When one hears the term "visual novel," the first thing that comes to mind is probably not Nintendo. The monolithic Japanese company is normally associated with family-friendly platformers, collections of mini-games aimed at casual gamers, and a series of fanciful cock-fighting simulators that have enslaved the minds of America's youth. Whereas, "visual novel" leads one to think of games where the main objective is to engage in romantic overtures with a series of very young ladies.
Your cousin? Have you no sense of shame at all?!?
But if we look at Nintendo's output from late 1987 to late 1989, we'll find a conspicuous absence of cute and cuddly hop and bops, and a whole lot of games in which you spend your time talking to folks by selecting options from a menu. The predecessor to visual novels was the Japanese menu-based adventure game, or as I have dubbed it, the "Portopia clone." Other than a few Hal/Pax Softnica developed sports games, Nintendo of Japan went about a year releasing only Portopia clones: the two Mukashi Banashi disks, the Nakayama Miho dating sim, and, as we'll see in Chrontendo 31, two disks of Famicom Tantei Club. Later in 1988, the monotony was broken with Intelligent System's Famicom Wars and Super Mario Bros. 3.
Typical Nintendo product as of 1988.
This obsession with adventure games continued into 1989, with RPG Mother from Ape/Pax Softnica being the only major Japanese Nintendo release that wasn't a Portopia Clone. Perhaps the release of the Game Boy shook Nintendo from their rut. After 1989 Nintendo would still dally with menu-based adventure games, but never with the single-mindedness that they did during that two year period. This was perhaps the oddest stretch of time in Nintendo's history of a game developer.
And... as of 1989.
It just happens that we are going to have two other Japanese adventure games in Episode 31: a murder mystery game from crap-meisters Towa Chiki and, more notably, the offbeat Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom from Hudson. Princess Tomato has two major points of interest: firstly, it's one of the very few Japanese console adventure games to released in the West, and secondly, it's just plain nuts.
Is that all these games ever think about?
In light of all these adventure games this episode, I'm going to try to work in a "History of Adventure Games" feature into Ep. 31. However, the episode is progressing slowly, despite the increase in free time I had.
Elsewhere on the web, Chris Osborne, formerly of Junk Into Treasure, has moved his video game site to http://jugglechainsaws.com/. Chris is actually chronogaming the US NES releases, and is currently working through the 18 bazillion US launch titles.
Also, Pre-Sonic Genesis has reached Phantasy Star II, a game that, unlike most of the stuff I cover, people still care about today. And.... Chronogamer at Atari Age has reappeared after a few months of silence. So, along with I ♥ The PC Engine, the chronogaming army is growing stronger!
I made a casual reference to Sonichu a couple posts ago, and by an weird coincidence, at the same time, humor site Heavy.com published an article on the 20 Biggest Internet Losers.* The article itself is not that eye-opening, but they did give Sonichu creator Chris-chan the place of honor, as both the illustration in the header, and the final entry in the article itself - implying that he is, in fact, the biggest loser on the Internet. So "congratulations," Chris. While I do have quite a bit of sympathy for the guy due to the relentless harassment by his "fans," at the same time I sort of have to agree with Heavy.com's assessment.
Chris' True and Original creation.
Catch you later. Until then, Episode 31 keeps chugging along.
*Missing from the list: people who write exclusively about 25 year old video games.