by Satoshi TODOME <http://www.kyo-kan.net/>
This work is not in the public domain. The previous message was placed here because permission was granted by kj1980, the translator, but permission was not granted by Satoshi Todome, the original author. The webmaster did not know that kj1980 was merely translating Todome's work. Please respect Todome's work by not redistributing this page.
This is a personal account and may be inaccurate in places.
(The first paragraph, an introduction to the genre of eroge, was untranslated by kj1980.)
Back in the 1980s, Japan was competing with the United States in establishing a computer standard (obviously, we all know who won). However, Japan was also competing within itself with different companies on who were to set the computer standard. NEC had the PC-88XX series, Sharp had its X1 series, Fujitsu with its FM-7 series, and the Matsushita-Sony-Sanyo triad were shelling out clones of its MSX computers.
Now, in the late 1980s to the early 1990s, there was something interesting going on in the Japanese computer market. NEC was releasing two different computers at the time - the PC-88XX for the home market, and the newer and faster PC-98XX series for the business market. At the same time, Sharp released its X68000 - a computer which had the processing power as fast as normal arcade machines at the time with excellent sound (PC-98XX lacked any sound support). Fujitsu released its FM-TOWNS series, which shocked the industry with being the first computer with standard internal CD-ROM drive.
One would assume that the PC-98XX, which lacked the "specials" that Sharp and Fujitsu had would be the loser in the computer race. However, NEC's PC-98XX series was clearing leading the path as it dominated the computer market in Japan.
Why? At the front, people were saying "softwares such as Ichitaro (A Japanese word processor) and Lotus 1-2-3 that I use at work are easy to install and use it at home too." The reality was "there are tons of ero-games for the PC-98XX!" and "I can spend four times as much and get the more powerful X68000, or I can settle for less and get the PC-98XX to play tons of ero-games!!"
The PC-98XX's picture quality was 16-bit, 4096 colors, with a screen resolution of 640 x 400 pixels. While this was not enough to put in normal pictures, it was good enough to display anime-type drawings at a pretty good quality. But then, you may say "The Sharp X68000 and the Fujitsu's FM-TOWNS series were able to handle over 30,000 colors - weren't those displays better to show even higher quality anime pictures?" Ah, touche. Yes, 30,000 colors would look better - except that at that time - games were still played on a thing called "a floppy disk" and only few pictures were be able to stored into a such a high/double density formatted floppy disk. And sure, the FM-TOWNS had the CD-ROM drive, but it was very slow (single speed), and there was no internal hard drive back then (the thought of installing software from a CD-ROM to your hard drive was not considered yet).
So the PC-98XX established itself as the computer standard for...ero-games. Ero-games back then were what it said: "an erotic game." Much of the software out there were simple no-brainer & no-story plotlines where you just rape a girl that pops up on the screen. It was good while it sold, but eventually people became exhausted in spending over 8800 yen for something that had mindless sex after sex with a plotline along the lines of a "bad 1980s American porno."
Hence, ASCII took a bold step with its "Chaos Angel" - an RPG ero-game. It's success lead to several softhouses such as Elf releasing "Dragon Knight" series, and AliceSoft's "Rance" series.
Yet, ero-games were still porno games. A postive light is that at least a good story and plot was introduced into a mindless ramble of "just having sex." But still, "to be an ero-game, it is obvious to have sex scenes" still stood. You still had weak sex/pick-up lines where "the main character goes around and fucks girls everywhere he sees, setting up his own harlem world. Even when an enemy female character comes along, he takes her as captive and rapes her. All the girls that meets the main character falls in love with him instantaneously."
Softhouses still clinged on to the idea that "who gives a crap about plot lines - ero-games sells because it has sex scenes!" However, consumers were once again getting bored of repetitive and boring ideas with cheap and somewhat obtrusive plot such as "the girl will die if she doesn't have sex, etc. etc."
I mean, c'mon after playing two or three of the same type of games with everything that is out there practically the same thing, do you want to spend another 8800 yen for something that is going to be as similar to what you just played?
Just when consumer frustration was mounting, Elf released what was to be the most successful ero-game at the time:
The biggest thing that pulled in consumers was the amount of freedom this game had. You were able to control the main character and move freely among the [two] towns.
What was (and was probably Elf's risk and gamble) appalling was the idea "the main character does not need to fuck every girl he sees."
