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Review: Witch on the Holy Night is Enchanting

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It is not an exaggeration to say that anyone who is a fan of the Nasuverse should experience Witch on the Holy Night (Mahoutsukai no Yoru). It is an incredibly important game in the Nasuverse web, since it is the foundation on which the other works stand. Because of its relatively small cast, it is a good way to introduce a friend into the wonderful world of Nasu. It also provides some explanation on topics that reoccur throughout his works, such as the Swirl of the Root. However, some issues with the English localization in particular set it on the edge of accessibility.

Editor’s Note: This review does not contain any spoilers outside of what is in the summary of Witch on the Holy Night.

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Witch on the Holy Night’s premise is fairly simple. Aoko Aozaki, lives in a mansion with her roommate Alice Kuonji. Both of them are mages. However, Alice is far more powerful than Aoko, due to the fact that Alice is a Witch. In the beginning of the game, Soujyuro Sizuki moves to Misaki Town. He is completely clueless about city life, which frustrates Aoko to no end. His peaceful school days end when he stumbles across Aoko and Alice using magic. Though Aoko tries to silence him, circumstances force Aoko and Sizuki to become allies. This eventually culminates into Soujyuro living with Alice and Aoko in their mansion until they can figure out what to do about him.

The game took me about 30 hours to complete. As a pure visual novel, there are no game mechanics to lose yourself in or other routes to explore. Of course, there is a lot of text to get through. But the way that the game divides the sentences make it easy to digest without feeling overwhelmed. It helps that the story and worldbuilding are fascinating. The characters, even the side ones, are all charming. I was often so entranced by what was on the screen that I felt like hours had passed. In reality, though, only an hour did. The development team did a great job in making scenes feel suspenseful and exciting with the music, scene transitions, and voice acting.

My main complaint lies with the localization. As a whole, it was pretty good. There are some odd sentences here and there that I can easily attribute to Nasu’s idiosyncratic way of writing. However, there are some glaring issues with punctuation and grammar that I believe came from a lack of editing time. There are lots of sentences that are unnatural to read. It feels like the translator meant to round back to them later, but did not have the time to do so. There are also some errors with punctuation. Some sentences required a comma in order to split the clauses up correctly. Other times, the mistake was as simple as hitting the comma button twice. As a whole, the English localization felt like it needed some polish.

While the game remains coherent, these problems with the localization are immensely distracting. That is not a great thing when the entire game is just reading. It would be one thing if the translation in an action or shooting game included a lot of minor errors. It’s another when the massive bulk of the game is text-based. I definitely felt like there was a general lack of time or manpower because of this. Though unfortunate, I hope that there will be a patch of some sort in the future to fix the mistakes.

Some might say that little grammar issues aren’t that big a deal. Most people might be able to gloss over misplaced comma or two. Others might not think too hard about whether or not a clause should use the past perfect or the simple past. However, I think most people will notice something like “thongs” instead of “things.” At best, the English mistakes served as minor distractions. At worse, they straight up took me out of the game.

Witch on the Holy Night tells a fun and engaging story with tons of well-written and fleshed-out characters I can’t get enough of. The English translation is, for better or for worse, very true to the original text. There were some lines that I felt like I could reverse-engineer back into Japanese, due to how long the sentences ran or how strange the string of words were. Because of that, I feel like the game is somewhat unfriendly at times for people unfamiliar with Nasu’s works. Even I had to reread some sentences a few times in order to fully comprehend it. The game itself feels polished, but the localization needed a bit more quality control. Fortunately, extra commas and misspelled words do little to dampen one’s enjoyment of Nasu’s yarn.

Witch on the Holy Night is digitally available for the Nintendo Switch and PS4. Physical editions of the game will come out on January 27, 2023. You can download the demo to see if this kind of game is for you. The movie adaptation is in development as well and will appear some time in 2023.

Witch on the Holy Night

8

Witch on the Holy Night is charming and grips your attention with its strong performances and kinetic format, but it needed more time.

Food for Thought
  • For those who are not interested in the visual novel genre, or don't have a PS4 or Switch, the movie will likely cover the general gist. It depends on if you think ufotable adaptations are fully faithful or not.
  • I'm a little scared of inadvertently angering hardcore Nasuverse fans, but I can definitely see how the Mahoyo trio perhaps served as a blueprint for the FSN trio.
  • It bothers me that they had to localize Shizuki as 'Sizuki' but were allowed to keep the 'shi' in names like 'Fujishiro.' I wish it was consistent with using 'si.'
    If you want to know more, check out Siliconera's review guide.
    Stephanie Liu
    Stephanie is a Canadian writer, translator, anime fan, and gamer who has been writing and gaming ever since she was four. She loves RPGs, simulations, and action games. Big animanga fan and was one of those girls who did school projects on anime. Only exhibits her true power at night. Aside from writing for Siliconera, she translates for light novels and video games.