I seem to be writing more and more of these short review things but THIS WAS TOO GOOD OF A STORY NOT TO TALK ABOUT!! It also has romantic elements in it so… I’m still keeping to my blog’s theme of otome games, right? LOL. Seriously though, I have to write my thoughts down to find release and I hope in doing so I can convince some people to try this game out. I’m going to try my best not to spoil anything (this game is best when going into it blind) but some analogies and references I make might hint at things so proceed past the read more at your own risk.
First though I’m going to talk about my general thoughts about The House in Fata Morgana. I found it to be a story that nails the delicate balance between despair and hope. You’re given happiness and then it’s ripped away, but when you’re in despair you’re given a reprieve in hope and happiness. Fata Morgana is a story about how humans and the unshakable principles that make each person unique can lead to tragedy; but it’s also a story about how every human has the capacity for resilience, hope, and forgiveness, and how those can make a difference. I think, ultimately, it’s a story about humans in all their messy and glorious humanity and the connections – and influence – we can have on each other (and it’s also a story about how perspective is everything).
TL;DR: Fata Morgana takes you to the terrifying depths that humans can fall into but it will also lift you up with displays of the human capacity to connect and support each other. It’s a very well-done story with despair and hope that ends on a beautiful and uplifting note (which is what these kind of stories need, imo, otherwise you’d just crush your readers with all the tragedy LOL).
I do have some criticisms though. The pacing can be a bit off at times such as giving massive backstory on characters when, at that point, you have no idea why you should care or what you should even take away from it. Also, I don’t know if this was a localization issue or not but on a technical standpoint the writing can be a bit bland for a gothic suspense/horror/romance story. HOWEVER, the craft and entirety of the story is masterful. Everything is placed in the game for a reason (the game answers everything) and it’s amazing how many layers this story has. At one point you end up reading the same scene three times but this happens after you gain additional knowledge each time which warps your perspective of that scene and it just. blew. my. mind.
Borrowing the style that Manga Gamer used…
“You” come to awareness in an eerie mansion where a Maid (or more like The Maid) informs you that you are the “Master” of this house and that she has been awaiting your return. “You” don’t have any memories or concept of self though and so she decides to take you through some doors – which hold memories of people who have passed through the mansion – in the hopes that it will help you regain memories of who “you” are.
First Door. 1603. This is a tale about cowardice. It talks about two aristocrat siblings, Mell and Nellie Rhodes, and their blissful lives together in the mansion, which was named Rose Manor at the time. On the surface their lives appear peaceful and happy but things start to… deteriorate, especially after a mysterious stranger shows up.
Second Door. 1707. This is a tale about a beast. It talks about a beast who, having suffered beastly (hehe) treatment from humans, went on a bloody rampage; however, this beast yearns to be human and to achieve peace and serenity, and nearly does so with the help of a familiar stranger. But can a beast, whose very nature is violence, ever become a human?
Third Door. 1869. This is a tale about ambition. It talks about a business man, Jacopo Bearzatti, and his hunger for wealth and power. But the more he continues to grasp at power to expand his sphere of influence the more he starts to lose, especially when his personality of keeping his cards close to his chest leads him to neglecting and mistreating his wife, a very familiar character. Like Icarus who came too close to the sun, Jacopo’s ambition exacts a price from him.
Fourth Door. 1099. This is a tale about love. It talks about an albino, Michel Bollinger, who resides alone in the mansion due to a curse placed on him that kills anything he touches. But when a White-Haired Girl shows up on his doorstep seeking sanctuary, having been chased here on accusations of being a witch and thus branded for death, he ends up allowing her to stay. At first he tries to scare her off by telling her about a tale of a witch from an old legend and claiming that he is this witch of misfortune. But when she refuses to leave they slowly become close to one another and ultimately fall in love. A tragic fate awaits these two lovers though when it becomes known that there is a witch residing in this mansion.
But actually these four doors only make up 1/4 of the game, if not even that. And while they may seem like isolated stories at first (except for one commonality) they are actually all interlinked and the game spends the rest of the time peeling back its layers one at a time, uncovering secrets and shaking your perspective with each revelation you unearth. What is this mansion? Who is The Maid? Who is the White-Haired Girl? Whose memories are these? And why are these memories/tales in the mansion? Is there any truth behind old legends?
