- System: PS4, Nintendo Switch
- Publisher: Aniplex
- Developer: TYPE-MOON
- Release Date: December 7, 2022
- Pricing:$39.99 (Digital)
- Rating: M
- Genre: Visual Novel, Adventure
- Players: 1
- Official Website: https://mahoyo-en.com/
For a franchise as sprawling and popular as Fate/stay night, it hasn’t made itself particularly accessible to Western fans. With a smattering of content available via officially licensed anime and mobile games, the inter-connected universe designed by Nasu Kinoko has been held back by the original visual novels remaining untranslated.
Enter Witch on the Holy Night, one of the earliest entry points into Nasu’s world of magecraft, and perhaps the best starting point—now officially translated into English for the first time ever. Alongside this new release comes the announcement of an anime film, to be produced by the esteemed studio Ufotable.
Set in late 1980s Japan, this sedate but enjoyable visual novel is the perfect entry point to the so-called “Nasuverse,” and a fundamental introduction to the concepts later introduced in the other visual novels and franchises of Tsukihime and Fate/stay night.
Join us today on Honey’s Anime as we review Witch on the Holy Night, for Nintendo Switch!
There Be Witches Here
Witch on the Holy Night is a particular type of visual novel known as a “kinetic novel”—there are no choices to be made, no quick-saving required. The story is presented in a linear fashion, as one might expect from a light novel, with frequent switching between the main characters to view events from different perspectives.
Set during November and December of 1989, Witch on the Holy Night is a mesmerizing tale of magic and fantasy lurking just beyond the veil of ordinary life. The enchanting worldbuilding crafted by Nasu feels like a sleepy bedtime tale—a myth shared around a campfire, part truth, and part fiction. Coupled with the remastered graphics (enhanced from the original 2012 release of the game) and some excellent sound design, Witch on the Holy Night drags the reader in, even if you’re not someone who normally plays visual novels.
Our main character, Aoko Aozaki, is a seventeen-year-old mage living in a large, Western-style mansion in the mountains surrounding Misaki City, Japan. There she resides in mutual cohabitation with Alice Kuonji, an extremely powerful Witch (with a capital ‘W’). The pair have an unusually combative relationship, sometimes resulting in battles of wit and magecraft, despite Alice nominally being Aoko’s tutor.
Into this world of mysticism comes Sizuki Soujyuro, a young man who’s lived in isolation most of his life, tucked away in a mountainous community cut off from electricity, communications, and the trappings of modern civilization.
When Sizuki transfers to Misaki High School, he encounters Student Council President, Aoko Aozaki, and slowly starts to adapt to the wondrous world of 1989. But when he accidentally witnesses a magic battle between Aoko, Alice, and an unnamed enemy, Sizuki finds himself on Aoko’s hit list for violating a fundamental rule of magecraft—“no witnesses.”
Thus begins the intriguing and action-packed tale of a mage, a Witch, and a boy.
As we mentioned earlier, Witch on the Holy Night is one of the earliest (timeline-wise) entry points to the greater universe that holds Fate/stay night, Tsukihime, and all of Nasu’s other connected works. It’s also the first to receive an official English translation, so if you’re tired of fan translations, or sick of waiting for official releases, this is your best place to jump into TYPE-MOON’s works.
Witch on the Holy Night does a great job of explaining the fundamentals of magecraft and “True Magic,” making this not only a perfect starting point but an excellent refresher even for series veterans. Nasu first penned Witch on the Holy Night in the Winter of 1996, jotting down a whopping 400-page novel—but the story wouldn’t see the light of day until it was adapted into a visual novel format and released in Japan in 2012.
Despite the significant lag between writing and publishing, Witch on the Holy Night feels grounded within the overall timeline, and the story feels fresh and interesting, too. The late 80’s (late Showa period) charm is alive and well, with CRT televisions and VCRs, and people ordering takeout from menus rather than apps.
Witch on the Holy Night vibe is cozy, with our characters spending plenty of time drinking tea and discussing events; but when the action starts up, blood will splatter and magic will splash across the screen in spectacular fashion. The sudden ramp-up followed by periods of cooldown gives the reader plenty of time to take a break, digest the new events, and come back ready for more!
Putting the K in Kinetic
We mentioned that Witch on the Holy Night doesn’t support branching choices—one of the most common elements of a visual novel. Instead, it’s classified as a kinetic novel, where the story is presented in a singular fashion, accompanied by artwork and effects.
We didn’t feel like Witch on the Holy Night suffered from the lack of choices—the story is clearly intended to follow a certain path, and our experience was akin to something like an animated light novel. That’s probably the best way we can explain the amazing presentation delivered by TYPE-MOON here—a light novel with incredible special effects.
Even if you’re new to visual novels, it’s immediately apparent how much professional polish TYPE-MOON has put into Witch on the Holy Night. Scenes are directed with transitions that don’t just move you between places but instead direct you through the narrative with soft fades and dynamic slices of artwork. When magic battles ensue, there are splashes of brilliant color and innovative uses of inverted color, grayscale, and other visual techniques to slow down or speed up the action.
Even better, Witch on the Holy Night’s enhanced release is fully voice-acted in Japanese, with every spoken line being delivered via a very skilled cast. Coupled with soft background noises—like raindrops against windows, closing doors, soft footsteps—and this is certainly a game you’ll want to play with headphones on.
On that note, we played the game entirely in handheld mode on our Nintendo Switch OLED, using the touch-screen to advance the story. Honestly, docking the game and reading on the television felt incredibly awkward, so if you have the choice between the PS4 and Switch release of the game, we’d encourage you to read on the smaller device where the action—and text—is more comfortable to experience.
Tripping Over Roots
Unfortunately, there’s a rather annoying sticking point with Witch on the Holy Night.
While we’re grateful to have an officially translated TYPE-MOON visual novel, there are numerous grammatical faults all throughout the text, including missing quotation tags. Not only are these absolutely trivial mistakes that could have been fixed by a single quality assurance pass, but they occur at some of the worst possible times to derail the story.
We understand—novels of any size are large beasts, difficult to perfect. But many of the mistakes are literally just the wrong letter being transposed, a basic error that even Microsoft Word would highlight in red. For all the effort that’s gone into the visual presentation of the game, this is ultimately a novel, and these frequent errors proved to be highly frustrating.
We were playing on an unpatched digital code, so we hope that TYPE-MOON will issue a patch to address these text issues soon.
We’d love to discuss the story and characters of Witch on the Holy Night in greater detail, but this is one adventure that is best savored unspoiled. Suffice it to say that Nasu Kinoko’s works remain some of the highest-quality stories we’ve read in a long time, and his characters are expertly written, too.
The artwork and presentation are gorgeous, and despite Witch on the Holy Night being a linear experience, we greatly enjoyed the story, and the opportunity to refresh our basic knowledge about the connected universe.
Whether you’re looking for a beautiful story about magic lurking beyond the veil of common life, or a Fate fan wanting to support TYPE-MOON’s visual novels, Witch on the Holy Night earns itself a very solid recommendation.
What do you think about Witch on the Holy Night? Are you playing the game? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!