Sweet Fuse: A Great Addition To The Dating-Sim Genre

By Jenni . September 4, 2013 . 2:03pm

I’m calling dibs on Ryusei Mitarashi. No disputes. It’s totally allowed. Mitarashi is mine. I’ve been playing Sweet Fuse: At Your Side like crazy the last week, have traversed Mitarashi, Meoshi and the “Secret Character’s” routes and I can confidentally say that Mitarashi is the one I want. Not only that, but I can also wholeheartedly endorse Sweet Fuse as the best otome game I’ve played in a long time. It has one of the best visual novel storylines I’ve enjoyed in a long while.

 

Sweet Fuse is the impeccably written and translated tale of one Saki Inafune. That’s Inafune as in niece-of-Mega-Man-creator Inafune. She’s an 18-year-old high school student who loves video games and wakes one morning, excited by the thought of being one of the first people to visit the Gameatorium. Keiji Inafune, her uncle, decided the world needed a theme park inspired by the best video games. (Sidenote: We so need a Gameatorium IRL.) A special preview event is going on and since she’s family, she gets the VIP treatment.

 

Except, this opening event turns out to be the worst one ever. During Keiji Inafune’s opening speech, a man in a grotesque hog suit appears on screen. He dubs himself Count Hogstein, takes everyone in the park hostage with his masked, Piglet accomplices, and says the fate of everyone’s lives will rest on seven people who will go through seven of the Gameatorium’s attractions in seven days. Each attraction will have three “tests” that must be solved between noon and 7pm. If the group fails, the attraction blows up with them inside, and the hostages die.

 

Saki does not like the sound of that, and isn’t going to stand by and be a hostage. She is the first, and only, person to volunteer for Hogstein’s games, and finds that she’ll have to work with six elligible bachelors to save her uncle, the innocent captives, and the park.

 

Before I get into how Sweet Fuse works and why it’s an absolutely fantastic game that every one of you, regardless of gender, should play, I have to explain why I love Saki almost as much as I do Mitarashi. (Remember, DIBS.) I’ve played a lot of otome games. Good ones, bad ones, Japanese ones, and ones from indie developers in North America and this is the first time I’ve had a heroine who sounds and acts just like I would. Sure, Quinrose is awesome with providing strong, female leads for their visual novels, but Sweet Fuse marks the first time I’ve seen a dating sim with someone who behaves and reacts not only as I would, but as my friends would as well. She’s a strong, intelligent girl who speaks her mind and isn’t going to cater to someone else’s desires.

 

Even her reactions to situations don’t have her changing her personality to meet the expectations of others. I was especially pleased to see the only way to get the “best” endings with both Mitarashi and the “secret character” is to be true to herself, and not behave in a submissive or overly girly way. Saki is strong, she will not tolerate your horse puckey, and if you don’t like it, shut up.

 

But again, I’m getting ahead of myself. Sweet Fuse is a typical Idea Factory Otomate visual novel, despite the prospect of puzzles. It’s 100% reading and choosing one of two or three possible responses or actions to move the story forward. Occasionally, the group will be stumped when in a situation, and Saki will have to use her explosive insight to pore over Hogstein’s clues and pick three highlighted words to see if she can divine a solution to the current situation by thinking harder about it.

 

Picking the wrong option usually leads to a bad end, which means it’s helpful to quick save, by pressing the left shoulder button, before any major decision. If you don’t see the love bomb icon on screen after making a choice, showing a guy’s affection for Saki has risen, or pick the wrong keyword, you can reload and try again. The game will even show which answer you choose last time, so you know which one to go with the second time.

 

The first three days proceed in a similar manner, no matter which route a player is going to pursue. Saki and the six guys visit an attraction, go through three tests, pass, have dinner at the park’s restaurant, then go to the cruise ship hotel for the night. Saki then can enjoy a brief break time segment with one of the six men. So no matter what you do, you’ll go through Samurai Fantasy VII (Final Fantasy), Alice Kart (Mario Kart) and Bloodstained Hospital (Resident Evil). It’s after the events of Bloodstained Hospital that the the path splits and the story changes, based on which bachelor Saki has bonded with.

