Branching Path: Type-Moon's Witch on the Holy Night getting an official English release is secretly one of the biggest announcements in gaming ever

We’re only four months into the year and it’s already seen its fair share of crazy news headlines from Live A Live getting a full HD-2D remake, a sequel to the 25-years-old Soul Hackers, Kingdom Hearts IV exists, and the list goes on. If you’re a fan of video games, there’s a good chance that one of the announcements this year has made you happy - even if you’re not a fan of RPGs.

One recent bit of news made my jaw drop to the floor though.

Late last year right before we entered 2022, visual novel developer Type-Moon hosted their usual end-of-the-year livestream detailing their current and future plans with their hugely popular Fate series. A few highlights in the most recent one was a new OVA for the Lord El-Melloi II's Case Files anime series that first aired 3 years ago, the usual news block for the Fate/Grand Order mobile game, and free DLC characters for the recently released Melty Blood: Type Lumina fighting game. 

The one news piece that seemed insignificant at the time was that the 2012 visual novel, Witch on the Holy Night, was getting re-released on the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch sometime this year in Japan and it would be fully-voiced, along with the usual bump in visual fidelity. It is also getting an anime film adaptation by studio ufotable, who has been working on a plethora of Type-Moon properties in the past decade. Sure, it’s a nice way to celebrate the game’s 10th anniversary. I read its original release years ago and loved it, but I’ve kept it mostly to myself because I was absolutely positive it would never ever see an English release. Ever.

I… I was miraculously wrong, somehow.

It was happening.

Aside from Japanese, Witch on the Holy Night’s re-release will support multiple languages including Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and English. 

Wait a second, English??? This is Type-Moon we’re talking about. Did they make a typo? Am I misinterpreting something? Type-Moon is one of the oldest, borderline infamous, hold-outs on localizing their works. Fate/Grand Order receiving an English release back in 2017 is a bit of an anomaly and not solely a Type-Moon project, despite author Kinoko Nasu’s involvement in several story scenarios throughout it.

Witch on the Holy Night, by all accounts, is technically the first time a Type-Moon visual novel will be receiving an official English release - and that’s crazy… yet oddly fitting.

After hours of shock over the news, I received a question that inspired this feature; someone asked me that from an outsider’s perspective, what the gravity of this situation meant. They observed the hype and excitement, but couldn’t quite parse why it was such a big deal. I thought about how to respond for a few minutes because I found it a little tricky to answer. It’s easy to say that a long-time famous developer is finally releasing one of their products in English after decades of choosing not to, though this explanation doesn’t really contextualize it.

I was half-conscious at that point, so I decided to conjure up a comparison that’s somewhat close enough on the spot. Imagine if Enix didn’t release a Dragon Quest game in English for over two decades. Then out of nowhere, they finally decided to release one of their games in English and it was a remake of the very first Dragon Quest.

Before I get blasted for that absurd comparison, let me try to flesh it out a little.

As I mentioned earlier, the Witch on the Holy Night visual novel originally released in 2012 to the public. This is way after the releases of the Tsukihime and Fate/stay night visual novels that first launched in 2000 and 2004 respectively. 

Here’s the catch. Witch on the Holy Night was not a story that was first conceptualized or written after those two prior visual novels released. Kinoko Nasu first wrote Witch on the Holy Night way back in 1996, yet he was never able to publish it after multiple rejections from publishers. As a result, this original script of Witch on the Holy Night was only ever seen by a few of Nasu’s close friends and its full story wouldn’t be shared to the public for another 16 years.

Circling back, hardly anyone has the first Dragon Quest game as their favorite entry. It’s usually later entries like Dragon Quest III, V, VIII, or XI, but one thing remains throughout all mainline Dragon Quest games. Dragon Quest I paved the foundation and identity of the entire franchise. Without it, the fundamental building blocks of what we see as Dragon Quest today wouldn’t exist.

From this angle, Witch on the Holy Night isn’t so different. The core concepts of magecraft in Nasu’s would-be future works were first laid out in Witch on the Holy Night. Although that original script was never released, the “rules” of how certain principles operated in his future tales were utilized time and time again in more beloved future entries in the universe Nasu has crafted. Tsukihime is first game Type-Moon released, but it was built off of the lessons Nasu learned in his time writing Witch on the Holy Night.

This is part of why Witch on the Holy Night getting an English release is important. Many authors and creatives have found their inspiration in Type-Moon’s earliest works. Without the Mirror Moon fan translation team’s English release of Tsukihime all the way back in 2006 and Fate/stay night later down the line, Type-Moon probably would have remained relatively unknown till much later in the west. These early grassroots initiatives helped cultivate word-of-mouth of Type-Moon’s earliest works and gain a following on a global scale over a decade ago, even though Type-Moon themselves never intended for that initially. These days, most people either are, or knows someone, or knows someone that knows someone who is a fan of one of Nasu’s works.

That’s why I think it’s so fitting to have Witch on the Holy Night as the first official English release of a Type-Moon visual novel. It was Nasu’s first novel and the pillar that has influenced all the modern works that people love today. People don’t need to have prior knowledge of his other works to read, experience, and appreciate Witch of the Holy Night’s story. Sure, there are numerous references for fans, but they aren’t necessary to understand what’s going on.

Whether you’re a long-time Type-Moon fan that first read the old fan translations of Tsukihime and Fate/stay night, or a person that hopped on through one of the numerous anime adaptations of other Nasu works, or a Fate/Grand Order player that dared to venture beyond the mobile game, or just a completely curious neophyte to this madness, Witch on the Holy Night is a story that should be read.

Now that a Type-Moon visual novel is officially getting an English release, the future is very interesting to think about. At the time of this feature’s publishing, the Aniplex of America Twitter account has acknowledged that Witch on the Holy Night is getting an English release, but hasn’t laid out its distribution plans, yet, to release it in the west; it’s heavily implied though. They did publish and release Everyday♪ Today's Menu for Emiya Family for the Switch last year.

In the likely case that Witch on the Holy Night does receive a release in the west, this is a monumental step forward to seeing more of Type-Moon's works in English officially.

Of course, the one question that many Type-Moon fans have on their mind now is what does this mean for the Tsukihime -A piece of blue glass moon- remake that was released last year in Japan? In an interview with 4Gamer last year, Nasu expressed that he wants to eventually release it on Steam with support for English and Chinese. Hopefully, Witch on the Holy Night is an important first step in making that a reality and eventually, we see a similar effort with the future release of Tsukihime -The other side of red garden-, the second half of the Tsukihime remake project.

Bear in mind, Witch on the Holy Night is intended to be part one of three. Nasu has never written the story's future installments, so they would be all brand-new. He mentioned his aspirations to eventually get around to them in a Type-Moon Ace Vol. 2 interview that released back in 2009. Type-Moon, obviously, shifted its plans considerably after the surprising, explosive success of Fate/Grand Order in its 7 years of service, so who knows if or when these Witch on the Holy Night sequels will ever release.

Hopefully this feature has shed some light on why Type-Moon’s Witch on the Holy Night receiving an English release is so important and means a lot for the visual novel community. This is something that was long dismissed to ever happen, even as a joke, yet here we are. Witch on the Holy Night’s updated re-release is coming to Japan in December 2022 for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch; it will support Japanese, English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese. The Aniplex of America Twitter account has acknowledged that it’s releasing in English, but hasn’t announced its plans to release it in the west as of the time of this feature’s publishing. Witch on the Holy Night will also be receiving a film adaptation by studio ufotable in late 2023.