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Visual Novel / The Arcana

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"I may not have all the answers you seek. But.
The cards do. If you know how to use them.
And you do know how to use them, whether you believe it or not."
Title graphic of The Arcana

The Arcana is a mobile fantasy/romance visual novel from Nix Hydra Games.

You, the player, are an apprentice magician with a gift for fortune-telling. Left in possession of an unusually enchanted Tarot deck, you must navigate intrigue, murder, magic… and perhaps a few saucy encounters.

The story takes place in a city, Vesuvia, where you are the apprentice to Asra, a wandering magician. When Asra goes away on yet another journey, the apprentice is abruptly visited by the Countess Nadia. She invites you to join her in the city's palace, for an important, if mysterious job. To find the culprit behind the late Count Lucio's suspicious death.


Provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Area: The Lazaret and other areas ruined by the plague.
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: The Rowdy Raven.
  • All in the Eyes: The apprentice's first encounter with Lucio in the prologue.
  • Amazing Technicolor World: The cave and the Magician's realm are both bright, fantastical places.
  • Animal Motifs: Most of the major characters thus far are associated with at least one animal.
    • Lucio's animal is the goat, used to represent him in his paintings, in board games, and in theater plays. His form after death is that of a monstrous goat, resembling that seen on the Devil card in Asra's tarot deck.
    • Asra's animal is both the snake and the fox. His familiar, Faust, is a snake, and during his route Asra finds himself drawn to a carving of a fox. He is linked to the Magician card, represented in his tarot deck as an anthropomorphic fox that shares his purple eye color.
    • Julian's animal is the raven. One in particular follows him around, he frequents a tavern called the Rowdy Raven, and he is linked to the Hanged Man, represented in Asra's tarot deck as an anthropomorphic raven.
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    • Other links include Nadia and owls, Portia and cats, and the courtiers with red beetles, which bring the red plague.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Mercedes and Melchior, a pair of borzoi-like hounds that belonged to Lucio while he was still alive.
    • If the apprentice likes the vampire eel in the moat, however, the dogs warm up to them instantly.
  • Artificial Limbs: Lucio's left arm is missing from just below the shoulder. Word of God states that it was amputated by Julian to save Lucio's life, long before the plague struck. It's gold and very shiny and can have additional Bling of War added to make it even more so.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Count Lucio and all of the courtiers.
  • Asshole Victim: Sure, Lucio was burned to death while lying sick in bed, but no one really seems to mind.
  • Baphomet: Due to its tarot influence, the Devil is depicted as Baphomet, and the character most associated with the devil, Lucio, is strongly associated with goats in general.
  • Aura Vision: In Asra's route, Salim shows the main character a mirror that allows them to see auras.
  • Beta Couple: The apprentice and the character they're romancing will always be the alpha couple; however, the devs have stated that certain characters will pair up if you aren't romancing them. Asra and Muriel to Nadia/apprentice, in Nadia's upright path.
  • Bi the Way: All romance routes are available no matter which pronoun set is chosen.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Julian gets upset at the idea of Portia being in danger. It's revealed in a paid option that he also rescued her from a shipwreck when they were children.
  • Big Eater: Volta is obsessed with food, and will eat everything in sight. It's later explained that her deal with the Devil is to blame for this.
  • Blood Magic: Asra tries this unsuccessfully with Julian in one of the paid scenes. The ritual that was supposed to get Lucio a new body was supposed to involve his blood, but Asra replaced it with pomegranate juice.
  • Body Horror: All of the courtiers after their true forms are revealed. This is especially true of Valdemar, who is described as being a pulsing mass of rib bones, eyes, and teeth. Their true form doesn't even get a sprite, leaving it to the player's imagination.
  • Bookcase Passage: Valdemar reveals one while before giving the main character a tour of the dungeon.
  • Carpet of Virility: Julian and Muriel are both Type 1, but Julian has more of the hypersexuality associated with this trope.

  • Claimed by the Supernatural: Asra, Nadia, Julian, and Muriel all have marks that denote they've made deals with the Major Arcana.
  • Clear Their Name: Julian's involvement with the death of Lucio.
  • Color Motif: "Plot-relevant red".

