You awaken in a decrepit old mansion.
A woman with eyes of jade stands before You, informing You that You are the Master of the house, and she Your Maid. However, You have no memories, no concept of self—or, indeed, any certainty that You are even alive.
The Maid invites You to join her on a journey through the mansion’s lifeless halls, to behold the numerous tragedies that have befallen its residents. She suggests that among them, perhaps You will find some trace of Yourself.
I finished The House in Fata Morgana some time ago and decided to write my overall thoughts of the game. This will mainly be centered on its complex main character(s), various story lines, and the twist and turns within the game.
** Please note that this isn’t a spoiler free reflection.
Jenny and I decided to play The House in Fata Morgana during the month of July and we were not prepared for the ride that this visual novel took us on. Yes, we had heard very good things from several people, but we didn’t realize on how emotional it could get at time — it was a real roller coaster and by the end of it we both just wanted everyone to be happy! This visual novel is an emotionally heavy story and I will try my best to properly talk about what I love in regards to it without given too much information of everything that goes on within this cursed house.
Who are You?: The Characters of Fata Morgana
To be completely honest, the characters are the emotional core of the story within Fata Morgana. All of them are searching for their identities, but there are a lot of twists and turns in realizing who they are and what exactly that means for them and the people that they love. It is a long and emotionally draining journey for everyone involved, but just like life it has it ups and downs with the characters coming out stronger because of everything they have suffered and learned about in the process. This is shown strongest in the central characters of: “You”, the Maid, and Morgana.
As first introduced in the start of the game, “You” is the current master of the house and merely a concept that is trying to stay together during that early parts of the game. However, as “You” experiences more of the stories held within the house, they come to piece themselves together and eventually their true identity — that of Michel Bollinger returns. Yet, things just get more complicated from there as they have to come face-to-face with the horrors they faced once they were alive in order to save the woman that they love. The true “You”/Michel might be a bit antisocial, awkward, and a pacifist but they care deeply about one certain person, and are able to truly forgive all the wrong that have been done to them. Their personal journey allows others to move on with theirs and their strength (in their personal identity and narrative) is something to be admired. However, Michel doesn’t go on this journey on his own, the Maid is always guiding the way.
The Maid is the guide of the story and is always there to bring Michel back from the traumatic stories he goes through; she is the slight push forward that keeps him moving throughout the story. She might seem a bit strange at first, but she always has her master’s best interest in mind. However, as the story moves forward, her identity and what she believed in all this time is questioned to the point that the concept of “the Maid” is destroyed and she must rebuild herself once more. Some might consider her personal journey more harrowing than Michel’s, but it is amazing to see how after closing herself off from the rest of the world, Giselle returns to her smiling and cheerful persona but stronger and wiser than before. However, there is something darker and much more fragile lurking behind the House in Fata Morgana.
Through all the tales being told within the house, there is always the whispers of a witch behind them. Her tale has been twisted and changed over the years, but there is always something Morgana desperately wants — revenge. However, time and her own feelings have blinded her to the complexities and emotions of the other people tied to her story. Even then, there are things that people aren’t aware about Morgana either because even if she has struggled all of her life until its tragic ending, she is sarcastic and witty though it takes her some time to open up. At the same time, she looks up (unconsciously) to a certain person, which shows how desperately she wanted to be “someone else” and to be free of this identity placed on her from such an early age but it isn’t that easy. Morgana has to better understand that people that have done her wrong and their reasoning for it, so that she can finally let go of her hatred, but things are a little more complicated when it comes to one person.
However, before any of this questioning and changing can really take place, “You” must first listen to the tales of those damned souls within the House.
Locked behind a Door: 3 Main Stories
After “You” wake up within this strange mansion, the Maid guides “You” to 3 different door, each holding a story of those that have been cursed by the house. Each central character is very different from the other, but they all have one similarity — the strong feelings they hold for a mysterious, white-haired girl named Michelle.
