REVIEW / Tyrannobuilder: Visual Novel Studio (PC)

 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve loved gaming since you were a child but sometimes feel you’re being left behind by the current crop of releases. I’m no longer the teenager who was able to sink 300+ hours into an obscure JRPG or stay up all night screaming at foreigners via headset while shooting them in the face on Call Of Duty. I’ve been meaning to buy Bloodborne since it came out and I will, eventually but the hunger for a new game that was so commonplace in my youth has abandoned me lately. In light of my current ennui, I decided to try something well outside my comfort zone. It didn’t go well.

 

 

Tyrannobuilder Visual Novel Studio (let’s just call it TVNS, ok?) is a visual novel creation program from STRIKEWORKS – a one-person games development studio from Japan. For the uninitiated, a visual novel is an interactive fiction game, a sort of choose-your-own-adventure with less action and more awkward anime sex scenes. Hugely popular in Asia, VN’s have started to find an audience in the West and lord help you if you expect me to name any – outside of the excellent Phoenix Wright series and 4chans infamous Katawa Shoujo, I’m a novice with the genre. It’s not normally my thing at all but TVNS promises to be ‘The EASIEST and FASTEST tool to make your own multi-platform visual novels!’ so let’s give it a shot.

The menu screens are clean, clear and utterly devoid of tentacle-porn. This has surpassed my expectations.

 

On first glance, TVNS is a clean, simple to use interface that looks pretty self-explanatory. The whole system is based on a ‘drag-and-drop’ model so all actions/options tend to be listed and it’s a simple case of dragging the desired action into the correct place. It’s easier to use than to discuss, trust me. But even a novice like me could throw together a scene in a few minutes. Well, I could have if I had any assets– it doesn’t come preloaded with any character models or backgrounds. Nothing. Nada. I did find I had a place-holder picture of a generic schoolroom but certainly no character sprites.

 

Who will you pick - the lovely Emi or Nylashnalov, She-Who-Devours?

Who will you pick – the lovely Rachel or Emi, She-Who-Devours-All?

 

I didn’t expect a huge range or character models to play with but you’d think some basic models would be supplied to allow idiots like me a chance to play around with the mechanics and understand how it works. Instead, I had to traipse back to the Steam page to find the links to free downloads from creators who have put up assets of varying quality for everyone to use. Mostly it’s your usual rag-tag collection of ‘generic anime babes’ and ‘generic anime babe (chibi-kawaii edition)’ but you do get the odd ‘this-is-now-probably-illegal-in-the-UK anime animal-babe thing?’ so that was a hoot. I’m not going to embarrass or shame anyone who creates art for the use and enjoyment of others so here’s a screenshot of a scene I made using pictures I had available on my PC.

 

TVNSChamberlain

Oh Neville-kun, you are bold – why yes, I DO want to discuss the continuing issue of appeasement, you flirt!

 

After trying in vain to make some sort of coherent reason why Neville Chamberlain would be lurking in a Japanese schoolroom, I admitted defeat and just messed around with the software for a while. TVNS seems to work well; it’s a clean and clear interface with a plethora of options for the VN enthusiast. Completed games can be relatively easily converted into a web-based game or even added to something like Steam if you’re looking to share or monetize your work. And you can also get a conversion kit for Android/iOS conversion which is free from STRIKEWORKS so that’s nice. If you want to write and create your own VN this seems to tick just about every box.

 

 

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