Not too long ago, one troper mentioned a variety of 1980s visual novels in the main Visual Novels
page. So now I'm thinking... what are the oldest examples of VNs and other related media?
According to the VNDB, the first two visual novels released in Japan were two games created by Enix. These were The Portopia Serial Murder Case (fan translated years later), and Lolita Syndrome, both 1983.
The Wikipedia article on visual novels currently states, "Some of Japan's earliest adventure games were erotic bishoujo games developed by Koei. In 1982, they released Night Life, the first commercial erotic computer game. It was a graphic adventure, with sexually explicit images. That same year, they released another erotic title, Danchi Tsuma no Yuwaku (Seduction of the Condominium Wife), which was an early adventure game..."
So, what was the earliest dating simulation? Wikipedia's dating sim category suggests the early Sega console game Girl's Garden. It's a worksafe game from 1984. It doesn't appear to involve a harem or even a love triangle, but it may have enough relationship elements that it can probably quality as a Romance Game
. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl%27s_Garden
, and consider whether you think it qualifies.
The oldest game tagged as a dating simulation on vndb.org is another vintage computer game from Enix — Tokyo Nanpa Street. I'm not sure if it has adult content, but the word 'nanpa' has been used in adult media.
As for other vintage dating sims, Wikipedia also suggests the vintage Jast game Tenshitachi no Gogo. It's described in the article as an adult adventure game from 1985. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenshitachi_no_gogo
. But according to Mobygames, it didn't exist until 1987... and the closest thing I could find on the Visual Novel Database was Tenshitachi no Gogo Tenkousei, a 1995 game which was released in English under the name Transfer Student.
As for raising sims with relationship elements, I'm not sure if anything was created before Gainax's 1991 version of Princess Maker
. If I'm wrong, correct me.
Otome games as we know them began with the 1994 Super Famicom version of Koei's worksafe game Angelique. The first similar game in English was the 1995 computer game McKenzie and Co.
According to a list on the Boys Love Games Headquarters message board (not very active lately), Boys Love
games began in 1999 with Joinac Gas's doujin game Graduation, and a commercial game called Boy x Boy Shiritsu Kouryougakuen Seishinryou.
Bara games began with the 2000 game Hotaru.
I'm not sure what the first game with just Girls Love
content was. There are games listed on vndb.org with the tag 'yuri' as far back as 1995, and games listed under 'shoujo ai' from 1997. It's tough to say which ones also include heterosexual relationships, or other forms of non-worksafe content.
Now as for visual novel style games released in English... currently, VNDB considers the 1989 or 1990 Infocom game Circuit's Edge to be a visual novel. Infocom is best known for its Interactive Fiction
, so this is debatable.
In 1994, three games which may also qualify as visual novels were released in English. These were two Sega CD games — The Space Adventure (based on Space Adventure Cobra) and Snatcher — as well as the computer game Knights of Xentar, which was a censored version of Dragon Knight 3. I'd probably say that the trope maker for translated visual novels in English was Jast USA's first game, Season of the Sakura, released in 1997.
As for visual novels originally written in English... if you don't think Circuit's Edge qualifies, then perhaps Sinkha: Hyleyn does. It was released simultaneously in English, French, and Italian in 2002. That said, I believe that the trope maker for original English language visual novels was the 2003 freeware game Tales of Lemma.