Following the first part of my lengthy interview with Hanada Keika of NOVECT about the team’s new project, currently codenamed M, this interview will cover The House in Fata Morgana. If you’ve not read about NOVECT’s new game yet, check out my detailed interview about it here. This interview will cover the console versions of The House in Fata Morgana, the game’s success over the years, localization, the possibility of potential ports to Xbox and mobile, why Reincarnation isn’t on PC in the West, why the game hasn’t been released in specific regions (EU, Australia, and more) on PlayStation, and also cover how the learnings from it will help NOVECT’s new game.
Before getting into The House in Fata Morgana, I wanted to know how it has been for the team working in a pandemic to release console versions, how the pandemic affected Limited Run Games, Sony’s certification, and more.
“We know that the pandemic destroyed the lives of many people and left the whole world in confusion. I hope everyone’s lives are stable now,” Hanada Keika says. “When the pandemic began, it was time to finish development for PS4 and PS Vita versions and confirm with publishers to proceed with selling the game digitally and physically.”
“Publisher Limited Run Games was severely affected by the pandemic, and Sony’s lot checks were also temporarily suspended,” he says. “It was impossible to do anything with the finished ports at that time.”
He goes on to talk about how the uncertainty around the release back then took a toll on the team mentally and financially.
“This was not very good mentally,” he says. “Not knowing if the product would really be released and financial difficulties caused development to slow down.”
A single tweet from Nick Des Barres led to Limited Run Games working on The House in Fata Morgana
For a lot of people in the Western visual novel community, The House in Fata Morgana was a must play from when it was released in English on PC, but for many including myself, the PS4 and PS Vita version through Limited Run Games was the way I first experienced it all the way. I wanted to know how NOVECT (Novectacle at the time) got in contact with Limited Run Games and how the decision was made to bring all the stories together in one definitive release.
“It all started with Nick’s tweet,” he says. “Douglas from Limited Run Games saw the Tweet and contacted me. He was very positive about the port in question.”
Hanada Keika goes on to talk about the Japanese PS Vita release and how Doug from Limited Run Games wanted all of that for their console version.
“The House in Fata Morgana: Collected Edition is the title of the Japanese PS Vita version that was released in 2017 with the same content as the Dreams of the Revenants Edition. It came with bonus content titled Reincarnation,” Hanada Keika says. “Doug said that he definitely wanted to include this content in the North American version.”
At the time, Hanada Keika agreed, but it wasn’t a simple process.
“Since Reincarnation was co-produced with Hunex, the publisher of the Japanese Vita version, the rights were not with us,” he says. “NOVECT, or rather I, could not afford to pay for the use of this content in the North American console version. I didn’t have the money anyway (laughs).”
Limited Run Games is why The House in Fata Morgana Reincarnation released in the West
“When I discussed this with Doug, he offered to pay the license fee up front,” he says. “This helped us make the decision to proceed with the porting development. I am grateful to Limited Run Games for that.”
The House in Fata Morgana for PS4 and PS Vita sold out almost immediately through Limited Run Games
The House in Fata Morgana received great reviews on PS4 and PS Vita, with the Limited Run Games physical release selling out almost instantly. I wanted to know how the team felt about this and seeing reactions from console players in the West.
“I feel bad for talking about funds all the time, but I am relieved that we could move on,” he says. “I guess I was more surprised by the amount of response from players when the Nintendo Switch came out than the PlayStation version. Of course I was happy, but I was also very puzzled because I didn’t expect such a great response.”
Localization plays a big part in why The House in Fata Morgana is so beloved in the West
“I’m thankful again for the quality of the translation,” he says. “The story has been so well received in the English-speaking world, no doubt because of the quality of the localization.”
“Thus, praise for the story should also go to Alice J. Davidson (Yukino on Twitter) the translator and Gerald Hiltz (ritobito on Twitter) the editor,” he says. “I would be very happy to work with Alice and Gerald again if I can.”
The House in Fata Morgana for iOS and Android is on hold due to lack of resources
With the original console version, NOVECT patched in a rewind feature on PS4 that was included in the Switch version. Having brought the game to so many platforms after the PC version, I wanted to know if there was something else he wanted to add or change for a future release like a potential mobile version that was already teased before.
“Well, I rather think we have done enough (laughs). I would like to work on iOS and Android when I have more time,” he says. “Internally, the system works on mobile, but it needs to be modified to be of a quality that players expect from us. At this point, we don’t have the time to do that.”
The House in Fata Morgana for Xbox is not in the works right now
Following mobile, I also asked Hanada Keika about the possibility of an Xbox port of The House in Fata Morgana.
“At the moment, there are no plans,” he says. “We do not even have an Xbox development kit. The decision to release a product is made by the publisher, so if there is a strong request from them, we would consider it.”
