Hence, many ero-games became mouse pointer oriented. Dokyusei had mouse pointers with selections such as "rub breasts," or "finger the clitoris."
But, as the visual novels started to become the standard for ero-games, less and less selection points came into play - the main point of visual novels was that selection points were popped up only when it became to deal with what is going to happen in the story:
You decide to run away (leads to bad ending)
You decide to face your fears up front (continues story)
Consumers didn't want some flashy and hard to remember keyboard inputs nor spend two hours reading the manual just to figure out how to play the damn thing. They want it to install it and play it ASAP. Solution - simplify.
Since then, the gaming system engines for ero-games were tweaked little by little to give the best possible engine that is user-friendly to the consumers.
Now by this time, computers were running on the Windows 95 platform. Ero-game makers suddenly had much more freedom in doing CG art - now they can utilize as many colors as they want and store as much more data on a medium called the CD-ROM.
Elf's "Kono Sekai no Hate de Utau mono ~YUNO~" was perhaps the last game that was released for the DOS format - with much acclaim and show that will be remembered as the pinnacle of artistic work of DOS ero-games.
Now, as I mentioned in the previous [chapter], "To Heart" was a major hit game. Multi's story was so heart-warming that it gave a hypothesis to one softhouse that perhaps heart-warming stories that make the player cry were the thing to make a hit.
ONE ~kagayaku kisetsu e~ (1998)
The core members of the softhouse, Tactics thought up of a simple formula:
(comedic first half) + (heart-warming romantic middle) + (tragic separation) + (emotional get together) = "crying game"
"ONE" was exactly written in this formula.
You play the role of a high school students named Sasaori Kouhei, who on the surface is enjoying high school life by meeting several girls. But deep within in his inner self, you yearn to spend an eternity with your sister, who died several years ago - one in which you blame yourself for her death.
The first half of the game is very comedic and fun. However here and there, you have philosophical flashbacks about "sheeps in the field" and "the infinite sky." Around the turning point, you have a heart-warming romantic relationship with a girl that you'd chosen. However, this where everything starts a down turn - suddenly, people that knew you before begins to forget about you. One by one, your friends and teachers starts to forget that you even exist - this is because you've chosen the path to spend an eternity rather than make yourself exist in this world. Tragedy is that you'd just started a romantic relationship...will the person that you professed that you love also forget about you as well!?
Of course, it is up to the scenario writer to how well he can write a story that makes the consumer read onto the story without ever realizing that its all a matter of a simple formula (think: Stephen King novels - they are all the same formula, but it's still a best seller)
The creators of "ONE" realized that their formula was indeed what made a game successful. The main creators broke off from tactics and started their own softhouse - Key, to create one of the pinnacles of ero-game history to date.
"Kanon" was released on June 4, 1999. Speculation was amounting that this game is a major "watch-for" item even before it went on sale. The beautiful CG art, the astounding music, and the atmosphere of the story was captivating. Consumers were wondering, "would these guys that disbanded from tactics be capable of doing something greater than their previous work?"
"Kanon" was created somewhat of a anti-thesis of "ONE." Instead of the main character going to eternity, this time it was the heroines who had something. Mainly, Tsukimiya Ayu was indeed a spiritual being who runs around the town looking for her beloved Yuuichi - with a very emotional ending.
"Kanon" is touted as the best ero-game of all time. Well, that is a subject open to debate, but it sure did leave deep marks for not only the ero-game industry, but for otakus all across Japan. "Kanon" was such a big hit - that it is not that surprising to say "you cannot call yourself an otaku without going through the baptism of playing Kanon."
The success of "ONE" and "Kanon" on their formula to creat a "crying game" was adopted by many softhouses. For example, just to mention a few:
D.O.'s "Kana ~Imouto"
KID's "Memories Off" (non-ero game)
CIRCUS' "D.C.~da capo~"
Studio Mebius' "SNOW"
minori's "Wind ~a breath of heart"
were all major hit ero-games that can be said that they were very much influenced by Key's formula.
Even age's "Kimi ga Nozomu Eien" was somewhat of a twist of this formula by adding in a "diluted and dirty love triangle relationship" into the scenario play.
As the Visual Novel standard was adopted, the erotic parts in ero-games began to become less and less apparent. More and more people who used to reject such type of games began to become more open-minded that it isn't just about sex anymore. And as more and more softhouses began to adopt the "crying game" standard, both the industry and the consumers began to look at "hey, ero-games CAN have great stories after all!"
Hence, a successful ero-game transformed itself from:
hard-core porno games with mindless sex → heart-warming love simulation game with an added touch of sex