By William Haderlie / May 26th, 2016
|Title||The House in Fata Morgana|
|Release Date||May 13, 2016|
|Genre||Gothic Mystery Visual Novel|
|Age Rating||General Audience|
My primary difficulty in writing this review will be in not spoiling too much. Even in stating the above genre for The House in Fata Morgana is a bit of a lie of omission. While it is true that this is Gothic, and it’s true that there are mystery elements, that is not even half of the true story content here, and not really what I love about this game the most. So, I will just have to warn you that I will be delving into a few spoilers, but never the conclusion of any events or the huge twist. Let’s get the first minor spoiler out of the way right off the bat. By the way the visual novel was presented, I expected this to be a Gothic Horror game in the vein of Edgar Allen Poe, and, while there are some elements of that, it is not truly what it is at its deepest levels. If you follow several routes to their conclusion — and especially the true story route — you will discover that this is a Gothic Romance.
You awaken in a very strange, and very old looking, house that you immediately notice doesn’t follow the normal laws of nature. A pretty maid wakens you from your slumber near a fireplace, and it is apparent that you just suddenly appeared in the chair there. She seems to know who you are, but she states that it is important that you discover her own name for yourself. Even more strange than that, you quickly discover that you don’t even know who you are. You don’t know your name, you don’t know any of your past, and, worse off, you don’t even know what you look like. However, the maid assures you that, in the course of learning the history of this house, you will indeed discover who you are. But first, you must learn the stories of previous residents of the house. She takes you to parts of the house that lead to memories from different time periods, and, when you go through them, it is like you are actually there in that time. So, right away, my expectations of The Fall of the House of Usher were dashed and, instead, I found myself in Locke & Key, both of those are stories I really enjoy, though.
The first era she takes you to is right before the Age of Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason, in 1603. This was during the time where William Shakespeare was producing his plays, and one of them even makes an appearance. You will gradually see, especially if you have been there, that this location you have entered seems to be Europe and likely in the Southern region near the Mediterranean. But no direct reference is ever made to its location. This is a golden era between wars and so there has been both an economic and cultural boom, a circumstance that has led to a very comfortable and pleasant life for two noble youths with flaxen hair, who now occupy the house. Their parents are often away at their primary estate, particularly their father. So, despite their age, they are considered the heads of the house.
The Maid who is guiding you through these periods is the Head Maid of the house, and she guides a whole troupe of abigails to wait on the children hand and foot, especially the spoiled, but lovable, young mistress, Nellie. The apple of Nellie’s eye is her older brother, Mell. She considers him to be her Prince and demands that she be his Princess. It soon becomes apparent that she harbors a strong obsession for her older sibling that many would consider unhealthy (unless you were a royal of the time). But, for the most part, this time period is full of light and laughter and gentle music. The house that seemed so dank and dreary in your time now is called the Rose Manor for its beautiful rose garden. The peace is shattered when a white-haired girl shows up one eventful night and is taken in as an abigail for their mother. Mell’s obliviousness to his sister’s true feelings becomes the chains that bind them to their doom as he finds himself falling in love with this mysterious and beautiful girl.
The next door you enter could not be more different from the previous era. It takes place in the next century, 1707. The house is in shambles, and no one would be able to tell that it was ever once called the Rose Manor. The Master of the house during this time period is a murderous Beast that barely speaks at all. The Maid is very hesitant to serve this Master, as he is a very reprehensible creature, and she states that she regrets that she ever offered to him the opportunity to stay, but, in the end, she serves the House itself. The house is currently located in the middle of a deep forest with a small village nearby, and it is by this that you slowly begin to realize that there is something magical about the house.
The Maid has been slowly giving you hints that the house itself is drawing these people to it for some purpose, but now you can see for yourself that the house itself is also moving. The rooms and halls are filled with the stench of decay and blood from all the victims of the Beast’s fury. But there seems to be more to the Beast than just lashing out in anger. He says that he wants peace, but he kills any time someone wanders into his domain and he chooses to even have the Maid cook them up so he can eat them. This cycle is interrupted when a beautiful, white-haired girl shows up on his doorstep who does not fear him. While some of her fearless stance towards the Beast can be explained by her blindness, there is much more to it as she learns more about who he is and still chooses to stay. Meanwhile, a merchant’s wife, named Pauline, from a city by the sea far away has traveled to the village nearby looking for her lost husband. Not able to accept the news that he had died, she is determined to find him no matter the cost. While the white-haired girl is bringing the Beast some measure of peace and control, that is a very tenuous thing both due to his past and due to the actions of this Pauline.
In the next door, the house once again makes a drastic transformation, this time to the year 1869. It is once again in a forest, but not so dreary a woods as it was in the previous time, and this time there are many modern additions to the house due to the time period and the current Master of the house, Jacobo. The current Master is an industry investor, primarily in the railroads in the New World, and his current project is to unite the coasts in the first railroad to stretch all the way across the country. The white-haired girl is already at the house when you arrive in this time period, she is the wife of the young master of the house, but her position is not one to envy. Her husband abuses her in many ways, but mostly emotionally. This leads her to gain the sympathy of a couple of the maids, and the scorn of the rest who only add onto the abuse that she is already receiving from the Master.
There seems to be a time when they were happy at their arranged marriage. In the beginning, it was merely arranged to combine the influence of her family’s name with the money that his family had. It becomes very apparent early on that they are from Sicily, and his family is deeply involved in a criminal organization that would not grow to prominence in the New World for another 50 years. But when they first met, they found reasons to be happy for the arrangement and to be hopeful for the future. But, no matter how much they try to get through to each other, and no matter how much help their favorite maid (but not the Maid that is attached to the house) tries to provide, they only keep on drifting farther apart to impending doom.
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