Retrospective: Phantasmagoria-Worth a look for Otome Fans

This post will briefly describe abuse and rape.

When it comes to otome fans looking for more games, they seem to gravitate toward other visual novels or RPGs. But what about classic adventure games? Some boast the same appealing qualities as the darker otome games- romance, horror, mystery, and the risk of death. In this post, I’ll be making a case for otome addicts to check out the iconic horror adventure game, Phantasmagoria.

Roberta Williams’ Phantasmagoria is a point and click adventure game developed and published by Sierra On-Line and released in 1995. You play as Adrienne Delaney, a bestselling (or at least kind of famous) novelist who somehow had enough money to purchase the extravagant Carnovasch Estate with her husband, also kind of famous photographer Don Gordon. The illustrious magician, Zoltan Carnovasch, owned the entire island the estate resides on in the 1800’s, and it is said that he and his some of his wives are buried underneath the mansion. There is uncertainty as to why all five of his wives either met some untimely death or were never seen again.

phantasm bedscene

The game is divided into 7 chapters and includes a censored mode should you not wish to see blood, gore, and the game’s infamous rape scene (more on that later). You are first treated to a prologue showing Don photographing the large estate and the scene morphs into a freaky nightmare. The nightmares continue as you awake in a fright and are comforted by your disheveled husband which quickly escalates into an awkward sex scene.

adrienne bed grab

Once you’ve had your fill of the prologue, you can move on to Chapter 1. You apparently bought the mansion unseen but fully furnished, and as you explore, you discover some odd things. A fortune telling machine with ominous messages, a weird cloud that floats over a crib, a large bed that won’t keep its hands to itself-there is something wrong with this house despite Don’s insistence that it’s just your imagination. While these are concerning enough, you soon discover a hidden chapel and a box that releases a green spirit that quickly possesses Don.

don yelling 2

The gentle and patient husband you once knew grows more quick tempered and nasty by the day. His outbursts and putdowns culminate into the game’s infamous rape scene. This scene was shocking at the time of the release, causing the game to be banned in Australia, CompUSA refused to sell it, and it was a part of the decision to introduce the ESRB, being the first game to receive the Mature rating. The game does not stop with the violence as you witness brutal deaths and begin to understand what happened to Carnovasch and his wives hundreds of years ago.

adrienne darkroom.png

It is up to you to figure out what exactly has possessed Don and the connection it has to the magician Zoltan. The final chapter has you fighting for your life in one of the best end game sequences I have ever played to date. The tension on whether or not you can save Don is heart pounding.

end game

After all has said and done, Phantasmagoria plays less like an adventure game and more like a visual novel. While there are a few objects to collect and puzzles to solve, they are few and far between and relatively easy. The game was designed for the novice gamer and is more focused on creating a dark atmosphere and an increasingly ominous mood, rather than difficult puzzles.

There are many FMV sequences and there is a slightly creepy skeleton with a booming voice in the bottom left corner that will give you pretty direct hints. The main criticism of the game is that there is more to look at than do. But while this is a drawback in an adventure game, watching things unfold is exactly what the visual novel player is looking for.

Now what makes this appealing to not only a visual novel gamer, but an otome fan? Well, if you like sweet stories and passionate romance, this isn’t the game for you. But if you are a fan of the dark otome games, say Toma from Amnesia: Memories, this is right up your alley.

Spoilers for Amnesia: Memories and Phantasmagoria below-This part is assuming you have already played Diamond World.

 

Without going in-dept about Toma’s route, you can draw a parallel from Don’s descent into madness and Toma’s yandere breakdown. Both men started as very kind and caring people who wanted to do everything for the woman they loved. They were gentle with their partner. But then something horrible happened and warped both of their perceptions and ultimately drove them to madness.

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While it can be argued that unlike Don, in Toma’s delusion, he ultimately never wanted you to die, both are fighting demons. In Toma’s case, it’s demons of his own making while Don literally has a demon in him. Toma pins you to the wall to force sleeping pills down your throat as Don pinned Adrienne to the wall to rape her.

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In the penultimate “boss fight” of Phantasmagoria, Adrienne wakes up chained to a chair; similarly in Toma’s infamous bad end, the heroine is chained up in the cage. It’s not a perfect comparison, and Don does not get a happy ending like Toma, but I would argue the tension and heart pounding I experienced in Diamond World was very similar to Phantasmagoria.

Even if Toma’s route creeped you out, Phantasmagoria may still be a great play for you as it’s meant to be creepy! Seriously, it’s a classic game and the end chase scene is awesome. I highly recommend any gamer to play it as it an important piece of gaming history.

You can buy Phantasmagoria on GOG (DRM Free) and Steam.

Amnesia:Memories is also on Steam.

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One thought on “Retrospective: Phantasmagoria-Worth a look for Otome Fans

  1. Fascinating read…and…holy crow how did this game every bypass me. And it’s been out for so long, even created by a woman! It sounds fantastic and way beyond its time; the only adventure game I played as kid was Myst. I think you illustrated the parallels beautifully and I can see how Diamond World and Toma’s development were similar to the relationship here. It’s a miracle Toma got a chance at his good ending…

    I love the horror genre for some reason; I guess it’s the thrill, even though I often have to walk away or can’t complete them due to difficulty like Eternal Darkness for Game Cube. Any series that features gradual of loss of sanity leave in ways typical jump-scares aren’t.

    Liked by 1 person

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