Just because visual novels tend to lack complex gameplay mechanics and generally use simpler presentation, doesn't mean anyone can make one. In fact, it's much harder to pull off a good visual novel experience than most realize. After all, without a variety of gameplay hooks and dazzling cinematics, the writing has to carry the experience. This means everything from the broader narrative and the characterization, to the underlying themes and message need to be impactful and expertly delivered. And what does the Kentucky Fried Chicken company know about making top-notch visual novels? These days it can barely make good chicken.
KFC's decision to develop a visual novel feels like a ploy to cash-in on the recent popularity of the genre by opportunistic mediocre chicken peddler Colonel Sanders. Sure, it might have put out some decent tweets lately, but thinking that means it has the chops to put out a good visual novel is, at best, presumptuous. And at worst it's a severe underestimation of how complex visual novels can be and how difficult it is to make one worth people's precious time.
This week on the GameSpot After Dark podcast, Jake Dekker, Lucy James, Jean-Luc Seipke, and Michael Higham are joined by Giant Bomb's Ben Pack, and they have some things to say about KFC's visual novel shenanigans. But why do they feel so strongly? Well, you can listen to find out, but the general message is:
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Stick To Chicken, Sanders
Michael: KFC is making a visual novel and, I thought about it, and it's an American Corporation that's trying to be, "Hey look, we're trying to capitalize on this quirky thing."
Ben: Yeah, I'm right there with you, like there's so many good dating sims and visual novels that people probably haven't played that are going to play this and be like, ummmmm...
Michael: Yeah, okay it's a marketing ploy and granted we haven't played it yet so maybe there's a broader message that's like, "Oh you know, it's not all about chicken, you know? It's about love and shit."
My takeaway is that there are so many other better great visual novels out there because the thing about visual novels is that there's always a message at the end. That's the point because … there's not much traditional gameplay to it so the way it's going to get you is with heart and story and a message like VA-11 Hall-A is a great visual novel you should play. Doki Doki Literature Club…
Jake: Speaking of Doki Doki Literature Club, when that game came out and people kind of got really into it for a while. One thing I remember, at least the discussion being around, is that people were very excited about the game, but [were saying], "This is only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much better visual novels that are way more in-depth, way more interesting and Doki Doki Literature Club is almost like a gimmick."
I don't know if I agree with necessarily--that it's a gimmick. I think what it does is fairly interesting and I had fun with it ... But I think that's a very interesting point right? That there are so many other visual novels that super well done, fleshed out and meanwhile you got KFC…
Ben: We professionally work in video games and have never even heard of half of [the visual novels out there].
Michael: My takeaway though was like Dan Salvato who made Doki Doki Literature Club, like, [created] an earnest take on visual novels.
Jean-Luc: And so was Hatoful Boyfriend. It was more than just a meme, like it actually had a lot of heart to it and it had this whole hidden story that got really weird in like a good way. Am I expecting to flip the table and be like, "Oh no, actually [the KFC visual novel] is going to be a super deep visual novel"? No, I really don't expect this to be.
Lucy: [Reading the synopsis] In I Love You Colonel Sanders: A Finger Licking Good Dating Simulator, Colonel Sanders is your … partner. Will the Kentucky Fried Chicken mogul choose you to be his business partner--oh because you meet in culinary school--or maybe something much more intimate. Throughout your journey you'll be faced with life-changing decisions that will affect your chances of friendship and love. But, be careful, your choices will have real consequences with real animated character's feelings at stake.
Michael: So they're putting out a visual novel and who knows how it's going to play out.