- 1603 — This story tells of the Rhodes siblings that live within the Rose mansion during this time. Mell and Nellie are the children of a wealthy family and are expected to follow the rules set-up by society, even though Nellie doesn’t wish to grow up especially if it means being apart from her older brother. However, the mysterious rain brings forth a new maid into their lives, Michelle. Mell finds himself falling in love, but still wishing for everything to stay the same. However, it is his indecisiveness that leads to the destruction of everything he holds dear.
- 1707 — The next story is about a horrible beast that makes its way to the mansion and that soon leads its pray into the house in order to gleefully kill and then eat them. At the same time, a young woman named Pauline is looking for her missing lover, Yukimasa who has gone missing after a shipwreck. Yet, the beast calms down for some time due to meeting a young, blind woman by the name of Michelle due to her understanding and caring nature. Pauline puts two and two together and realizes where Yukimasa might be, but everything for her and the beast within the mansion goes down hill after their fated meeting.
- 1869 — The last story deals with a man, Jacopo, trying to make his riches during the Industrial Era and the miscommunication he has with his young wife, Michelle. Both of them place their up most confidence in a maid named Maria to help them in relaying messages they can’t seem to say face-to-face. Misunderstanding and the inability to speak their minds truthfully ends up destroying their relationship, but there are many other things that Jacopo has to give up due to his complexes, insecurities, and money.
While, all of these stories might seem different, they all have similar aspects that drive all of the characters into a world of disaster. One of the central themes of all these stories is love and its various forms, though mostly romantic to the point of being obsessive. Mell feel in love with Michelle and it drove Nellie mad due to her own feelings she had for him. Pauline’s love for Yukimasa pushed for her to search for him and that is part of what kills her, as well as the false belief that crushes her emotionally, leading to an intense scene for the player. Lastly, Jacopo and Michelle clearly love each other but insecurities lead to Jacopo’s love taking a dark turn as he starts hurting Michelle. Love is important, but due to overthinking and misunderstandings in all 3 stories that never get resolved, it leads all these characters to something more catastrophic than some witch’s curse. However, the matter of perspective comes into question as Michel’s and Morgana’s personal tales come to life.
A Story within a Story: It’s a Matter of Perspective
The story takes an intimate turn as it turns to look at all three of its central characters stories. In the process, it shatters what they thought was going on at that moment and how they thought of both themselves and the others around them.
- 1099 — In this, several versions are shown of a woman named “Giselle” entering the haunted mansion and entering a complex but eventually caring relationship with Michel. There are is severe distrust between them at first, but that slowly changes and they are able to see the other for their true personality and they overcomes several challenges together. Their love for one another leads them to things that the other might not completely agree to — it is selfish on their part(s), but they do it out of love. Each of them waits in their own way and while they might have forgotten, their love comes back stronger then ever each time.
- ??? — After going through everyone’s personal stories, we finally get a glimpse of who Morgana really was –more a young girl that fell under harrowing circumstances than the vengeful witch– and how her short life and its tragic end lead to the creation of the House and the long wait she had to endure for her plan to move into the motion. The 3 men from the previous stories all have an important role in how Morgana’s story ends, but they also have dire circumstances (and even precious feelings for her) that she refuses to acknowledge until she is forced to see the truth of it all with Michel by her side. Morgana comes to accept a lot of things about herself and all 3 of them, though it doesn’t mean that forgiveness is so easily obtained either.
These two stories have a lot of play on perspective within them and it takes both the player and main characters on a wild ride. The story that takes place during 1099 has 3 different versions being told and while one might not be real, Giselle and Michel make the other see what they felt in the same points of the story. They are both selfish in their own ways because they want to save the other but it is reflecting on it that they can see how much he hurt cost them. It is especially tough for Giselle because of the centuries she spends waiting for Michel’s return and how the belief that he was Michelle mends and breaks over again as she closes herself to the rest of the world in order to save what little of her sanity she has left. Michel has gone through his own pain and Giselle seems to misunderstand somethings until she is shown why Michel stayed quite about it for so long. They go through a lot of pain in order to better understand each other, but after all the secrets are revealed they do come out stronger because of it.