Elf did some thinking here.
The Simulation RPG genre was born.
What the consumers felt by playing this revolutionary game:
Elf also went one step further by "how to make the pictures look as if it has many different colors when we can only use 16 colors?" I don't know the proper English word for it, but Elf's patented "dithering" management in combining different colors over another per pixel to "make-believe" that many colors exist was practically an art on its own.
The next "big thing" for the computer was the introduction of....hard drives. This was the era where no USB nor IEEE1394 existed. Nor was any connectors were on the machine board itself. What you had to do back then was to buy a SASI/SCSI interface card and add the hard drive externally. And, it wasn't as easy as just hooking up the cable - you had tons of driver tweakings and jumper settings to work around with "just to get it work right."
Still, people wanted the hard drive even though it was pretty confusing to set up.
One theory exists is that the driving force was once again, ero-games.
As mentioned in the previous post, "Dokyusei" was a big hit. The game came in eight floppy disks. This game can be played in two different ways:
If you didn't have a hard drive, you were forced with a very annoying pop-up screen like the following:
Irritating, ain't it? Supposed you accidentally went into a place where you know nothing was in there. You are constantly told to change the disk in drive 2 for each and every time you go somewhere new. Aaagh!!!
By the time the sequel, "Dokyusei 2" came out, the game data expanded itself into a whopping 13 floppy disks!
By then NEC finally realized the necessity of CD-ROM drives, and started including them in their latest PC-9821 model, boasting 256 displayable colors from 16 million available colors.
Around this time, a Super Famicom game called "Otogirisou" was getting much attention. This was a simple adventure/mystery story with an added twist - multi-endings existed in this game. And as the player progressed by completing each ending, a new selection pop-up appeared where there wasn't. Combining background pictures and music, you read the text on the screen and moved the story foward. ChunSoft (the company that made "Otogirisou") called this revolutionary idea as a "sound novel."
One relatively new softhouse, Leaf, thought that this might be a good idea to introduce into the ero-game market. With its previous two games being a flop, they decided to gamble by experimenting with the success of the sound novel genre. Leaf decided to take one step further by adding the characters and their facial expressions in addition to just the background and the music and called it a "visual novel."
You (the consumer) read as you are the main character (Nagase Yuuichi) of the story, as you dwleve deeper and deeper into the psychotic world of "doku denpa" (roughly translated as "poisonous electromagnetic waves") brain-washing girls into suicide and mass rape.
Leaf had another story in mind to go along with Shizuku. If their visual novel experiment failed, they decided to disband. If it was successful, they left its next idea aside so they can release it as soon as their experiment was successful.
Obviously, "Shizuku" did fairly well in its sales - at least they didn't have stockpiles of returned games as they did in their previous two flopped games.
So Leaf immediately released "Kizuato," their second installement in their Visual Novel series.
You (the consumer) once again read the story from the standpoint of the main character (Kashiwagi Kouichi) who dreams that he is going around murdering people. Then, the murder that he dreamt last night came to be the real thing on the news he say the next day? Am I the killer? Am I going around murdering people in the night!?
The third installment of Leaf's Visual Novel series established themselves in becoming one of the leaders of the current ero-game industry.
180 degrees different from its previous two visual novels, "To Heart" was a heart-warming high school love story.
You (the consumer) read the story from the standpoint of second-year high school student, Fujita Hiroyuki. During the course of the spring semester, you meet different girls - all of whom have something special and you choose to fall in love with one of them.
Perhaps the biggest hit was the extremely heart-warming story of one cute little maid robot named HMX-12 Multi. Multi's hard work, the sad good-bye, and the dramatic ending where they meet once again ran tears down many eyes. Interestingly, the main heroine of the game was supposed to be Kamigishi Akari, but fan overwhelmingly voted Multi as the most favorite character in the game. Multi, in fact, has established itself as an iconic figure in the otaku world.
The CD-DA vocal music that was used in this ero-game (unprecedented at the time) was such a dramatic hit that it was selected to be a song to be sung at karaoke machines (also, unheard of - karaoke machines have the latest hit songs, but never was a vocal music from an ero-game ever introduced into karaoke tracks)
The success and effect of Leaf's gamble was immediately recognized. Many have been pondering "what is the best way to have consumers enjoy ero-games and have them play a good game at the same time?" The answer was what Leaf had just done: Visual Novels.
