5. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
Titled Gyakuten Saiban in Japan, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a blend of a visual novel and adventure game. Playing as the title character, Phoenix Wright, you work to defend clients that seemed to have no case, thanks in part to the assistance of Maya Fey, a spirit medium who lends her still developing powers to Phoenix to help defend clients and prove their innocence. Originally on the GBA in Japan, the games were ported to the Nintendo DS for their Western release. The western release was plagued with some translations issues as much of the translation required the team to work from the cases themselves out to get the terminology correct, especially with many of the characters being named with play on words. Additionally, the translation team decided to transplant Phoenix Wright’s setting to America despite the game being written to take place in Japan. With an intriguing and surprisingly dark story the runs through all the trials, tying all of the “unique” characters together, a sense of humor and some challenging cases, Phoenix Wright stands above many of the other visual novels to have official releases out west.
As one of Type-Moon’s earlier entries (published in 2000 in Japan) into their now long running series of visual novels, Tsukihime plays a strong role developing the Type-Moon universe that would go on to establish the rules and guidelines for the following visual novels, anime, manga and novels. Playing the role of main character Shiki Tohno, players guide the narrative, making small to large choices, with one of several endings waiting for them. Shiki possess the Mystic Eyes of Death Perception allowing him to see the “death lines” of both the living, inanimate and the undead. This ability allows him to battle with the supernatural beings that confront him throughout the story. Spawning a sequel, anime, manga and fighting game, Melty Blood, the series may not get touched on as much as of late, but the Type-Moon mythology evolved to what it is today thanks to the work put into Tsukihime.
3. Fate/stay night
Type-Moon developed something special when it came to Fate/stay night. Since it’s release in 2004 in Japan, it has spawned an entire franchise within the already growing Type-Moon universe as cited in the Tsukihime entry on this list. The premise for Fate/stay night lies in the Holy Grail War and it’s combatants comprised of mages and their summoned warriors called Servants. These Servants are the embodiment of legendary figures in history. The players assumes control of Shiro Emiya and guides him through the heavily fleshed out narrative as he battles with his Servant, Saber, who is the personification of King Arthur. What sets this visual novel apart from others is it’s heavily developed universe. Type-Moon created rules for the universe and broken down each character to their base power levels. The Holy Grail War has rules and regulations to follow and specifications on the how the mages and servants battle. The world goes on and on and on. On top of all of the world building, the narrative features multiples routes, love interests and interactions to experience. Lending hundreds of hours of story to work through. Fate has spawned several spin-offs and sequels as well as a successful anime, novels and manga and continues to be a standout many years after it’s conception.
Steins;Gate starts off with a murder that doesn’t happen. It gets weirder from there. Rintaro Okabe is a self-proclaimed mad scientist and future ruler of the world. While at a scientific lecture one day, he stumbles on a corpse-specifically the lecturer’s, Makise Kurisu. In a panic, he shoots off a text to his friend and cohort Daru. All of a sudden, the universe “blinks:” Kurisu is inexplicably alive, and Daru mentions getting a strange, distorted text one week prior. Yep, it’s time travel-or rather, time texting. Steins;Gate offers choice in a unique way compared to other visual novels by allowing the player to choose which of Okabe’s texts to respond to. This unique choice mechanism actually ties in with the story rather than just being a break in the action. The character designs are varied (no one character has the same body face or type), and the art is detail-heavy and rich with color and meaning. Steins;Gate’s twists and turns will have you hooked till the very end. El Psy Congroo!