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A visual novel (ビジュアルノベル, bijuaru noberu) is an interactive fiction game featuring mostly static graphics, usually with anime-style art, or occasionally live-action stills or video footage. As the name might suggest, they resemble mixed-media novels or tableau vivant stage plays.
In Japanese terminology, a distinction is often made between visual novels proper (abbreviated NVL), which are predominantly narrative and have very little interactive elements, and adventure games (abbreviated AVG or ADV), which typically incorporate problem-solving and other gameplay elements. This distinction is normally lost in the West, where both NVLs and ADVs are commonly referred to as "visual novels" by Western fans. Visual novels and ADVs are especially prevalent in Japan, where they made up nearly 70% of the PC game titles released in 2006.
Visual novels are rarely produced for video game consoles, but the more popular games are sometimes ported to systems such as the Dreamcast or the PlayStation 2. The more famous visual novels are also often adapted into the light novel, manga or anime formats. The market for visual novels outside of East Asia, however, is small, though a number of anime based on visual novels are popular among anime fans in the Western world; such titles include To Heart (1997) by Leaf; Kanon (1999), Air (2000) and Clannad (2004) by Key; Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (2001) by âge; School Days (2005) by 0verflow; Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (2002) and Umineko no Naku Koro ni (2007) by 07th Expansion; Tsukihime (2000) and Fate/stay night (2004) by Type-Moon; and Steins;Gate (2009) by 5pb.