1. Miko to Akemi no Jungle Adventures ,
2. Salad no Kuni no Tomato-hime ,
3. Eiyuu Densetsu Saga
5. Jigoku no Renshuu Mondai
6. Hokkaido Rensa Satsujin: Ohotsk ni Kiyu
9. Time Tunnel
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.
Events take place in 3001. You were in the middle of the confidential "ABYSS" space mission when got abducted by the Space Crime Syndicate and got memory erased. You need to know where you are and transfer coordinated to the mother ship in order to destroy Shinjigate Base.
Text parser is rather merciless. The aim is to destroy this space syndicate that succeeded in developing the final weapon. There's a full video walkthrough of the game.
2. Akujo Kamakiri 悪女かまきり  CSK Research Institute
Game is based on the events of the movie of the year 1984 with the same title. Fujimura Masako aims to get insurance money by killing Dojima with an electric cord while he takes a bath.
Game does not have much text and most of the time it's the items rendering one by one over and over. Text parser is used. Mouth of the heroine is animated. The furniture is totally unproportional and leaves a bad feeling of CG. She kills the man and leaves in the red car, probably just like in the movie.
3. Doukyou ~Kaisou Densetsu~ 道鏡 ～怪僧伝説～  CSK Research Institute
Game is a fantasy based on legend of Doukyuu - a yokai of a mirror during 8th century (Nara period).
Historical erotic adventure with monks and mirrors. At least this time numbered choices are used instead of text parser.
4. Manji 卍 -まんじ-  CSK Research Institute
The wife is cheating on the man with another woman. The man tries to show his love to his wife by lying down with that woman partner. The original is a novel by Junichiro Tanizaki, and in 1983 the movie of the same name was produced by Toei.
The game begins with the scene where the wife, the hero and the wife's mistress are sleeping side by side and the aim is to lie down with the mistress without waking up wife, otherwise it's a bad end. Answers need to be input with katakana. So this is where NTR genre starts!
5. Office Love no Tehodoki ~For Lunch Time~ オフィスラブの手ほどき ～FOR ランチタイム～  CSK Research Institute
You're a section manager of a company. So the only free time you have is lunch time between 12-00 and 13-10. There is a 23-year old colleague that can be targeted.
Each command wastes some 30 seconds of the lunch time. Command input made this game very difficult. There are very few common commands that are accepted. And there are even traps set like not extinguishing cigarette starts a fire.
6. Onsen Mimizu Geisha 温泉みみず芸者  CSK Research Institute
A man and a geisha at hot springs.
Game is a part of Serious World game pack. There is both text parser and command selection. The aim is to get man's percentage and geisha's percentage to the top up from 0%.
7. Time Secret タイムシークレット  Bond Soft
You can go back and forth in time to different eras to solve puzzles. In addition there are battles and you have hp and attack stat as well as weapon attack stat. In Time Secret you need to discover the weakness of alien "Danak" race in order to save the colonial planet "Farras" in 2552 AD.
A very good SF implementation with a large number of screens (CG). Both command input and command selection are used.
Game covers episodes 1 and 2 of the anime work with the same title.
Command input is used. Action is quite good, but commands are way too specific like get beamrifle, get namarme, catch sayla etc. Quite impossible to figure them out without walk through even if u seen that title. It's funny that the output is actually in English. There is quite much information on the game in English in the three links listed above.
Crawley, the king of Jeremiah was destroyed by demon king Salone. Now that his son Dumrin is of age, he sets off to avenge his father.
Game is basically about mazes. That's what shows us opening of multiple corridors (I think the first opening in VNs, no music ofc) and that's how it really is. There are mazes of the house and of the undergrounds. Game uses new technology to render full screen in just one and a half seconds and this game is the perfect show off of that technology. That's why there are so many maze screens which would need over 10 seconds to render as of late and now just 1. That was quite revolutionary and it set a new standard for the new games to come.
10. Miko to Akemi no Jungle Adventures ミコとアケミのジャングルアドベンチャー  SystemSoft
Miko and Akemi went on a long-awaited African trip, but their airplane crashed. Now you need to lead them out of wild jungle with dangers on every corner.
Game features scoring system depending on how much you do before leaving the jungle. You need to escape the animals that you encounter. This game is one of the originators of command selection genre. It's possible to only select commands to beat the game. The drawback is that the number of commands is huge, some 30. But given the large number of screens that you need to go to the drawing speed is painful.
11. Keiko-chan no Himitsu 慶子ちゃんの秘密  Champion Soft
Your tutor Keiko disappeared from the room. You need to find her to continue love lessons.
Searching games weren't frequent yet and it felt fresh. The item you need to find is placed randomly around the room so it's not enough to memorize location once. And there are a lot of such situations where you need to find something. Command input is only allowed in katakana.
