The House in Fata Morgana

released on Dec 27, 2012

A gothic suspense tale set in a cursed mansion. "The House in Fata Morgana" is a full-length visual novel spanning nearly a millennium that deals in tragedy, human nature, and insanity.


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"Despair that comes after a moment of happiness is far more agonizing than despair alone."
The above quote is the sentiment that all of Fata Morgana is wrapped around. It is adhered to. It is challenged. It is subverted, deconstructed, and put back together again. Characters in the narrative will stab one another in the back if it means alleviating their despair; others will cast it off by finding truly, truly undying love. Some are redeemed, and some never find penance. Some wounds heal, and others remain eternally fresh. Yet through all of this, every thread returns to that same original root of despair, and how much harsher the sting when joy is stolen away.
Fata Morgana is one of the strongest pieces of queer fiction I have ever read. I've often said of stories such as Disco Elysium that many aspects within them are too personal, too raw for the author to have never struggled with themselves; Disco Elysium's many threads of substance abuse have retroactively been shown to stem from Robert Kurvitz's own alcoholism in a way that was open and pathetic, reflecting the struggles of many suffering (ex)alcoholics such as myself. I have no way of knowing if something similar is true of Hanada Keika, the writer of Fata Morgana — and it would be beyond gauche for me to make assumptions — but the struggles here are real. They are bitter and blistered, and in the same breath, beautiful.
What I do know of Hanada Keika, however, comes from a blog post he had written in July of 2021. In it, he both celebrated and lamented on the fact that the Nintendo Switch release of Fata Morgana had earned a 100 on Metacritic, drawing attention both negative and positive to the game. On the reception of the game, he wrote:
"I don't want to argue about whether visual novels are games or not, but I think there may be a point to be made. I think visual novels are a wonderful medium of expression, and I don't think we should look down on them just because they are visual novels, but it is true that there are fewer places to judge them as criticism than other games.
Fata Morgana has been highly praised as a doujin game in Japan, but it's not a successful market, and it's a game that only people in-the-know know of. The subject matter is very heavy, and it's not an erotic game, otome game, or gal game. It's a strange visual novel."
This societal and industrial adherence to genre, to being easily defined, to being able to be pitched and sold — had nearly caused me to miss out on this, for no more reason than my belief that "I don't really play visual novels". It's silly, in a way, that that's all it took for me to write off an entire segment of a medium; just my willingness to keep going as I've been without branching out. I was comfortable, and it was wrong. It's been too long since a piece of media has challenged my expectations not just of the art form in which it was released, but of my own understanding of myself. How often can that be said of anything?
Ultimately, there remains only one thing on which I can disagree with Hanada Keika: The House in Fata Morgana deserved to have that 100.

