Foreword: I've wanted to play this game for a long time. I've always considered it to be the grandfather of all adventure visual novels, but only found time for it while doing year 1990 coverage. So this is Elf's first grand work and the first Elf work to have Hiruda as story writer. Game is amazing but at the same time there aren't that many japanese reviews and as many as zero English ones. How can that even be possible?! I've no answers. My best guess is that work is prior to internet era and Multi-pack (2004) only brought contemporary systems and graphics, so japanese din't really bother to discuss a remake. Let's start already.
1987 has become a great breakthrough for visual novels. Text parser has been made obsolete by command selection and quite many games that amplify text over gameplay or graphics have showed up (even though the graphics have evolutioned immensely as well). But the most innovative and engaging game of 1987 is Hiatari Ryoukou adapted from anime by Toho. That's the first galge in modern sense - it's about daily routine and chasing one of the girls with lots of sunshine and comedy scenes. The charm of characters is overwhelming and gameplay is quite easy and infectious. If only it could be hooked...
There's actually a harsh competition here, but no obvious winner at the same time. I don't want to nominate NES titles, because this platform is not really suitable for the genre. Maison Ikkoku was nominated by me previously, but in the long run it's a NES game again and it's not particularly entertaining. Wingman 2 and Little Princess are way too short. J.B.Harold is a detective genre that I can't stand. Casablanca does not have a normal release. Boukenshatachi is mostly a parody with some jokes difficult to understand already and text parser ruins it all. But I was really shocked by production values of Gall Force - Eternal Story. It has pure command selection gameplay, really nice dialogues, lots of CG and plenty of action scenes as well as worthy sound support. That's what VNs should be like and that's why it's the VN f the Year 1986!
Did you hear anything about Maison Ikkoku? Well, you must have. It had a huge impact on anime and manga of 1980s. It produced manga and 96-episode anime series, three live action films, anime film and 3 anime OVAs as well as this particular game in 1986. It's actually very sad that such ~100 episodes format slice of life warm comedies have not survived to our days. All the modern longterm on-goings are just shounens for kids.
Masterpieces of the year 1985 include: 1. El Dorado Denki 2. Karuizawa Yuukai Annai 3. Tenshi-tachi no Gogo 4. Abyss II ~Tears of Emperor~ 5. Dezeni World 6. Shiro to Kuro no Densetsu ~Hyakki Hen~ So there are very few VNs in 1985 and even fewer account for masterpieces. Karuizawa Yuukai Annai was obviously a favorite after Horii Yuji won the previous two years, but the game lacks the mystery and fills it with lots of fanservice. El Dorado Denki gets a pretty devastating review. Tenshi-tachi no Gogo is an eroge that I would strike out if it weren't in the 80s. Abyss II and Dezeni World still use text parser. So why not Shiro to Kuro no Densetsu first title? The story is fresh and serious. There is only command selection. That's definitely not the worst option and a good read!
First of all, Death Trap is not included in the masterpieces list because it does not feel exciting to me. But we're still left with as many as 10 masterpieces on our hands! Lots of novelties and good stories this year, but the VN of the year 1984 is Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin: Ohotsk ni Kiyu. And one of the reasons for that is that this work both used command selection AND allowed to use only a short list of commands. Another reason is that the game feels very realistic both in characters, dialogues and landscapes. The mystery is great as well since the three consecutive murders seem completely unrelated. No other work in 1984 is same engaging. It just feels like a professional AAA class game like no other game of 1984.