12. Kuronekosou Souzoku Satsujin Jiken 黒猫荘相続殺人事件  Riverhill Soft inc.
The owner of Kuronekoso “Oonogi Yoshizou” was killed. There are 8 suspects related to him. The player becomes a detective and searches with his partner.
Harold no Jikenbo could not appear without early imitations as this one.
Game is based on the anime work of the same title. You manipulate main character Nausicaa with numeric keyboard, collect items, shoot, ride your vehicle.
There seems to be several different games for different platforms, but the game was so crude and ugly that there's a legend that the director Miyazaki was so furious that he banned gamefication of any of his works ever again. It was crude for year 1984. When I look at picture now I just wish I won't see nightmares featuring that. There's a nice article in English on it.
Game's based on anime work of the same title. There are a few mini-games in the game, one of which places Nanako against a giant aardvark in a yakyuken game. The aardvark gives her hints if she wins, but she has to strip if she loses. Nanako ending up naked results in a Game Over.
Characters ask you questions and you need to answer them in katakana. This is a game for hardcore fans of the anime that I've never even heard of (probably because it's old anime for younger kids). Native speakers reviewing the game had great trouble getting it through because of very specific anime-related command input.
This is a parody on Alice in Wonderland. Alice opens a book, follows the bunny into the hole and gathers notes to decipher JAWON which is a key to get out of this world.
Quite a beautiful and entertaining work and also with many naked scenes - the price was as high as 8,000 yen at that time and the size was two diskettes. There's a lot of weird adventures like stealing a magical bra and giving it to the shady raincoat man. We even get to kill a dragon at some point. Command input in English characters is used and there's a walkthrough around, so it's possible to clear it even on emulator.
16. Ankoku-jou ~Souzou-shin Gyarian no Fukkatsu~ 暗黒城 ～創造神ギャリアンの復活～  Enix
The game is an adventure part of the series of jrpg games. Dark apostle wants to become the ruler of the world with the help of legendary mirror of Laval. In this grand adventure featuring 9 chapters and over 460 split screens you need to defeat him.
It was the hugest adventure of the time, but gameplay was quite boring and lacked originality. Lots of screens are actually the variants of the same CG with minimal differences. There's very little text on top of that so screens change at very fast speed.
The evil Minister Pumpkin betrayed his king, kidnapped his daughter, the lovely Princess Tomato, and began to terrorize the land of vegetables. The king entrusted Sir Cucumber with the task of freeing his daughter and his kingdom. Without further delay, the brave warrior embarks on a long journey.
This old japanese adventure was the first to be imported to the West and thus it's well known there. I'll only give some review links, but there is a great number of reviews for this game.
Dragon assaults village and girl is needed as sacrifice to calm him down. In order to help your sister you set off to find the holy sword and face dragon at the sacrificial site far in the north.
The graphics are superb compared to other games of this year. Also you only choose from commands instead of typing them. There is a good English review on this game. The game is fascinating even today. First of all, you need to make your map of use premade one by other users to understand where to go. Basically you need to move only by roads and explore the three caves scattered around. Caves can bring avalanche (instant game over), spider battle (winning is based on luck) or finding the legendary sword. And after that all is left is to discover that dragon. And there's a cheat - when you die it's possible to say a secret phrase and be resurrected with the legendary sword. Game's beautiful, because all the images are drawn elsewhere and then digitalized. The screen rendering is instant. Pure command selection in English is used. The game is definitely a masterpiece and the paragon to look up to.
In the 21th century, powerful computer systems were invented. However, the humans failed to control them. Near the end of the century, one of such systems, Orion, triggered a devastating nuclear war. A few survivors found a shelter and went into a cryogenic sleep. A hundred years later, they wake up and go out onto the surface, to face a new, unknown world...
Inferior technology (quite long screen rendering speed at MSX), but otherwise very impressive. People at that time could not believe that such beautiful pictures could be achieved with primitive MSX. And Zarth came 3 months earlier than Wingman. So the survivors of nuclear world war wake up 100 years later from cryogenic sleep. But now the regenerated Earth is in danger again - you need to go to the Moon space station and get rid of nuclear weapons. This game is often referred as Mirika, because everyone remembers the magazine ad with her beautiful face while Mirika appears in game only in opening and never again - such a bummer! Zarth should have been the final part of tetralogy, but first three parts were never finished. Good game with good action, but buried by inferior technology and manual command input. There is also quite much information in English available.
20. Chouhou Buin 諜報部員  Prosumer
Main character John gets a message from the Director of Space and Aeronautics. He has trouble finding the place, so he travels on foot and asks around.
A standard adventure with very difficult commands to find and type.
21. Ginga o Sukue 銀河を救え  Raven Soft
There is a crisis that can destroy the entire galaxy - such message arrives from the alien who is the first to notice it. Main character goes to the outer space on a spaceship to find nine passwords and prevent the disaster.
