machi." Like in Machi, the player controls multiple characters with intersecting fates and makes choices attempting to lead everyone to a good outcome.
  • Kagetsu Tohya is novel game by Type-Moon. The game is a fan disc sequel to Tsukihime with an incredibly complex series of branching paths representing various outcomes of the same looping day.
  • AI: The Somnium Files is a P&C/3D exploration ADV by Spike Chunsoft. You play as Kaname Date, an investigator who uncovers hidden facts of a case within people's dreams. How you solve puzzles within the various dream sequences will change the path of the story.
  • Zero Time Dilemma is a P&C ADV by Chime which uses a "Floating Fragment system." The FFS is a non linear system where the player chooses branch points semi-randomly. This is to reflect the experience of participants in the game who are repeatedly drugged and memory wiped.
  • Time Travelers is an FMV ADV by Level-5 which was directed by Jiro Ishii (who also directed 428). It features gameplay similar to that of 428 except character switching is automated until the game's final act. Similarly to YU-NO the branching paths explore the idea of time travel.
  • Kamaitachi No Yoru is the second game in Chunsoft's seminal "Sound Novel Series." It's a murder mystery game where early on the player is asked to input the name of a the culprit, and continues exploring the story until they have enough information to successfully name them.

-Side note on genres-
There's are certain Japanese game "genres" that exist as marketing buzzwords rather than actual categories of video games. An example of this is Capcom labeling Ace Attorney a "court battle" game. Since these are genre marketing terms rather than actual game categories -- and generally unimportant-- I didn't feel the need to mention it. However, while making this I remembered an interview with the producers of Ace Attorney and Danganronpa circa 2016 where they're discussing adventure games and joke around about this kind of marketing label. So I figured I'd throw it since it gives some context to this little quirk of Japanese gaming:
Eshiro: I’ve been playing mystery games ever since the PC98. I remember that you had to input the commands yourself. Games like Salad no Kuni no Tomato Hime (Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom) and Mystery House. Then the hardware developed, and we got the point ’n click style of Myst.

Terasawa: Myst was amazing. I too was really shocked by that game.

Eshiro: I learned about Gyakuten Saiban after I joined Capcom, while I was working on Onimusha 2. It was one of our own titles, so I played with it, but I was surprised at how fun it was. Most of the adventure games until then were about combining items together to solve a puzzle, but the game mechanics of using testimony and evidence to find a contradiction was really new. I was really captivated by these games that weren’t action adventures, but text-type adventures. Otogirisō (‘St. John's Wort’) and Kamaitachi no Yoru (Banshee’s Last Cry) don’t even have characters appear on the screen, but have the players imagine them with the help of the text and backgrounds. That was amazing too.

Teresawa: In the broad sense of the word adventure, I think Biohazard and Onimusha also fit the bill. Adventures like Danganronpa and Gyakuten Saiban are mystery adventures. Well, we call Danganronpa a High Speed Mystery Action game, so we don’t call it an adventure ourselves (laugh).

Eshiro: Well, we also call Gyakuten Saiban a “Court Battle” game (laugh). Ah, but Gyakuten Kenji is called a Mystery Adventure. Terasawa: But if we talk about genres, I’d say an RPG is also an adventure, and most games are about roleplaying (laugh)."
-Dengeki Online, TL via Gyakuten Saiban Library

-Other quick notes-
~Wew~ this took quite a bit of time and effort! I wanted to give a wide variety of examples that represented popular titles, games with interesting systems, and some quirky games as well. Originally I intended this post to contain 3 major sections: a breakdown of types, a deeper look into history, and the current state of JADV games. Looking at how big the first part alone became I now realize that was totally ridiculous, so I'm going to split them up. I cant say for sure when the next part will be done since it'll require me re-reading numerous bookmarks and brushing up on many facts. I want to spotlight individual creators of note along the way. I'm shooting for it to be completed before the end of this summer but don't hold me to that.

