- Developer: Novectacle
- Publisher: Limited Run Games
- Genre: Other, Visual Novel
- Released: 9th April 2021
You must be this tall for this ride. Keep your minds with you at all times and enjoy…
La Fata Morgana
Fata Morgana refers to a superior mirage that occurs just above the horizon over the sea or land, usually in polar regions but sometimes in deserts too. The superior part refers to is a mirage image that occurs above the real object. Fata Morgana mirages are also known for their significant distortion of the object they are based on, often changing rapidly during the course of its existence, further warping the image projected to observers.
The House in Fata Morgana on the other hand is a visual novel released in 2012, of course in Japan. Internationally, it was first available through Mangagamer in 2016. Since then, modern remakes have been made for PC, the PSVita and the PS4… and now on the Switch, with all available related content packed into one title.
It’s not that I want to censor or restrict anyone or anything, but having gone through the game, I feel like I must at least warn fellow readers and potential players before properly starting this review. The above warning appears just as you start a new game, and I can assure you it is not a joke. If you’re under the ESRB recommended age, which is 17, then I would perhaps point you to other great games you can experience and leave this for another time. For the rest of you, do keep the above in mind as we go along.
Oh, last warning: I’ll try and keep this review spoiler free as much as I can. This being a narrative-heavy endeavour, I would recommend going into it blind. You may gleam some aspect of the game through my words and descriptions however so keep that in mind if you rather not be spoiled. If you like, you can scroll to the end of this article where I’ll write up a summary of what I thought of the game.
Potential spoilers ahead…
You play an amnesiac of a character, waking up in the middle of a dilapidated mansion. The first person you see, a deathly pale maid who not only looks out of place in the ruins around you, but also feels very much otherworldly. She greets you, calling you master. But you have no recollection of who she is, nor where you are. Sensing your distress, she decides to bring you around the ruined mansion to try and help you recover some semblance of yourself. Despite reservations to the obvious dangers of the unknown, you let yourself be led by her…
The game is purposefully vague and mysterious. A lot of the time the foreshadowing of what feels like unfortunate events, given the state of your surroundings, dominate the atmosphere and even leaks into the more uplifting moments the game briefly touches on. As mentioned, the maid tries and helps you recover your memories, and the way she does it is to lead you to parts of the mansion where significant events occurred in certain periods in the past. You’ll get to observe the mansion’s history and those who dwelt in it.
The who, the when and the why…
Through each event you experience, you’ll be introduced to various characters who star in their various dramas. The stories woven by the maid have a storybook like quality to them, each with their own trials and conclusions. All the stories and characters are compelling, mainly because of the overall sense of mystery and dread ever present that pushes readers to continue on to find out what happens in the end.
It is here I must interject slightly and bring you to my perspective just before playing the game. A cursory look at the store page had me believing that this would be a horror visual novel, something like Theresia for the Nintendo DS (which was a fun game, by the way). Having gone through the game, yes there are horror elements, sure. Some parts did leave me shocked for sure. But overall, its more akin to a drama stretched over decades. The full story does take awhile, so you may find that things are slow to start with.
The different tales all have variety in their themes too. Where one tale might depict happiness that warp into despair, another might be filled with anxiety and tension throughout, for example. Whatever the contents of the stories, the presence of the eerie maid and the condition of the locale you find yourself in doesn’t bode well for whoever gets thrust into the spotlight in those stories.
Also of note are the game’s attempts at crafting a story that belongs in a past period. The style of dialogue and vocabulary used (never did knew about abigails, for example) do lend a historical feel to the stories. Now I’m no historian so you’ll have to take what I say on this subject with a pinch of salt, but it does feel like the localisation staff did their homework on crafting out the game’s words to match the period it’s set in.
Storyti- awwwww no storytime…
I honestly would like to go on and discuss more on the stories and what happens in them, which is a good sign that a game’s story has me hooked and interested. I want to talk about what I feel happened and how I interpreted the game, maybe exchanged theories on some of the game’s less explained plot. But alas. I can tell you however at the start I was drawn by the various secrets teased by the game’s stories. I know I mentioned earlier that the game has a slow start, but it does pick up and towards the middle I was hooked and completely invested in the game’s characters. And finally by the end, I honestly was almost in tears and just rooting for *almost* everyone. You can’t get a more glowing recommendation for a game’s story from me than that.
