Source: Review Copy
Price: £7.19 (£9.58 w/soundtrack, soundtrack £2.89, assorted goodies £4.79)
Where To Get It: Steam
Content Warning: This game features a mention of nonconsensual sex, and murder.
Visual Novels come in many forms. That’s part of their charm. And seeing different approaches to visual novels, from different places, is, itself, quite a charm too. Which is, of course, a good segue into Sanator: Scarlet Scarf, the first translated work by Ignis Sanat, and winner of the Anivisual 2019, a yearly Russian Visual Novel contest.
It is, let’s get this out of the way, short. But, as we’ve often seen on TMW, short doesn’t mean bad. It simply means short. The prose in Sanator is good stuff, solemn and heavy, as befits its setting, a town beleaguered by a plague that, as it quickly turns out, is of supernatural origin. The art is solid, anime styled, but with its own texture and flair that I quite enjoy. And, while its choices are relatively few, its characters are interesting, and its setting works without needing to look up too many of the Special Fantasy Words.
It should be noted, before I continue, that the demo is, itself, a prequel to the events of the game, a more linear experience, but still with its own charm, and adding nuance to some of the characters through short vignettes. A little extra to the world is always nice, and it does well not to give away key facts.
Anyway, both the demo and the game have some pretty good music. Heavy, portentous, a fair few chiming bells and choral parts… I enjoy this. And I enjoy the fact that it all works together in this short, tight narrative about a Sanator (Plague Doctors whose shadows can hurt, who fight both normal disease and spirits of plague), faced with the Scarlet Scarf, a malady that causes a deep, bleeding lesion from the neck to the waist, not unlike… A scarlet scarf. And, of course, it’s supernatural in origin.
If I had regrets about Sanator, it is, honestly, that it is tight. It shows the horror of the plague briefly, resolves quickly, and that horror doesn’t really get a chance to linger unless you’re deliberately savouring it. It doesn’t give the indirect antagonists a lot of room to breathe. I also think that the supernatural being’s origin is… A little squicky (Okay, imprisoned and sacrificed by a cult, fine, but, as writers have noted, rape is a very lazy way of establishing someone else as evil. Suggest “Couldn’t unsee the other, failed sacrifices wot were super horrific and stuff.”)
Still, overall, Sanator is a tight narrative, and I’ve enjoyed my time with it.
I do love me some good art. And my cup hath overflown this month.