All buildings have a history. Some good, some bad, and the mansion has a history darker than most. This dark history cannot be accounted to a single event but rather a series of tragic events throughout history. The mansion is cursed, and sooner or later, tragedy befalls those who live there. It is this story of inevitable tragedy and betrayal that is told within The House in Fata Morgana, and it is one that spans almost a millennia.
Originally released for PC in Japan back in 2012, with a worldwide release four years later, The House in Fata Morgana is a visual novel developed by Novectacle. Years later, it has now been brought to the Nintendo Switch, which is, in my opinion, the best platform for visual novels. The version we get for the Switch – the Dreams of the Revenant Edition – is undoubtedly the definitive version of the game. Not only do players get access to the base game, which will probably take you around 30 hours to complete depending on how quickly you read, but also the prequel, A Requiem for Innocence, and Reincarnation, a voiced sequel that brings our cast of characters into the present day, along with a couple of short stories.
Initially, you only have access to the base game but can unlock the others by answering three questions through the back door section of the menu. These questions remain the same each time, so you can get them through trial and error, but the game recommends you play through the story in the intended order.
The story begins when you awaken in front of a crackling, if a little decrepit, fire within the mansion. You have no memories of who or where you are or if you’re even alive. Your only source of information and companionship is The Maid, who insists that you are the master of the mansion. The Maid has been waiting for you for a long time, but rather than directly telling you who you are, she seeks to jog your memory by showing you the mansion’s dark history. She will guide you through four doors, behind which you’ll find the mansion in different periods of time. She suggests you might find yourself behind one or at least clues to your identity.
Of course, nothing is ever that easy. With plots, turns and mysteries wrapped within enigmas, nothing is as it seems within the mansion. It is only through viewing the hardships that befell the mansion’s residents that you will uncover the truth of its curse.
As can be expected from a visual novel, The House in Fata Morgana features multiple endings that can be explored, though the story is pretty linear for a good proportion of it. A lot of the game is spent watching the stories behind each door unfold – this can be a little frustrating for those who like feeling more in control of a story’s narrative, but after I got past the fact that it wasn’t going to be one of those games where you’re right at the front of the action, I was able to just sit back and enjoy the story as it unfolded.
The lack of choices in this part of the game actually makes sense from a story perspective too – you’re looking back on the past, which unfortunately for those involved, can’t be changed. No, the choices you do make are made when you’re in the present day mansion, and a lot of them are of great consequence and likely to send you down the path of one of the eight endings. For this reason, it’s worth saving whenever you come to such a decision so you can easily go back to unlock the rest of the endings. You can also rewind, fast forward and skip, which is especially useful if you’re replaying parts of the game.
Art Design and Sound
The gameplay itself is nothing exciting – it never really is when it comes to visual novels – but the artwork and the soundtrack more than make up for it. The artwork is great, and it is without a doubt one of the best visual novel soundtracks that I’ve heard. That’s part of what makes the game so special – it’s the kind of music that makes you feel and that goes for the good emotions as well as the bad because you’ll be feeling both.
Coupled with well placed sound effects, The House in Fata Morgana is a beautifully crafted visual novel. My only real gripe with the aesthetics of the game would be the flashes that appear throughout the game, particularly within the second door. These flashes of light often come without warning. While there is a reason for them, these flashes are very harsh, and more often than not, there is a series of them, which can really do a number on your eyes and head.
Human nature is an interesting subject, and it is one of the key themes explored within The House in Fata Morgana. It is not a story for the fainthearted, that’s for sure. It deals with heavy topics like betrayal, insanity, and even sexual assault, but these themes never felt forced. They were woven carefully into the game’s narrative rather than acting simply as tools for shock value. This is a game that provides enough setup to make you feel for the characters before tragedy strikes. Things go from bad to worse – and then, when you think things can’t possibly get worse, they do. It’s not all doom and gloom though – there’s life and love, which of course, just makes it all the more heartbreaking when everything begins to fall apart.
While I struggled with some of the flashes and wished there was a little more interactivity throughout, The House in Fata Morgana is still a masterfully crafted visual novel. With multiple perspectives woven throughout, just when you start to anticipate what is going to happen next, the whole narrative is flipped on its head in the best, if most heartbreaking, way. There’s plenty to sink your teeth into as well. The main game itself can take you at least between 25-30 hours to complete, and the Switch edition comes with plenty of extra content, which in my opinion, makes it worth the retail price if you’re a fan of visual novels.
Publisher: Limited Run Games
Platforms: Switch, PC
Release Date: 31st May 2021
Gaming Respawn’s copy of The House in Fata Morgana: Dreams of the Revenants Edition was provided by the publisher.