Also, I may make adjustments and additions to this part overtime. The "Design Trends/Style" section has two pretty glaring omissions in Horror and Romance ADV, which are very distinct forks of the genre with their own cluster of traits worth discussing. Unfortunately I don't know as many examples for them off-hand, particularly for Romance ADV, so I may look into them more at a later time.

Well, that's it! I hope you found this informative or interesting in some way. Even if you've only skimmed the thread I think it should be cool to see all the pictures of different ADV styles. So long for now, folks! And remember...




Danjin44 Danjin44 SlimeGooGoo SlimeGooGoo BlackGauna BlackGauna
 
Last edited:
Do you know how the term 'visual novel' entered the Western lexicon if that's not what they're called in Japan? Was Leaf "Visual Novel Series" that popular?
There is a good video that explores this very topic that's well worth watching and gets deep with it. The short answer is a company called Hirameki, which localized numerous JADV games in the early 00s as playable DVDs, borrowed the term from Leaf as branding to try and explain the genre to anime enthusiasts who had very little familiarity with it. They very likely played a big role in the western spread of the term. Before that time most gaming sites and discussion spaces used the normal terms.
 
Last edited:
I LOVE this, really informative, thank you.

I dont care one bit for these games, but I gave a Like to the OP due to quality and effort of the topic. Well done.

I played a couple of these games. Great thread Btw. Something different from the usual circle of the same threads with different names.

Very informative op. Nice work.

Fantastic OP.

I haven't read any of it yet, but shiiiiit.

Thanks for all the kind words guys. It's cool to see these games get some love.
 

Ozzie666

Member
This totally explains games like Metal and Lace and Cobra Mission from MegaTech, obviously American versions of some of these titles. This is a fascinating thread and very informative. It's amazing how Japan PC game design diverged so drastically from the North American design. Effort by the OP is appreciated.
 

Guilty_AI

Gold Member
Amazing work OP. Let me add some of my own recomendations:

Text ADV/Novel Game-


The 58th year of Shouwa, early summer
It’s June, and the summer heat has arrived earlier than it does most years.
By day there are crickets, and by night there are cicadas.

We’re in Hinamizawa, a small village in the countryside.
There are fewer than two thousand people here. But every year, there is an event.

This event is a mysterious death.
(The series has run from 1979 to 1983)

On a certain day in June, someone dies, and someone else goes missing.
The series of deaths is connected to the upheaval surrounding the dam construction project.
A murder case that was covered up is being reenacted.
Is it a conspiracy? A coincidence? Or perhaps a curse?

Someone who was supposed to be there isn’t.
Someone who wasn’t supposed to be there is.

Someone who was alive last night is dead now.
And someone who is here right now isn’t alive.

So, there is no way to avert tragedy. There is no choice but to give up.
But don’t give up.

Only you can stand up to this.

Search/Exploration ADV


A young girl named Ib visits an art gallery with her parents.
While perusing the various works of art, Ib suddenly realizes that she is alone.
As she searches for someone – anyone – else, the museum begins to change...

Command Select ADV


(not japanese, but heavily inspired by similar JP games and PC-98 era games, and truly worth its salt to be included alongside them)
In this world, corporations reign supreme, all human life is infected with nanomachines designed to oppress them, and the terrifying White Knights ensure that everyone obeys the laws.

But, this is not about those people.

You are a bartender at VA-11 HALL-A, affectionately nicknamed "Valhalla." Although it is just a small bar downtown, it attracts the most fascinating people this side of dystopia. Keep your clients lubricated and you will be made privy to the most interesting stories.
 
Last edited:
Amazing OP. This is a genre that is only going to get better and better as more English translations come out.
Thank you, and I completely agree. There's some interesting projects coming from the fan translation scene.



Recently Erika to Satoru no Yume Bouken (Erika and Satoru’s Dream Adventure) was translated, it's a Famicom ADV developed by Atlus and published by Namco. You have control of two different characters that work together to progress, but the really interesting thing about it is that there's also a co-op mode. Even now multiplayer adventure games are something just barely being experimented with, so an example from the 80s is really something. Apparently it also has some connection to the Shin Megami Tensei universe but I didn't look into it because I might play the game and didn't want anything spoiled.

