Up all night!

Title: The Midnight Sanctuary
Platform: PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4 (reviewed)
Developer: CAVYHOUSE
Publisher: Carpe Fulgar, Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc./UNTIES
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: A supernatural 3D visual novel that plays out an intriguing story with a quirky art style.
Price: $9.99/£7.99 (across all platforms)
Family Focus: Click here for more information.

As gaming has progressed, visual novels have become more of a hit in the West, with various titles coming to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Vita, such as the Code Realize games, Root Letter or even Doki Doki Literature Club. I think this is owed to TellTale’s The Walking Dead series, and the more recent Life is Strange 2; although these are walking sims, the games are heavily narrative based. Whilst other people have embraced visual novels, I am not much of fan… I like to be doing something rather than reading constantly, especially with how visual novels are presented with the still-images that switch out for other still-images to convey emotion.

I don’t mind The Walking Dead or Life is Strange, as I get some form of control rather than clicking on dialogue choices for the whole game. The Midnight Sanctuary is a 3D visual novel, so it is more like the latter; whilst you can’t control the main character directly like in the other two, it’s presented in a movie-like fashion rather than blocks of text.

The Midnight Sanctuary is set in Japan during the early part of the 20th century, and follows Hamomoru Tachibana, who researches and documents Christian history in Japan, one day she is invited to the Daiusu Village by Jyuan Daisun, the son of the village chief; Jyuan wants to open the village to tourism. Daisu Village was built during the Edo period where Christians were fleeing persecution from the Shogunate; mimicking actual historical events. Upon her arrival, Hamomoru is greeted by the village leaders and given a room at the inn, after which she begins to tour the town and learn all sorts of things, from the stories of the Crane Wife to the mysterious Village Saint. The starts off rather slow, as it introduces the various places and people, but gradually picks and Hanmomoru learns about the dark truth of the village.

Now, the main part that drew me to The Midnight Sanctuary was the choice of visuals; it can take some getting used to, as it’s not your typical anime art style. A lot of the NPCs, the mysterious guide, and various backdrops seem to have a transparent layer that displays the image used for the loading screens. Whilst from an artistic standpoint it is very cool, it may be off-putting to others whom it may continue to disorientate throughout the narrative.

The character design is also unique, as they don’t look like the typical character designs you see in most visual novels nowadays… they look very simplistic. My instant association for the art style was with Final Fantasy VII’s world map models, except with actual human anatomy, because as you can clearly see from the screenshots they don’t have blocky polygon hands…   

The entire game is voiced in Japanese, with no English dub available; sorry to the audience that prefers dub over sub for this game. As per usual though, the voice cast nails the acting with convincing reactions throughout the narrative, although the lips do not match to the words and they don’t stop when the dialogue is finished… like honestly, those lips keep on flapping like an old dub of a Bruce Lee movie.

Overall, I think The Midnight Sanctuary is an intriguing game with a quirky art style that doesn’t feel out of place once you wrap your head around the transparent layer effect on certain characters and such. The voice cast is impressive and they managed to get hold of some big names in the Japanese voice acting industry such as Yu Shimamura who voiced Princess Zelda in Breath of the Wild and Cindy in Final Fantasy XV. If you love visual novels or narrative games like Life is Strange, I would definitely think about investing in The Midnight Sanctuary, plus if you have PlayStation VR they are adding support for it soon, so that’s a bonus!

The Good

  • Quirky art style and artistic choices makes it stand out.
  • Amazing voice acting.
  • Intriguing and supernatural plot.

The Bad

  • The first chapter is a little slow.
  • The art style might not be for everyone.
  • No English dub for dub purists.

Family Focus

The Midnight Sanctuary is rated E10+ for Everyone 10+ by the ESRB and PEGI 7.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a review code provided by PR for the purposes of this review.