|Title: Sweet Fuse: At Your Side|
Publisher: Aksys Games
Developer: Idea Factory and Comcept
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Genre: Text Adventure/Otome Visual Novel
Rating: ESRB: T
Visual novels have recently become my new obsession! When I heard about Sweet Fuse I really wanted to give it a try, though I knew little about it. All I knew was that this was a visual novel that was geared towards girls, with a female as the main character and a bunch of guys that I could choose from to be my love interest. That isn’t enough to make me fall in love with any game or VN on it’s own though. It won’t make me give it a good score (if something sucks then it sucks – regardless of who it is targeted at), but it was definitely up my alley.
I entered a world where Keiji Inafune was my uncle and I was about to go to a grand opening for his gaming-based theme park called The Gameatorium. I am in heaven, right? Maybe, maybe not! So, I am at this grand opening, all excited because I will soon be able to enjoy this awesome park, when all of a sudden things go terribly wrong.
This nasty pig guy shows up to ruin our fun. Him and his little piglet helpers! He makes a huge fuss, blows some stuff up and then says, “I will now choose seven people to join me in a seven-day-long game!” Jerk! He has placed bombs around the theme park that will only be deactivated by these people completing each day’s game. We learn his name is Count Hogstein and he is about to take the park staff as hostages. Great, now he has hostages and the unlucky people who end up playing the game are going to be really stuck here, lest they want to be blown up or see the hostages harmed.
Since one of hostages is your uncle, you decide to volunteer to be one of the players of his game. Bold! I like it. Saki jumps right into the action and goes off to meet the other lucky contestants in this life or death game. You join the other players and get a chance to meet each of them and talk a bit before Count Hogstein shows up to tell ya exactly what is going on. There are 6 other players, all male. Each of them is vastly different and will offer you a different experience when you play their path. For more on each character, check out my Meet the Men of Sweet Fuse article.
Sweet Fuse is all about character interaction. You spend your waking moments with these people, getting to know them and solving the puzzles found on each stage. You are going to spend seven days stuck in here, trying to get through each stage, solve the puzzle and live to face another day. I found Saki quite an enjoyable character to control. She gets mad as hell and you can decide if she shows her anger or not. I had her show her anger a lot because, well, I show my anger a lot! She doesn’t take crap from anyone, and she won’t let these guys walk all over her. Good for you, Saki!
Each day will bring on a new stage and a new puzzle that must be completed in order to defuse the bombs and hopefully free the hostages and yourself. The puzzle aspects in the game are very light, there is nothing brain breaking. They involve making a choice of what to do, which button to press, who to trust, etc. Everyone will need to work together to solve the puzzle and complete the stage. With a group like this one, full of different personality types, it can be difficult to get everyone to work together at first.
Each of the stages offers you a unique experience. They are all based on different types of video games, which is to be expected since the theme park you are in is all about games. One of the guys you met earlier, Meoshi, is a gamer and you can turn to him for some basic information on each stage. You only see a few different shots of each stage ,but they are drawn out so detailed that you feel like you have a really great sense of what each one is about. One stage takes place in a scary hospital where even the outside of that place looks eerie! Other areas in the game are the boat, where you spend your evening, and at different areas of the park like the cafeteria area, where you can go have a meal after a hard day of staying alive.
You earn affection with each character based on decisions that you make. Your affection will decide which character your love interest is and will change a lot about the game. Some stages will not be completed depending on which guy you have chosen to be your love interest. You will be off in other places and experience new parts of the park as well as flesh out their individual stories. You can check your affection level with everyone at any given time by accessing the menu.
Saki has explosive insights in which she thinks about the recent events and you choose three words or a section of the text to ponder on some more. To do so, simply highlight 3 words or sections of text, and if you pick correctly you will get an insight for what you need to be doing to progress that section of the puzzle. These are very helpful and will get you out of a sticky situation. If you mess one up don’t worry. You can use the Quick Save feature, which I will explain in more detail later, and pick again.
The music is all very fitting to each stage. You can hear the tempo pick up when something time pressing is happening, and the eerie music added to the creepy stages certainly helps set the tone! There are a lot of sound effects that help enhance the experience as well. Screams in the distance, puzzle pieces clicking into place and a few well timed musical chords to express exactly how a certain character is feeling at the time. The characters are voiced and each character’s voice seemed to fit their personality really well. You can turn the VA off if you would like in the options.
Quick Save is a blessing for anyone who wants to check out what each and every answer will give you. I used this a lot! Hit the left trigger for a Quick Save and then hit the right trigger to load it up. It’s quick and painless. The game remembers which choice you had already taken, too so you don’t have to remember on your own. Whichever option you chose last time will be a slightly darker color. The Skip All or Skip Read feature is another one that I loved. As with most visual novels you end up playing certain parts repeatedly. With the Skip Read feature the text that you read on a previous play through will be speedily skipped over. The text will stop hastily scrolling when it gets to something that you have not read before, even it if is only a sentence or two, and it effortlessly picks back up when you are past the portion of unread text.
After you beat the game the Diary will become available. Beating the game and doing certain other things will unlock different chapters of the game. This allows you to start from any chapter as well as give yourself affection with whichever guy you would like to. I started with Chapter 3 on my additional playthrough and alternated who I gave myself affection with so that I could experience that best possible story with each of them.
The amount of time you spend with Sweet Fuse will depend on a few things: how many playthroughs you are going to complete, if you use the Skip Read feature and how many times you stop to swoon over something your guy does. I have at least 20 hours in this but it could be closer to 40 and I still have one more person’s story to complete. I suggest playing through the game having each character be your love interest. The story is quite detailed and in-depth, and is well worth the time you will put into it. Most, if not all, of your questions will be answered. Why are these people picked to play the game? Play through the story and find out!
I really enjoyed the time I spent with Sweet Fuse! Everything from the design of the characters and stages to the amount of story that you can flesh out was amazing. Each character is so different and well developed that I would have played the game with each of them even if I hadn’t had to in order to unlock the full story. I still felt like I was cheating on Mitarashi every time I played with someone else and I swear he knew! He looked at me just a little differently when I played a path and didn’t have him as my main squeeze. I might have had a little too much invested in Sweet Fuse but that is what a good VN will do!
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes and was played on a PlayStation Vita.