Fantasia: Realm of Thanos. Here’s a visual novel that owns some really odd online real estate. Most of the visual novel market, as least as far as I’ve seen, doesn’t pay much mind to it, but on certain segments, certain forums? People are absolutely fanatical for it. There’s something that draws people there. What is it, exactly? Is it that it really emphasizes its anime-style bad boys, and that’s just what all these people are into? Is it that the main character’s situation, being a stranger in a world completely foreign to them, strongly resonates with today’s disaffected youth? Does being pushed to enter the world of romance and finding all your options to be total jerks and losers feel so familiar to so many people? In our special, exploratory edition of Visual Novel Theatre, I pack my best shorts, make myself a sandwich, and head deep into the bushes of Fantasia to find out.
In Fantasia: Realm of Thanos, you’re behind the wheel of Hammercles Von Chunkmeier, or whatever weak name you decided to give your main character instead, a 15 year old girl whose parents died in a plane crash and who apparently has literally no one else involved in her life at all. So, you’re going through your hard knock life, doing whatever things it is that 15 year old girls do, when all of a sudden some random woman shows up, and tells you that there’s another world out there and it’s going to be destroyed unless you go out and get some loving from a guy whose life sucks as much as yours does. Of course, you agree to that right away, because this wouldn’t be much of a story without it. So off you’re whisked to the land of Fantasia, to go all big pimpin with four messed up mammajammas in the hopes that one of them will love you enough to produce a magic key that will save the land from the invading realm of Thanos somehow. I don’t even know. I think the author lost a little steam there. Anyways, that’s the gist of it. New world, gotta save it by getting some guy with a screwed up life to love you.
Fantasia ROT is a homegrown effort by AzureXTwilight, and it’s obvious the author put a lot of thought into it. Well, into certain parts of it at least. There’s fifteen endings, plenty of branching paths, and a lot of character intertwining. I do want to lead with this. Whatever I may say about the rest of the visual novel, that’s something that always stands. It feels like I’ve been given a little peek into an imaginary world that the author’s been spending a lot of time in, and that’s a really special thing. It reminds me a lot of all my own imaginary worlds, stories, and people that just never made it out of my head. That’s something that’s just so great out of all these amateur and indie releases we’re seeing now in the information age, that is lets people share these experiences that would normally be locked away, so valuable to one person yet invisible to all else, and that is truly on great display here.
That said, I didn’t like it.
Which is fine. I’m sure AzureXTwilight would not particularly care for my worlds either. And I’m not exactly the primary market for angsty troubled teenaged bad boys. There certainly are plenty of people who did like the experience, and I’m not going to take that away from them.
Ain’t going to stop me from griping, though. But first, let’s take a look at the characters we got going on here.
Hammercles von Chunkmeier
Here’s your viewpoint character. As is traditional for these type of otomes, your character has a pretty neutral personality, yet has all the sweet bros falling for her anyways. You do have a noticeable eye for the man-candy, and some trauma from your family’s death in plane crashes that you usually keep buried because the story’s not about you, really, the tales more about the men you’re going all googly-eyed about. Anyways, she does have a fair bit of voice, but is basic enough that it’s not too hard to project yourself on there. So if you’ve had this long lasting dream of finding your sick murderer anime dreamboat, this could be the game for you.
I never took Leon’s route. I kind of didn’t care. So about half of this bio is going to be completely made up. Leon is the king’s assassin, and just freaking loves killing people. Way back in fantasy world elementary school, he had a crush on his teacher. He stalked her a bit in a totally obvious way, which she thought was just cute kid stuff at first, until he broke into her house and stole all her underwear. The word of it got out, and everyone told the story to everyone they knew, until the entire land of Fantasia was laughing at Leon. Then, Leon resolved to kill everybody in the realm, so nobody else would remember that embarrassing story. Anyways, Leon gets sweet on you really quickly, but his hair trigger temper and straightup bloodlust makes him a little unattractive as a potential mate.
Ian doesn’t talk much, which makes him the best character in the game. Or it would, if he wasn’t a total weenie. Ian is cursed, and will start to freeze stuff whenever he opens his mouth. When he does talk, he has a habit of saying things that I think were intended to just seem awkward, but read to me as being really, really creepy. “Do you like… coldness?” indeed. I don’t think the author particularly likes Ian either, as a lot of the ‘choices’ in his route are just calling him out for sucking in variations of the exact same ways.
Forget what I said about your romantic options being assholes and losers, Gil is legitimately cool. A half-human half-elf who can read minds and manipulate matter, constantly killing the people who were sent to unmask him and bring him down. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t seem to think Gil is a cool as I did, because she did not seem to pay much attention to his route. Perhaps most prominently there is an instance, where, on a date with Gil in one of the story’s special events, he finally revealed his face to me and told me he was a Halfling. Then, the next day, when the center plot called for him to do so, he finally revealed his face to me and told me he was a Halfling. Great. The author can’t seem to remember what color his hair’s supposed to be, either. Switches from a light seafoam green in the sprite to dark verdant green in the CVs.
Anyways, Gil spends most of his path feuding with Leon, who is actually plenty stronger than he is, until Gil sacrifices you to gain devil powers. I’m pretty sure I finished it up, but I don’t remember how it ends. Probably for the best.
Demon Lord Oswald
Here’s your canon love interest, and the one the author definitely seems most interested in. He’s the demon lord, recently broken free from his seal, and ready to inflict Hell on Fantasia once more. The King of Evil, Ruler of Thanos, the deathbringer, the dread lord, the mighty… Oswald *snrk*. I get that you can’t really pick your name, but still, if you imposed that much fear, wouldn’t you go by something other than Oswald? Not exactly a terrorful name.
