Title: Witch on the Holy Night
Release Date: December 7, 2022
Reviewed On: Switch
Genre: Visual Novel
Despite the sheer size of the TYPE-MOON franchise, very few entries have been officially translated into English. The most well-known entry, Fate/Stay Night, as well as its associated spin-offs, owes its popularity not to the original source material but to TV anime adaptations and feature films. In fact, no TYPE-MOON visual novel has ever been officially translated before now (gacha games do not count, and that PSP RPG is on thin ice).
Initially released in 2012 on PC, Witch on the Holy Night is a linear TYPE-MOON visual novel that, if you care about continuity, serves as a prequel to Tsukihime (that visual novel that the fighting game Melty Blood is based on, which also lacks an official release) and The Garden of Sinners (a light novel series that also lacks an official release) but not both at the same time. Don’t worry about it. Where it falls in the overall scheme of things is irrelevant to the more important fact; that Witch on the Holy Night is one of the most incredible visual novels of all time.
And it’s officially available in English.
Witch on the Holy Night is a strange coming-of-age story about three high schoolers living in a mansion. It stars the mage, Aoko Aozaki, a hot-blooded powerhouse, the mysterious Witch Alice Kuonji, and Soujuuro Shizuki, the mild-mannered transfer student who is kind of forced against his will to live with the two of them in their mansion in the off-skirts of Misaki town.
You see, magic is supposed to be kept secret, and Shizuki, bless this kid, just happened to spot them in the park, doing some mage things. However, that’s bad. So after a bunch of stuff happens, Shizuki finds himself living in the mansion under supervision until Aoko and Alice can figure out what to do with him.
Fundamentally, Aoko and Shizuki are our main characters. The general dynamic is that the two entirely misunderstand each other, leaving Aoko wanting to kill, bite, and murder. In contrast, Shizuki is left thinking about what a nice girl she is. It’s hilarious and delightful.
Unfortunately, everyone is just a smidge (or very) off-kilter, with supporting characters only contributing to the chaos and mayhem as Shizuki accidentally inserts himself into other people’s relationships by being an oblivious but wholesome guy. It’s a simple story about weird people getting to know each other past their initial biases.
What you’ll first notice about this title is the presentation. It may be a visual novel, but Witch On The Holy Night opts not for the classical ‘one or two portraits on the screen at once over set backgrounds.’ Instead creating, it’s own style out of insane amounts of backgrounds and contextually placed portraits. Coupled with excellent voice acting, this leads to an incredible cinematic experience.
Sure these characters aren’t animated walking down a hallway, but the way our focal point jumps between headshots, shots of the hallway, a CG of the character’s legs, and then coupled with the footstep sound effects, it feels like they are. I was sold on how amazing this was from the melancholic scene of Shizuki waiting in the classroom while it rains outside. And then there are the action sequences. This visual style melds especially with setting up the action, and when Witch of the Holy Night hits you with the onslaught that is chapter 5, in all of its chaotic glory? The only thing stopping me from reading was outside responsibilities.
This goes well beyond a simple one-time trick; it is constant and makes this game huge. It’s rocking a file size of 19.9 GB of space when most visual novels have to be really special in some way to get past 6 GB. No performance issues were spotted either, which is usually what you’ll want to keep in mind when dealing with a switch game this large (to find out whether you’ll need to install the title to system memory or not). There are also just under 60 tracks in the OST, but I don’t think that’s part of why the file size is like that.
If you’re concerned about the translation, fear not; besides TYPE-MOON putting their mitts on the name romanization leading to weird name spellings, the localization is fantastic. (They use Nihon-Shiki romanization as opposed to Hepburn-Shiki, which tries to condense all kana into two English characters, leading to things like a character named Yamashiro having their name written as Yamasiro.
If TYPE-MOON could not enforce Nihon-Shiki name translations on their releases in the future, that would be great; thanks. This is a writing choice that, while looking better to Japanese readers, is giving inaccurate information to English readers- a poor choice for localization.) The UI is clean and uses the switch’s touch screen, simply needing a down swipe to bring up menu items.
It only took ten years, but now, we finally have the first official English TYPE-MOON visual novel in our hands. And it’s absolutely stunning. With some fantastic characters, brilliant writing, and the best visual novel presentation I have ever seen, Witch on the Holy Night is a must-read for anyone interested in the visual novel medium. Maybe they’ll get to Fate/Stay Night next time. But it won’t look as good as this.
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