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Visual Novel Tropes

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Visual Novels are a relatively new medium. They are sometimes categorized as a genre of Video Games, as they are software-based, but given that the relationship ends here, they could also be considered another, independent medium of interactive fiction.

Some of their tropes are shared with Anime, mostly because Visual Novels are one of the three main adaptation sources for them, next to Manga and Light Novels. See also Interactive Storytelling Tropes.

Plot Tropes:

These are the unique cornerstones of Visual Novel storytelling that could theoretically happen in any medium, but for certain reasons, this format especially encourages them:

Interactivity Tropes:

These are the tropes that the medium shares with video games, originating from the choices that the player can make during the story:

  • But Thou Must!
    Things that look like choices but actually enforce a certain direction.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option
    A side effect of the Utsuge Harem genre, where you must ignore the tragedies of every other heroine to solve the chosen route.
  • Cutting Off the Branches
    Usually sequels follow the True End of the original story (see below).
  • Developers' Desired Date
    The game blatantly favors certain love interests.
  • Dialogue Tree
    It's practically a staple, except for minor subversions and aversions.
  • Earn Your Bad Ending
    The Bad End requires a surprising amount of extra effort to reach.
  • Event Flag
    Without this, the game would be a Kinetic Novel. Many decisions are supposed to affect the outcome, but it is so infamous in the games that it is a Memetic Mutation ("Whoops, he made the wrong choice! He set off a Death Flag!)
  • Guide Dang It!
    In some VNs, reaching certain routes may require strange actions such as switching focus between two characters to catch the attention of a third, or playing through an already-completed route in order to access a choice which wasn't there the first time.
  • Multiple Endings
    Bad End, Good End, True End, and Normal End are most commonly used names for them.
  • Optional Sexual Encounter
    The entire point of Eroge routes
  • Story Branching
    The story changes depending on the player's choices in a given playthrough. Usually this takes the form of a shared prologue followed by a split into three or more "routes" with completely divergent stories, some of which may even act as sequels to others. Most VNs allow the player to fast-forward or skip parts of the story they've already seen, in order to get to the branching points more quickly.
    • Story Branch Favoritism
      There are multiple story branches but one is better developed by the creator than others.

Multimedia Tropes:

These are common aspects of a visual novel's art and music:

  • Art Shift
    While regular scenes are created by placing sprites on top of a background, Money-Making Shots receive "event CGs" which are drawn (or often painted) as a single unit.
  • Battle of the Still Frames
    Still images are used to depict action scenes with the aid of dramatic camera effects.
  • Clip-Art Animation
    Prominent characters usually have portrait sprites placed on top of a background - these may be moved around to suggest actions, particularly in humorous scenes.
  • Concept Art Gallery
    Many visual novels feature a gallery that fills up with event CGs (and videos, if present) as you view them in-game, doubling as an indicator of the player's progress through the available content.
  • Pre-Rendered Graphics
    Higher-budget visual novels sometimes include animated cutscenes at important moments or as opening sequences when the player enters a route.
  • The Ghost
    Due to time and budget limitations, minor characters tend not to show up in artwork. They may sometimes receive a proper character design in an Updated Re-release.
  • GIS Syndrome
    Low-budget visual novels (which is a lot of them) often use blurred photos as backgrounds.
  • Hit Flash
    Impacts are often depicted by making the screen flash.
  • Impairment Shot
    Using corrupted text or fading the screen in and out to indicate that the protagonist's consciousness is slipping.
  • Real-Place Background
    When the backgrounds in a visual novel aren't just blurred photos, they'll often be based on a real place.
  • Screen Shake
    One of the ways visual novels can make a scene more dynamic - either shaking the whole screen for a moment, or shaking the background while keeping the text static.

Adaptation Tropes:

Due to their unique narrative structure, plot, and interactive nature, the adaptions of Visual Novels also have their recognizable quirks:

  • Anime of the Game
    Usually adaptions are focusing on one route, and importing minor parts of other routes into it.
  • P.O.V. Cam
    A visual clue about the nature of the original source, in an anime adaptation.
  • Self-Censored Release
    Many anime adaptions can cut out not just the graphical sex scenes, but even the implication of sex, without heavily changing the plot. Also applies to many localized versions of the VNs themselves.
  • Totally 18
    While most eroges don't point out the exact age of teenagers and younger-looking characters, localizations enforce this due to age of consent difference between Japan and other countries.