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Visual Novel / Yarudora

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From a drama you watch, to a drama you do. (Miru drama kara, yaru drama e)

Yarudora (やるドラ, lit. "A drama you do") is a Visual Novel series of Sony Computer Entertainment, developped by Sugar&Rockets and Production I.G. Initally released in 1998 in Japan only, at a time the Full Motion Video game genre had become a fad, it successfully managed to bring back the interactive anime movie genre long not seen since Dragon's Lair and Space Ace.

Unlike those two titles though, the Yarudora games play as a complex branch-system Visual Novel. At various points of the game, the player will have to choose between three options when prompted to answer a question by another character, or when making a move. The player can take all the time he needs to answer, but depending of the choice made, flags will (or will not) be raised, and the string of flags you've raised throughout the game will determine which routes you'll go and, consequently, which Ending you'll get. Upon finishing a playthrough, you get the possibility to watch it in the "Replay Mode", like if it was a drama or an OVA (hence the series' title and motto).

The Yarudora series are well known for their compelling storylines, developed characters, and their high number of Endings. A typical Yarudora game will have 3-5 Good Endings, 3-5 Normal Endings, and 17-20 Bad Endings. Depending of the game's story genre, those Bad Endings can range from joke endings to The Many Deaths of You.

The games are made in nearly Full Anime (with a few still images sprinkled in), with the animation done courtesy of Production I.G. Each game has a different art style, depending on the chara designer and teams which worked on a specific title.

The Yarudora series consists of 6 games, and while all of them are gathered under this label, they're all independent stories not linked to each other. They are as follow:

The first four Yarudora games are arranged in a Seasonal Baggage motif (their stories take place during the time frame of one season: Double Cast is the Summer title, Kisetsu o Dakishimete the Spring one, Sampaguita the Autumn one, and Yukiwari no Hana the Winter one). They also have a recurrent theme of the game's heroine suffering Identity Amnesia, leading the protagonist to help her in her Quest for Identity.

Compare this series to Konami's Dancing Blade: Katte ni Momotenshi! series, released in the same year as the first four Yarudora games. Also compare to Asura's Wrath, which takes the idea of an Interactive Anime to its obvious conclusion. (As well as having two DLC which play out exactly like Yarudora.)

This series presents the following tropes:

  • 100% Completion: This series positively loves this trope. You'll have a Completion Rate meter of 0.00% to 100% to fill, by seeing various scenes and endings, and the higher the completion percentage is, the more bonus you'll unlock. Getting 100% nets you a special "congratulations!" video, and to manage this, you'll have to explore every single route and branch of the game. Which leads to:
    • Guide Dang It!: If you want to attain the 100% Completion Rate, you'll pretty much need a strategy guide with a detailed flow chart.
    • Last Lousy Point
    • New Game Plus: Especially since some scenes can't be unlocked on a first run (or even before a fourth run in some cases!).
  • Audio Adaptation: All of the four PS1 games have a Drama CD each. Depending on the game, it can just focus on a part of the storyline (Double Cast), be a recap of the whole storyline following a specific Ending (Sampaguita), or be a side-story chronologically taking place after the storyline (Kisetsu o Dakishimete).
  • Content Warnings: Featured on the factory seal of Double Cast and Sampaguita: "This game contains violent scenes and depiction of gore".
  • Genre Shift: Although all games share a love story plot, the importance of it and the overall genre of the stories vary from game to game.
  • Flower Motif: The first four games, save for Double Cast, have a symbolic flower: Cherry Blossoms for Kisetsu o Dakishimete, and the titular Sampaguita (national flower of the Philippines, which has a meaning of "a promise of eternal love between two people") and Yukiwari no Hana (or Anemone hepatica, a flower of Northern Japan announcing Spring when it blooms). Their meanings are crucial to the storyline of their respective games.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Only available in Sampaguita and Yukiwari no Hana. The Featureless Protagonists in Double Cast and Kisetsu o Dakishimete aren't named at all; while the protagonists of Scandal and Blood: The Last Vampire aren't player avatars and have their own names, Saki Kitazawa and Saya Otonashi respectively.
  • Identity Amnesia / Quest for Identity: The recurring theme of the first four Yarudora games. The cause and reason of the amnesia varies from game to game, and are a crucial plot point for each of them.
  • Featureless Protagonist: All of the first four games let the player incarnate an Ordinary University Student whose face is hidden or barely seen. He's also a variant of Heroic Mime (in which he does talk, but doesn't have a voice actor unlike the other characters) until the 3rd game, Sampaguita.
  • Mercy Mode: If you get two Bad Endings or more without having obtained a Normal or Good Ending beforehand, the Hint Marker feature will be unlocked, pointing you out the good choices in branching options so you can reach a Normal or a Good Ending. The feature disappears once you get a Normal or Good Ending.
  • Never Trust a Trailer / Trailers Always Spoil: Each time you finish one of the four PS1 Yarudora games, you'll unlock a trailer of one of the other 3 games. Some of those trailers don't show the full nature of the game (for example the Double Cast trailer in Kisetsu o Dakishimete, which only shows the happy-go-lucky part of the game), and others show spoilery moments (like the Kisetsu o Dakishimete trailer in Yukiwari no Hana, which shows a main character that only appears after a New Game Plus).
  • The Many Deaths of You: Double Cast loves this, the second half of Sampaguita likewise, and as for Yukiwari no Hana and its mind-boggling 32 Bad Endings, it's more like "The Many Deaths of Kaori" (the heroine), as she's often Driven to Suicide if she recovers her memories at the wrong time.