An unorthodox visual novel that despite a few hiccups in the storytelling department delivers a memorable and heartfelt story.
While Fata Morgana might appear like a completely new type of beast for regular visual novel readers, it doesn’t really traverse any paths not previously explored in horror and fantasy novels, particularly those from late Victorian era. In fact, it very much feels like an attempt to tell such an old fashioned story through modern approach to storytelling which feels more novel for its presentation rather than content or themes it explores.
That being said, while not necessarily earth-shattering, Fata Morgana sports one hell of a story that spans centuries, dabbling in mature concepts like marital problems, incest, gender confusion, clinical psychopathy, and all sorts of other darker aspects of human culture, from illegal imprisonment and enforced sacrifice to superstition fueled massacres. It is, in a way, as human as fiction gets, casting away all illusions and embracing us for the imperfect beasts we are.
It truly reminds me more of a novel with illustrations rather than a game with lots of text. In that sense, Fata Morgana might be the closest to the literal meaning of “visual novel” than anything else written so far.
Unfortunately, while there’s barely anything to complain about the actual content of the story, I felt like the way it was told undermined both its dramatic effect and interest it could have otherwise generated.
For starters, the whole thing is told through flashbacks and you are almost always spoiled as to what’s going to happen beforehand, especially towards the end. On top of that, during the last chapters you sometimes get multiple long flashbacks of the same story from different perspectives, which while shedding more light on the whole situation and solidifying the story even further, also successfully turn the pacing into a slog.
I guess it is something one should expect from amateur writers, but it truly feels like at one point Hanada Keika got so deep into her (?) own story she forgot that merely narrating it, with no plot devices to play with the reader’s expectations and emotions, doesn’t make for a particularly riveting read and in fact makes it pretty hard to get into, no matter how well thought out and theoretically dramatic the whole thing is supposed to be in the end. I felt like some emotional scenes didn’t come across as well as they could have due to the almost mechanic presentation (though it might also be due to the fact that most characters are not really that interesting beyond their extraordinary circumstances).
It’s really too bad that Morgana, by far the most interesting character in the whole thing, only makes a proper appearance during the epilogue — where she pretty much steals the whole show the moment she opens her mouth — while the most boring run-of-the-mill girl is the designated main heroine of the work.
Well, it seems like I spent over half of the review complaining again, but the kinda less than exciting storytelling and pacing issues aside, Fata Morgana delivers one of the more mature and memorable stories around that is like nothing you’re used to seeing in visual novels. It might not pay due attention to superficial entertainment or emotional manipulation, but it sure has plenty of soul.
That being said, I get the feeling it’s a work, in a way, both ahead and behind of its time, being aimed at people who are more into books than anime or games. The few people with whom it’ll click will love the whole thing to death, but most will probably just end up very confused. In a way, you could say Fata Morgana is the exact opposite of everything that constitutes Yuzusoft.
|The most beautiful sprites I’ve ever seen in a visual novel||Low quality, barren backgrounds|
|Interesting historical setting||Dialogue tends to contain modern slang despite the historical setting|
|Fascinating and mysterious gothic atmosphere||Characters are mostly interesting for their circumstances rather than their personalities (except for Morgana)|
|Realistic characters||The main heroine turns out to be the least interesting character of the entire cast|
|Strong and memorable story||The seldom attempts at humor more than usually fall flat (except for Morgana)|
|Full of strong, dramatic, and shocking twists (at least during the first half)||The structure of the story robs the plot of excitement and shock value by making it needlessly predictable near the end|
|A thoroughly cathartic and satisfying ending||The pacing starts lagging during the last chapters (too many extensive flashbacks)|
|Doesn’t shy away from mature themes and dabbling in the grotesque|
|A very different and novel experience as far as visual novels are concerned|