Platform: PS4 (tested), PC, Xbox One, Switch
Visual novels are a peculiar beast. They often don’t offer the traditional style of gameplay and are more inline to a choose your own story comic book adventure. The midnight Sanctuary eschews the usual narrative even further, removing any choice or branching storylines and simply playing out as a nearly four-hour cut scene. Why would you want to play it?
Well that’s a very good question and its one I found myself wondering after watching it. I was initially drawn in by its bizarre graphics and its premise. The games story takes place around a village of persecuted Christians in Japan whom have hidden away from the world. Now, they wish to trade in tourism and invite the lead character along to document their history and market the village to the outside world. However their version of Christianity takes devout belief and salvation to an extreme and the village isn’t quite what it seems. It’s a great narrative that is sadly stretched out too slowly in the first two hours and then speeds along at pace in the third and a bit hours, missing the space and timing of all the important story beats that would make the story emotional.
One thing it does get right is its use of clunky metaphors to make some interesting statements on religion as a whole – and most importantly seeing those statements from different sides of a faith vs science scale. It’s here that The Midnight Sanctuary appealed to my philosophical side although it is more about how I interpreted things after watching the game rather than what the game specifically did. I think this is where the game will find its audience and niche. I’ve pondered more about some internal thoughts after the closing credits than I expected I would do and that is a testimony to how The Midnight Sanctuary plays with the occult and religion.
Just as divisive will be the graphics which at times hurt my eyes. Everyone except five characters are see through and behind them is a stained glass crane bird and it’s so jarring after the initial wow factor. I found it brought the excellent voice acting and occasional musical score down because you can’t distinguish characters to get into their emotions. The Japanese voice cast are superb but the text is small and in a strange curly font that doesn’t make for easy reading in non-vr. It’s like the game is trying to put you off!
- Unique story setting
- Unique graphical style
- Can make you think if you are a bit pretentious like I can be (sorry!)
- Those graphics may be unique but they can make things really difficult to watch at times
- Story is lopsided and misses the emotional beats
- No replayability
- Zero interactivity or player choice
The Midnight Sanctuary is ultimately a game I’m glad exists but I can only recommend it to the hardened weirdos of the world that are looking for something a little strange, off-kilter and unique. The rest of the world just won’t understand and I think that’s probably part of its point.
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