First, I want to point out that I am aware the writers have given their own labels to the first two or three tales in the extra sections of the game (once you finish everything) but I wanted to give them my own labels because I’m going to connect them to my thoughts below. This is the place to really beware of spoilers and to turn back now if you want to avoid knowing anything about the game.
I mentioned above in my general thoughts about how Fata Morgana is a story about humanity in all its terrible and messy glory which reminds me of two other favorite stories, Cloud Atlas (a movie directed by Tom Tykwer and The Wachowskis, though originally a book) and Sense8 (a show directed by J. Michael Straczynski and The Wachowskis). Both these shows deal with a diverse cast of humans, their quirks and faults, and how they all affect the world around them and consequently their influence on each other, aka. humans in their terrible and messy humanity.
Cloud Atlas is especially similar to Fata Morgana though with souls going through reincarnation (in this game it’s reconstruction) and how someone can actually change their fate. I don’t… uh, actually have a particular reason as to why I brought this up other than to say that I’ve always loved stories about reincarnation and this idea of humans being connected and having chances to meet again in this boundless sphere of fate. It wouldn’t surprise me if both Fata Morgana and Cloud Atlas were working off the concept of yuanfen.
Moving onto the three tales, the reason why I decided to give each tale those labels is because, while each of those three tales had their main character (the male) exemplify that trait, we can find these traits appearing in all humans. The desire to be loved which leads to averting one’s eyes from conflict and just hoping that the world will be kind to you if you are kind to it. The intruding thoughts – the beast – that we humans keep restrained within ourselves; we all have dark and vicious thoughts about people but know not to act on them. Ambition or desires that can mislead us to neglecting or pushing away things; miscommunication or the inability to express ourselves, our thoughts, and our feelings clearly to connect with another human. And, ultimately, we have boundaries and an unshakable principle (or principles) that define who we are and make each of us unique beings.
I also feel like the tale behind the Seventh Door embodies all of these traits in slightly different forms: the painter who turned his eye away from things and was reluctant to bear the burden of being the head of the house (cowardice), the proud knight who ended up breaking underneath his obligations (ambition), and the rest of the family and the world’s reaction to one of the characters (beasts). So, basically, this game repeats these themes again and again throughout its stories (the details of being human).
On a side note I didn’t cry as much as I thought this game would make me cry, oops. I think it’s because while the tales were tragic they were also… understandable? Like you can see how each character’s actions and tragic fault led them to that end so while it’s sad it also had a sense of inevitability. The parts that made me cry were the ones where the tragedy was external or happened outside of their control. For example, there was a part where one character believed in his family and I ended up believing blindly too because the alternative was just too devastating to consider but when a certain scene happened to stomp on that belief… I cried. I cried so much.
Honestly, Fata Morgana is a very heavy game and at times I felt so heavy and burned out at how terrible humans could be, SO MANY PEOPLE ARE JUST SO AWFUL, so I’m really glad that the game ended on an uplifting note. While I joke around about liking tragic stories, I don’t actually want them to end on a tragic and terrible note because that’s no fun. I want to be made to believe in humanity and that hope, forgiveness, and happiness is also something we should strive to have and to keep.
TL;DR: I’M GONNA BE THAT OBNOXIOUS PERSON RECOMMENDING EVERYONE TO READ THIS NOW! It’s definitely gone onto the list for my top visual novels and I’m shook with the knowledge that Suwabe Junichi voices Jacopo and Sakurai Takahiro voices Michel Bollinger (in the PSVita port and drama CDs). I’m also a sucker for star-crossed lovers overcoming their fate and returning to each other through ridiculous odds. MICHEL AND GISELLE’S BOND TO EACH OTHER. I’M SCREAMING. Seriously, Fata Morgana and how it ultimately had everyone ingrain morals onto their souls and overcome their faults through mutual support, open communication, and confronting themselves is such a great message to end on. I shed so many tears in the last chapter as we struggled and crawled our way to the light beyond the door.