What is Eroge?
Eroge is a niche genre of Japanese PC games also known as 18+ games. In the West, they are often referred to as hentai games or H-games, although this is a misleading name due to reasons explained below. Eroge is a portmanteau of erotic game, and as such, all eroge include some erotic content. However, do not think that the focus of all eroge is on the erotic (ecchi or H) parts, as there is much more to them. Eroge goes hand-in-hand with visual novels, which are all-ages story-based eroge, akin to Western fiction. Note that galge and bishoujo game encompass both eroge and visual novels.
First, let’s clear up some misconceptions regarding the genre.
- Eroge are not all cartoon porn. There are many games that have captivating storylines or gameplay, with minimal erotic content. Some games even provide you with an option to skip the H scenes altogether. This misconception stems from a combination of many factors. Story-centric games are difficult to comprehend for non-native speakers, leading to the majority of eroge brought overseas to be H-based since they are easier to ‘understand’. There is a distinct lack of official translations into other languages due a lack of general interest in Western markets. This stems mostly from unfamiliarity with the genre and existing misconceptions. In addition, there is a mindset among some players that they play eroge only to get the H scenes or HCGs. Since they cannot understand the language, they seek something that doesn’t need any explanation: porn.
- Eroge are not all dating sims. Dating sims (also called love simulation games) were highly popular back in the 1980s and 1990s. Examples include Tokimeki Memorial 2 (Konami) and Doukyuusei (elf). In these games, you have to do repetitive tasks such as studying, part-time jobs, buying gifts and going on dates, in order to raise your stats and gain affection points with heroines to unlock their endings. Ever since Leaf introduced the love comedy genre with ToHeart and key made the nakige (crying game), Kanon, in the late 1990s, a greater number of games have put emphasis on the story instead of just ‘getting the girl’. In most games, you also don’t have to do repetitive tasks now (at least for ADVs) and just need to make a few critical choices in the common route. Dating sims in the original sense are pretty much nonexistent now.
Categorization of Eroge
Just like there are many types of anime or movies, eroge can be divided into various types:
- ADV/AVG (adventure game) are basically a visual novel, usually with multiple storylines and a cast of characters that grows as the story progresses. Depending on a player’s choices in the common route (flag system), the story will evolve differently. Most eroge fall under this category. ADVs are normally set in a school environment and are love comedies, although this is not always the case.
- RPG (roleplaying game) are not much different from their non-H counterparts. You wander about dungeons, slay monsters and level up your favorite characters. Or alternatively, you are a strategist directing your troops to attack neighboring factions. Regardless, you will spend lots of hours on the game. However, there’ll be incentives in the form of HCGs if you win. And if you lose, there’ll still be HCGs. So hey, it’s a win-win situation!
- SLG (simulation game) are not as common, but can be very enjoyable. Mirroring actions in real life, you can raise daughters, run businesses or build towns. There is considerable planning that is needed, but your hard work will pay off in the end. There are not many of this genre since it is difficult for game makers to find the balance that is necessary for players to enjoy such games. Note that dating sims are a type of SLG.
There are also other categories, such as ACT (action game), STG (shooting game), PZL (puzzle game). Note that there are some games that can belong to multiple categories, such as Baldr Sky (GIGA) being an ACT+SLG. Sometimes there are mini games included, especially in fandisks. An example would be batting practice in Little Busters! (key).
Beyond the broad type that it is under, there are basically three spectrums that an eroge can be rated on: story, interactivity and H (ero content).
- Some game have extremely deep and intricate storylines such as Natsuyume Nagisa (Saga Planets), Muv-Luv Alternative (âge) or Fate/stay night (Type Moon). Typically, there are less choices in these type of games and a true route is presented to the player at the end. On the other end of the story spectrum are those that don’t have little or no story, such as the Love Death series (TEATIME) or 3D Custom Girl (Tech Arts3D). It is noteworthy that these games usually make up for this with innovative gameplay or H content.
- RPGs and SLGs are known to have high amounts of interactivity and gameplay. GIGA‘s Baldr series is wildly popular due to its gameplay (and storytelling as well), while Eushully is among the best RPG makers out there. Many fandisks also have mini games or Japanese (riichi) mahjong included for your gaming pleasure. Meanwhile, there are those where the story is almost entirely linear, such as propeller’s Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo Yori mo. When an eroge does not contain any choices, it is known as a kinetic novel. An example of this is ocelot’s all-ages visual novel Shinkyoku Soukai Polyphonica.
- H content varies greatly from game to game. Some games are focused on having sex with as many girls as possible, or catering to certain sexual fetishes. These games are normally referred to as nukige or yaruge. Note that over half of all eroge produced belong to this category, which predominantly have dark themes. You can usually tell if a game is a nukige just by looking at the cover or reading the name. Conversely, some games only show one or two H scenes at the end of each route, depicting the final act of consumation of the lovers’ relationship. Popular eroge are increasingly being adapted to consoles such as the PS2, PSP, XBox360 and DS. In these adaptations, the H scenes are replaced by original scenes since 18+ content is not allowed on these consoles. The most well-known H-free visual novel is CLANNAD by key.
The length of each game also varies greatly. Some ADVs take over 10-15 hours to finish one route, while RPGs are notorious for sucking hours of your life away. Meanwhile, various doujin (amateur) circles make short one-route games which can be completed within an hour or two. Even among professional companies, there are full priced (~9000 yen) and low priced games (~3000 yen). For example, softhouse-seal almost entirely produces low-priced nukige. Of course, there is a notable correlation between game price and the number of heroines and story length/quality.
