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The Midnight Sanctuary Review

The Midnight Sanctuary Review

Developed by CAVYHOUSE
Published by Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc. / UNTIES
Reviewed on PC via Steam (also available on PlayStation VR, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch)

The Midnight Sanctuary is an experimental surrealist 3D visual novel set in Japan in the early 20th century. It explores themes such as the origin of folk tales, fanaticism, and what it really means to live. Although available in VR, this review only touches on the experience via a monitor viewport.

Combining the avant-garde styling of Mononoke (anime) and the 2D-3D rendering seen in RWBY, The Midnight Sanctuary promises to be visually-striking. However, its potential to redefine the genre falls short at execution as jarring parallaxes, undefined lines, and an excess of visual noise overwhelm the player. The only anchors to the chaotic experience are the main characters, who are mostly spared the effects as they are defined in 3D.

The story begins with the son of a rural village chief (Jyuan Daisun) inviting Christian scholar and bun enthusiast, Hamomoru Tachibana to come to visit his village. He believes that it would be a mutually-beneficial trip as Daiusu village has a long history of Christianity that would be aided by her study and promotion. Unable to turn down free food, Tachibana arrives in the sleepy village in the cover of darkness and is assigned a guide. She begins her stay by learning about the local folklore but soon realizes that there is more to Daiusu than its friendly demeanor lets on.

the-midnight-sanctuary-creepy-girl

As the story unfolds, discoveries that are intended to be surprising are found and further explored. However, due to a combination of poor audio design and inconsistent tone, they lack meaningful impact and are not compelling. The music is consistently “bright” but often cuts off abruptly to some indiscernible effect. The sound of footsteps is unnecessarily highlighted and distracting. At times, there appears to be build-up for the reveal of something sinister, but Tachibana’s happy-go-lucky attitude quickly interrupts the mood. It is difficult to determine if the player should be feeling suspense or amusement.

Like other visual novels, The Midnight Sanctuary unfolds linearly with each day unlocking a set of locations that the player can visit to progress the story. When the final location has been visited, a new story element is triggered, often outside Tachibana’s awareness and a new day starts. The game is fully-voiced by a talented cast of Japanese voiceovers and the localization to English is well done. The scenes are short, easy to follow, and are well-paced so that the player’s attention is kept despite the 5-6 hour commitment.

It is hinted throughout the novel that the perspective in which the player experiences the story is not through Tachibana. Rather, the player experiences the story as her assigned guide which explains the player’s ability to choose where to go each day. It also explains how they can know things outside of her awareness. It’s small details and revelations like this that make The Midnight Sanctuary engaging but unfortunately still unsatisfying. At the story’s close, the player is left with more questions than answers. My experience through the story is telling as I felt no desire to resolve these mysteries- I was just glad it was over.

In the end, The Midnight Sanctuary has potential but perhaps it was too ambitious in its execution. The story packages Christian paradigms against local folklore, which is intriguing in its own right but fails to follow through to a satisfying end. The quirky visualization was what drew my attention initially but wound up being far too distracting to be enjoyable. I would only recommend this game to those who enjoy a simple story with a few twists and who don’t mind too much visual noise.

Nicole Doan

Nicole Doan

A lifetime gamer and entertainment enthusiast, Nicole spends her days creating solutions as a UX/UI designer and her nights reading, writing, and contemplating the return of the Old Ones. Her love for boba milk tea is only rivaled by her love of cats.

Graphics
10out of 5
Sound
8out of 5
Story
12out of 5
Gameplay
14out of 5

Overview

The Midnight Sanctuary is an experimental visual novel that attempts to bridge 2D and 3D imagery in an intriguing story about Christian paradigms, local folklore, fanaticism, and what it means to live. An ambitious endeavor that is lacking in areas, it may still be worth looking into if you enjoy the genre.

2.75

2.75 out of 5
Average


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