I recently watched “Get Lamp,” an interesting documentary on the history of text adventure games, going back to the very beginning (Colossal Cave Adventure by William Crowther and Don Woods circa 1975) and following through the Golden Age of Infocom text adventures. The documentary was interesting to me for two reasons. First, I’m an old school fan of the genre — now called Interactive Fiction or IF by fans — and I have many fond memories of playing the original Adventure on the Wang mainframes at my mother’s workplace as a boy. I also played through many of the top text-only games of the early 80s, which may seem quaint nowadays, but they were very engrossing back in the day. But the documentary was also interesting since, in a way, I believe the Japanese visual novels J-List has published for the past 15 years continues the grand tradition of Interactive Fiction, of stories that place you at the center of the action and ask you to make decisions that move the plot in a new direction. Some of the game content might not be what purist IF fans might have in mind, but I doubt if they can argue that excellent titles like Yo-Jin-Bo (a girl-centric otome game in which the player is teleported to feudal Japan) or YUME MIRU KUSURI (discovering romance with three beautiful, fragile girls in postmodern Japan) add a lot to the concept of Interactive Fiction as a whole.What do you think? Are Japan’s visual novels part of the overall gestalt of IF, or something entirely different?
Japanese visual novels, continuing a grand tradition?