Hence, many softhouses began to take this path. Visual Novels have arrived.
Formerly, the I/O systems for most games were very keyboard oriented. For example, you would type in "GET KEY" to get a key on the screen to open a door later in the game. One problem is that computers are stupid. For example, the door wouldn't open when you type in "open door," but you'd had to type in "kick door" to have it budge.
Hence, many ero-games became mouse pointer oriented. Dokyusei had mouse pointers with selections such as "rub breasts," or "finger the clitoris."
But, as the visual novels started to become the standard for ero-games, less and less selection points came into play - the main point of visual novels was that selection points were popped up only when it became to deal with what is going to happen in the story:
Consumers didn't want some flashy and hard to remember keyboard inputs nor spend two hours reading the manual just to figure out how to play the damn thing. They want it to install it and play it ASAP. Solution - simplify.
Since then, the gaming system engines for ero-games were tweaked little by little to give the best possible engine that is user-friendly to the consumers.
Now by this time, computers were running on the Windows 95 platform. Ero-game makers suddenly had much more freedom in doing CG art - now they can utilize as many colors as they want and store as much more data on a medium called the CD-ROM.
Elf's "Kono Sekai no Hate de Utau mono ~YUNO~" was perhaps the last game that was released for the DOS format - with much acclaim and show that will be remembered as the pinnacle of artistic work of DOS ero-games.
Now, as I mentioned in the previous [chapter], "To Heart" was a major hit game. Multi's story was so heart-warming that it gave a hypothesis to one softhouse that perhaps heart-warming stories that make the player cry were the thing to make a hit.
The core members of the softhouse, Tactics thought up of a simple formula:
(comedic first half) + (heart-warming romantic middle) + (tragic separation) + (emotional get together) = "crying game"
"ONE" was exactly written in this formula.
You play the role of a high school students named Sasaori Kouhei, who on the surface is enjoying high school life by meeting several girls. But deep within in his inner self, you yearn to spend an eternity with your sister, who died several years ago - one in which you blame yourself for her death.
The first half of the game is very comedic and fun. However here and there, you have philosophical flashbacks about "sheeps in the field" and "the infinite sky." Around the turning point, you have a heart-warming romantic relationship with a girl that you'd chosen. However, this where everything starts a down turn - suddenly, people that knew you before begins to forget about you. One by one, your friends and teachers starts to forget that you even exist - this is because you've chosen the path to spend an eternity rather than make yourself exist in this world. Tragedy is that you'd just started a romantic relationship...will the person that you professed that you love also forget about you as well!?
Of course, it is up to the scenario writer to how well he can write a story that makes the consumer read onto the story without ever realizing that its all a matter of a simple formula (think: Stephen King novels - they are all the same formula, but it's still a best seller)
The creators of "ONE" realized that their formula was indeed what made a game successful. The main creators broke off from tactics and started their own softhouse - Key, to create one of the pinnacles of ero-game history to date.
"Kanon" was released on June 4, 1999. Speculation was amounting that this game is a major "watch-for" item even before it went on sale. The beautiful CG art, the astounding music, and the atmosphere of the story was captivating. Consumers were wondering, "would these guys that disbanded from tactics be capable of doing something greater than their previous work?"
"Kanon" was created somewhat of a anti-thesis of "ONE." Instead of the main character going to eternity, this time it was the heroines who had something. Mainly, Tsukimiya Ayu was indeed a spiritual being who runs around the town looking for her beloved Yuuichi - with a very emotional ending.
"Kanon" is touted as the best ero-game of all time. Well, that is a subject open to debate, but it sure did leave deep marks for not only the ero-game industry, but for otakus all across Japan. "Kanon" was such a big hit - that it is not that surprising to say "you cannot call yourself an otaku without going through the baptism of playing Kanon."
The success of "ONE" and "Kanon" on their formula to creat a "crying game" was adopted by many softhouses. For example, just to mention a few:
were all major hit ero-games that can be said that they were very much influenced by Key's formula.
Even age's "Kimi ga Nozomu Eien" was somewhat of a twist of this formula by adding in a "diluted and dirty love triangle relationship" into the scenario play.