Also, it's not out yet, but I can't wait for people to play Aconcagua

I've actually played this game, the majority of the cutscenes are in English and I OCR'd the text, so I can personally say it's a lot of fun. The story is like an over-the-top Liam Neeson action movie and there's a lot of funny interactions between the characters. It's a P&C ADV for PS1 with a pretty unique character switching system. Sometimes you need to arrange multiple characters at different places to solve a puzzle in tandem.

Amazing work OP. Let me add some of my own recomendations:

Text ADV/Novel Game-




Search/Exploration ADV




Command Select ADV


(not japanese, but heavily inspired by similar JP games and PC-98 era games, and truly worth its salt to be included alongside them)

I've been meaning to play Ib since it's recent remake. Something about the setting of a haunted/horror art gallery seems very cool to me.
 
tfw someone puts a ton of effort into his thread



Many thanks for this OP. I'll read it later since this is a genre I'd like to get into.

i also want to recommend both Hotel Dusk games. Played them long ago but I remember them being quite interesting.

Hotel Dusk and Last Window are some of my all-time faves. It's a shame that a good number of the DS hardware puzzles don't translate well to emulation. But I think it's worth it for people to play, in any form they can.
 
Nice work OP; can tell that a lot of genuine care was put into the OP & follow-up post. I have dipped my toes into Japanese adventure games with stuff like Ginga Ojousama Densetsu Yuna on PC-Engine CD, but that one is more because I liked the OVA series it comes from. There are other ones like Virus I'd like to play, but they have no translations.

I am planning to play Shadow of Memories soon, though, and there are others in that writeup I'm now more interested in like Soul Walkers. I don't know if it necessarily counts, but have you played Cosmology of Kyoto? It's an adventure/horror point-n'-click but can also kind of be summed up as edutainment since it has a lot of info on various Japanese folklore, myths, and history accessible like an encyclopedia, sometimes triggered by actions you take in the game. This is pre-internet stuff but even aside that the info is still really neat and interesting (the game itself is also very good).







 

Ladioss

Member
Impressive job OP, congratulations.
I recall years ago cannot help but be confused by the "jp adventure game" / "visual novel" dichotomy, could never tell which one was what. You did an incredibly didactic job on that one !
I'm not an expert of the genre but I played some of the classics years ago on anex and/or neko project (or a windows vm, when a PC port was available).
Among the titles quoted by OP, I just want to point out that while Raging Loop has an incredible setup, the payoff is very weak.

Are the Murder Club that good ? Never played them, I believe there are english port either on the sega cd or the saturn.

More recently : is The Centennial Case good ?

The Famicom Detective Club on Switch are classic. Not a fan of the remake, thought - too modern and too clean (largely prefered the first remake on SFC)
 
Last edited:
Nice work OP; can tell that a lot of genuine care was put into the OP & follow-up post. I have dipped my toes into Japanese adventure games with stuff like Ginga Ojousama Densetsu Yuna on PC-Engine CD, but that one is more because I liked the OVA series it comes from. There are other ones like Virus I'd like to play, but they have no translations.

I am planning to play Shadow of Memories soon, though, and there are others in that writeup I'm now more interested in like Soul Walkers. I don't know if it necessarily counts, but have you played Cosmology of Kyoto? It's an adventure/horror point-n'-click but can also kind of be summed up as edutainment since it has a lot of info on various Japanese folklore, myths, and history accessible like an encyclopedia, sometimes triggered by actions you take in the game. This is pre-internet stuff but even aside that the info is still really neat and interesting (the game itself is also very good).








I really enjoyed Shadow of Memories, especially after subsequent runs where I tried to get all the endings. There ended up being a lot more going on than I initially interacted with. I even appreciated the cheesy elements like the early PS2 tier voice acting and such.

