The house in Fata Morgana
Fata Morgana no Yakata is a PC doujin (amateur) VN (visual novel) by the circle Novectacle, released in 2012. At first glance, it has Western style art with a horror gothic-like setting. This game does not have your usual type of characters you see in some VNs, and do expect some gore and a great deal of tragic scenes.
Check out the opening to get a better feel of the game.
So you may ask, why did I pick Fata Morgana no Yakata as my first review? Well, I actually played through the fandisc and thought I should write a review of the original game first.
I was introduced to Fata Morgana no Yakata back in 2013 when I stumbled upon a music track called Harvest by Yusuke Tsusumi (in this game it’s renamed to “He called Hex”). I was lured into the sound, and found out it was a bgm used in Fata Morgana, so I gave the game trial a go. To my surprise, I was sucked into the story and I just had to get the game and see what happens next. Fata Morgana no Yakata also won a doujin game award in 2012, so that definitely increased my hype, and I was not disappointed to say the least. Sorry in advance if I can’t remember every precise moment in the game since I did play this several years ago, and for not going into detail about the story as this game can be easily spoiled.
The story goes like this:
“You” find yourself in a worn-down mansion. In front of “you,” a maid with jade colored eyes calls you ‘Master,’ but “you” do not recall your memories nor do you remember who you are. To help “you” regain some traces of your memory, the maid shows you a number of tragedies that occurred in the mansion.
The first door is in the year 1603. Lavish roses bloomed during this beautiful period that once existed harmonious siblings. The siblings appear to not know of worry, not even a hint of sorrow….
The second door is in the year 1707. During this period, the mansion is in ruins and a beast has settled in wishing for a tranquil, peaceful life. Eventually the beast’s violent nature cannot be suppressed and it goes out to slaughter.
The third door is in the year 1869. Throughout this period, civilization was booming and life was bustling. A wealthy young man in charge of a railway business chases after money and power as he continues to neglect his wife.
The fourth and final door, the maid concludes, is in the year 1099. This period tells the tale of a young man who claims to be cursed and a girl with white hair branded as a witch.
“You” cross over time and space observing the four doors’ tragedies. To conclude this story, what happens next lies within “your” hands.
However, somebody somewhere said, “Because of others’ tragedies, I endured.”
As soon as we begin the game, we hear thunder crashing and rain pattering, led by a moving piece sung by Gao, creating the atmosphere of what’s to come. We find ourselves near a fireplace with the maid appearing before you and immediately you make your first decision in the game. Soon, the maid leads you to the doors to help recall your memories. The doors are in an episodic pace and are basically the common route leading to something bigger. Each door is quite lengthy, not too long, but just enough to give a good amount of information on the characters and their side of the story. The game is medium length, I would say around 20 hours or so. Fata Morgana no Yakata is also non-voiced. In my opinion, I find it suitable for this game, especially for unidentified characters early on which add to the suspense.
The best thing about Fata Morgana no Yakata is the story. And characters, but let’s talk about the story first. The premise is pretty vague and I had no clue what was going to happen, but I have to say, the story is written quite well—it’s not rushed and have no real outliers. Since each door is in an episodic pace, it may look confusing when the game wraps up everything in the end, but I’m surprised Novectacle was able to piece everything together quite perfectly. I liked how the game tries to answer every possible question the player may come up with when playing and tries to fill in all the gaps with no plot holes. Unfortunately, because of that, the game may drag on as it tries to answer everything. But even if it does look like the story is dragging, I took my time with it for every scene counted.
Fata Morgana no Yakata has a good amount of suspense and horror with subtle romance. The story is deeply moving, with each captivating chapter after the next, incorporated with numerous tragic scenes which makes it more like an utsuge. I often found myself sympathizing with a lot of the characters after the tragedies they encountered. Not only that, I also had goosebumps from several scenes; it’s just that compelling. One of my favorite parts of the story are the flashbacks, and there are quite a few of them which really brings out the characters and explains why they act and behave the way they do. The writer puts in a lot of effort in the story to create a thorough, complete game and I applaud them for that.
The characters in Fata Morgana look quite Western so the game can easily be mistaken as a Western VN instead of a Japanese one. Also, Fata Morgana is not like a moege or anything, so don’t expect something too cute. Since Fata Morgana is set in a dark and old setting, most of the characters are designed old fashioned. There are a great diverse and unique cast of characters, most of them with a well-developed story, though there are a few sub characters that deserve more time on screen. None of the characters are terribly annoying and most of them are likable, except for maybe Nellie chasing after her brother and yelling onii-sama all the time, and some other assholes. Although most of the doors are well done, I felt like door two was lacking and I wasn’t as satisfied. They could have created a greater build up between The Man and Pauline for I didn’t really feel the connection between the two until the end of the chapter. Habi, also in door two, probably got the worst treatment since it felt like he was ditched afterwards and was never to be seen again. Besides that, the characters are really something. They’re dynamic and not only make the story interesting, they make the game enjoyable. Even though they’re just characters in a fantasy world, they themselves are very…human.
To me, a great character in this game is equal to the amount of suffering they receive. In short, the more tragic it is, the more developed. I originally looked forward to the girl with white hair the most as she looks beautiful, charming, and divine. She’s calm in most situations and doesn’t go out of character at all. I guess she is one of the main reason why I got into Fata Morgana no Yakata. I still really like her, but as I continue further into the game, Michel, Morgana, and Jacopo had such great character development and roles in the story, I can’t help but like them more. Hell, these three are the top favorites based on the popularity contest. I especially enjoyed Michel’s past where I could really see his character shine. Michel plays a big role in the story, especially when he changes and becomes fearless after constant tragedies. He is unpredictable and a very likable character, I couldn’t help but root for him until the end. As for Morgana, she may seem villainous, but deep inside, she’s a kind girl and can be cute at times. Her mischievous side and wicked charm, usually when she’s around Michel, changed my view of her in a good way. Jacopo is a great runner up—I thought he was going to be one of the worst characters in the game with his acrimonious temper, but I couldn’t hate him for long when he turned into an unexpected badass.
