Released this past October under indie publishing label Unties, The Midnight Sanctuary by developer Cavyhouse recently received a game update that allows for the game to be played in virtual reality. Dusting off one of our Playstation VR headsets for the new year, we dove into this supernatural tale on a Playstation 4 Pro.
The Midnight Sanctuary is a visual novel, which to my knowledge marks the first time this genre has made it to Playstation VR. The genre generally doesn’t lend itself well to VR as its tales are often told through 2D anime graphics that are just about as flat a medium as you can find in gaming, but The Midnight Sanctuary takes a different approach.
Its visuals are fully realized in 3D, which makes the VR version an extremely interesting one in terms of story immersion – perhaps the key pillar of any visual novel. I’ve heard a few players complain about (2D) visual novels in terms of how the flat presentation didn’t engage them enough, so seeing this different angle on the genre is certainly refreshing.
The Midnight Sanctuary tale of religion, ghosts and the occult is also different from other visual novels in terms of its length, clocking in at about six to seven hours as opposed to the 20+ hour stories that some other games in the genre throw at you (which, in all fairness, probably turns off some players as well).
The narrative takes a while to pick up steam, and the second half of the story is definitely the best one. You visit an isolated village in Japan that’s lived under Christianity for ages and is home to many local legends. You’re there to discover and document them, as the village hopes to connect with the outside world and attract its fair share of tourism in the process. Its inhabitants are also fascinated with the outside world, which creates an interesting dynamic that easily translates into a few real world intersections between different cultures.
It’s certainly not among the best visual novels out there in terms of the writing and pacing of the story, so if you’re coming from something like Steins;Gate you’re going to end up being disappointed with The Midnight Sanctuary in terms of how the story is laid out for you. It is, however, an extremely novel approach to the genre with its Playstation VR support, and thus an interesting take on how the medium might be approached in the future. The VR mode makes the experience more engaging, but it’s still one of the less intense VR titles out there. As per the norm, there isn’t much in the way of traditional gameplay (you might want to start with Danganronpa if that’s what you’re looking for), but the relatively short length and unique visual style still make The Midnight Sanctuary worth the journey.