The one that refuses to see her story from the eyes of others is Morgana and how the 3 men had complex motives for what they did. Mell and Morgana seem like good friends during their brief time of knowing each other, but Morgana for a long time believes that he tricked her in order to capture her. However, the player comes to learn that Mell’s reasons are because he was tricked and due to his dying sister. Yukimasa’s reasoning is also similar and connected to the church run by a young nun, but the one that hurts the most is related to Jacopo. Both of them that is hard to admit their true feelings (and the happy times that they had together in the past) and because of Jacopo’s involvement in her death, Morgana is ready to forgive to a certain point but there is a lot left unsaid. It is these type of complex character dynamics that move the story forward.
Forgive but Never Forget: Character Dynamics
At its core, House in Fata Morgana is a story built on human relationships and how the love and betrayal of a person can dramatically change those around them. You can be doing something because you love someone, but it could end up hurting them more in the end — sometimes, they are able to forgive and other times they cannot. Everyone does something for the person that they love, even if it isn’t welcomed. All the people within Fata Morgana do something in the name of the person they love and face the consequences, but it is a little more complicated for two sets of people — Giselle and Michel, as well as Jacopo and Morgana.
Before going on with the complexities shown with these two “couples”, I want to say that Mell and Nellie along with Yukimasa and Pauline are complex in their own way. Mell and Nellie are siblings and for Mell that is just fine in both timelines, as he does whatever he can to save her. A slightly older Nellie from the first door cannot live without her brother because her love has taken a darker turn, which Mell can’t accept and overall that leads to their down fall. In Morgana’s past, Mell and Nellie aren’t able to talk to each other about their problems which leads to bigger misunderstandings, but they still care about each other like siblings. This sibling love is returned both ways, but Nellie’s obsessive love isn’t. Yukimasa and Pauline have a similar problem that they don’t address.
It is obvious throughout both stories that Yukimasa finds it hard to love, just how he also finds it hard to stay human. However, Pauline is the complete opposite, she wants to have a happily married life and deeply loves Yukimasa to the point that she looks for him even when nobody else thinks that he is alive. Yukimasa tries his best to control the beast and keep a good relationship with Pauline, sort of in the way that Michel told him to do. Yukimasa doesn’t love Pauline like she does, but he still does her best even if it is built on a lie. It seems one-sided at times and it makes Pauline’s end sadder in the long run. Giselle’s and Michel’s starts a different way, but turns out to the be the strongest within the whole game.
In the true version of their story, Giselle and Michel distrust and try to hurt each other in different ways. It isn’t until they forgive and try to restart their relationship by airing out previous misunderstandings that they truly start to see the better sides of each other and fall in love. They are a lovely couple, but there are still a lot of things that Giselle doesn’t know about Michel until after the meet again, added to what she suffered during her time in the mansion and who she thought Michelle was — Giselle suffered a lot due to how deep her love ran. However, nobody can say that Michel didn’t love Giselle because he declared it clearly to his family and died for it. It took them centuries to find each other once more, but they still loved each other and didn’t want to spend any more time apart. They took in all the awful parts of what they learned and loved each other more fiercely than before. It could even be said that its is their love that moves parts of the story as much as Morgana and even allows her to move on. However, the same can’t be said for Morgana and Jacopo.
