The funny thing about VNs (Visual Novels is: you’re expected to read them. That dialogue is not there for you to click through while chewing bubble gum.
If reading makes your lips hurt, you’d be better off with some point’n’click adventure. Your loss.
So, you’re playing a game even as you are reading. Call it multitasking. The VN format may be somewhat new to you. Maybe you’ve seen J dating sims before or slice-of-life anime that explores similar themes. Typically, a cast of cute girls, a Main Character (mc for short) that’s personable, maybe somewhat naive and inexperienced but a nice guy.
Along comes Doki Doki Literature Club, superficially looking the same. “This club … has incredibly cute girls,” our mc proclaims. Yes, a quartet of the greatest stereotypes in J-pop culture. Check.
And our mc? Not so much. Actually, Dan Salvato, the developer, stated that he tried to make the most generic and unlikeable character ever. Success.
I’m sure many people tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, expecting a typical game experience. Others disliked him from the beginning. Yes, we meet him before the rest of the cast. His first words may have given you a little uneasiness, which is one of the goals of psychological horror.
You’d be surprised how many people ignored that opening disclaimer.
(to be continued)
In our studio today we have a Steam gamer to interview. Theory is good but hearing real experience from someone who’s actually “been there” …. so … eks … erm … ah
“It’s Shae. just Shae, OK?”
Ah, thank you. Tell us your initial impressions. The grapevine is all over the place on this one.
“Well, I basically went in cold, trying to avoid as much foreknowledge as possible. Like an old-time explorer, I wanted to know the lay of the land without focusing on specific details.”
So, you didn’t anticipate finishing this game on the first run?
“Absolutely not. The best I could hope for, given the disclaimer, was avoiding any permadeath along the way. I just went with the flow. Then something terrible happened and I understood, there is no make-good, no second chance.”
That sounds kind of depressing.
“Did you see the disclaimer on the opening screens? I did but took it with a grain of salt. Later I used the salt for an open wound, figuratively. It’s not as though there was not plenty of foreshadowing.”
So you pressed on to some conclusion?
“Yes, I muddled through to the first bad ending.”
Wait, what? There are two endings?
“Four. Two bad, I guess you would say. A true ending and a special ending with your name with Monika’s in the credits. And a special note from Dan Salvato, the developer.”
I sense some … misgiving in your voice.
” … ”
” … yes. It’s the last cruel twist of the dating sim. Monika never had a chance, I admire this VN, it’s epic. So was Medea. DDLC was a tragedy in four acts and Monika was the first victim.”
… and on that somber note we switch off the microphones. Thank you, Xae-chan.