The technical aspect of the game is very simple, a tad too simple. To activate the settings, I’d move my cursor over to the bottom right side of the screen and I don’t believe there are any buttons to press that brings the setting option out. There’s no quick save or quick load option, not like it’s really needed since this game has very few choices. When a choice does appear, I can’t save at that moment, only after I picked the choice. Even so, I can reload a previous save file and skip through the text really fast (good thing the text skips fast), but it’s a bit inconvenient. As expected for a doujin game, the screen resolution is 800×600, and even as I can make the game full screen, I would have preferred a higher resolution. Overall, this technical side of the game does not deter the game as a whole and can be improved.
The technical aspect I do like are the transitions and the textbox. Some of the transitions in the early scenes have an eyecatch accompanied with a little jingle sung by Gao that can be refreshing or creepy, depending on the door. Each door is accompanied with its own distinct textbox that reflects its respective door’s era. The first door’s textbox has rose vines on the side, the second door has smoke/fog, and the third door has gears. Even if the different textboxes are a small addition, I appreciated the little details.
The gameplay is basically selecting choices throughout the game that branches out to bad ends and the true end. There are not many choices, thus allowing the game to flow. I’m actually thankful the game only has a few choices so I can focus on the story. The choices are not randomly placed; most of them appear where they are needed, usually during important and dramatic scenes. There are 8 endings for the entire game with a few dead ends. There are two timed-choices, both only last for one second. As a hint, for the first timed choice, if you’re too slow, it’ll lead to a bad end, but for the second timed choice, it’s the opposite—you don’t have to do anything and it’ll continue on with the story, but if you do select the choice, it’ll lead to a bad end. I would suggest you do all of the endings anyway for some are quite interesting, and some of Fata Morgana’s SS (short story) are based on the bad endings. Some of the choices lighten the mood and are comedic just for the fun of it, which breaks away from the dark and melancholic atmosphere that progress throughout the whole game.
Some people may like the art, some may put off playing Fata Morgana because of it. I, for one, was originally one of those people. In all honesty, I’m not a fan of gothic things, especially all those frills and dull colors on the characters, not to mention, I’m usually not a fan of horror unless it’s done well.
Once the first CG appeared, I wasn’t too impressed, but I soldiered on because I do like a suspenseful and tragic story and hoped for the best. I’m more of a person who prefers story over art anyway. What I do realize is that the art does get better. Each CG improves as the game continues with around 45 CGs in total, excluding variations. The faces and general character design are pretty consistent, but even as there are a few awkward CGs, they are drawn well-suited for the scene. I like quite a few CGs, but I’m surprised my favorite CG isn’t even really a CG at all; some scenes are so gripping, it doesn’t need pretty art. I do like some of the character sprites, especially Michel who looks like his design was inspired by Alucard from Castlevania. I was in awe when Michel first appeared in front of this background with stained glass, but not only that, the music played during this scene is the one that introduced me to this game and it felt godsent. Although Fata Morgana is considered an all-ages game for there is no sexual content, some CGs are gruesome and violent, and some CGs almost have nudity. The backgrounds may look cheaply made since it’s based on photographs with a bit of adjustment and filters to make it look as if it were a painting. I wasn’t a big fan of it at first, but I got use to it since it fits the dark atmosphere and blends in with the character sprites. I do have to say, the promotional art for the game is really nice though.
One of the best things about Fata Morgana no Yakata is the music and it’s one of the reasons I don’t mind the game being non-voiced—the voices would cover the beautiful music. Even Novectacle stated that their primary focus on the game is the music. The soundtrack is plentiful with 65 tracks, each with its own style, charm, and personality. There are instrumental tracks and numerous vocals too. The music ranges from classical to jazz, sad to cheerful, creepy to pleasing.
There are five composers in total, each compose for a different door with their own music style. Gao sings all the vocals and has a deep seductive husky voice and I particularly liked her vocals during the third door, where her voice is real classy and smooth. Interesting how the songs for the third door have Italian titles that are fitting to the character, but the vocals are in Portuguese and it can be deceiving as there are no tracks sung in Italian. Most of the song titles and lyrics are in Portuguese even though the foundation of the game is France. Michel’s theme song is the only one that had French, although it wasn’t singing, it sounded like a random guy speaking French in the background. A lot of the music sounds eerie and melancholic and quite a few tracks are ghastly to befit the mood. There are also a few aggressive tracks, especially in door two. What really mesmerized me was that I often felt like the music is timed and played in the right place at the right time as if the music brought the text to life.
Overall, Fata Morgana no Yakata is a great doujin game with an engrossing story, expansive world, and impactful and entertaining characters. It was a pleasure playing this VN and it felt very fulfilling. Music, vocals, art, and writing is the staple of Fata Morgana no Yakata. I believe the winning point in this game is the story, and the characters and music afterwards. The gothic art is not all that bad, and some can look really pretty. The story does start off slightly scary, more toward creepy, but it dies down midway through the game. Even so, the suspense never died down and continued to improved. Never did I think any parts of the game were boring, and numerous scenes are touching and memorable. Fata Morgana no Yakata is probably the best doujin game I’ve ever played that keeps on giving. If you like beautiful artwork, plentiful and captivating music track each with it’s own originality that seamlessly blends into the setting, and a dark suspenseful unpredictable gothic-like story that keeps you on the edge, then Fata Morgana no Yakata is for you.