Difference between dating sim and visual novel
This distinction is more common among Japanese speakers than English speakers. Usually such an element is related as a plot device in the game. Some notable examples of utsuge would be Saya's Song or recent Key work Rewrite. It would be unusual to describe such games as visual novels. This characteristic makes playing visual novels similar to reading a book.
Like other pornographic media in Japan, scenes depicting genitalia are censored in their original Japanese releases, only becoming uncensored if the game is licensed outside Japan. More on this in the related terms section.
These games do feature gameplay, but the object of the gameplay is to get into a romantic relationship with a character from the game. The branching path stories found in visual novels represent an evolution of the Choose Your Own Adventure concept. This would be far more difficult to track with physical books. However, some of these games are later re-released with the addition of erotic scenes, or have a sequel with such. Air was equally hyped and well received.
The success of these games has sparked a resurgence in the adventure game genre outside Japan. Some shorter works do not contain any decision points at all. If you are not used to how this kind of game works, you have only to pass through the scenes and texts of the game and choose routes that will or will not lead to different paths and endings. It may or may not involve any romance or sexual encounters. It includes a lot of games that would be classified as dating simulators and a lot that would be classified as visual novels.