 

Now, I’m biased. I think the Sweet Fuse story is fantastic, and Aksys has done an incredible job with the script, but I think Mitarashi’s storyline is the best. Hand’s down, he manages to be the funniest and kindest bachelor. He’s tops. Though, I will acquiese that every single story I’ve gone through is quite amazing. Meoshi’s is especially touching. While I initially went after him because he’s a creepy looking, gamer dude in a straight jacket coat, I was surprised to see how sympathetic his story is, and the strength and intelligence he shows throughout his story. It isn’t just those two characters though. Every character comes across as completely believable and realistic.

 

Most importantly, the way the relationships grow throughout Sweet Fuse are is believable as well. Though most of the story is a general thriller and adventure, romance starts to seep in on the fourth day. Given the whole situation, I wasn’t sure how Idea Factory and Aksys could make falling in love even seem plausible. Yet, they do. It works, and we see situations were affection gradually grows. Not only that, but we also see friendships developing among the other characters. These seven strangers come together and bond, each growing from their experience. It feels natural.

 

What really gets me isn’t the great story and engaging writing. Well, I suppose it does, since each night since I downloaded Sweet Fuse, I’ve been playing from about 10pm to 1am. Still, what’s more is how wide-reaching the game is. Yes, this is a dating sim geared towards women, but the story is so fantastic that I think anyone who gave it a chance would enjoy it. (Especially if they went for Mitarashi. Male escort FTW.) The romantic elements are so subtle and woven in so easily and naturally that it feels like a compliment to an alreadt strong adventure. It’s funny, touching, clever and thrilling, all at the same time.

 

Really, I can’t recommend Sweet Fuse: At Your Side highly enough. If you have ever been interested in a visual novel, this is the game to go with. If you’re a man, go ahead and play it anyway, going for whatever guy seems most interesting or entertaining to you, for an incredible story. If you’re a woman, enjoy the opportunity to swoon over virtual men and read a great story. Sweet Fuse is a great game for anyone with a PSP or Vita, and my greatest wish right now is that it does well enough for Aksys to agree to take more chances like this.

 

Food for Thought:

 

1. Go for a “good ending” with each guy, if you want a happy ending with him.

 

2. Save before having Saki “get mad,” as you can miss a CG in some cases. I missed one of the Mitarashi CGs because I had her get mad at him.

 

3. Replay at least once, going with the Secret Character, if you want to know Count Hogstein’s identity and his motivation for running these games.

 


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  • Sardorim

    Sounds interesting, perhaps they pulled it off after all. I’m most impressed!

    *Nods head with a false sense of self-accomplishment dripping with an overt amount of unwarranted ego*

  • supervamp

    I can’t say if i like him completely considering I’m still trying to hope I’m on the right track towards his good ending and he will be my first, but he is pretty nice from what I’ve seen in the common route.
    He’s adorkable

  • Neight Jirachi Simmons

    Loving this VN a lot. Its definitely enjoyable regardless of gender.

  • puchinri

    Even though I enjoy the designs for the characters, I don’t entirely enjoy them as bachelor designs. Nonetheless, their personalities sound fun and Saki sounds like the type of protag I’d have a girl crush on, so I’ll probably pick this up (and I want to support the otome market~).

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      Saki is the best protag ever. I love her even more after Shidou’s route.

      Also, I kinda love Shidou now too.

      • l777l

        … How many do you get to call dibs on?

        • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

          Every single one? ;P

          Play the game, and you’ll start calling dibs too!

          • l777l

            Not my kind of game. I’d call dibs on your review, though. It’s sweet.

          • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

            Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      • puchinri

        I’m really excited about Saki alone. She sounds like a lot of fun and the kind of character that one just loves to follow.

