Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: PSP (PSN)
Release Date: August 27, 2013
ESRB: T for Teen
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
Chances are, even if you“re reading this review, you“ve never played an otome game before (or only one). Otome games are most generally equivalent to dating sims. Except instead of focusing on a cast of datable girls, you play as a young woman who is surrounding by a bunch of guys. Dating sims themselves are quite the niche, so this genre is a niche of a niche. So far, it seems Aksys Games is the most willing to venture into otome territory.
Their most recent otome release is Sweet Fuse: At Your Side by developer Otomate. It“s far from the cute and cuddly title you might be expecting, though. As the story begins, it all seems goofy enough. Your lead character, Sake Inafune, is actually the niece of real life game developer Keiji Inafune. He has just opened up a theme park based around video games and of course you“re excited to check it out during an exclusive opening event. Alongside other curious parties, you arrive, only to see Keiji kidnapped by a strange pig-looking monster.
From there, things get weird. This pig guy, named Count Hogstein, is an apparently insane creature who has decided to turn the entire theme park into a massive diabolical game. He requires a cast of seven people to engage in his game and Saki jumps right into the mess. Alongside six men, she learns that the Count is forcing them to solve puzzles as a group. If they fail in their attraction-themed puzzles then they“ll all be caught in explosions rigged to each attraction.
The cast of men is pretty varied, even if their presentation harps a bit too much on stereotypical types. There is a musclebound man calling everyone his â€œbroâ€, a shut-in gamer with greasy hair, a boy band idol, and a few others. With the vast differences between each character it“s likely that everyone will find one they like more than the rest and wish to focus on. Even if they don“t, the game will eventually push them down the path of whoever they are closest to. Those without interest in the romantic components still have the rest of the game to enjoy, which focuses primarily on the drama of making it through each puzzle alive.
One of the most interesting facets about Sweet Fuse is the gameplay. The way Aksys marketed the game made it almost sound like an otome version of 999: Nine Persons, Nine Hours, Nine Doors. However, there is never a point in this game where you are actually solving puzzles on your own. Instead, it plays purely as a visual novel. Characters will slowly come to conclusions about the solutions to puzzles, and likely you“ll come up with them beforehand, but there“s no way to act on them yourself.
That doesn“t mean all you do is read, read, and read some more. As with other visual novels, your interactivity is based on making choices at specified times. These choices tend to be focused on what you“ll say to characters next. You might make someone happy, sad, or start yelling at them. Some of these choices affect very little, but others will put you on the path toward romancing one character over the other. There are also special times in puzzles where you must choose the proper hint to move on. Failure to guess the right hint will lead to everyone“s doom - and a game-over screen.
But, for the most part, you“ll be doing a ton of reading. It takes five to eight hours to get through Sweet Fuse on a first playthrough depending on your reading speed. Of course, if you like the game enough to get through it once you“ll probably be excited to go through again. There is a lot of replay value simply for the fact of being able to romance a variety of men. A second playthrough in particular even yields an entirely new romance option.
Since there“s not too much gameplay to handle, the main point of interest is the characters and their interplay. Thankfully, the translation is engrossing, even if not completely accurate to the original Japanese. Saki herself is an incredibly strong-willed character who serves as a stable base to the more fiery attitudes of some of her team members. It“s fun to see them play around and all that, although it does come across as a bit odd they would be capable of being silly in such a dire situation. Also, one unfortunate aspect is the amount of typographical errors to come across. It seems likely the game just wasn“t enough of a priority or something as it“s rare to see this much wrong in a published title.
With that said, the game and its characters are primarily enjoyable. The puzzles are also pretty neat even if you never get to actually â€œsolveâ€ any yourself. With so few otome games out in the West it would even still be worth supporting if the game were not so great. Thankfully, Sweet Fuse is fun and offers a great deal of replay value. Definitely grab it on UMD or as a PSN download and then get to work with Saki and her crew on PSP or Vita.
+ Interesting cast of dateable characters
+ Multiple characters allow for a bevy of playthroughs
- Fair bit of typos to be found
- Puzzle interactivity severely limited
Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10)
With such a small amount of otome games easily available to the American audience, Sweet Fuse shoots up to the top of the top of the list.