Game is about encounters with all kind of space entities and also about space battles and maintaining all the four parameters above zero.
22. Mission Impossible  Starcraft Co., Ltd.
A spy infiltration inspired by the famous movie. The stage is a fully mechanized nuclear reactor center. A mechanic is trying to commit suicide by setting a time bomb in the reactor. Main character Jim Phelps needs to prevent that from happening by finding his way in the maze-like building.
There is little of note here except maybe for tape recorder that appears when it's needed and disappears afterwards.
The main character is a lower angel who entertains an exam to become senior angel. It's a practice exam in the hell surroundings. You talk to different people in hell layers - Cleopatra, Hitler, Dracula, John Lennon, Napoleon, Merlin Monroe - walk around lake of blood and mountain of needles and answer the quiz.
Depending on your actions on the way to exit, you gain score. 60 is needed to pass the exam. If someone gains 100 points and sends the proof to the developer, his name will be published in the magazine. That was promissed. It seems impossible to gain 100 points, but imagine the competition! Game is short and tedious since you need to input commands manually. There's a very good English article on the game.
24. Shin Taketori Monogatari 新竹取物語  Cross Media Soft
The game is a gag parody on japanese Taketori legend. The purpose of the game is to discover anything at any opportunity and have fun.
There are three difficulty levels and multiple endings. Game features some nude scenes. Slow rendering of every screen makes gameplay painful. Since it's a parody it's supposed to bring more fun for those familiar with all these ancient legends and folktales. A very original work taking into account multiple difficulty settings, multiple endings and possibility to enter characters in English, romaji and kana.
25. Shiro Densetsu 白伝説  Crystal Soft (old)
It is the land of conflict. Red and blue people fight each other day after day. White people appeared - "We shall rule this land". Can you proclame leadership over the land as a white man?
Setting is horrible. And since you're being thrown into the game without even this little knowledge unless you read the manual, game looks like a chain of random events. You need to get to village elder and then revive some god after a maze of caverns. Everything else is optional, but there seems to be a lot of such optional secrets. Command input and slow rendering don't make things easier. The feature of this game is physical strength bar which depletes with every action, so taking notes required.
During the 1980-ies, the relationship between the free world and the socialist block became increasingly tense and hostile. Many countries began to prepare for a global-scale war, working on new weapons. One of such countries is the mysterious "B country" in Eastern Africa. Eager to seize power with biological weapons, an organization associated with this country kidnaps the famous scientist Dr. Gitanes. An agent named Benson is sent to B country in order to rescue the doctor and avert the new threat to world peace.
Some african "B country" kidnaps a famous scientist who can produce biological weapons and you're on spec op to rescue him. First game made by Square with scenario produced by future FF creator and the most financial successful game at that time selling over 500,000 copies. Command input still present, but screen renders from left to right and quite fast. Graphics is top notch for the time. Game features half screen as your outlook, half screen as map (always present) and text at the bottom. So what made this game so popular? My guess is the seriousness of approach. Serious story - briefing at headquarters - flight on a helicopter - using a parachute - map movement - two separate branches of how to get to the scientist - it all looks professional compared to amateur games of that time. Only Eiyuu Densetsu Saga had graphics same good, but had quite plain gameplay and weird screen sequence (like you get 5 slightly different pictures in color one by one, then the rest disappears and only main one stays). There is quite much information on the game in English.
King sends three princes on a journey so that the prince who gets the most wonderful journey becomes his successor. The player prince is searching for the legendary cursed castle to become next king.
You get text and images (usually separately - one or another) and often get to make a choice among 1-6 variants. There are stats and lots of fights that rely on some real mechanic, not just luck. But most of the time we just read a wall of text. There are lots of bad endings as well.
28. Godzilla ゴジラ  Toho
Game is based on the first Godzilla movie. There are three parts - first you investigate the incident - then you pursue the monster and invent what to do with it and finally you confront Godzilla with oxygen destroyer.
Game's quite lackluster for year 1984 - still low screen rendering and still command input with ugly graphics. Toho games are the only ones that I can't load with emulator whatever modes or roms I try.
29. Kaitei Gunkan 海底軍艦  Toho
Game's based on 1963 year japanese film about submarine. It is divided in two parts: first you search for an enemy with command input and then action based underwater battle.
Another Toho game. And this the rom is just impossible to find. Game's graphics done in basic so they are... both bad and slow to render and paint.
Kenta is a Japanese teenager who is obsessed with superhero stories. One day, he meets a mysterious girl named Aoi. She tells him she is from a dimension called Powdream, and gives him a powerful item called Dream Note, which can fulfill wishes. Kenta is eager to realize his dreams by asking to be transformed into a superhero named Wingman. However, the dictator Rimel fears that the new hero will endanger his existence in Powdream, and swears to get rid of Kenta by separating him from Aoi.
