The Midnight Sanctuary Review
by Dylan Blight (PS4 Pro)
"Um, so. Are you... maybe one of the Dead, too?" A story of strange doings in the town of Daiusu, with surrealist visuals and a team of professional voice artists to immerse you in the story. An occult horror visual novel by the creators of This Starry Midnight We Make and Forget-Me-Not Organ."
Christianity in Japan and its history isn't something I've seen much in movies, but definitely something I haven't seen done before in games. However, that's the main theme of CAVYHOUSE's visual novel, The Midnight Sanctuary.
The set-up is actually a-typical of a horror movie, although The Midnight Sanctuary hardly is scary. Hamomoru Tachibana who researches and documents Christian history in Japan is called to the Daiusu Village by Jyuan Daisun. Daisu Village was built during the Edo period where Christians were fleeing persecution at the time, which is admittedly, an era of history I had no idea about and was intrigued as elements were introduced.
When Hamomoru arrives she is introduced to the village leaders and given a room to stay as she begins visiting local landmarks and talking to the locals. It's a very slow start and seems to have no purpose until the end of the first of the gams five chapters where the plot gets interesting. It gets supernatural, but the game is never scary even if it thinks it may be, although it may be a cultural barrier.
Visually, The Midnight Sanctuary could either be described as one of the worst things you've seen, or one of the most interesting. It's surrealist art where the world is built on top of one piece of art and some characters are missing faces as are objects which are transparent which lets you see this artwork in the background constantly. Imagine putting a bunch of holes in a piece of paper and then moving that piece of paper in all directions over a heavily stylised and vibrant piece of art. That's what playing The Midnight Sanctuary is like and at first, I totally hated it, then it grew on me as I played the game, although at times it really is just too much and can be very distracting on-screen.
I can call the art and presentation polarizing, but the music and animation for The Midnight Sanctuary are just bad. Characters arms move at times in laughable manners and twist like crappy stop-motion animation. The music, although fine at times, is mixed terribly as it ruins scenes with sudden stop and starts in emotionally driven scenes. At least the voice acting seemed good to me, but it is in Japanese so I'm sure to miss some subtly.
A VR update is coming in the future which could be the best way to play The Midnight Sanctuary and does interest me not just because a visual novel in that medium is intriguing, but also because the surrealistic art-style could potentially work better in VR, especially the way the world works.
It'll take you less than four hours to finish The Midnight Sanctuary and at times it is a struggle to see it through, especially that first chapter, but when it gets into the plot there is something interesting here using Japan's history with Christianity as the backbone of a supernatural thriller.
Publisher: Sony Music Entertainment (JAPAN) UNTIES
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro), Windows, Nintendo Switch
(A review code for The Midnight Sanctuary was provided)