As the Visual Novel standard was adopted, the erotic parts in ero-games began to become less and less apparent. More and more people who used to reject such type of games began to become more open-minded that it isn't just about sex anymore. And as more and more softhouses began to adopt the "crying game" standard, both the industry and the consumers began to look at "hey, ero-games CAN have great stories after all!"
Hence, a successful ero-game transformed itself from:
hard-core porno games with mindless sex → heart-warming love simulation game with an added touch of sex
It is obvious that "games with better story" had more "citizenship rights" to be imported over to the console market than cheap-sex games.
One of the first ero-games to be imported over to the console was Elf's "Dragon Knight 2" which was released on the PC-Engine.
To be imported meant several things:
On the plus side, the consumer console market had some pretty good gaming systems that they were capable of doing something that the ero-games for the PC couldn't back then - add character voices.
Elf's "Dokyusei" also followed in a similar fashion - first on the PC-Engine and then on the Sega Saturn. F&C's "Pia Carrot" series lead the path by importing much of their series onto the console format. And Leaf attained much success to non-PC users by heavily promoting their "To Heart" game onto the Sony Playstation.
During the mid 1990s, the console game industry was moving from the triad lead of Super Famicom/Sega Megadrive/NEC PC-Engine towards the dual superpowers of Sony Playstation vs Sega Saturn. During this time, the PC-Engine was becoming a dying format in which it managed to survive as long as it could by utilizing its voice capability on its CD-ROM2. The Sega Saturn and its successor, the Sega Dreamcast will inevitably follow a similar pattern as well. The last Dreamcast sale was on December of 2001, but still importation of ero-games onto the Dreamcast still continues to this date, such as:
What is happening to the industry as a whole is that they began to understand that hard-core maniacs are suckers:
Hard-core maniacs are suckers. They will buy all of them. Each time a new "release" is made, the makers add something special into them that drags Mr. Yukichi (the guy on the 10,000 yen bill) out of our wallets.
Here's an example of some extreme manipulation:
What is happening here is that instead of "having your favorite game being imported onto the console game that you own," it is more like "when your favorite ero-game is imported, you HAVE to buy all of them"
Actually, this isn't all that new. Many ero-games did become animated. However, they were only restriced to being "18 and older" pornographic OVA anime releases. It is simple to say that "well duh, the original game was erotic, isn't it obvious that the anime is going to be porno material for the adult video market?" However, the truth was that the anime versions of these ero-games barely touched on the actual story and plot lines - most of the animated parts were focused on sex scenes. In a sense, these OVAs were not truly "the anime version of the original ero-game."
But then, one anime began to open a path to change all that. In 1998, an anime called "Night Walker ~Midnight Detective" was aired as a twelve episode anime series (obviously sex scenes were cut out). The original ero-game was released back in 1993. This is the first actual anime TV series that was based on an ero-game. Around the same time, "Dokyusei 2" also aired, but this was more like "re-hashing the erotic OVA episodes, and editing them without the sex scenes for airing on TV."
While it "Night Walker" and "Dokyusei 2" did get attention at the time, the anime itself didn't do so well.
However, in the same year, the TV series "Sentimental Journey" which was based on the gal-game "Sentimental Graffitti" did pretty well (pretty ironic since the original game was crap). The success of this ignited the light that "TV anime inspired by ero/gal-games actually had some market value"
The first real successful TV anime that was inspired by an ero-game was technically AQUAPLUS' (the consumer arm of the softhouse Leaf) "To Heart" in April of 1999.
By this time, the Japanese anime industry was in a situation where dozens or so anime companies were scrambling against each other for short 13~26 episode late-night spots on TV channels. Otakus call this "shinya-waku ranritsu jidai" (The war of late night TV spots).
Anime companies wanted ideas fast to get a lead from their competitiors. Ero-game companies yearned to "make something like an anime, but don't have the money to do so." Eventually, the two got their points together, and you started have more and more anime based on ero/gal-games being released.
Just from what I can think of, here are the "anime based on ero/gal-games as they increased by year":
As you can see, more and more big-hit ero-games started coming onto the TV anime format. Leaf's "Comic Party," CIRCUS' "D.C. ~da capo~," Key's "Kanon," and age's "Kimi ga Nozomu Eien," just to name a few.