  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Lucio was burned to death in his own bed. And the bedclothes and bed were untouched by the fire.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Julian's power to heal others by taking on their wounds would be a terrible burden... if he didn't happen to be a huge masochist.
  • Deal with the Devil: Asra and Lucio have both made one. The apprentice is given the option to make one as well, and the terms differ depending on the route. The Devil turns out to have made several with other minor characters.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Nadia is a task-driven woman, and quickly warms up with some kindness and support from the apprentice.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: Pulled off in Book XV by Lucio, in a Shout-Out to The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Driving Question: What is the truth behind the death of Count Lucio?
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Julian doesn't confess his love until the fight with the Devil is looking grim.
  • Eaten Alive: Lucio is eaten alive by the courtiers in Asra's route.
  • Empathic Healer: Julian is able to take the injuries of others after a deal he made with the Hanged Man.
  • Energy Donation: Asra and the apprentice regularly offer their magic to each other. When Julian learns how to use magic, he does this as well.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit: The Palace Dungeon and Lucio's wing.
  • Exact Words: The Arcana cannot lie... but they can certainly mislead, which the Devil exploits in several of his deals.
    • His deals with each of Asra's parents separately promises to free their spouse from the dungeon and make sure Asra is unharmed by Lucio... which ensures that both of them are taken into his realm, while Asra is left to fend for himself with no one to care for him as a little child.
    • His deal with a starving Volta is that she will be fed... but not that she will be satisfied, turning her into a glutton while retaining the feeling of starvation.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: Valdemar has sapped so much of Death's power that Death instead takes the form of Pepi or Malak, depending on your choice of venue.
  • For Science!: Valdemar's justification for the "experiments" on living plague victims.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Subverted. Lucio, the only blond in the main storyline, is an all-around awful guy and has no qualms about using violence.
  • Healing Hands: Asra heals the apprentice and Julian at different points in the story. Julian has healing hands as well, or at least until he gives up his power to come back from the dead.
  • Hell Hotel: Julian, Asra, and Nadia visit one in the second token scene.
  • Humanlike Hand Anatomy: Despite having animal faces, the Major Arcana all have humanlike hands.
  • Interclass Friendship: Nadia's relationships with Asra and Julian before killing Lucio the first time, as well as her relationship with Portia after her coma.
  • Iron Lady: Nadia, a countess deeply revered by all in Vesuvia.
  • It Only Works Once: The Devil's chains on the apprentice. Because of this, the apprentice is the only one who can free Chimes and Flamel.
  • It's All About Me: Lucio's hubris is well-known and often mocked by the other characters. His palace is littered with portraits of himself.
  • It's All My Fault: Julian and Asra both blame themselves (at least in part) for the apprentice's death, though this is especially true for Julian.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Asra inflicts this on the apprentice on an apparently semi-regular basis as they would go catatonic if he revealed too much about their past together. All three love interests are also suffering from varying degrees of amnesia following the events of the previous Masquerade.
  • "Last Supper" Steal: Lucio's painting in the palace's dining room.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Asra's decision to sacrifice half of his heart to resurrect the apprentice, having no idea of what the consequences might be, is arguably an example.
  • Magic Compass: Asra's compass points to whatever the person holding it desires the most.
  • Mark of Shame: Julian's branding on his left hand marks him as a murderer.
  • Masquerade Ball: Before his death, Lucio would throw an extravagant Masquerade party every year for his own birthday, which any citizen in Vesuvia was permitted to attend. It was on the night of one such party, three years ago, that Lucio was killed.
  • Multiple Endings: Each route culminates in either an upright or reversed ending depending on the player's previous choices.
  • My Greatest Failure: Julian is shown to be guilt-ridden from failing to find a cure to the plague.
    • The Lazaret is this for all three love interests. For Asra, it is the place where the apprentice died from the Red Plague and their body was burned to ash. For Nadia it represented the citizens she failed when Lucio refused to listen to her advice on combating the Red Plague before it reached Vesuvia. And for Julian, it is a reminder of the lives he'd failed.
  • Mystical White Hair: Asra and Aisha are both powerful magicians with white hair.
  • Nearly Normal Animal: Chandra, Faust, Inanna, and Malak have all displayed above-average intelligence and can communicate with their owners. Malak and Faust have been shown to communicate with each other as well.
  • Noble Wolf: Inanna, Muriel's wolf.
  • Plague Doctor: Valdemar and Julian both worked on curing the Red Plague during its height. As did the apprentice.
  • Public Execution: Julian is hanged at the start of the Masquerade in front of his friends, family, and the rest of Vesuvia.
  • Obviously Evil: Valdemar. They have sharp teeth, red eyes, and are really excited about dissections.
  • Ominous Opera Cape: Julian wears one despite being more drama queen than villain.
  • Rapunzel Hair: Nadia's hair goes well past her butt, and she requires Portia's assistance to style it each morning.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Julian and Asra, respectively.
  • Romantic Runner-Up: Julian and Asra had a sexual relationship at some point, but ultimately, Julian was runner-up to the apprentice for Asra's affections.
  • Scary Teeth: Valdemar's smile isn't even the creepiest thing about them.
  • Seriously Scruffy: Muriel.
  • Shipper on Deck: Portia and Mazelinka wholeheartedly ship Julian/apprentice. The baker and Nadia seem to ship Asra/apprentice.
  • Speech-Impaired Animal: While Faust can communicate with Asra, she is never depicted saying more than a few words at a time.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Subverted. Faust, Chimes, and Flamel are all portrayed as friendly.
  • Street Urchin: Muriel and Asra before the events of the main story
  • Tarot Motifs: Each chapter is named after one of the major arcana - though beginning with the Magician rather than the Fool.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Julian survives his public execution thanks to the deal he made with the Hanged Man.
  • We Used to Be Friends: All three of the love interests were friends during the Red Plague: Nadia forgot all about it, Julian forgot about being friends with Nadia, and Julian and Asra’s sexual relationship ended on such a sour note it embittered them towards each other. Only Asra appears to remember the entire friendship.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole?: It's quickly revealed Lucio was loathed by everyone he knew, making the investigation even more complex. None of the suspects did, as it turns out, though Julian came close - and even then it was to stop the Plague.
  • You Can't Thwart Stage One: Despite your best efforts in every route, Lucio comes back to life and robs the apprentice of a body at the same time.