Wingman is a popular manga and anime hero. This is a story of Aoi, a girl who escaped her dimension to protect "Dream note". The hero of righteousness "Wingman" is to protect Aoi. There are four fights and after each fight you learn new fighting techniques, but loosing does not affect the game outcome. This is definitely professional level of work. CG, faces, battles, different weapons, constant use of sound effects. And the creator is Enix company. Now i know why FF series were a success. Because professionals from Square (The Death Trap) and Enix were there. Story is original side story of anime. The game actually has a full English review made at our times by the guy I next to worship for playing such old games nowadays.
Little fox child caught a disease called Romus disease. Mother fox remembers a story from old woman that a certain mushroom cures this disease and sets off on a journey to a Shinto shrine where those mushrooms grow. Mother fox encounters various dangers o the forest.
I've countered 10 animals, one hunter and a swarm of bees on the mother's way. Scenery is very bright, screen is rendered vertically and very fast like in Eiyuu Densetsu Saga. Text shows on the same screen as image and there are some really cute animals, including fox itself. Sound effects show up when needed and they're better than usual short beeps. Text parser with katakana input is used.
32. Again アゲイン  Enix
Heavens dweller needs to live 7 lives to become a Holy Spirit .There are 7 short stories. Each story is a life we live to become Holy Spirit in the end. All stories vary in gameplay: there is rpg story, surgery opperation, puzzle etc Finally all stories get connected.
The game takes multiple forms and is unique for that. That's a new level of storytelling - a conceptual work. There's a good video walkthrough.
A corpse of a man is discovered at Harumi Wharf, Tokyo Bay (game features real geographical locations). The main character, police inspector, investigates the identity of the victim with his subordinate Kuroki and tracks the source to Hokkaido island. Second and third murder cases occur one after another. What's the purpose of the criminal?
Another murder investigation from the same authors as Portopia Renzoku Satssujin Jiken (1983). Screen renders slow but picture is made very simple to make the pace good. You get to choose from 9 commands, so tedious, but not too much. As for the story, what happens next differs with pc88 and later versions. A very realistic and persuading setting. I can see the appeal here. There is enough information in English on the game.
34. Time Tunnel タイムトンネル  Bond Soft
In Time Tunnel story picks up where Time Secret Ended. Your time machine collapsed and your are taken prisoner at space station. You need to use this planet Time Tunnel technology to go back in 2552 AD and fight off Danak invasion.
In these games you can go back and forth in time to different eras to solve puzzles. In addition there are battles and you have hp and attack stat as well as weapon attack stat. Time Tunnels has as much as 4 endings including a bad end. 140 screen splits. Command inputs and slow screen rendering again. On your time travels you get to meet some celebrities like Beethoven or Murasaki Shikibe. This is probably the first visual novel to implement multiple endings which are four in this game. And not everything is done with text parser here - directions are used to move around N S E W. The story of the game makes it a masterpiece, but it's next to impossible to play nowadays.
35. Lagrange L2 ラグランジュL2  Vehicle Software
Federal military research ship "Gallia 201" was destroyed by a mysterious missile attack in area L-2 on the way home from Mars back to Earth. The only survivor escaped by jumping with a spacesuit in the open space. Out of pure luck he was found and dragged by nearby ship...
Wow, this game is so serious and difficult. Basically you wander at the space station with an aim to fly away on a spaceship. Some tasks are timed which is insane with command input. There are 14 scenes overall with each presenting some kind of puzzle.
36. Emmy エミー  Kogado Studio
Emmy is a curious artificial software girl. Have an intelligent conversation with her to improve its quality.
Needless to say, it's really difficult to find proper and varied commands. If the the same thing is typed several times, Emmy calls you boring and sets off.
37. Ningyo no Namida 人魚の涙  Teikoku Soft
Hero goes out looking for the bride in a fantasy world. He meets different characters and animals and talks to them to solve their problems.
Allegedly the first Doujin visual novel. Which is cool because picture quality level is superb for 1984. It's also the first game with individual endings for heroines. Mermaid is the maid sexual interest of the hero, but there is also an ending with a turtle (sic!) even though it's actually a girl transformed into a turtle. Fun pictures and strange texts create a warm atmosphere.
38. Southern Cross ラグランジュL2  Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc.
In 1999 main character stays at the Southern Cross star. He has already retrieved the Phoenix capsule, and now looks for a way to return to the Earth. He is suddenly told about an opportunity to ride a UFO as soon as he finds the secret password in his room.
Game is surprisingly long featuring over 150 screens. Space part actually finishes very soon as UFO we ride has an emergency landing to the kingdom resembling ancient mythological Greece with centaurs and the like. There are actually different routes from this point to reach the new spaceship, so it's possible to try another way if you get stuck. Game ends up with discovering the contents of the Phoenix capsule upon landing the Earth.