Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Preview: The House in FataMorgana (PC)

This preview is based upon a trail version of the game that is still under development and is subject to change

After Posting up the story yesterday for the titles English demo release, I thought it may be a good idea to take a quick look at whats on offer. Considering the developers have been funding the localisation themselves lately, wouldn't it be nice to give the game a little more coverage in the west? Its not every day developers use the money from sales to fund a localisation elsewhere. Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of Visual Novels - but I do enjoy them when presented with a good story & interesting characters. So how will a dark & Gothic themed Visual Novel fare?
First things first. The game is indeed a visual novel. Theres very little in the way of actual gameplay, and during the 2 chapters Ive played through - only a few instances of interaction. What it lacks in this regard, it more than makes up for its narrative. You play as an amnesiac trying to unlock the mysteries of the cursed mansion you’re now stuck in. Upon entering the mansion, your greeted by a maid who takes it upon herself to help you regain your memory as her constant referring to you as 'master' obviously implies a connection between yourself, the maid & the mansion. The first chapter starts as the maid leads you to a door that shifts to 1603 as the you begin viewing memories of the mansion. The first arc follows Mel & his younger sister Nellie as they grow into young adults from childhood. Things start to get a little interesting once The Girl with White hair (pale complexion, long white hair, red eyes. Love it) arrives as a maid. Her arrival completely changes the atmosphere of the narrative, which rapidly descends with ever twist & secret that's revealed. It ends at quite a contrast to how the chapter begins, with the joyous childhood opening making way for a much darker tone. Still, it kept myself interested and eager to see how the second chapter would pan out. The second chapter begins in 1707 with the Maid tending to the mansion alone (The very same as back in 1603 & the one that is helping you. interesting lady it seems) who happens upon a beast that has entered the mansion to escape villagers. For a while the Maid cares for & teaches the beast how to act more humanlike, before things turn sour for a while. Yet again, The Girl with White Hair turns up within this arc! Only this time she's blind so is unaware of the beast that lives in the mansion. With the Maid disappearing, its left to the beast & the Girl to keep the story plodding along with their, at times, interesting interactions. The story for chapter two is much longer, and introduces more characters, for example - Pauline who is seeking her lover that has been missing for a while - presumed dead (killed by the beast?) and those close to her within her arc for the chapter. There's quite the twist to this chapter too that I certainly wasn't expecting, and its themes are much darker for the most part than chapter 1. Interest maintained. After the memory is finished there is the possibility of a bit more backstory as an interaction moment breaks up the journey between door 2 & 3 with the Maid, although it can be 'skipped' if you choose a certain option of interaction. Just as the third door opens up we are met with a 'to be continued' and the demo ends. The total runtime for the demo is about 3-4 hours, and the fact the story kept me intrigued for that time with little interaction is surprising. The curse of the Mansion, which is mentioned a few times, and the duo of the Maid & Girl with White hair that seems to be a focal point of the Mansion's overall story keep one intrigued as they maintain a presence in both chapters.
Another important aspect of a Visual Novel is obviously its presentation. This always helps with conveying what is transpiring within the story at that moment. Oddly enough, I'm not exactly a fan of the Gothic style as I'm more of a Moe guy myself, but I still found this to be visually pleasing. Characters were packed with detail and such individuality that you could almost guess their personality just by looking at stills. Still portraying moments in the narrative also make an appearance, with the style maintained keeping the transitions to them smooth. The backgrounds during most of the narrative take on an oil-painting style though. Each one looks nice with enough detail so you know where the scene is taking place. Not sure if it was the intention of the developers or not, but having the backgrounds this way disconnects the characters a little and allows you to focus more on their interactions. Facial expressions always seem appropriate when the change occurs to match what meaning is behind the dialogue, its a bit of a shame though that the characters aren't animated a little more. For the most part they remain still unless a change is required by the conversation. Still, you wont notice much as you'll be spending most of your time reading the dialogue. Is the lack of any voice acting bad? Not really. Another good aspect of this game is the soundtrack. 5 composers laid down the work for a soundscape that melds brilliantly with the games narrative. The music perfectly matches the mood of conversation, sometimes taking it upon itself to carry the atmosphere of the moment. Like I said, I'm not much of a fan of 'Gothic' styling, but I was surprised at how well crafted the presentation side of the package appears to be.

I was running this trail on a PC at work for a while (1.8Ghz dual core/1GB RAM/Radeon X300/XP) and the game ran perfectly fine. As you'd expect, the required specs are VERY modest to say the least.
As you've probably taken from what Ive wrote, I have indeed enjoyed the trail. The complete package is well crafted and blends seamlessly together as a visual novel. The narrative is an interesting one, with a few intriguing characters and dark themes to keep one interested beyond the surprisingly good presentation. I obviously wouldn't mind seeing where the story goes and sampling one of the 8+ endings the game is reputed to have, so lets hope the developers secure the funding they need to complete their work on the localisation. If a localisation is completed, I'm sure we can provide a review for those still unsure. All I can say is - Give the demo a try, it may surprise you.

Demo Available [HERE

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