    • supervamp

      I have to agree that they aren’t very attractive in the usual dateable sense, though i think it’s it can be funny considering this is done by the person does Phoenix Wright the little critical, when saki shouts what’s wrong with you, reaction from the characters brings back that nostalgia

      • puchinri

        Haha, yeah, the PW art also helps and I like seeing the art paired with/bringing out those reactions.

  • XxDestinyXx

    I LOVE this game. I have played this game 3 times with Kouta, Subaru, and Towa (call dibs on Kouta, lol).

    I’m going to play all the guys story-lines. Even the ones I don’t like. This game is just too fun and the dramatic change in story (depending on the guy) is worth losing many hours of sleep. :)

  • Eric Harris

    good for girl gamers. It’s too bad there are no good male dating sims. The only ones like that are pervy games that will never be released on an english handheld.

    • supervamp

      What are you talking about there are plenty that are all ages though even all ages otome games have a bit of pervy elements to them.

    • DyLaN

      Eh, there actually quite the selection of good dating sims/VN like the key titles or TYPE MOON titles. Even some of those eroge ones are actually pretty good and most eroge get a cleaned up handheld port (Japan only though, like LB ME or F/SN RN).

      Though if we are talking abt official release…. Yeah.

  • Chim_era

    Is or will the game be available in Europe? Pretty please :)

    • http://www.benspants.com/ Belisarius

      It’s available on European PSN for PSP and Vita right now. :)

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      PSP UMDs are region-free, so even if it doesn’t get an official release….

    • Chim_era

      I didn’t find it on the European PSN … maybe only the UK has acces to it? :3
      However I already ordered the PSP version on amazon … I’ll probably gonna buy it twice :p

  • Enma_Kozato

    If we’re calling guys then I’ve got Wakasa :v Can’t get enough Kaji Yuki.

    My main gripe with Sweet Fuse is the secret route, but that’s because I’m not one for pity angle to redeem someone.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I didn’t like the secret route because I kept getting KILLED. >-<

      • Enma_Kozato

        Really? There was only one point I got a bad ending, but I just chose the wrong response.(0A0)

        • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

          I got a bad ending twice, from wrong responses.

          • Enma_Kozato

            Looks like those wooing abilities need a bit more work.

        • xXDGFXx

          How do i always manage to miss the bad end in these games…? Is it really bad BAD or is it a “boohoo, you missed out” bad?

          • Enma_Kozato

            In my whole play experience so far, I got 3 bad endings, 1 was a repeat of the same ending though. All of them were because I didn’t choose the proper response, and Saki died in all of them as well.

  • malek86

    That first screenshot is most definitely Willy Wonka.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I don’t know… is Willy Wonka THAT awesome?

      • malek86

        Depends on which Willy Wonka you take.

  • Mordina

    My copy has been shipped so I’m waiting with excitement! Thanks for writing this, hopefully it gets the interest of many so Aksys can keep bringing us great otome games with excellent translations~

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I still hope beyond hope that we’ll miraculously get Arabian’s Lost, Amnesia, or Beastmaster and Prince from them.

  • http://vindictushots.tumblr.com/ Okuni-chan

    Yes, yes and YES! I am loving this one. I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to enjoy it but I do know I’m going to play all the routes. (Animal Crossing New Leaf/FFXIV has been taking up a lot of my free time lately)

  • Presea

    Oh damn this review sold me. Once I get a little more money, I am so getting this. Finally a strong and not-submissive protagonist in which she can think and act for herself and the plot sounds really interesting! I’ll probably go for all endings in this one.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      It’s so good that I’m going for all the endings as well. Usually, I only go for 2-3 of the bachelors in a game.

  • leingod

    Looks great! A shame it’s otome only… I just… can’t enjoy otome games. Can’t relate.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      If it helps, the otome element is VERY subdued. It only starts to seep in after the fourth day, and it was only in Shidou’s route that it was getting to sappy. In the case of Meoshi, it was almost like a friends-first kind of scenario.

