Checking the Score: The House in Fata Morgana

While many point to how lifelike the next blockbuster action title is or how gorgeous an artistic indie darling is when it comes to evaluating a game, these visuals would lose their impact without a stirring soundtrack to score them. From the chip-tunes of Super Mario Bros to the Gregorian chants of Halo, video game music brings players closer to immersion and fantasy. Much like how a movie’s soundtrack sets the tone for dramatic scenes, game music also helps players connect emotionally with the story.

Checking the Score is a monthly feature devoted to these crucial compositions which are literally the soundtrack to our gaming lives. Delving into what makes them impactful, the process of composing them and the intricacies of each score, our aim is to put a spotlight on the aural backbone of gaming.

The House in Fata Morgana is an exquisite visual novel in many ways. From the incredible storytelling to the gorgeous visuals, every piece of the experience makes it one of the greatest visual novels in the past decade. The soundtrack is a key component of that experience. Perhaps even more so than in most visual novels due to there not being voice acting in this title, and without voice overs, the music stands out more. If it were bad, it would dampen the entire experience, but instead, it helps lift the game up in all the right ways.

The intro song “The House in Fata Morgana” composed by Mellok’n is one of the first you hear and it leaves a lasting impression. It introduces a somber tone for the game, also providing an interesting touch by not being sung in Japanese, as is standard for most Japanese visual novels. The soundtrack as a whole features songs sung in Portuguese (and occasionally French and Latin). It strikes an unexpected tone. Of course it also helps that the singers have fabulous voices to accompany key tracks. If this song doesn’t get you intrigued to play, then likely no song will.

At the very start of The House in Fata Morgana it might not be clear what the game’s tone is. It seems mysterious, but the opening storyline could be mistaken for something almost pleasant. Of course, as it proceeds, it’s clear there is more going on. The song “Muscomorpha” comes at a pivotal time in the storyline — a moment where emotions are running high. The song feels classical, befitting the timeline, and serious. It’s also rare to hear an organ used in a visual novel soundtrack (or game soundtracks at large).

If you still weren’t sure what kind of game The House in Fata Morgana is, then this soundtrack track “Acherontia Styx” would clear that up. Simply listening to this song (even in absence of the game) clearly demonstrates its morose mood. This beautiful piano track carries a lot of weight in the context of the storyline, but is still gorgeous when listened to on its own. Composer Mellok’n is skilled with creating songs using a variety of classical instruments.

Sad stories are one thing, but there’s also some serious horror elements within the game. This quickly becomes evident with a massive tonal shift between the first chapter presented and the second chapter. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s the track “Vulpe” to really put you in a nervous mood. This song is terrifying even when listening to it on its own on a sunny day. It feels like it would fit in perfectly with a Silent Hill or Resident Evil title. The soundtrack explores so many styles that it never grows tiring.

Want something a bit different? The House in Fata Morgana still has you covered with the track “Ciao Carina.” It’s a lot more of an upbeat track, featuring pitch perfect vocals. Composer Takaki Moriya crafted another track that feels lost to time and yet still entirely listenable today. It’s songs like this that balance the darker, sadder tracks that proliferate the soundtrack. The two work together well to create a thoroughly-engaging experience.

The House in Fata Morgana has a soundtrack unlike anything else out there. It moves masterfully between emotions, perfectly playing off key scenes. The impeccable soundtrack is a must own for fans of the game. Even those who have never played it should try listening to more of the songs. Chances are that alone will get you interested in trying out the game for yourself. The House in Fata Morgana is available in English on PC, PS4, PS Vita and now the Nintendo Switch.