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This distinction is normally lost outside Japan, where both NVLs and ADVs are commonly referred to as "visual novels" by international fans.
Visual novels and ADVs are especially prevalent in Japan, where they made up nearly 70% of the PC game titles released in 2006.
Each path only reveals certain aspects of the overall storyline and it is only after uncovering all the possible different paths and outcomes, through multiple playthroughs, that every component comes together to form a coherent well-written story.
The branching path stories found in visual novels represent an evolution of the Choose Your Own Adventure concept.
Typically the majority of player interaction is limited to clicking to keep the text, graphics and sound moving (many recent games offer "play" or "fast-forward" toggles that make this unnecessary), while making narrative choices along the way.
Most visual novels have multiple storylines and more than one ending; the mechanic in these cases typically consists of intermittent multiple-choice decision points, where the player selects a direction in which to take the game.
The market for visual novels outside of East Asia is small, though a number of anime based on visual novels are popular among anime fans in the Western world.
Visual novels are distinguished from other game types by their generally minimal gameplay.
An example of this approach is Symphonic Rain, where the player is required to play a musical instrument of some sort, and attain a good score in order to advance.
Visual novels are often produced for video game consoles, and the more popular games have occasionally been ported to such systems.
The more famous visual novels are also often adapted into the light novel, manga or anime formats.
Usually such an element is related as a plot device in the game.
Some shorter works do not contain any decision points at all. Fan-created novel games are reasonably popular; there are a number of free game engines and construction kits aimed at making them easy to construct, most notably NScripter, Kiri Kiri and Ren'Py.