We are nearing the end of 2016. Looking back, this year is not a bad year at all for us visual novel lovers. Sequels or prequels of titles we’ve been so much looking forward to have finally been released. Needless to say, there are also a lot of new titles that could very well throw us off our chair. As such, I believe it is time for us to take a look at the best releases this year. Without further ado, let’s begin my list of top 10 visual novel in 2016!
The first one to open my list of top visual novel in 2016 is a Front Wing visual novel titled Island. The story takes place in a faraway island called Urashima. On its beach, a young man named Sanzenkai Setsuna is washed ashore. He claims to have come from the future to save the world. Here, he meets with Ohara Rinne, Kurutsu Karen and Garandou Sara, who turn out to be the key to changing the fate of the island.
Island is a romance visual novel with three main plot lines, one dedicated for each heroine. It is available on PC and Playstation Vita (an Android version is also planned to be released somewhere in 2016). Due to its popularity, Island has been announced to get an anime adaptation. Unfortunately, an english release of this visual novel is still planned for somewhere in 2017.
9. Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness
After being released 2012 as an anime series, Psycho Pass has steadily been catching the attention of many fans. Now, 5pb (Japan) and NIS America (English) has brought this series into the world of visual novels. Much like the original anime series, Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness sets in Japan, 2112 — where it has become a dystopian country in which the people’s mental state, including their Psycho Pass (likeliness to commit crimes) are being constantly monitored.
Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness is focused on 3 original character who didn’t appear in the anime series. On the side of the police are Nadeshiko Kutagachi, an Inspector with no memories, and Takuma Tsurugi, an Enforcer looking for his childhood friend. On the other side is a hacker named Alpha, who aims to create happiness for everyone. What’s interesting from this visual novel is that the story takes place simultaneously with the anime’s first 8 episodes. Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness has been available for Playstation 4, Playstation Vita and PC since September 2016.
The next entry in top 10 visual novel in 2016 is Key’s latest production, Harmonia. Released in September 2016, Harmonia tells the story of Rei, an emotionless android, and his journey to learn about how to feel. In his wander, he will meet with Shiona, the girl who will take him back to her city and make him understand all about human emotions.
7. Root Letter
√Letter (Root Letter) is the first installment of Kadokawa Games’ new series of mystery games. Root Letter is a visual novel with both adventure and simulation features. Set in Shimane Prefecture, the story revolves around a girl named Fumino Aya, who had disappeared for 15 years. The player will take the role of Aya’s pen-pal, who tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding his mysterious friend. In his attempt, he will have to meet and interrogate Aya’s classmates which will make him question everything he knew about the girl.
Root Letter was released in June 2016 for Playstation 4 and Playstation Vita. Check out news about this visual novel here.
6. VA-11 HALL-A
The next top visual novel in 2016 is definitely a unique one. VA-11 HALL-A (also known as Valhalla), is a cyberpunk visual novel where the player will act as a bartender in a VA-11 HALL-A, a small bar in a dystopian world. This visual novel has a unique artstyle, gameplay and theme where the player will listen to each of the character’s stories and experiences while serving them drinks. Unlike most visual novels, VA-11 HALL-A doesn’t offer a single dialogue options. However, the overall story progression will be decided from the drinks the player served to his customers, and whether or not the taste are to their liking.
5. Chase: Cold Case Investigation – Distant Memories
If you are familiar with a (fairly) old visual novel called Hotel Dusk : Room 215, then this next entry of top visual novel in 2016 is definitely right up your alley. Developed by the same staff members, Chase : Cold Case Investigation – Distant Memories is another detective-themed visual novel. It tells the story of the two detectives of the Cold Case Unit: the brilliant yet lazy eccentric Shounosuke Nanase; and the idealistic and energetic “elite” Koto Amakura. Their days without any case to solve are about to be over when a phone call occurs, claiming to know the truth about a particular case 5 years ago (read more details about this VN here).
Chase : Cold Case Investigation was released on May 2016. You can get this game through the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Sadly, this visual novel has only about two hours of gameplay, seeing as only the first episode was released. So let’s just all hope that the next episodes of this game will be released soon! Keep yourself updated on news of this visual novel here.
4. Corpse Party 3DS
For those who liked the Corpse Party series, you probably have waited a long time for this one. Corpse Party 3DS is a remake of the original Corpse Party for Nintendo 3Ds. The story is about Satoshi Mochida, a timid high schooler and his friends who are accidentally sent to an alternate dimension by a sudden earthquake. Unfortunately for them, this dimension is one where ghosts wander about and murder people. While the story still follows the original Corpse Party, this new 3DS version includes several extra chapters.
3. Zero Time Dilemma
We finally get to the top three of our top visual novel in 2016. I am pretty sure many of us are already familiar with this title. Zero Time Dilemma is the third and latest installment of the Zero Escape series. Like its predecessors, Zero Time Dilemma follows a group of nine people who are dragged into playing a death game called The Decision Game. The story itself takes place between Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue’s Last Reward, the previous entries of the Zero Escape series. Zero Time Dilemma still keeps the series’ unique trait, in which the gameplay is divided into narrative section and room escaping section. For more details, you can check out our coverage about this visual novel here.
Zero Time Dilemma has been available since June 2016. It was released for Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita by Spike Chunsoft (Japan) and Aksys Games (NA & Europe). For more info about the Zero Escape series, you can go here.
2. Steins;Gate 0
The runner up of our list of top 10 visual novel in 2016 belongs to the long awaited sequel of the famous Steins;Gate series. Weighted by his failure to save “her”, the self-proclaimed mad scientist Rintaro Okabe is back. Okabe has been suffering from serious post traumatic stress disorder when he meets Maho Hiyajo, a neuroscientist working on program called Amadeus. Amadeus itself is a program that can recreate a person’s brain into an artificial intelligence (AI). Much to Okabe’s surprises, Hiyajo has managed to create an AI form of “her”. So begins another journey of the mad scientist, as he meets with new faces and descends more and more into despair.
Steins;Gate 0 is a sequel of Steins;Gate. It is developed by 5pb and Nitroplus. This visual novel is available on Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita and PC. Keep yourself updated on the Steins;Gate series here.
1. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice
The phoenix has risen once again to claim the first spot of top visual novel in 2016! Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice is the sixth installment of the Ace Attorney series. Following after its predecessor Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Spirit of Justice takes place roughly one year later. It still follows the three attorneys of The Wright Anything Agency: Phoenix Wright, Apollo Justice and Athena Cykes.
This game is divided into two point of views, one which follows Phoenix in his trip to the country of Khura’in, while the other follows Apollo and Athena alternatively in Los Angeles, California (or Japan in its original Japanese release). Besides its usual epic story, fun investigations and court-battling gameplay, what makes this game so worth the waiting time is the reappearance of several old characters from the franchise, such as Larry Butz, Maya Fey, Ema Skye and Miles Edgeworth among many others. So sit back, prepare your evidences and get ready to shout : “Objection!”
That concludes my list of top 10 visual novel in 2016. From romance, horror to mystery, I’d say that 2016 has been productive for visual novel industry. As a fan of mystery stories, it is to my pleasure to find that most of the best releases this year come from this genre. Even so, regardless of the genre, I personally recommend each and every one of the visual novels mentioned above.
As usual, if you think that I’ve missed any titles to include in this list, feel free to let me know in the comments below. Finally, let us once again appreciate in wonder all these VNs released in 2016 and don’t forget to wait in anticipation for all the VNs 2017 will bring!
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