I haven't played Cosmology of Kyoto I've only seen it around here and there in my searches, and became repeatedly familiar with the anecdote that it was one of the only video games Roger Ebert enjoyed. It's definitely something I plan on playing eventually because if it's really distinct macabre style. I'm looking forward to the aspect of exploring Japanese folklore combined with that kind of haunting imagery. There's only two, maybe three JADV games I've come across with a somewhat similar vibes.

Ugetsu Kitan by Tonkin House



and GARAGE: Bad Dream Adventure by Kinotrope

Garage actually has a fan translation for PC and recently received an official translation for an android/ios release.

Impressive job OP, congratulations.
I recall years ago cannot help but be confused by the "jp adventure game" / "visual novel" dichotomy, could never tell which one was what. You did an incredibly didactic job on that one !
I'm not an expert of the genre but I played some of the classics years ago on anex and/or neko project (or a windows vm, when a PC port was available).
Among the titles quoted by OP, I just want to point out that while Raging Loop has an incredible setup, the payoff is very weak.

Are the Murder Club that good ? Never played them, I believe there are english port either on the sega cd or the saturn.

More recently : is The Centennial Case good ?

The Famicom Detective Club on Switch are classic. Not a fan of the remake, thought - too modern and too clean (largely prefered the first remake on SFC)

I enjoyed Murder Club (played the DOS version, there's also an Android port in English in addition to the Sega CD version). It's a very orthodox CMD select game without many bells & whistles/special systems. Since you're familiar with Famicom Detective Club it plays a lot like that but it's far less linear so you have to follow leads realistically (unless you want to spend a lot of time brute forcing every command across numerous locations and characters). I liked it but there are other mystery ADV games I like better. Such as the Spirit Hunter series (Death Mark & NG), in which the protagonist is cursed and must investigate paranormal rumors in the hopes of finding related information before he dies. There's a system where you relieve cursed spirits with the information you've gathered which is somewhat similar to the courtroom battles in Ace Attorney. I also really liked AI: The Somnium Files and there's a sequel coming out soon.

I've also played some of The Centennial Case, I'm through the first two cases and I do like it so far. Some of the people who worked on Trick x Logic (and at least one writer from 428 IIRC) worked on it, and it's deduction system is similar. The mystery stories are fun, it's got quite good production values too. One thing that I'm a little "meh" on is that you don't actually investigate the crime scenes, you're just shown them in the movie part. So there's a number of hypothesis' you make that I feel you could easily rule out just by being able to look around a bit.

It is fun though, Nextlander has a good video playing through the first case. Watching some of that should give you a good idea of whether or not you'd like it.
 
I really enjoyed Shadow of Memories, especially after subsequent runs where I tried to get all the endings. There ended up being a lot more going on than I initially interacted with. I even appreciated the cheesy elements like the early PS2 tier voice acting and such.

I haven't played Cosmology of Kyoto I've only seen it around here and there in my searches, and became repeatedly familiar with the anecdote that it was one of the only video games Roger Ebert enjoyed. It's definitely something I plan on playing eventually because if it's really distinct macabre style. I'm looking forward to the aspect of exploring Japanese folklore combined with that kind of haunting imagery. There's only two, maybe three JADV games I've come across with a somewhat similar vibes.

Ugetsu Kitan by Tonkin House



and GARAGE: Bad Dream Adventure by Kinotrope

Garage actually has a fan translation for PC and recently received an official translation for an android/ios release.

Man, the Android/iOS re-releases sometimes irritate me because I don't game on those devices yet it's always some of the more obscure retro games getting those modern ports. Gadget: Past as Future was another, I guess I could hunt down a Windows '95 copy and run it virtually in Windows 10 (guess there's also the DOS version could play that through DOSbox).

That Garage game and the other one look pretty cool though, I will most likely want to play those in the future. The name Tonkin House sounds familiar I've heard it somewhere before, what other games have they developed?

As for Cosmology of Kyoto yeah, it's the only game Ebert seemed to like and regard as art. I think that might've been a bit shortsighted on his part given so many other amazing games with great stories and atmosphere even from around the time Cosmology came out, and I would've always liked to have seen him do more gaming reviews after it, but it's cool. Still an awesome film reviewer nonetheless :) . Last I remember there was a recompiled executable for it on modern (well, at least XP and Windows 7) machines done by a fan IIRC, that's how I was able to find and play it.