Then again, there are also anime based on ero-games that didn't do so modestly - such as "Popotan" and "Yami to Hon no Tabibito." These were more like they were selected due to the high quality of their CG work (both of these ero-games were done by pretty famous illustrators). In the end, even a doujin game - TYPE-MOON's "Tsukihime" went on to become an anime. Right now, it is not so modest to say that currently, "ero-games are created with an anime market in their view." I mean I'm sure I am not the only one who already sees "Fate/stay night" as an obvious anime marketing material.
In 2001, the first movie based on a all-ages love simulation game was released - Sakura Taisen The Movie. In 2002, "Pia Carrot ~Sayaka~" became the first anime movie that was based on an ero-game. Early next year, the second anime movie based on an ero-game, "AIR" will be released. It is astounding that the director for this is Sir Dezaki Osamu - a highly respected veteran anime director who directed major classic anime hits such as "Kyojin no Hoshi" and "Ace o Nerae!" In 2005, the first TV anime based on a ero-bishounen game (ero-game targeted for girls), "Suki na Mono wa Suki dakara Shouganai" will also begin airing on TV. The momentum for ero-game turned anime is unstoppable.
Non-erotic bishoujo games turned anime also increased. As noted above, in addition to "Sentimental Journey" (based on "Sentimental Graffitti"), you have "Kita e ~Diamond Dust Drops~," "Sakura Taisen," and "Harukanaru Toki no Nakade."
Perhaps, you can also add animes such as "Sister Princess" and "HAPPY LESSON" to the list. I mean, "you suddenly have 12 young sister all in love with you," or "you have five beautiful moms as your teachers looking after you." The plot line screams that it could've come from an ero-game. But, I intentionally left these two out since these two were original ideas that were serialized on Dengeki G's Magazine.
Then what kind of anime do these ero/gal game based stories evolve into? Well, duh. If you take in what was in the original story as an anime, you have a single male lead revolving around dozens of pretty girls - a typical harlem anime. While going through each sub-heroines' story, the main plot line evolves by maintaining and growing the relationship between the main male lead and the main heroine. Then there are those anime where no male lead exists at all and everything is told from the female characters' point of view ("Popotan" and "Yami to Boushi to Hon no Tabibito"). And then, there are those anime where each episode focuses on each individual female characters without the existence of a male lead ("Kita e" and "Sentimental Journey")
And then there are some interesting titles such as the anime version of "Comic Party." The main story of the anime involved the male lead, Sendou Kazuki working hard to attain the pinnacle of the doujin world. Interestingly, this ero-game based anime had the female characters as supporting roles rather than a love interest.
"Mahou Shoujo Lilikal Nanoha," which currently started airing this season is also pretty interesting to note about. This all began as a spin-off of the ero-game "Triangle Heart 3 ~ Sweet Songs Forever~" as a joke. The extra joke story within the original game was "what if we take the main character's younger sister and make it into a magical girl story?" (Think of it as something like the relationship of "Tenchi Muyo" to "Pretty Sammy" or "SoulTaker" and "Nurse Witch Komugi-chan"). Somehow this joke began to turn into reality (which is why the saying goes in Japanese anime industry "don't make a joke without thinking about the consequences"). What you have here now is a mahou shojo story that was originally developed as a joke plot within an ero-game.
Another interesting note is on the voices for these types of ero-game turned anime (or ero-game turned consumer console games). There are usually two ways these occur:
Focusing on "B," you have a character on the ero-game version and a character in the anime whose seiyuu's names are different, but they sound exactly the same. This is because the seiyuus use pseudonyms (even they themselves don't mind, their talent agency does not want the image of their seiyuus doing the voices for an erotic game, especially if they are rather well known seiyuus). Hence, what you have is something written like "the reason why you think they sound the same is because the seiyuus are long-lost relatives to each other" (How it was explained on NekoNeko Soft's HP for the consumer versus ero-game version for their game, "Mizuiro")
Say for instance, you have a big name female seiyuu who has leads roles in NHK children's anime show, using a pseudonym when she plays the role of a nice and grudging sister on a big hit ero-game (more bluntly: Mizuhashi Kaori = Uehara Tomomi). And you have a big name male seiyuu who in the light plays the role of a hard-broiled car driver while he uses a different name to make appearances in many ero-games. (Once again, more bluntly: Koyasu Takehito = Jumonji Hayato)