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‘Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!’ Is A Terrifying And Meaningful Experience

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‘Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!’ Is A Terrifying And Meaningful Experience

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! is not a game for everyone. Load it up and it'll tell you itself before the title screen rolls. From the outside, Doki Doki may look like a simple visual novel, but play through it a little and it becomes clear there's something horrifying within. Its subject matter is not for those sensitive to certain topics, with graphic depictions of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide. How it handles these themes is admirable, portraying them with respect and maturity as part of an incredible gaming experience.

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Ahead of its release, I spoke to Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! creator Dan Salvato. I was curious to know why he wanted to release an expanded edition after the game's original PC version, what new features we can expect, and what the future holds for his studio, Team Salvato.

Here's the announcement trailer for Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! on Nintendo Switch

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"The project started from our desire to port DDLC to multiple platforms, but it quickly grew much bigger," Salvato explains. "We really wanted to make the experience accessible to people who can't play games on PC platforms. This was a challenge not just from a technical standpoint, but also from a creative one - DDLC is not a typical narrative game, so I had to ask myself if the essence of what makes it a unique and memorable experience can be maintained in console ports. That question led to some really cool creative decisions that I'm excited for people to discover."

One of the new additions in Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! is the Side Stories mode. "The Side Stories was another major factor for me," Salvato begins. "DDLC's characters face some very real, relatable challenges and insecurities. For the players who really connect with them, I wanted to deliver meaningful stories about friendship and literature that can help motivate and inspire us in our everyday lives. DDLC is a game about the player's personal relationship with fiction, and DDLC Plus! expands on that core theme through the new content."

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge
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Not all of the new features are purely creative. In Plus!, you can set the game up to display content warnings before certain sequences, but how helpful these are depends on you personally. For example, being warned about one particular scene regarding suicide did nothing to make it easier for me to digest. I was still dumbstruck by the horror, and the masterful way it was delivered. I was motionless, with blood ice-cold in my veins as I stared at the screen. It was obvious what was coming even without the content warning, but it's still not something you can ever really prepare for.

Now, if you feel you won't be affected by the contents of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!, then I encourage you to experience it in full. It's a unique title full of memorable moments and clever, immersive details. It plays with the concept of meta-narrative storytelling to hit hard, and its use of shocking content never feels unnecessarily gratuitous. Fans of the initial release also have plenty of reason to dive into Plus!, thanks to its array of new content.

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge
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"DDLC Plus! has six new Side Stories, set outside the timeline of the original game, that provide hours of additional narrative content." Salvato adds. "To go along with the Side Stories, there is a new soundtrack with 13 additional songs, bringing the total to 26, all playable via an in-game music player. Also, over 100 pictures can be unlocked in the Picture Gallery, which includes not just in-game artwork but also wallpapers, never-before-seen concept sketches, and other goodies. There are some other cool things as well, but you'll want to discover them for yourself."

After stunning so many players in the past, I asked Salvato if he had any advice for newcomers. "I don't have advice, but I want to express my gratitude to all those who choose to give the game a try, especially if it's wildly different from the games you usually play. I hope that you have both a terrifying and meaningful experience with DDLC. Well, I would like to point out that if you're sensitive to certain subject matter, DDLC Plus! includes a setting to enable content warnings, so remember to consider that if it feels right for you."

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge
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It's been argued in the past that Doki Doki Literature Club is a satire of visual novels - particularly dating sims - with some players believing the game plays with the indulgent fantasy often seen in the VN genre. Salvato points out,"It's a satire of the reputation that visual novels have as a medium to not be taken seriously."

He explains further: "Visual novels can provide an incredible narrative experience, but the mainstream games industry is struggling to create a stronger distinction between shallow fantasy-fulfillment dating sims and the broader potential of the genre. I made DDLC because I wanted to demonstrate the emotional power of visual novels and interactive media to a wider audience, after becoming personally enamored by it. DDLC's satirical component was an attempt to reach a wider audience - i.e. inviting people to make fun of the game - but I think it's remembered as more than a 'meme game' because it uses the medium to tell an effective story. So, DDLC satirizes some of the tropes responsible for many people brushing off VNs, but it gives more credibility to the genre as a whole, and the potential to innovate in this space."

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge

Doki Doki garnered much attention thanks to streamers playing the game on their channels, something Salvato appreciates. "I think there could be a whole essay on this topic," he tells me. "In short, I think one positive effect that streamers have in the gaming industry is that they can expose players to games and game genres that players otherwise wouldn't look at. It increases the chance of games with wild and bizarre premises to receive more attention, and I think that's a great way of driving innovation in this creative space. Also, a lot of non-gamers watch streamers play games! It means that the narrative experience unique to games can reach a wider audience by viewers vicariously sharing emotions with the streamer. Video game culture is always changing, and streaming and video content has made an enormous impact on it this past decade. Who can predict what the next decade will bring?"

Considering how many people already love Doki Doki Literature Club, it's no surprise that an expanded edition of the game is now available, especially as it takes the title to other platforms. However, it does raise the question of why isn't there a sequel in the works? "Simply put, my ideas don't come from popularity," Salvato says. "Above all else, I just want to make cool things that I believe in, and that I want to share with others. DDLC is a complete story - I don't believe a sequel would make a good story or player experience. I think doing the same thing twice, or arbitrarily adding more plot to an already-complete story, would cheapen the DDLC universe as a whole."

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! / Credit: Serenity Forge

Salvato doesn't completely write the idea off, though. "There aren't any plans for future DDLC mainline story content, but if I come up with some great new ideas for the DDLC universe in the future, I would totally consider making them happen! In fact, that's exactly what we did with DDLC Plus!, and it's why Team Salvato is an independent creator - we make what we believe in. That core value of ours will shine through DDLC Plus!, and through our future creations."

Whatever the future holds for the Doki Doki universe, there's no doubt that the game deserves its release on new platforms. Adding plenty of new content, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! is worthy of a place on any console, so long as you can handle the subject matter within. There's nothing else quite like it, and even after four years since it first came out, Doki Doki Literature Club still feels like a masterpiece.

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! is out now for Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and PC. The game was tested on Nintendo Switch with code provided by the publisher.

Featured Image Credit: Serenity Forge

Topics: Nintendo Switch, PC, Opinion, Interview, Indie Games

James Daly
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