Availability: Free, Download
Format: Visual Novel
My Score: 4 out of 5
Found at http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/
Fantasia: Requiem of the Abyss seems to be the middle part of a trilogy (as I found out belatedly). You play Valen, the daughter of a demon lord and a human woman. The evil Thanos has struck the land with famine, causing nations to go to war, and must be stopped using a blue orb. Your new friends will help you.
Despite being the middle chapter of a series, I had no problem diving right into the story. In fact, I didn't even *realize* I'd started with the wrong chapter until I was well committed to it. The story itself is quite involving, complex and neatly woven together. The characters are individualized and engrossing, and I find myself feeling for them. The only fly in this ointment, and it's a pretty hefty one, is the English.
Imagine taking your favorite book, running it through several languages on Babelfish, and then Translating it back to English. That's how bad some of these chapters get. With a little thought, you can understand what the author is saying, but the effect is like picnicking in a beautiful meadow when all the mosquitoes are out. The setting is lovely, and you've brought some good things to the table, but...oh man... *swat* *swat* *swat*.
I'm a bit more ambivalent about the art. When I first saw it, there was something about it that I didn't like; something I still can't put my finger on. It's fairly consistent with itself, so I honestly don't know if its just a style that I don't care for, or if the artist is actually doing something wrong somewhere. To be fair, though, once I got deeper into the game, I started deciding that certain characters were cute and/or hawtsome, so make of that what you will. Also, there's a good range of poses and expressions for each character, and the scenery is quite lovely.
Now for the game-play: ONE thing prevents the gameplay from getting a perfect 5, and that is the fact that, in the version I downloaded at least, the solitaire minigame is broken. That's it. Everything else about the gameplay is perfect.
The story changes and branches according to the choices you make, but the branches are kept neatly tied into the main story, and there are certain landmarks you will always hit no matter whose path you're on. It's not too linear, but not a sprawling mess of infinite branches either. (I made one of the latter, once. It wasn't pretty.) Yes, there is a section with minigames, but there is no rule that you have to play them in order to progress. I was impressed to find that the results of the arm-wrestling match were in fact randomized, as I discovered when I tried to cheat by save-scumming. Er....I mean...ah well.
What impressed me most, though, was that unlike some works I've played, the past did not change according to your choices! I hate when that happens in games: You're Prince Charming's long-lost sister in Ending A, but Ending B has you getting married and, I assume, miraculously being NOT related to each other. (Cute Knight is the mentioned offender here, but there are others.) Past events should not simply change, and in F: RotA, they don't. The characters' histories are solid. If you pursue character X, it doesn't change the fact that character Z still loved you all along, which gives the endings even more emotional impact. The only things that change based on your choices are your future and current circumstances, which is as it should be.
In short, I loved this game. I got hooked playing it. It has two big flaws, as noted above, but the characters are great and the story is compelling. I don't know if the prequel comes close in quality, and I don't know what the sequel must be like, but this is an excellent game.