One of the most impressive things about The House in Fata Morgana for me was that it managed to exceed my expectations despite them being incredibly high already. This was a game that was lavished with a lot of fan praise, and the fact that it had no negative reviews on Steam even after several months. Surely as this is the internet age, there’s gotta be a hater somewhere? The summary on the Steam store page only briefly hints at what the story is about. There’s a haunted house and the story takes place within the house in different time periods. But what sets this story apart from the rest is that the author Keika Hanada does an incredible job of setting up the foundations of the story, and then slowly revealing more of the main plotline as the game progresses. The rabbit hole continually gets deeper even when you expect it can go no further. The end result is that The House in Fata Morgana takes a while to get going, but is as deep and rewarding as anything that I’ve ever read.
I think the most impressive thing about the game is that like a good piece of fiction, it works on a number of levels. From a narrative structure point of view, the game presents different time periods and jumps around forcing the reader to collect information and focus on the story. Thematically the game is also beautiful, and each story that is presented feels connected to the bigger picture overall. And the game is indeed quite long, over 30 hours and provides plenty of character progression, enough for you to reconsider how you feel about everyone.
Without spoiling anything, and just briefly going over a summary of the ‘plot’, the reader wakes up in a decrepit mansion. There is a maid who guides you to different rooms of the house, behind each door is a different story which she hopes will allow you remember your past and who you really are.
Behind the first door, which is set in 1603, the story is about a boy and his sister who live in the mansion. She is infatuated with him, and is quite cross that one day he has fallen for the white haired girl who works as a maid in the house.
Behind the second door, set in 1707, a beast now lives in the mansion and lives to kill humans who enter the mansion.
Behind the third door, set in 1869, a successful businessman lives there, however due to his obsessions with power and wealth it leads him to neglect his wife.
Each of these stories has their own story arc and can be enjoyed by themselves. However the game and the overall story is really only just beginning after the third chapter. As The House in Fata Morgana starts to add more pieces of the story to the puzzle, the story becomes more and more epic, and by the end of it all, it becomes a truly impressive work. Again without spoiling too much, the stories behind the first three doors work their way back into the story as you continue to find out more about the mansion and more about yourself.
The story is presented simply and plainly the first time around, but the author cleverly allows for many scenarios to be retold a second time with more details and represented in a different light. The story changes from other characters perspective as he or she presents further information to change the circumstances. Where once you may have made up your mind about a character, vital information later on, may make you reconsider your opinion.
Thematically, the game has a range of themes to explore, pain, suffering, despair, ugliness that humans do to each other. At the same time The House in Fata Morgana wants to emphasise that there is beauty that arises from the ugliness, that from this ugliness is how we become better. It’s not exactly a joyful read, but one wouldn’t expect that from a VN like this.
What completes this game is the soulful music in the soundtrack, without it, the story may have lost a lot of atmosphere. A number of tracks like ‘Hex’ or ‘Giselle’ are impressive with their choir like vocals filling the game with a holy presence. There’s a great number of tracks here about 4 hours in length, a good thing considering the game is about 30 hours long.
If there’s one thing keeping this game from a perfect score, its that it is a little bloated in unnecessary conversation and probably could have done with a good bit of editing. Many conversations could have been truncated and the game could have been shorter without losing too much impact. The story is epic enough as it is.
After playing through Steins;Gate earlier this year, Visual Novels have surprised me at the amount of narrative depth in a video game. They don’t have gameplay, but they make up for it by having an engaging and deep story that works on a number of levels. If you’re looking for a good story to read, there’s a new Library in town, the ‘Steam’ Library.
Score: 9 out of 10