I encountered three visual novel developers at BitSummit. Two have fairly traditional, if good quality, visual novels with static backgrounds and have translated or are in the process of translating a visual novel into English. The third visual novel is Japanese only, but its visuals are something special.

A Scar of the Doll


As you can probably tell from the title, the English translation of A Scar of the Doll is less than perfect. It's good enough, though, and you don't have to read very far before this game gets downright creepy. The sound design underlines all the places where your imagination is free to run away with you in this mystery horror game from Child-Dream, a development studio which includes the scenario writer from the dark fantasy PS3 game Folklore.

The English version is only available for iOS, though there are Japanese versions for Android and Windows. The game is free and they have a hint/walkthrough page, so there's really no reason not to check it out. The one thing I had to fumble about and figure out myself is that you have to multi-touch to pull up the menu.

They have several other games on their web site, some RPGs and some other adventure games, but A Scar of the Doll is the only one translated into English. All of their games are available for Windows, but only their more recent ones have made it to mobile devices.

The House in Fatamorgana


In this gothic suspense story from Novetacle, you play a young man who has lost his memories. You've been told that you are the owner of a house (in Fatamorgana, of course), and as the story goes on you learn more about the history of the house and its occupants from the maid. It's a cursed place, and as you learn more about the tragedies that have occurred there, you learn about a mysterious girl with white hair.

The House in Fatamorgana is an episodic visual novel series that isn't yet complete. The developers have been working on it for about four years now, and are localizing it for English with the help of Playism. The downloadable version is only available for Windows, but they plan to make a browser version, available via a Japanese visual novel service called Novelsphere, which should work on Macs and mobile devices. Playism is still in the process of translating the game into English and no release date is set.

Magic Potion Stories

Magic Potion Stories made Artifacts the runner up for the BitSummit Storyteller Award for Narrative Design. Some people would argue that Magic Potion Stories isn't a game at all, since the only thing the player can do is click their mouse to move the story along. There are no branches, no choices, no controlling the characters. Just 50 different stories about a witch in the woods and the strange adventures that come with her magic potions.

What Magic Potion Stories does that makes it unique among visual novels is to replace the static backgrounds and character portraits of most visual novels with retro pixelated graphics and character sprites that move around like the cutscenes in RPG games of yore. When the main character says, "Here's your medicine," you get to watch her hand it over. When someone says something outrageous, the people around them react. If someone attacks someone else, you get to watch it happen.

Whether you would consider it a game or not, the stories are fun and fanciful. If you speak Japanese (there is no English version), you can try or buy Magic Potion Stories for about $10 US.