How The House in Fata Morgana will make NOVECT’s Project Code Name M better
I’ve called The House in Fata Morgana one of the best stories ever and have been recommending it to many people over the years. I wanted to know what Hanada Keika thought of it and whether revisiting it helped with future projects.
“I am honored to hear you say so. As a result of the reactions from users that we have accumulated over the past few years and the many times we have worked with the story thanks to ports, I believe we have found many areas for improvement for the next work,” he says.
“Getting a programmer and moving over to developing in Unity has definitely increased what we can do,” he says. “I also think my own video editing skills have improved. I believe I can now achieve higher quality in terms of production. In future works, more parts that were previously expressed as novels in written form will be able to be showcased as game systems or as moving images.”
Hanada Keika goes on to talk about how times have changed over the years while highlighting the importance of having your own style.
“Society’s standards have also changed over the past decade which is something to think about,” he says. “However, I believe that it is not good to make games to conform to society’s standards. It could make the game too bland or mild, and possibly cause the developer to lose their unique style.”
He then talks about the importance of fan feedback and dealing with feedback while maintaining your own philosophies.
“I think the distinction between feedback that should be accepted and feedback that should not is something that many developers struggle with,” he says. “Basically, you should follow your own voice. You know your own work best, and you know how to make it better. Accepting feedback is fine, but making games solely based on external feedback isn’t a good idea. At the very least, I would like indie game developers to be stubborn with their own ambitions. I know I am. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t reject all feedback you get. Well-meaning feedback is worth considering, and you should let people know you are open to feedback. Whether or not you actually take it into account is another matter. (laughs)”
On the possibility of releasing The House in Fata Morgana arrangement albums and live concert audio
The music is one of the best parts of The House in Fata Morgana and I own the soundtracks through the Limited Run Games release and digitally on iTunes. I was wondering whether there were plans for arrangement albums or to make the live concert recording available on digital platforms for fans to buy.
“Basically, the rights to the music are owned by the artists, so if an arrangement album is to be released, it will be at their discretion,” he says. “The concert has been recorded as a video, so it would be difficult to release it as a soundtrack on its own. The video is available for purchase on Steam right now.”
Working with different languages and teams to bring The House in Fata Morgana to a larger audience
Localization is very important and The House in Fata Morgana has seen multiple language localizations over the years. I wanted to know how it has been working with different teams in different languages over the years and whether he would like to have even more languages get added in the future.
“First of all, I would like to express my sincere thanks to all the translators who have translated the game into their respective languages,” Hanada Keika says. “Actually, with the exception of English and Japanese, the languages supported on Steam are fan translations. The teams and people involved have allowed us to release the translations in the Steam version.”
“The Chinese and Korean teams, and then French translator during the Seventh Lair development, communicated with us in Japanese,” he says. “They are really fluent in Japanese and I often forget that I am talking to someone from a different country. Other languages were communicated in English, so sometimes it took a long time to respond because of my own English knowledge. I often had to keep them waiting, for which I was sorry.”
The House in Fata Morgana is still not available digitally on PlayStation in Australia, Europe, and more
I wanted to know if there was any progress on bringing this out digitally on PlayStation outside North America.
“I am sorry that it is still not published in the EU and Australia PlayStation storefronts,” he says. “I have contacted the publisher several times about this and they say they are having some problems with the PEGI rating and Sony so progress is slow.I do not know the details. I will continue to contact the publisher about it.”
The House in Fata Morgana has continued to sell well on Switch and PC, but not PlayStation
The Nintendo Switch version’s release and reviews were obviously a turning point for NOVECT with it getting a lot of praise across critics. Hanada Keika had previously mentioned the Switch version was selling well. I wanted to know how it is doing right now with a few discounts and why there was no discount for the PS4 and PS Vita versions.
“I think sales for the Switch version are still very good after a year,” he says. “Needless to say, it is less than the big titles, but it is very helpful for a small team like us. PC continues to do well, probably about the same as the Switch.”
He goes on to talk about the lack of discounts for the PlayStation version in the West.
“PS4 and Vita sales are not so good because, as you say, there is no discount yet,” Hanada Keika says. “I would like to see a discount sale and have made a request, but there must be something stopping it from happening. It is a difficult situation.”
The House in Fata Morgana on PC in the West still lacks the new features and content of the console version
I’ve experienced this story on PS4, PS Vita, and Switch and loved it each time. I still have not finished playing the original PC version, because I have been waiting for the new Dreams of the Revenants Edition content to come to PC in the West. I wanted to know if there were plans to bring Reincarnation and the other features over.
“Reincarnation, which is included in Dreams of the Revenants, is difficult to release on PC at this time because we do not own the rights to it, as I answered above,” he says. “The contract is limited to consoles and needs to be reconsidered. Even if we were able to sort out the contract and get it out, it would be impossible to release Dreams of the Revenants Edition as is.”