I don't think the original website I found that version is around anymore, quick searches seem to pull up specific packages that require DOSBox so they aren't recompiled for Windows XP & Windows 7 systems. Still tho, I think you'll enjoy it quite a bit 😁👍
 
Man, the Android/iOS re-releases sometimes irritate me because I don't game on those devices yet it's always some of the more obscure retro games getting those modern ports. Gadget: Past as Future was another, I guess I could hunt down a Windows '95 copy and run it virtually in Windows 10 (guess there's also the DOS version could play that through DOSbox).

That Garage game and the other one look pretty cool though, I will most likely want to play those in the future. The name Tonkin House sounds familiar I've heard it somewhere before, what other games have they developed?

As for Cosmology of Kyoto yeah, it's the only game Ebert seemed to like and regard as art. I think that might've been a bit shortsighted on his part given so many other amazing games with great stories and atmosphere even from around the time Cosmology came out, and I would've always liked to have seen him do more gaming reviews after it, but it's cool. Still an awesome film reviewer nonetheless :) . Last I remember there was a recompiled executable for it on modern (well, at least XP and Windows 7) machines done by a fan IIRC, that's how I was able to find and play it.

I don't think the original website I found that version is around anymore, quick searches seem to pull up specific packages that require DOSBox so they aren't recompiled for Windows XP & Windows 7 systems. Still tho, I think you'll enjoy it quite a bit 😁👍

Yeah, when it comes this stuff I just play the mobile games on PC using an android emulator. Specifically I use Bluestacks but there's a ton of them, it's work for everything I've tried so far and the tap controls of most mobile adventure games translate nearly 1:1 with the mouse. You can also use the same google account and buy things through the play store as you normally would.

Tonkin House is a weird company they developed a few novel games and a tennis series, published a pretty random variety of games. I should correct myself, though, the developer for Ugetsu Kitan is actually called "Will" Tonkin House was the publisher for their very distinct adventure games. Every one of Will's games that I came across had a style had its own cool look to it. I particularly liked the look of their "Zeta" games.

Zeta


Nirvana: Zeta II


Juggernaut for PS1 is one of Will's adventure games that actually made it overseas.
 
Yeah, when it comes this stuff I just play the mobile games on PC using an android emulator. Specifically I use Bluestacks but there's a ton of them, it's work for everything I've tried so far and the tap controls of most mobile adventure games translate nearly 1:1 with the mouse. You can also use the same google account and buy things through the play store as you normally would.

Tonkin House is a weird company they developed a few novel games and a tennis series, published a pretty random variety of games. I should correct myself, though, the developer for Ugetsu Kitan is actually called "Will" Tonkin House was the publisher for their very distinct adventure games. Every one of Will's games that I came across had a style had its own cool look to it. I particularly liked the look of their "Zeta" games.

Zeta


Nirvana: Zeta II


Juggernaut for PS1 is one of Will's adventure games that actually made it overseas.

Ah, that might explain it! I played Juggernaut a while ago, it's a pretty solid game with a cool story, especially once the story & game open up past the halfway point. The Zeta games look pretty cool, if they get translations one day I'll check them out for sure.

Also maybe I can do as you with the Android stuff and run an emulator on play them. It's probably my best bet to play Gadget: Past as Future at this rate.
 

Ladioss

Member
Early Japanese home computer gaming scene was something else, for sure. I love the aesthetics and the ideas behind these games - and it's fascinating to study their history and see how, generation after generation, you can still find something left of their legacy among the (much less innovative, much more commoditized) modern Japanese adventure games.
 

SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
You know, I wonder why there aren't more "Sound Novels" in the market today, specially for mobile platforms.
There are a lot of normies people that aren't really fond of anime styled games, or the presentation style that uses character portraits and dialogue.