If this was paced any better I would be giving it a 9. Some of the best and most resonant moments in any game I've ever played are in here--I will not mince words, I cried. Like, 2 or 3 times. At its best, The House of Fata Morgana is heart-rending, soul-crushing, and beautifully tragic in every way.
But Fata Morgana falls victim to the same problem I'm noticing befalls so many popular visual novels, and it's an inability to exercise restraint. Not restraint in a prudish, conservative, "this is too evil!" sense, but restraint in an authorial perspective; the inability to excise portions from the story that aren't working. FM is told in an episodic format, where each episode is independent of one another, and with each episode my attentiveness swung from "kinda uninterested, i'd like to just get past this please" to "oh my fucking god this is incredible dude what the fuck".
This is not very uncommon for visual novels (especially those translated from Japanese, a language known for being especially dense when compared to English), but that doesn't excuse it. My current favorite VN, Echo (sidenote: if you like FM, please read echo, it's free on itch) was also one of the first long VNs I played, barring J-adventure games like Zero Escape and Danganronpa, and I'm really coming to realize how unordinary it was for it to be paced so well. The first big hook of Echo is only 1-2 hours in, whereas I'd argue that it took well over 6 or 7 for me to be hooked on FM. This is less impressive considering Echo was originally written in English, the language I read it in (and I have heard FM is better in Japanese, however I can't read Japanese lol) but it becomes more impressive when considering that FM has a word count of around 300-400k, and Echo a word count between 500-600k. Echo is noticeably longer but it wastes so much less time--Echo is a story that needs 500k words to be told. Fata Morgana simply does not need 300k words to be told. Which is a shame, considering that within those 300k is probably around 150k that are shockingly incredible. If only it wasn't wedged between sizeable blocks that are "just pretty ok".
Backloggd doesn't have built in spoiler tags outside of tagging the whole review, so I will be using the assistance of a site called "rot13" (https://rot13.com/). This site takes every letter in a batch of text and shifts it 13 letters forward, making it functionally unreadable unless you paste it back into the site to decode it. I will be spoiling large portions of the game with the assumption you've already read it, so it probably won't make any sense anyways if you haven't.
[rot13 section begins]
V yvrq rneyvre va zl erivrj--gur svefg 3 qbbef ner abg vaqrcraqrag bs gur erfg bs gur fgbel naq ner n pehpvny cneg bs gur pber bs jung guvf tnzr vf NPGHNYYL nobhg. Bar bs gur wblf bs guvf IA jnf ernyvmvat gung gur cnegf V nffhzrq qvqa'g znggre npghnyyl qvq, yvxr, n ybg. Ohg V fgvyy guvax gurl nyy pbhyq unir hfrq cyragl bs gevzzvat. Gurfr guerr frpgvbaf ner, yvxr, bxnl va gurve bja evtug ohg gurl bayl ernyyl jbex va gur terngre pbagrkg bs gur jubyr fgbel--lbh pbhyq rkpvfr dhvgr n ovg bs erqhaqnapl sebz gurz (rfcrpvnyyl qbbe 2'f cnhyvar frpgvbaf naq 3'f ahzrebhf ercrngrq synfuonpxf) naq gur fgbel jbhyq oneryl uheg sebz vg.
Ohg gur fnq cneg vf gung bapr jr svanyyl qb trg gung pbagrkg, SZ srryf gur arrq gb fcraq gur arkg 5 be 6 ubhef ergryyvat gur nhqvrapr guvatf jr cebonoyl nyernql nffhzrq ol gung cbvag. Gur qrgnvyf znl or fhecevfrf, lrf ohg gur gbanyvgl vf boivbhf naq yrnirf gur pbapyhfvba cerqvpgnoyr. Gur svefg gvzr lbh urne Zbetnan'f fgbel vf bar bs gur orfg frpgvbaf bs gur tnzr--qbhoyl fb jura lbh ernyvmr gung gur haanzrq punenpgref ner npghnyyl gur 3 zra frra va gur svefg 3 qbbef. Ohg lbh urne qvssrerag crefcrpgvirf ba guvf fgbel Guerr zber gvzrf, nyy guerr bs juvpu ner cerggl cerqvpgnoyr vs lbh erzrzore gur sngny synjf bs gur punenpgref oruvaq gubfr svefg 3 qbbef ng nyy. Fb lrnu! ol gur raq bs guvf V qvqa'g ernyyl pner nobhg Zryy be Lhxvznfn be Wnpbob be ernyyl rira Zbetnan. Gurl cynlrq gubfr fgbel orngf bhg gbb zhpu sbe zr gb or nssrpgrq ol gurz.
Juvpu, ntnva, vf fnq, tvira ubj SHPXVA tbbq gur Zvpury & Tvfryyr frpgvbaf bs guvf tnzr ner. Guvf vf gur ERNY cbvag bs Sngn Zbetnan sbe zr. Gur rzbgvbany ernyvgl naq cbvtanapl bs gurfr frpgvbaf bs gur tnzr ner gehyl fbzrguvat gb orubyq. Jung unccraf gb gurfr punenpgref vf fb shpxrq hc naq rirel gvzr lbh guvax vg pna'g trg jbefr sbe gurz, gur tnzr chyyf va fbzr ryrzrag lbh sbetbg nobhg naq znxrf vg rira zber zvfrenoyr sbe gurz. Ohg gur graqrapl sbe gurve ybir gb crefvfg guebhtu vg nyy vf jung znxrf vg gehyl ornhgvshy. Gurfr gjb jvyy yvir erag serr va zl urnq.
Bgure guvatf V jnag gb zragvba ohg gung qvqa'g svg va naljurer ryfr:
-Gur zhfvp vf tbbq naq qvq n ybg bs jbex ng urvtugravat fbzr fprarf. Guvf vf gur rqtr IAf unir bire erny obbxf VZB (vs gurer'f fbzr jrofvgr gung cynlf zhfvp nppbeqvat gb jurer lbh ner va n obbx cyrnfr chg zr ba)
-Gur fglyvfgvp fuvsgf ner pbby nf shpx naq V jvfu gurl qvq gurz zber. Arrq zber ivfhny abiryf gung ner nyzbfg ragveryl NQI ohg fjvgpu gb AIY/Fbhaq Abiry fglyr rirel bapr va n juvyr sbe qvnybthr-yvtug frpgvbaf. Fjvgpuvat gb cbegenvgf sbe Zvpury'f onpxfgbel jnf qbcr gbb. Nf V fnvq, pbby nf shpx.
-V'yy cebonoyl cynl gur cerdhry/frdhry ng fbzr cbvag rira vs gurl sbphf zbfgyl ba gur unys bs gur fgbel V guvax vf whfg nyevtug. V fgnegrq bss gung unys vagrerfgrq fb znlor vg'yy trg erqrrzrq, v qhaab. Ubcrf pnhgvbhfyl hc.
[end of rot13 section]
tl;dr: Is Fata Morgana good? Certainly. Could it be even better with some trimming down? 100%. Contains some of my favorite sections from a game ever but also heaps of stuff that is just fine. Balances out to a pretty solid 8/10.

incredible character writing woven into a tragically beautiful story, the 3 main characters are some of the best in any piece of media

I know writers who use subtext and they're all cowards.

essa vn é apenas uma das melhores experiências nos jogos que você vai ter.
o visual é lindo, narrativa muito cativante, trilha sonora que derrete seus ouvidos de tão boa e a campanha é razoavelmente longa, com uma média de umas 30, 32 horas.
recomendadíssimo, um dos meus jogos favoritos 👍🏼.

This happened to my buddy Rosarie