Also, he keeps a five year old kid chained up in his room.
Anyways, dude here fell for a girl that didn’t love him, so obviously the answer is to just destroy everything. And that’s exactly what makes him prime dating material. Of course, your love does eventually bring him to the side of light, but it’s going to be a challenge getting that far, because HE KEEPS A FIVE YEAR OLD KID CHAINED UP IN HIS BEDROOM! You know, in case you having a hot date, you get back to his place and start getting steamy, then you have a small voice coming from the side of the room asking if it’s been good enough to get to eat today and letting him know where all his leatherwear’s been hidden.
Also, he calls you ‘kid’ the whole time he’s falling in love with you. If they had a judicial system in the Realm of Thanos, you’d never see this guy again.
Fantasia: Realm of Thanos takes you and your character to the titular land of Fantasia, a pretty bog-standard fantasy world that’s supposedly under risk of invasion by the evil demonrealm Thanos but nobody else seems to either no or care about it. There are a few background details mentioned, such as other races, cultural tidbits, that sort of thing, that do provide some more layers to the world but don’t really materially come up in this story. Luckily, if you’re into it, Fantasia’s a full on series by now, so there’s plenty of room to keep exploring the world. You pretty much stick to this one town, I don’t even remember if it has a name, with the occasional ending trip to demonland, ‘cause you are supposed to save this place after all. It’s got pretty much everything you’d expect a city to have; inns, merchants, hunky dudes with severe background issues that give you magic world-saving keys if they fall in love with you, the basics. The setting serves, but doesn’t really stand out.
The plot… urgh, that’s where this game really lost me. I had a really bad case of the Eight Deadly Words on this one: I Don’t Care What Happens To These People. Which is an issue with the characters just as much as the plot, but whatever. Neither grabbed me. Which, again, may be a case of me not being a part of the right market. I’m sure the game’s a lot more interesting if you do enjoy romancing unrepentant murderers. Personally, I just found it uninspired. The story and the characters rely so much on the standard tropes, you can see literally everything coming. From the moment I saw the kid who had no control over his powers, I knew his angst would stem from his powers hurting the people he’d loved. The Halfling? Acceptance from his family. The Evil Demon Lord? Of course you’d get involved in his plans then convince him to turn good in the eleventh hour. There is just so little creativity on display here, I’d almost guess the author is deliberately trying to copy every animesque love story you’ve heard outright. Which, now that I think about it, could have been the case. Those stories are repeated for a reason, after all. People generally do put their own little touches on them, though. The touch here? You’ve got me.
Moreover, I just didn’t like the characters. They were jerks, or lame, and not nuanced at all. Kind of hard to get into a character-driven story when you hate everyone you’re reading about.
Presentation is a little… eh. The backgrounds and music are all right. Obviously come from free online sources, but there’s nothing wrong with that for an amateur production. The character art is… not sure how to describe it. It’s not like the artist doesn’t have skills. She’s got a definite style that becomes even more apparent in her later work. But it looks like she wasn’t using all her tools with this one. Wasn’t drawing up to her potential. It’s not bad, but using computer gradients as your only means of shading? Having just one real pose for each character? That just borders on a lack of real effort. The writing is fine, and does at least deliver personality, but the ridiculous amount of tpos gets real distracting real fast. The author hails from a country where English is not the primary language, so I can’t harp on her too much for it, but I can blame her grammar checkers for it.
Seriously you guys, what the hell? She asks for a favor, and it doesn’t even look like you read the work.
So yeah, that’s Fantasia: Realm of Thanos. I guess it has a pretty limited appeal, and I don’t know that I’d recommend it to anybody, but it seems that those who do like it looooooooooooooove it. Take that for what it’s worth.
A homegrown visual novel? The concept sort of reminds me of games such as Anachronox and Undertale, which are Western-made JRPGs. You know, that’s something that needs to be done more often. I like seeing other cultures appropriate elements of foreign genres into their work; it leads to interesting, new material.
People are still into anime-style bad boys? Yeesh, I thought that trend died out years ago. For that matter, it seems like this series runs on stock clichés of the genre. It doesn’t seem too interesting to be honest.
Then again, the only visual novels I’ve played are from the Ace Attorney series and the Zero Escape trilogy – all of which have gameplay. By the way, it looks like the final installment of the latter will be released this year. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the trilogy concludes.
Visual novels actually have a pretty thriving amateur and indie scene, even in the West. In fact, a friend of mine who used to post in the comments has been spending most of the last year building something that she’s moving towards a commercial release. But yeah, especially if you’re just looking at freeware stuff, there’s plenty of quality visual novels out there from the West. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to sustain quite the commercial market for it that Japan does, but we’ve got a good group of interested people here.
And of course people are still into anime style bad boys! Somebody has to buy Final Fantasy. To be fair, this was released in like 2009. The market may have been a bit different, then. Probably not too different, though.
Really? They didn’t just send Zero Time Dilemma to development purgatory, and make the audience pray it’s way to reality? I’m a little surprised.
I don’t think this visual novel will be the title that finally makes me into a fan of Otome 🙂
On the plus side I now have a new pickup line. “Do you like…. coldness?”
Remember, if she calls you a loser all the time, that’s how you know it’s true love.
The concept sounds fairly interesting, but the character artwork is just plain HORRIBLE. It looks like the kind of stuff you’d normally find on Deviantart, and even THAT is too generous.