Sound Novels are more similar to books with a background image + music + sound effects to enhance what's happening in the story, and they usually don't have character portraits and all that.
I think it's much easier to market sound novels to normies people in general due to their simpler presentation.

For instance (for some reason it's marketed as "Interactive Novel"):

 

Ladioss

Member
(wasn't 428 and Machi sound novels too ? there is a whole part of the genre I still don't know about - like, I just learnt about Otogirisou - both the original and the PS1 one - today and it looks fabulously weird ?)

For instance (for some reason it's marketed as "Interactive Novel"):


Please don't remind me.
I still can't believe we finally got an official, english release for Kamaitachi no Yoru - and then after only a couple a months, the localisation team dropped support, cancelled the android port, and didn't even bother updating the game to make it compatible with newer version of IOS.
Still mad af.
 
Last edited:

SlimeGooGoo

Party Gooper
(wasn't 428 and Machi sound novels too ? there is a whole part of the genre I still don't know about - like, I just learnt about Otogirisou - both the original and the PS1 one - today and it looks fabulously weird ?)
I think so. Maybe I'm being a little unfair with the "can't show people" stuff.
But I kinda like it when it's left for the reader's imagination

the localisation team dropped support, cancelled the android port, and didn't even bother updating the game to make it compatible with newer version of IOS.
Didn't knew about that. What a shame.
 
An interesting wrinkle about the influence of Chunsoft's sound novel series, particularly Kamaitachi No Yoru, is that it popularized this style of colored silhouettes that you'll see pop up often in the games directly in its aftermath, but also randomly way down the line.



I think the strangest example of this trend I encountered was in the PSP remake of "Nishimura Kyōtarō Travel Mystery: Akugyaku no Kisetsu - Tōkyō~Nanki-Shirahama Renzoku Satsujin Jiken." The original was a fairly orthodox command select mystery adventure game, albeit with a system that limited your movement between areas. It was a 3DO game made with FMV graphics and inexplicably the PSP remake 15 years later uses Kamaitachi's signature colored silhouettes.


For instance (for some reason it's marketed as "Interactive Novel"):


The scattershot marketing of Japanese adventure games, and adventure games generally, is enough for a 4th part to this thread that I'll never make because it would kill me. Over the years I've seen so many comments from people who could potentially be turned on to an entire scene of games they'd love stumble in the dark failing to find the games that are right for them.

(wasn't 428 and Machi sound novels too ? there is a whole part of the genre I still don't know about - like, I just learnt about Otogirisou - both the original and the PS1 one - today and it looks fabulously weird ?)

The Chunsoft Sound Novel Series consists of 8 games that are as follows: Otogirisou, Kamaitachi no Yoru, Machi, Kamaitachi no Yoru 2, Kamaitachi no Yoru Triple, Imabikisou, 428: Shibuya Scramble, and Shin Kamaitachi no Yoru: 11 Hitome no Suspect. Functionally there's no difference between Sound Novels and other variations of Text ADV, Sound Novel (and likewise Visual Novel) were marketing labels to brand a particular series. However the label did gain traction outside of the series itself with particular companies looking to invoke the aesthetic traits established by Chunsoft's original games like the emphasis on sparse visuals (or visuals that emphasize a scene rather than character portraits, as in Machi) and atmospheric sound.

The number of games specifically invoking this style of Text ADV/Novel Game are relatively few today but in the early to mid 90s there were many following directly in Chunsoft's footsteps.


Majotachi no Nemuri by Pack In Video, Zakuro no Aji by Imagineer, and Radical Dreamers by Squaresoft are all clearly indebted to Chunsoft's style of ADV.
 
Last edited:
Please don't remind me.
I still can't believe we finally got an official, english release for Kamaitachi no Yoru - and then after only a couple a months, the localisation team dropped support, cancelled the android port, and didn't even bother updating the game to make it compatible with newer version of IOS.
Still mad af.

There is a fan translation of the Kamaitachi no Yoru remake. It's a version that came out in 2017 but unfortunately (at least in my opinion) it drops the original sound novel aesthetic for a typical anime look.
 
Top Bottom