Hiroyuki Kanno (菅野 ひろゆき, 8 May 1968 - 19 December 2011) was an influential Japanese game designer and scenario writer from Tokyo. He is best known for his work on visual novel adventure games, including Desire (1994), Xenon (1994), Eve Burst Error (1995), and Yu-No (1996), all of which were originally eroge computer games that were later ported to console systems with adult content (sex and nudity) removed. His work would prove to be influential on Japanese video games, and in turn anime as well.
During his school years, Kanno liked reading detective mystery and sci-fi novels, and was particularly influenced by the work of Isaac Asimov. These styles influenced his later adventure game scenarios, which feature sci-fi themes alongside a detective mystery structure. His games also often featured branching narratives and multiple endings.
After graduating from Chuo University, Kanno joined Himeya Soft and worked on adult adventure games released under C's Ware brand.
EVE Burst Error, released by C's Ware in 1995, featured a branching narrative where two different protagonists, one male and one female, provide different perspectives on the story. The game introduced a unique twist to the system by allowing the player to switch between both protagonists at any time during the game, instead of finishing one protagonist's scenario before playing the other. EVE Burst Error often requires the player to have both protagonists co-operate with each other at various points during the game. The use of multiple perspectives has since been used in a number of later visual novels, such as Fate/stay night (2004), Machi (1998), and 428: In a Blockaded Shibuya (2008).
His greatest achievement in video games was possibly YU-NO, a 1996 multi-dimensional thriller which not only brought innovation to visual novels, but video gaming as a whole, having influenced a number of popular Japanese video games and even anime. With some 100,000 lines of dialogue, Yu-No had the longest script ever written for a video game up until that time. YU-NO was an important milestone for visual novel and adventure games in Japan, setting the standard that subsequent visual novels would follow. The way Kanno presented the plot, encouraging players to complete different branching storylines and view all the multiple endings in order to gain a better understanding of the overarching narrative, was influential, particularly the way in which all the branching plot-lines are presented as alternate timelines.
Among visual novels better known in the West, YU-NO's influence can be seen in Key's games (such as Kanon, Air, and Clannad, all of which were adapted into popular anime), titles such as Fate/stay night and Steins;Gate (both also adapted into popular anime), and the Zero Escape series, for example. The A.D.M.S. system representing different timelines has also influenced subsequent adventure games as well as popular RPG's ranging from Radiant Historia to Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together and Final Fantasy XIII-2. The gameplay element of requiring players to travel through time-space to solve puzzles was also original, with its influence evident in subsequent time-travel adventure games such as Shadow of Memories, Time Hollow, and Steins;Gate.
After a short stay with Elf, Kanno founded his own company Abel and moved on to design Exodus Guilty (1998), Card of Destiny (2000), Mystereet (2004), and other games.
Kanno was a close friend of late composer Ryu Umemoto, a friendship which saw them collaborate on the games which made them two of the most well respected individuals and deeply regarded in the independent video game scene in Japan in their respective fields. The legendary duo both passed away in late 2011.