There are a variety of themes touched upon by the game. Not saying what they are as well, spoilers, but they feel thoroughly thought out and well-written. I am acutely aware, however, that I am not part of those who may share certain experiences depicted in the game and thus do take what I say in this paragraph with a large spoonful of salt. Nevertheless, what was written had me feeling very deeply for the characters and their plights.
I wanted to put a screenshot up of some other characters, but dang it all I feel like any more will liable to spoil the story for those uninitiated. I truly want to write more, but let me end this section quickly by briefly touching on how well the game seems to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion at the very end. There may be more unexplained parts of everyone’s stories, but for the most part the major sections of each characters’ role were touched on and explained. Plus, there’s always the additional content beyond the base game, once you reach the end of the base game.
There is a prologue focusing on one of the game’s characters, though how much you enjoy this would depend on how much you like the characters it stars. I found it difficult to pull myself through this section as it treads familiar ground, being a prologue, and there wasn’t so much of a mystery for me to get drawn into. There is also a epilogue showing what happens after the main story, as well as short stories of the various characters in their various times. These additional content flesh out the main characters even more, though the base game so bulky that these can sometimes feel like too much of a good thing.
Like a painting.
The game boasts quite a unique art style. Somewhat Gothic, edging towards unnerving at times. The primary artist, Moyataro, has quite a distinct style that lends the game an unearthly quality to call its own. Let’s see if I can’t use WordPress’ gallary function to good use here…
Can I just say, it’s been awhile since a game’s music stuck with me, even after switching off my Switch to rest. In recent memory, a handful of tracks from the acclaimed Monster Hunter Rise manages to fit this criteria. But other than that, most in-game music I hear either play well within their games and dissipate after, or are downright forgettable from the start.
Fata Morgana’s music, like its art, stands out like a neon pink siren. It catches your eye, then blasts you with an aural experience you’re not going to forget in a hurry. The music variations range from light and fluffy, to oppressive and menacing, depending on the events depicted in the story. Choral arrangements are used liberally in many compositions, creating an ethereal collection that is not only haunting, but also eerie even during the happier moments. The game’s soundtrack can be found on Spotify and you can bet your last dollar that I’ve bookmarked my favourites on it at the time of writing.
Sadly, the quality of the game’s music doesn’t extend itself to the sound effects used. More often than not, it sounds generic. It’s as if the developers blew all their budget on music then went on some royalty free site to look for sounds. Now that’s not what I’m saying happened, but man the game could’ve used some good foleys samples in some of the game’s more climatic moments. Moments where one should’ve been gripped with horrific tension, I let out a snort of laughter. It happens more often than I would wish for it to, sadly.
In the end, a visual novel lives or dies by its story. With little input beyond choosing actions at certain junctions, Fata Morgana is no exception to this rule. There are interesting twists that the developers fully take advantage of by changing narrative styles and such, but nothing mechanical as far as I’m aware. Fata Morgana is by and large a typical visual novel, albeit with outstanding story, art and music. So I hope you brought your reading glasses (or such equivalents), you’ll need to last around 20+ hours with them.
Fata Morgana is a visual novel, which means you’ll need to sift through loads of text. Reading is then a minimum requirement, a barrier if you like that one has to overcome to even get to this game’s starting point (as there’s no text-to-speech option… hmmm something for future genre improvements perhaps?).
Past that barrier, there is a whole enigmatic tale for the reader to sink themselves into. The soul-etching art and music also play a hand in craving out the world of Fata Morgana and the tragic tales of its characters that can leave a mark on those who experience it. The base game itself is massive and the story quite complete, that the extra content really feel like a cherry on top of a massive ice cream fountain.
Whether or not you would enjoy the story is up to an individual’s taste and all of course. But if the premise of the game has you somewhat intrigued, then do give the game a try. You just might find another fable that will stay with you long after you shut the book… or switch of your Switch in this case.
5/5 – as an on-off fan of visual novels, this was an immense treat of an experience. Take away some stars if you don’t like the genre, reading or the premise of the story; it won’t change my mind at giving this title a very strong recommendation to at least experience the story for yourself. Especially if it’s on sale.
Available now: $39.99
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*a review copy has been generously provided for this review