The Midnight Sanctuary (Switch) Review – Worth your Night?
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4
Release: 4th October 2018
Once again, the Nintendo Switch gets yet another new visual novel, though this one might surprise many. Coming from Japanese indie publishing label UNTIES, it´s the first fully 3D one, promising intriguing visuals and a story all about Christianity and crazy-seeming plot points.
We are invited to a little Christian village as a tour guide, tasked to write a little guide for tourists so they can enjoy the many facets of this old town. However, not soon after arriving the evidence thickens that these people aren´t your everyday believers and we learn about their past and their so-called messiah … this is definitely not your typical country village.
The Midnight Sanctuary tackles some heavy themes, thematizing things like religion and its discrimination. After all, the villagers had to disguise themselves as Buddhist in the past in order to survive. While I initially though these may be too big for a little three hours visual novel, the whole thing is handled exceptionally well. On the one hand, everything isn´t directly criticised or told, rather it relies on descriptions and imagery to build a believable village where no one really is evil but simply in search for something. The final rating is always up to the player.
On the other hand, it´s just a very gripping story, told with many facets. A big part is the supernatural, which adds this needed spice and creativity to the already rather unnerving Christian atmosphere. Given, in the beginning, the focus on slow characters and an introduction relying way too heavily on established tropes. Once the whole thing gets going, it´s a unique spin on the typical “creepy village” cliché, as it shows many aspects of why people actually belive in messiahs or god, going beyond your typical reasons. Combine that with an interesting mystery plot mixing horror aspects with sheer creativity, since some characters and twists are truly absurd and fun, and you got a pretty great story for an afternoon.
In terms of gameplay, The Midnight Sanctuary is, as any other visual novel, not filled with it. The only interaction you can actually have on the story is the choice of which scene you want to see first by selecting the next room. Otherwise, there aren´t any choices or meaningful ways of influencing any of the events, instead the whole thing simply exists to tell a story and that´s perfectly fine, since there are no distracting gameplay elements in any way.
What it excels at though are the visuals. Just look at one screenshot of The Midnight Sanctuary and tell me it doesn´t look absolutely bizarre, crazy and interesting. Describing the system behind them may be impossible but let me take a shot: The game aims to overlay several layers of images and textures, while the models and environments don´t have any. So the low-poly characters for example don´t have own textures for example but rather simply take what´s “theoretically” behind them. As a result, it tries to look like you would simply cut out things from layered photos … and it works surprisingly well. It definitely isn´t something anyone would call beautiful but it has this niché charme I simply adored after a while. In consequence, the Switch doesn´t lose a lot of its battery life running it too!
The Midnight Sanctuary is as niché as it gets with visual novels. Unless you´re in for a creative but gripping story about Christianity, mixed with bizarre visuals, you probably won´t have any fun with it. However, if you do, like me, there´s a truly unique experience hidden here.
[A Review Code was provided by Unties]