Horror mystery visual novels are a rare bunch. Despite their gritty elements they often tend to stick to the tried and true formula. The House in Fata Morgana is a breath of fresh air, offering a truly noteworthy presentation and novel way of storytelling.
After awakening in a mysterious mansion, you are greeted by an enigmatic maid that seems to know you. In an attempt to jump start your memory, she guides you through the mansion. Each door you pass through leads to another era and another tragedy that has ultimately befell the residents of this mansion, slowly inching you to the solution of this truly suspenseful mystery.
The first door leads to a tale of love and innocents. It follows a young flaxen-haired boy from an esteemed house. He spends his days reading difficult books and happily enjoying his childhood with his spoiled but beloved sister. Things take a turn for the worse when a mysterious silver-haired girl comes to work as a new maid. Mell, who up until now was only in love with his books, falls head over heels for this beautiful girl, at the same time rousing his sister’s ever increasing jealously.
The second door leads 100 years into the future, when the mansion lies in ruins. Only the head maid of the manor still remains, not aging a beat, anxiously awaiting her master. It is during this period that the mansion has an unexpected visitor. A beast, not even acquainted with the human tongue, ravages through the mansion in search of food. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, our mysterious maid grooms him and teaches him how to act like a master. But all is for naught when he runs on a murderous rampage killing any weary traveler that accidentally stumbles upon this mansion.
In 1869 the mansion has once again a new master, this time an overly ambitious businessman who is the owner of the now blooming rail industry. His obsession with wealth and power slowly takes the better of him. This in turn takes a toll on his wife as his unfounded jealously seeps into his everyday life, destroying any attachment they may have once had.
The final story takes place centuries in the past. This door shows a cursed young man and a white haired girl, who is to be killed because she was branded a witch.
Each of the tales are filled with huge twists that are masterfully concealed, which will almost always have you gasping by the end. And despite its seemingly disjointed stories, the game manages to cleverly intertwine them. A lingering forgotten trinket from a bygone era, or the creepily nonchalant maid whose identity is kept secret, are just enough to tie the stories together while not lingering on the past events too much.
Being a recollection of the past, the first part of the game is quite naturally void of any choices. It is after you have seen all the memories the mansion has to offer, that you are finally free to choose your own destiny. Are you satisfied with seeing other people’s tragedies, or will you ultimately decide to walk on a path that will bring you one step closer to uncovering the secrets of this mansion?
The Gothic aesthetic runs deep in its veins. The backgrounds are water colored while the characters are juxtaposed upon them with detailed gradient tones. Characters are often drawn meticulously, striving for a much more realistic presentation than normally seen in this kind of games. Even with its deep emotional tragedies and often gory, the game tactfully lacks any sexual content.
If the art is important for the enjoyment of a visual novel, the writing is crucial. Thankfully everything is masterfully written, keeping the stories engaging up until the very end. There is a far lesser emphasis on dialog than in traditional visual novels, as the maid’s narration takes center stage in all the tales. While some may find the lack of voice acting a bit of a disappointment, it doesn’t make the game any less atmospheric.
The whole experience is further strengthened by the diverse soundtrack. While not every composition is equally striking, the fact that there are sixty-five original tracks means that you will rarely hear the same one twice.
The House in Fata Morgana is a one-of-a-kind visual novel. Its bleak nature may be off-putting to some, with its slow start and tragic tales. But if a tragic story sounds like your cup of tea, there is something to be gained from each of these peculiar tales and the truly uncommon storytelling premise.
Thanks goes to MangaGamer for providing us a review copy of this game. The House in Fata Morgana is available on MangaGamer’s website as well as Steam. If you are on the fence you can download the demo available on MangaGamer’s website.