Why Should I Play Eroge?
So you might be wondering what makes eroge interesting and why some people prefer playing it over watching anime or other forms of media.
- Playing eroge and visual novels is similar to reading a book. However, with the voicing of the seiyuus (voice actors), the characters come to life. With appropriate music playing in the background, a good emotional scene turns into a tear-inducing one. Being able to see the characters on the screen and watch their expressions change as the scene unfolds brings another dimension that manga and Western fiction are lacking.
- The problem with anime is that it is constrained by the cour system where the story must be condensed into a set number of episodes. This causes some series to feel rushed. In other anime, there is a shift of focus from the story to character presentation. This is why you see an increase in fanservice, as this is designed to lure in viewers and increase subsequent merchandise sales at the expense of storyline development. In eroge, there is no such constraint so the character and plot development are much better constructed. Not only that, but due to the interactivity mentioned earlier, the player can decide on which character’s story they would like to follow, thereby increasing both the dynamic nature and personal enjoyment of the game.
- Due to the route system in most eroge, there is high replay value. Instead of watching anime where it follows one route (most likely not your favorite character), you now have the choice to follow whichever character and story you wish. Enjoy talking with your favorite characters. Delve deep into their backstories. See how they react when you decide to choose another girl instead. More games nowadays include true routes which are available to the player only after prerequisite routes have been completed. Personally, I believe that finishing a game completely brings a very satisfying sense of closure to each game that I play.
- Reading books are a good way to increase vocabulary and refine your writing. Eroge is no different in this regard. I’m sure that many of you are interested in learning Japanese or perhaps already know quite a bit. Unlike anime and manga, which consists almost entirely of dialogues, you can learn a lot from reading eroge. Don’t be afraid that you don’t know everything! As you play more, you’ll begin to recognize words and being able to hear how they’re pronounced is also a major plus.
- Most eroge have low system requirements, aside from the disk space required to store all the sound files. The exceptions are 3D games, such as FrontWing’s Time Leap, Leaf’s Kimi ga Yobu, Megiddo no Oka de, as well as ILLUSION and TEATIME‘s highly interactive games. Overflow of School Days fame is also well known for creating huge games since their games are fully animated. Aside from these, so long as you set the regional and language settings on your computer to Japanese, you can enjoy these games!
How Can I Start Playing?
Eroge sales are limited to Japan only, so acquiring these games might be a challenge for those that do not live in Japan. Don’t worry though as there are many options available. You can either import via a middleman company like Tenso or a company that ships overseas like ErogeShop. If you are not comfortable with the language, you can either use a text hooker and translator like AGTH and ATLAS, or try out the English-translated games from upstart company MangaGamer or JAST USA. There are also many fan-translated versions floating around the internet, however not all game makers approve of these and overall progress is generally slow. Please support the companies by buying the full game where possible. If you are wary of buying games without knowing fully what to expect, please check out our posts about upcoming games, reviews, visit the official sites, search VNDB or ErogameScape, or download the free demos from the official sites and try them out yourself!
An archive listing reviews by Micchi and Zen is sorted by overall score and split into scores by each category.
Micchi and Zen’s Lists
If you are interested in certain eroge makers, please check the list of company sites.
In general, I play story-based ADVs which have a healthy mix of comedy and drama. I also play straight up comedies (baka-ge) and some RPGs. That being said, it is usually the characters and artwork that drives me to play a game, so I usually end up playing moe-ge or chara-ge. However, I generally stay away from H-based eroge. If it has H on the cover, it’s basically automatically off my list. The games shown on this site are representative of my tastes, so if you’re looking for H-based eroge, I’d suggest you check out Getchu or Hongfire instead. My tastes are all key’s fault.
My favorite games are those that have a cohesive plot with significant character and relationship growth. They usually also contain a true route and the stories are driven by magic, miracles, wishes and promises, but not in an over-the-top manner. I view ero scenes as part of a growing relationship and they’re fine if done in good taste and are not excessively long. The BGMs and voices must fit the mood and characters. I tend to play the love comedy ADV genre in a school setting and love those that bring tears to my eyes and tugs at my heart. I have a weak spot for first love stories, and despite how much I complain about it, I am fine with bittersweet endings.
But most of all, I love imouto (little sister) characters! So naturally, I gravitate towards games that have a cute imouto (imouto-ge) that I just gotta take home~! I’ll talk a lot about imoutos on this site, so I hope you’ll start liking them too! ^_~
My favorite character moe traits are:
Relation: imouto (妹), kouhai (後輩), osananajimi (幼馴染)
Personality: genki-kei (元気系), amaenbou (甘えん坊), innocent (天真爛漫), koakuma-kei (小悪魔系), jealous (焼きもち)
Visual: short twintails (ショートツインテール), yaeba (八重歯), semi-long hair (セミロング), heterochromia (オッド・アイ)
Clothing: beret (ベレー), ribbons (リボン), shimapan (縞パン), tennis outfit (テニスウェア), paisura (パイスラ)
Micchi’s harem (includes game spoilers):
Amamiya Shizuku (Shinigami no Kiss wa Wakare no Aji)
Chitose Sana (Tenshin Ranman)
Daikanyama Sumire (Suzunone Seven!)
Hiiragi Koharu (Hello, good-bye)
Minahoshi Asuho (Hoshizora no Memoria)
Ooizumi Mai (Real Imouto ga Iru Ooizumi-kun no Baai)
Takanashi Mahiru (Da Capo II Plus Communication)
Takanashi Yaya (Clover Point)
μ (Da Capo II To You)