A lack of good story-driven JRPGs with romantic elements initially drove me to sample Japanese VN-RPGs about 7 years ago. I was already a fan of visual novels, but I soon exhausted the catalogue of games available in English, and was more interested in games that wove story, romance, and gameplay together. Back then only a couple of mediocre VN-RPGs had been translated, so the only option was to play them in Japanese. I found a tool to capture the text in most PC games and managed to play through a few using automated machine translation with decent comprehension. I took a year of Japanese, which taught me hiragana and katakana as well as basic vocabulary and grammar. This provided a foundation for self-study—basically learning words and kanji as I play, alternating between complete machine translation and word-by-word lookup.
Years later I know hundreds of kanji and can understand a good deal of common dialogue without assistance—and more importantly, can grasp the gist of untranslated text in menus and tutorials. Visual novel translation has picked up significantly, although translated PC VN-RPGs remain rare. By the time Sengoku Rance
, Aselia the Eternal
, and Kamidori Alchemy Meister
had been translated I’d already enjoyed them in Japanese with little loss in comprehension (however the colloquial and highly stylized comic banter in Rance just became gibberish when passed through the translator).
I’ve played a large swathe of VN-RPGs, with Eushully
being my favorite developer, and Softhouse Chara
behind that. Those who’ve played Kamidori Alchemy Meister
know that Eushully can craft a highly addictive gameplay system, but since the game’s story was nothing special they probably don’t realize that Eushully is also capable of weaving captivating and surprisingly dark fantasy epics. I highly recommend War Goddess Zero
, which is a prequel in a chain of games exploring a unified fantasy setting (the War Goddess and Princess General
series). Good and evil, law and chaos, angels vs. demons are common themes in Eushully’s games, and many of their games have alternate routes depending on your choices that are distinct from simply choosing a heroine. To facilitate this, their protagonists usually bear a fundamental personal conflict, whether from being a half-breed, a soul residing in an unnatural host, or just an ordinary human faced with extraordinary circumstances.