Best Visual Novels of 2018

This has been one of the weakest years for visual novels, so much so, that I actually struggled to collect twenty titles and had to include games that otherwise wouldn’t have met the vote quota (which is part the reason why I delayed this video for so long) and were installments of ongoing episodic series. For comparison, only about ten titles in this list would have made it to top 20 of any other year I did.

However, as ironic as that is, this year has also seen the release of the currently top rated game on egs, and with median of 99 I don’t see anything topping it ever. I’m, of course, talking about Rance 10, and I imagine it needs no introductions.

The other noteworthy releases this year include Key’s newest visual novel Summer Pockets, that from what I heard offers a similar experience to their other works, Nukitashi that has an incredibly unusual premise and has gained somewhat of a meme status in social media, and finally Amazing Grace which is an interesting mystery that’s surprisingly educating on classical and to an extent modern art. I’ll be publishing a review for this one soon.

Apart from that, I Walk Among Zombies has been finished, which is one of the episodic visual novels I’ve been very interested in. I might wait a bit and pick it up in English to see how the translation came along though.

This year also saw the release of the second installment of 9-nine- series which has gotten a far better reception than the first (that didn’t even make it to the list last year). It’s hard to tell if the rating is artificially exaggerated because whoever didn’t like the first simply didn’t read and rate the second one, or if it’s actually improved. I might check this series too, especially since it’s receiving an English localization too.

But that’s about it. Erewhon seems somewhat interesting if you’re into Clockup’s mix of nukige and story. And Butterfly Seeker sounds promising since it’s written by the guy responsible for Apeiria (my favorite last year), but looking at the ratings it would’ve barely made it to top 20 at any other year, so I dunno.

Anyway, it was a pretty bleak year, and I hope the following one is going to be better. At least it looks like it’s shaping up to be.

 

[Anime] A Place Further than the Universe

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho

Anime

A slice of life anime about a bunch of high school girls who get an idea to visit Antartica… that turns out surprisingly fun, though it kind of runs out of steam in the latter half.

Positive:
Negative:
An interesting premise
Unattractive character designs
Likable, relatively profound characters
Underwhelming ending

[Novel] Music & Silence [Rose Tremain]

Music & Silence

Book

A historical novel that while not groundbreaking gives some insight into 17th century Denmark and England with an all right plot and relatively interesting characters.

Positive:
Negative:
Interesting, relatively profound characters
The story, while not bad, turns out a bit underwhelming
Enlightening on the 17th century Denmark

[Game] The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories

The Missing JJ

Game

A somewhat bizarre puzzle platformer that’s a bit dull to play once the initial novelty of dismembering yourself wears off, but then it also offers a heartfelt and thought-provoking story rife with all sorts of horrific symbolism.

Positive:
Negative:
Full of cool horrific and surreal imagery
The puzzles are kind of dull
A relatively cool soundtrack
The game-play starts feeling like a chore real quick
Bizarre, super uncomfortable premise
The story only kicks in near the very end
Dark, creepy, surreal atmosphere
A solid, well thought-out story
Thought-provoking about LGBT issues

[Anime] Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden

Anime

For all its pretty visuals, Violet Evergarden barely does anything with them, telling a dull story in a dull world with little to nothing of interest happening.

There are a few highlights in its episodic story, my favorite being how she ends up guiding a playwright to make up with his past, but it never really achieves this cerebral high of the episodic greats like Kino no Tabi or Mushishi. Most of the time it’s just boring.

Positive:
Negative:
Fantastic animation
Dull characters
Beautiful soundtrack
Dull plot
Thought-provoking on war
Dull story

[Novel] Shards of Honor & Barrayar (Lois McMaster Bujold)

Shardows of Honor & Barrayar

Book

An awesome political space adventure with unbelievably likable characters.

Positive:
Negative:
Interesting, intergalactic setting
Offers very little actual science
Awesome, likable, interesting, unique, profound characters
Doesn’t offer anything particularly groundbreaking
Engrossing plot full of twists and surprises
A solid story fueled by merciless politics of an unstable planet

[Game] Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Pillars of Eternity II - Deadfire

Game

Pillars of Eternity II follows its prequel in its attempt to recapture the magic of Baldur’s Gate. Unfortunately, while it’s definitely loyal to the computer role-playing game tradition and offers quite polished combat, I felt like the world it constructed as well as the plot it followed weren’t really the best.

Ironically, the story itself was very interesting and held lots of potential, but it’s told mainly through semi-menial tasks with you helping various trading companies and locals fight for resources with neither of the sides being too interesting. On top of it, the companions are also quite underwhelming, with basically the least interesting ones from the original game making a reappearance.

That said, Pillars of Eternity II is still a good game that can scratch that traditional computer role-playing itch you might have, but it definitely could have been better.

Positive:
Negative:
Attractive 2D visuals
The plot is not the most riveting
An interesting world to explore
The factions could have been more interesting
A thought-provoking, epic story
Underwhelming companions
Polished, satisfying combat
Sailing the map and looking for treasure is boring and ruins the pace
One of the few remaining games that follow traditional RPG formula
Role-playing an evil characters feels counter-productive