The power of love is a curious thing, but in the case of Persona Theory Games’ Fires at Midnight, it could very well mean the difference between life and death. A visual novel that shows the darker side of relationships, does this heavy tale provide a captivating experience?
Fires at Midnight Review
Set in 1999 Malaysia, a virus has taken the area by storm. Those who make love without being in love spontaneously combust, blazing up in a fiery death – not a pretty sight.
Enter the couple Chitra and Yun. Their relationship is on the rocks, and the end of the year is fast approaching. Yun can’t seem to find his groove in life, desperately attempting to fix his relationship with Chitra by any means necessary. Meanwhile, Chitra craves the slightest bit of romance in her life, but struggles with Yun’s carelessness and previous actions. With both of them wishing to share a moment of passion, they attempt to prove their love to one another before the new year begins, with their lives hanging in the balance.
Presented in a series of flashbacks to days and months gone by, players can see things from the perspective of these two characters. Through this method, both sides of the relationship are candidly on display, quickly proving how both parties are at fault. It’s the little things that drive this point home, from Yun taking the food Chitra brought for them to share with another woman, to Chitra refusing to cut a bad influence out of her life. Fires at Midnight dips into the crude a bit too often – expect to see a lot of dick drawings – but one can quickly learn about the history of these two in just two short hours. In that regard, the worldbuilding done in Fires at Midnight is well done.
Fires at Midnight is a visual novel at its core, with players navigating large amounts of text and making the occasional choice. Art is well done, with Yun’s photography background and Chitra’s artistic merit conveyed well. Music, though oddly mixed at times, also sets the scene for each major story beat as well.
Much of the interaction is done through the navigation of select areas, whether it be a refrigerator, a computer running “Windower 1999,” or through the creation of chicken soup. There is a specific way the developers wanted the game to be played, and doing things out of order (like clicking on the wrong application at any given time) can occasionally lead to some awkward situations for the player. It’s far from a deal breaker, but a bit more versatility to break up its rigid nature would have been appreciated.
Though this visual novel is a bit on the short side, there are a number of choices players can make throughout its runtime. The ending can also play out in one of three different ways, so those looking for all possible outcomes can get up to three times as much playtime out of this title. A number of achievements are also available, which encourages replayability.
Fires at Midnight deftly conveys the twisted, complex nature of relationships in just a short amount of time. Though the gameplay can be rigid and the content crude, the worldbuilding achieved is worth a go for visual novel fans looking for a darker tale.
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