11:00 - 21st June 2015, by NEO Staff

MangaGamer Q&A

NEO: What does MangaGamer specialise in?
John Pickett:
As a company, we at MangaGamer specialize in localizing visual novels for sale in the Western market, primarily through digital distribution on our website Our goal is to expand the Western market for visual novels and help bridge the gap between Japanese developers and Western fans. In recent years our efforts have led to Steam opening up its storefront to visual novels, and we’ve managed to single-handedly double the number of titles available in English. Our company also prides itself on the quality of our translations, so users can trust that the titles they buy from us accurately reflect the original work.

NEO: What is a visual novel?
Well, as the name suggests, they’re very similar to choose-your-own-adventure novels in the sense that most of the story is told through text and guided by player choices. Yet the stories in these games are supported by all the other elements of most games as well—drawn visuals including sprites and event CGs, music tracks, voice-overs, sound effects, and so forth.
Through these player decisions, accompanied by the detailed writing, visual novels are capable of telling deep, moving stories with real consequences for the actions players choose to take.
Also, as a medium, visual novels allow for a vast array of stories to be told, covering every genre possible to write.

NEO: What do you like about visual novels?
What sets visual novels apart from most other games is their ability to tell a story. A lot of traditional games fail to interact with the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of characters the way traditional novels do, and yet unlike a novel these games manage to bring the full audiovisual information into the experience as well.
While other games might tell a story through graphics and dialog, visual novels still possess the novel’s strength of being able to dive deep into a character’s mind and truly share their perception of the world, their thoughts, their emotions, and how they respond to many points of the story. This is one of the strengths visual novels possess over other games as a storytelling medium.
However, when compared to traditional novels, visual novels possess the strength of a game in being able to deliver a breadth of visual information through pictures and audio information through music, sound, and voices.
So in the end, one of the best things about visual novels is their ability to combine those two different strengths when they tell a story.

NEO: Of your range, which is your favourite title?
Our staff favorite tends to be Kara no Shojo, a murder-mystery VN developed by Innocent Grey. Much like Phoenix Wright, you the player have to investigate the crime scenes and question people in order to obtain clues and try to solve the mystery of who the killer is, but KnS takes a darker and more mature tone.
Kara no Shojo is set in early post-war Japan, and the player takes on the role of Reiji Tokisaka, an ex-cop turned private-eye who’s still hoping to bring his wife’s killer to justice. The story starts when a strange girl comes to him as a client, hiring him to find her true self. Shortly after, one of his old friends at the police department comes to him asking for help on a case involving a serial killer who’s targeting the girls in his other client’s school. Not to spoil any of the mystery, but the case and the stakes really heat up as the clues and pieces start falling into place.

NEO: Why do you think visual novels are so popular?
Because visual novels currently fill a niche that many other games do not. As more and more titles focus on gameplay, competition, and instant gratification, visual novels continue to hold strong to delivering some of the best stories available while still offering more thorough consequences and plot branching than many RPGs.
Few other games released to date can compare to the depth and extent in which a good visual novel is capable of telling a story that hooks readers and makes them attached to the characters involved. Yet, while one could argue that other media can tell just as good a story, few of those offer the reader or viewer the power to choose and shape the outcome of the story.

NEO: Why do you think the West has been slow to adopt VNs compared to other media like anime and manga?
I think it’s partially because the visual novel experience does fall uniquely in between that of a game and a paperback novel. Anime has all the ease of consumption as any TV episode, and manga are just as quick to read as comic books, but enjoying a visual novel requires a user to sit down with the story and actually read it for hours. As people have moved away from novels this happens less often, and the lack of significant gameplay elements has kept many Western platforms such as Steam and console markets from considering visual novels as games worthy of space on their storefronts. With visual novels barred from most primary retailers like that, it’s been hard for them to gain public awareness and reach potential consumers.

NEO: What is uniquely Japanese about VNs?
Well, this question is actually really difficult to answer, since visual novels are a medium for storytelling, and thus each title depends on the developers who create it. Many would likely say that the general art style is Japanese, since most visual novels are illustrated by artists who follow the style seen in anime and manga. However, some Western developers forgo this art style when creating their visual novels as well.
Another might say it's in the way VNs tell their story, because Japanese writers use conventions and nuances familiar to them in their storytelling. Yet a western developer might not.
So visual novels are very flexible in the type of story and experience they can convey to readers.

NEO: What titles do you recommend to NEO readers?
We offer a wide variety of titles for various interests, but Go Go Nippon is a good beginner’s dip for people who’d like to experience a trip to Japan. eden* is a wonderfully heart wrenching tale of ill-fated love, and Cho Dengeki Stryker is great for anyone who loves superheroes and action comics. We also have Princess Evangile coming out this March for those who prefer romantic tales and cute girls, but later on we’ll also be offering Ozmafia, an otome game which will hopefully appeal to many women.

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