Nearly seven months after the release of Fureraba ~Friend to Lover~, NekoNyan is back with yet another pure love story, this time in the form of Sabbat of the Witch. Being a pure love story, the game suffers from some problems that come with the genre, such as its slow story pacing. However, there is plenty to like here this time around, mainly the interesting characters and great art.
Interesting characters. In order for a pure love story visual novel to succeed, it needs interesting characters to carry the otherwise bland storyline. Fortunately, this is something that Sabbat of the Witch does well, as it provides a number of interesting characters across the game’s five routes. There are plenty of visual novels out there that insert characters just to fill a specific archetype, but it did not feel like that was the case here. Sure, some of the characters do satisfy certain tropes, but it never felt like they were there simply to do so. This is largely due to how much time the game spends building up each character over the common route, providing enough characterization for each to feel at least somewhat realistic. Although the game may have some really slow pacing overall, the interesting characters at least made it an enjoyable read.
Great art. If there is one thing Sabbat of the Witch really exceeds at, it would have to be the game’s art. Being my first Yuzusoft visual novel, I was really surprised with just how good the art is. From good character designs to really well-done CGs, the game pretty much checks all of the boxes when it comes to art. However, Sabbat of the Witch goes above and beyond by not only providing good art, but also making this art highly expressive. That is, instead of static sprites sitting there during their voiced lines, the sprites here are very dynamic, constantly moving and changing their facial expressions. What makes it even better is that many of these movements and facial expression changes occur in the middle of voiced lines, making the characters even more expressive and realistic. These dynamic sprites, combined with the great characterization I mentioned before, provide for a really immersive experience, one that makes the otherwise slow pacing much more bearable.
Lots of configuration options. I was rather impressed with the amount of configuration options available in Sabbat of the Witch. The game has all of the basics one would expect from a modern visual novel release, such as text speed, font choice, cursor placement, voice sliders, and auto/skip-mode options. However, the game goes even further by providing a number of options to make the experience even more configurable, including text color, game speed, panic options, UI customization, and even mouse gestures. It may not be perfect, especially with the lack of rebindable keybinds, but it is definitely a solid example for other visual novels to follow.
Sub-language option. Not only does Sabbat of the Witch allow switching between English and Japanese at any time during play, but the game even allows both languages to be displayed simultaneously. Just pressing a simple hotkey is enough to toggle the feature on and off, making it incredibly easy to check how lines compare to each other. Granted, the font is really small when both are displayed at once, but it is a great learning tool regardless, one that I hope to see in future bilingual visual novels.
Slow story pacing. Perhaps the biggest problem with pure love stories is that there really is not a “hook” to keep players going. Sabbat of the Witch is no exception, as the overall story pacing is really slow and, as a result, I was unable to play the game for more than an hour or so at a time before getting bored with it. The game does attempt to spice up the formula with magic and witches, but even that was not enough to really hook me into it. Even with those elements, the game largely boils down to your average slice-of-life comedy for most of the common route. When transitioning into the character routes, the pacing is picked up dramatically, providing for a rather stark contrast between the two. While the story itself is a decent read, the pacing definitely does not do the game any favors.
Subpar music. For a visual novel of this scale, I was disappointed to see just how subpar the soundtrack was. Normally, I would expect at least a few standout tracks and a bunch of mediocre ones, but Sabbat of the Witch pretty much consists entirely of the latter. Most of the tracks actually heard during gameplay are not only painfully average, but hard to differentiate from one another. In fact, I would even say that the music is part of the reason why the pacing felt so slow, as there seemed to be so little variety there. Compared to how well the game does elsewhere, it was really disappointing to see that the music could not match.
No auto-mode speed scaling. Yet again I am playing another visual novel that does not appear to have any sort of auto-made speed scaling. That is, the game’s auto-made advances through each line at the same speed regardless of how long each line actually is. For example, a line that consists of just a couple words gets the same amount of screen time as a line that lasts multiple sentences. This pretty much makes the auto-mode useless for players like myself who try to match it to their reading speed. Considering how advanced the game’s configuration menu is, this is a pretty big misstep and hopefully one that will not be seen in future releases.
Some typos. Unfortunately, the localization here is not perfect, as there are numerous typos scattered throughout the story. These typos ranged from misspelled words to completely omitted ones and seemed to increase in frequency as the story went on. Fortunately, these typos did not occur often enough to become a nuisance, but they are a problem nonetheless and should be noted.
Note: As of 2018-11-27, I was told that many of these typos have been fixed in an additional editing run.
There is a lot to like in Sabbat of the Witch, especially when it comes to the game’s great art and interesting characters. Even so, the game does suffer from some slow pacing, subpar music, and a few technical issues, but not enough to completely sour the experience. If you are looking for a good pure love story, Sabbat of the Witch is a solid option, even if you are playing the unpatched version. However, it is worth noting that the 18+ patch is free and restores a lot of the original content to the game, so I would definitely recommend playing through with that installed.
You can buy Sabbat of the Witch on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.