Five commercial OELVNs you should have played

In the spirit of last week's list, here I give you another short collection of very, very good original English visual novels - only that this time, you won't be getting them for free. Each of these is a commercial production by indie developers, and I assure you, each of them is worth every penny (or cent, or whatever currency you're using) of your money. There's quality work out there, and their creators deserve the reward.

Like the last time, this list is in no particular order at all.

1. Cinders (MoaCube)

Dat Art! Cinders is probably one of the most beautiful games out there, simply in terms of art, and it has a story behind it you all know: Cinderella. Only that this Cinderella isn't like the one you know. This one, called "Cinders" by her abusive sisters, actually has a head of her own. How she uses it, however, is up to you. Is she a cunning and devious weaver of intrigues who secretly plots to steal ownership of the house back from her stepmother? Does she just want to get away from her family? Does she have the ambitions to become the princess from the fairytale, and if so, what lengths is she willing to go for that? And does she employ the help of her fairy godmother or her voodoo godmother? You decide!

2. Date Warp (Hanako Games)

This sadly underappreciated gem is something for you if you're into classic visual novels - classic meaning "combining the quest for different romantic interests with solving a mystery plot in classic Japanese anime/manga style". The game takes an unusual approach for a few social situations by making you solve minigame puzzles in order to be successful in your attempts. Surprisingly, it works as the puzzles serve their metaphorical function more than sufficiently. For your money, you'll get more than enough hours of playtime - and a quite engaging story as well.

3. Analogue: A Hate Story (Christine Love)

Yeah, I know, even I couldn't overlook this one. Christine Love has already given us quite a few engaging pieces of writing, but with this sci-fi drama/tragedy, she's really outdone herself. There are enough fundamental issues of human life and human existence crammed into this plot to give Kurt Vonnegut himself a headache - and at the same time, the presentation and sheer quality of writing make it almost impossible to stop playing/reading this game. It doesn't help that I have a soft side for sci-fi, but even if you're not like me, you oughtn't miss this experience.

4. Heileen series (Winter Wolves)

Swashbucklers! Pirates! High seas high adventure in the 17th century! And in the middle of honorable buccaneers and proud sailships, a quite heroic female protagonist, out to explore the world, find treasure, chase love and eventually become... well, that remains to be seens, for it is your choice in the Heileen series. While the first two parts are classic VNs with some minor RPG elements, the third goes for a stat-building mechanic behind everything. Still, all three parts are well worth their money. Rarely has a game captured the spirit of swashbuckler romance as well as this one. Think of it as Sid Meier's "Pirates!" - the version for the ladies.

5. Jisei / Kansei / Yousei (sakevisual)

Want mystery? Don't care about romance? Got a penchant for stories involving the supernatural? Then this series of games is just what you're looking for. In the role of a teenager who has the ability to relive the last few moments of anybody by touching his or her dead body, you get to solve murder cases - classic detective work, combined with learning some very disturbing facts about the people around you. Eventually, you'll stand before a magnificently crafted whodunit worthy of getting its own TV show. I've got to be honest here, though: I actually haven't played "Yousei" yet. However, judging from the first two titles in this series, it's probably going to be awesome as well.

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