Otogirisou (the Japanese name for the St. John's wort herb) is a sound novel, the first of its kind, released by Chunsoft for the Super Famicom in Japan on March 7, 1992. The title marks the very first game to be self-published by Chunsoft, who had only worked with other publishers to create games before then. In the game the player is taken through a multiple-choice story presented through mostly static images and text that are embellished by atmospheric sound effects and music, hence the term "sound novel". The story of Otogirisou concerns a young man, Kohei, and his girlfriend, Nami, who find themselves stranded after their car crashes during a storm and decide to take shelter in an empty western-style mansion nearby. The game was later remade for the PlayStation in 1999 and was re-released on several other platforms over the years including Nintendo's Virtual Console on the Wii and Wii U. A film adaptation was also released in 2001, and can be found in the West under its literal translation, "St. John's Wort".
Chunsoft created a follow up to Otogirisou in 1994 called Kamaitachi no Yoru, that contained its own original story unrelated to Otogirisou. The company would eventually create many other titles under the their Sound Novel brand name, becoming one of the Chunsoft's key franchises for many years. Though Chunsoft originated the term, several other developers would also borrow the sound novel format for their own titles which would eventually lead to the creation of the visual novel genre popularly known today.
- Otogirisou only sold about 120,000 copies upon its release but the title's popularity grew over time due to word-of-mouth, eventually selling over 300,000 units and becoming a sleeper hit of sorts.
- When Otogirisou was initially shown at Nintendo Space World the game contained no background graphics and just displayed text on top of an image of pages from a book. Certain scenes in the story would have graphical effects, like the screen flashing to show lighting or an animated car coming towards the reader, but otherwise the game was literally a novel with sound effects and music. However, after gaming magazines and Chunsoft's marketing partners issued their concern about the lack of visuals, Chunsoft changed the game to have 20 different images that changed based on the scene.
- Chunsoft 30th Anniversary Interview translated by Shmuplations.