In a way, Morgana and Jacopo’s story is the opposite of the one mentioned above. Jacopo starts off as Morgana’s protector after saving her and taking care of her within the brothel she lived during some years. She might have been the quieter of the the two, but this time of her life impacted her a lot and its loss haunted her — to the point that she called it the best time of her life. On the other hand, Jacopo worked hard to raise himself to a higher status and power in order to “protect” Morgana if he ever found her. He grew ruthless to the point that his original ideal was lost and once faced again with Morgana he was the one hurting her the most. Morgana’s contempt for the Lord that hurt her is the strongest, but realizing that it is Jacopo adds another layer to it — to the point where she can forgive him, but she can’t actually look or smile at him when they saying their goodbyes. Morgana’s feelings might be a little hard to read, but Jacopo’s are made clear to the player, but his own insecurities and inability to be honest might have destroyed anything he dreamed of in the past. This also echoes the 3 door story with Michelle, who Jacopo also notes reminds him of Morgana in certain ways. What Jacopo starts off doing is due to love, but he losses his way and the person he cares for the most ends up paying for it in the end, with their story still left up in the air by the end of the story.
Though, I may not have mentioned them as strongly, friendship and platonic love also important to the story, even if it lets betrayal and lies set an easier foundation though some are quite surprising. My personal favorites are Morgana and Michel, along with the relationship of the Bollinger siblings. Michel and Morgana have such a abrasive relationship throughout most of the story, but after seeing each other’s stories they come to relate to each other more. They might see each other in a new light, but that doesn’t stop them from throwing shade at each other every now and then. On the other hand, Georges and Didre used to spoil their youngest sibling, but once certain changes started to occur, they weren’t exactly sure what to do. They only accept in words and it takes them centuries to finally come together once more, though love and forgiveness is quickly given by all 3 of them in different ways.
Penance: Moving Forward, and the End.
As Morgana finally lets go of her anger, she allows everyone residing within the house to leave but not before saying goodbye to all of them, due to Michel’s instance. Here, her potential relationships and how she feels about them is shown in serious and slightly comedic ways. Mell might seem a little scared of her, but overall she forgives him. The tables turn with Yukimasa, as she forgives him but wants to be as far away as she can be. In all their complexities, Jacopo is willing to stay forever in order to pay for what he had done, but Morgana seems to just want to move on and though she is willing to forgive him, she isn’t willing to look at him. Things are easier said between her and Michel, as she admits that she admires his personality and actions and it is shown well in her other created persona. She is able to move forward with her insecurities and revenge isn’t weighing so heavily within her heart anymore.
On the other hand, Michel is trying to connect with Giselle once more and promises to wait for her because she waited so long for him. However, before all that Michel is able to finally understand what his brothers went through and their own personal thoughts on what had happened to Michel and its aftereffect on their family. It is really heartwarming that everything that Michel struggled with comes to a close and that is lovely, though it is even better when him and Giselle are finally able to start a happy life together.
Personally, I agree with Morgana on Michel being a “saint”. With everything he has gone through, it is not hard to agree that anyone of us would have already used Morgana’s powers in order to hurt those who have harmed us, but Michel never does that — he even forgives them or thinks of some excuse in order to rethink what his brothers and others might have done. It is harder for Morgana to forgive, but she finds some sort of peace that allows her to move forward. In the end, it makes a lovely end to a really emotionally crippling story.
To be honest, it is really hard to put into words what a great story and characters House in Fata Morgana has, and there is still a lot I left out (like Maria, I love Maria!) . The story grows organically over time and leaves the player guessing and thinking that every thing will be okay until it decides to take a stab at your heart and make you rethink everything you thought of the story — over and over again. Everything from the music (which is beautiful and done so wonderfully to convey what is going on and what will be haunting the player in each scene afterwards) to the art and setting which drags the player until their heart is crushed through the various stories.
All the characters have their personal stories and they are told over the course of the story, so that the player understands that it isn’t just for one reason but that several things had lead a single character to actions that hurt their loved one. It doesn’t let them forget, but there is room to learn and grow from the experience. There is just so much to think about in this one title, that it haunts you even after you have completed the game, as I have found myself doing about in the months since completing the game and while writing this. Overall, there something for everyone to enjoy in this classic to the point that I would rather you play it and it experience than read this review. So, if you like mystery and complex characters consider checking it out!