He goes on to talk about different publishers handling PC and console.
“The main story and prequel are published by MangaGamer and there will be a conflict with this work in The Dreams of the Revenants Edition,” he says. “Therefore, the only possibility I can think of is to update the main story and prequel to the same style as Dreams of the Revenants Edition or add that as DLC since I know some people like the classic version visuals. I don’t think there is any other way but to release Reincarnation as a stand-alone game.”
The House in Fata Morgana on consoles uses a different game engine compared to the PC original
“The original PC version of The House in Fata Morgana and Dreams of the Revenants Edition were created with different production engines,” he says. “The former with kirikiri and the latter with Unity. From a development standpoint, they are completely different.”
Hanada Keika then discusses how adding multiple languages to a potential PC version of The House in Fata Morgana: Dreams of the Revenants Edition will involve a lot of resources.
“Even if we were to update the main story and prequel on PC, we would still have to add multiple languages which have been released on Steam already,” he says. “This is a more time-consuming process than you may think that would take up many hours for me and the programmer delaying our next project even more.”
He wants to find someone who can help with this.
“We also understand that there are demands for this on PC,” he says. “It might be a good idea to find someone who can be dedicated to updating it, and increasing the development pipeline. I hope we can find someone to fit this role in the future.”
While owners of the PC version of The House in Fata Morgana can buy the concert as DLC, I wanted to know if there were any plans to make it available on consoles or as a standalone release physically in the West.
“A physical version of the concert video is included in the Novectacle Collection in Japanese which may be inconvenient for English speakers,” he says. “It is difficult to deal with this now, but I will definitely consider an English release when I make such merchandise for our new work. It would be nice if a Western company would make an offer to tetem. the singer. for this (laughs). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could have a concert in the U.S.?”
Beyond The House in Fata Morgana and the visual novel audience in and outside Japan
There has been a lot of discussion about visual novels and adventure games over the last few years with how The House in Fata Morgana got many positive reviews and also with Vanillaware’s 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim. I wanted to know what he thought of the distinction between pure visual novels, adventure games, and those that have elements of both genres.
“13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim was a very good game, so I am happy to see it receiving high praise,” he says. “In Japan, I feel that visual novels and adventure games are distinctly different.”
“Since most visual novels can be played on PCs and include romance while adventure games are played on consoles, I had the impression that the audiences didn’t overlap,” he says. “There aren’t as many PC users in Japan as there are console owners, with consoles being more mainstream.”
He goes on to talk about how the audience is outside Japan.
“Outside of Japan, however, there does not seem to be a distinction between visual novels and adventure games as completely separate entities,” Hanada Keika says. “As a result of this acceptance by visual novels of all ages, there have been changes in Japan in recent years. It used to be that games aimed at all ages were made by indies, but I feel that more and more major companies are also making these kinds of visual novels as they see how accepted visual novels are outside Japan. Marco and The Galaxy Dragon is a good example of this.”
“I believe that a different sales strategy is now possible in the visual novel industry,” he says. “I personally think it is a good thing, but if overseas development becomes a priority, they might have to worry about their budget because of the translation costs involved.”
For my last questions, I asked him about the reception to Seventh Lair on PC which I haven’t played yet myself.
“I am relieved to hear that the work seems to be well received by those who have read it,” he says. “It has just come out, so I’d like to avoid spoilers. It’s a hilarious comedy experience, so I hope you’ll play it.”
Project Code Name M has been received well
With Project Code Name M officially revealed, I wanted to ask Hanada Keika about the response to the game from inside and outside Japan over the last few weeks since its reveal.
“I think the response was very good,” he says. “This work differs from the dark fantasy setting in the West, and has a different atmosphere from The House in Fata Morgana.”
He goes on to talk about how they expected some disappointment because it isn’t a sequel to The House in Fata Morgana.
“We expected a certain amount of opposition, as it would not meet the hopes of those who wanted something like Fata Morgana 2,” he says. “However, we are happy to see that many people are excited about our new endeavor. The response was very positive in Japan as well. For example, Kodaka Kazutaka, the creator of Danganronpa, mentioned it, and Vanillaware staff showed interest. We were very honored that other people in the industry saw our trailer and paid attention to our game reveal.”
Seventh Lair for Nintendo Switch and PS4 can happen through a publisher
My final question was whether Seventh Lair would come to consoles in the West.
“Technically, it is possible to port it to consoles,” Hanada Keika says. “We need the cooperation of publishers to make this happen, so I can’t give you a definite answer at this time, but we are interested in bringing it to consoles.”
Hopefully you enjoyed this final part of my interview with Hanada Keika of NOVECT. Until we learn more about Project Code Name M, check out the official website for it here and NOVECT’s Steam developer page here.