By William Haderlie / May 26th, 2016
This time you go far into the past, to the year 1099. The Maid has said, as she has been your guide, that the other tragedies were easier for you to bear because they were not your own. But she warns you that this one would be harder for you, because it may be your story. You are once again in Europe, and, this time, it seems that you are at the same location where the Beast has his era of terror. But this is several centuries before the time of those atrocities. Even though that later era was full of terror due to the Beast, this era has a more general terror that surrounds and suffocates the populace, for this is the era of the Dark Ages in Europe. A girl with white hair finds her way to the house when she is marked for death after being accused of being a witch. But she does not find it unoccupied, no matter how abandoned it initially seems. There is a tall and strange man with long white hair and delicate features that prowls around the house in the dark. His initial reaction is to send the girl away because he says that the stories about the house are true; there is a witch that lives in the house. But the white-haired girl has nowhere else to go, and so he relents and allows her to stay. The white-haired girl’s efforts and inherent goodness eventually break through many of the barriers that the tall man had around himself, and they start to learn to take some amount of peace and pleasure in their combined predicament. But their peace is destined to be short lived in a time where they are both marked targets.
At this point, you can choose to accept the stories at face value and find yourself to an end and a kind of peace. Or you can choose to dive deeper and question some of what you have been shown to get at the real truth. If you stopped here and accept the ending lying before you, this would still be a really good visual novel and it would still be a good length at about 10 hours of play time. However, if you want to get at the real truth, and not accept everything that has been shown to you, you are in for a long and wild ride. Not only will the story get much more tragic than you have known previously, but the visual novel blooms in size to be about 25-30 hours long to get to the true ending. There is much sadness to be had in this route, and you will quickly discover that it was a kindness of a sort to hide the truth from you. But there is also much more lasting and more deep happiness to be found on this route, as well. And not only for you, when you finally discover your identity and true story, but for everyone who has been tied to this cursed mansion during the 1000 years of the story. It is a very bumpy ride, but if you persevere you will be justly rewarded for the effort you put in to see this story to its end.
We should get a few technical things out of the way. The first thing people should know about this title is that it most definitely is more of a novel than many other visual novels. One reason for this is that it does not really take the branching path approach that many other titles do. If you choose a path that does not lead you to the true ending then you will just fairly quickly see the ending of that choice. While it is a romance, as I have said earlier, this is not a romance where you really choose between girls of different types and end up romantically attached to one of them. No, there is only one true love for you. But another major way this is more like a novel is that none of the dialogue is voiced. That may be a tough sell for some people, but I did not find it to be at all a detriment.
However, it should be said that I read much more than the average person, so I can’t provide a totally objective opinion on that choice. However, while it does forego that dialogue track, it makes up for it in the music department. The developers and publisher are very justified in choosing to sell this soundtrack as a separate item (or included for the deluxe edition) for general consumption. This is a soundtrack that I would enjoy listening to based upon its own merits. And ,unlike most visual novels, at least half of the soundtrack is voiced. So, in a way, you are still getting a lot of voiced content, but in music. That makes it seem much more like an artistic choice than a financial choice to not have the characters voiced, and I think that it ends up working in the game’s favor. There is a warning at the beginning that the game is best experienced with headphones, and I agree with their assessment. Not only is the music even more beautiful with headphones, but also there is some great sound effects and design that makes use of directional output. So really, the best experience is at night, with the lights out, and with headphones on.
The other way they seemed to have spent that extra budget that could have gone to voice acting was in the art style. It’s simply one of the best art styles I have seen in a game. There is little movement in any expressions or actions between the characters. But not only is the art fitting for the locations this is set in, but it is also very era appropriate along with being aesthetically pleasing. The last technical item to bring up is the translation was very well done, and the spelling and grammar edits were spot on. There are only two minor complaints I have about the translation, or the writing. The first is that the dialogue is not always era appropriate. In fact, it is mostly not. However, if they were to make it entirely era appropriate, it would make this title more unapproachable, especially in the earlier eras. Even in Shakespeare’s time, many native English speakers would not be able to understand half of what they say in the same language. The other minor complaint is that the ages are usually not era appropriate. Morgana is about the only character that was the age I expected. And, while I can understand the desire to not flirt with controversy, I actually prefer accuracy.
I wish that I could get into deep spoilers here, and I may do so at some point in the future for a spoiler editorial discussion, because there are many aspects of this visual novel that I wish that I could openly discuss. Given what I have said in this review already, this would have been an immediate purchase for me regardless of the price, but $24.99 is extremely reasonable. However, if I knew then what I know now, I would have skipped meals to be able to afford it. After experiencing the full story, I have to say that this is the new king of the non-eroge visual novel scene for me. There are a couple adult visual novels that can compete with it, but I would have to really split hairs to choose between them.
That being said, it leads me to one of the final points I wanted to make. This is very much an adult visual novel, just not in the standard meaning of the word. There is some amount of violence in this title, but, thankfully, not a lot of actual on-screen gore. But that is not even the only reason this one is meant for adults. There are themes here that are much more hard hitting for an adult, and especially some of the gaming audience that is a bit underrepresented. Not only that, but one of the two major stories throughout the true story here is something that could have been ripped from today’s headlines, especially in the United States. I don’t want to get into it without a specific spoiler discussion though, but it was deeply meaningful to me. This is simply a must-play visual novel, emotionally devastating as it is, but the reward is worth the tears.
Review copy provided by publisher
Pages: 1 2GothichorrorMangaGamerMysteryNovectacleThe House in Fata Morganavisual novel