      • leingod

        Oh, thanks for the feedback. Maybe I’ll pick it up eventually! Inafune being in the game is already weird, and the artstyle kinda reminds me of Phoenix Wright :O

        • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

          It’s by the Phoenix Wright artist. ;D

  • Barrylocke89

    Still got dibs on Ayumu Shirabe. Gotta like the somewhat weathered mature type.

    On another note, I showed the characters to my sister seeing which bachelors she liked the most based purely on looks. She picked Subaru Shidou…and Saki Inafune! She didn’t realize Saki was a female until I told her. (I think the picture that she saw was the one you see in her “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU” pose, so I can kinda see how that might pass as a male with the bob cut.)

  • http://jesse-dylan.livejournal.com Jesse_Dylan

    I got scared away from this game by some bad English reviews of the Japanese version. Guess there was no reason to be scared off! I agree, really hoping this game does well and that it makes way for more weird stuff. (I have ulterior motives: I want RPGs.)

    I am a little worried that I won’t be able to relate or have interest in any of the guys. I can’t pass up a good, weird Japanese game, though, and I’ve never actually played an otome game before. (I did buy Hakuoki when it was on sale! Just haven’t played it.)

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      If it makes you feel better, I was unsure about the character art for Mitarashi and Meoshi. I ended up going for Mitarashi first because he was so well written. Then, I went for Meoshi because his character art could be SO ridiculous.. and found he had a super-touching story.

      • http://jesse-dylan.livejournal.com Jesse_Dylan

        I’ll probably like Saki so much that it won’t matter a ton to me which dude I pick! I do really like the art, though.

        So glad you posted this review and I happened to catch it, or I wouldn’t have realized this was such a good one!

  • Edzo04

    so is this game pretty exclusive to girls or is the story and puzzle stuff good enough for everyone? most reviews ive read say that romance is there but it isnt throwing it in your face

    • Presea

      The game’s target is girls, but that doesn’t mean a guy can’t enjoy it. :) I have played many games that are heavily geared towards guys (like Hyperdimension Neptunia, Mugen Souls) and some I have played contain romantic elements in which you court girls (like Ar Tonelico, Agarest War, etc.), and I enjoy them a lot even though I’m a female. I guess I shouldn’t be taken for granted since I haven’t played it yet, but from what I seen it seems like a intricate plots and puzzles would be exciting and interesting regardless of gender.

      • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

        This. The romantic elements are very natural and subdued.

  • Xerain

    I plan to buy this for my sister for Christmas. When does it come out? Is it available on UMD? She only has a 1GB memory stick.

  • new_tradition

    Curious about how long the over-all game is. You mention playing from 10pm to 1am. Is that how long it takes to go through each route?

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      The first playthough… I have no idea. I played the first playthrough over the course of one night and a little bit of the next morning. Maybe… 4ish-5ish hours? Then subsequent playthroughs were a bit shorter, because I was skipping seen text. But the skipping playthroughs were still pretty long, because sometimes I’d start day 4 with these guys at 11pm, and be playing until 1:30am.

  • Notquitesure?

    Is there supposed to be a good mystery in this like 999 or is it mainly a romantic game.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      It’s more of a choose your own adventure, mystery novel. The only non-spoiler character route I’ve been through so far that actually touches on the mystery of Count Hogstein is Shidou’s, though.

      It’s more just an interesting adventure. There are some close calls, ala 999, but the puzzle solving element is gone.

      Romance only comes up during the fourth of the seven days, and it’s usually pretty subdued and natural.

  • xXDGFXx

    I really wish this game had more puzzles :X

  • Hours

    I’m enjoying this game so much. Hakuoki was good, but Sweet Fuse is AMAZING.

    Mitarashi is my favorite guy, but I really like Shirabe, Shidou and Urabe too. Even Meoshi and Towa have grown on me, and I usually don’t like those character types. The only one I don’t like is the secret route man. He’s horrible.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Jenni

      I agree. I don’t care for secret route guy as well. I only went for him because I accidentally got on his route during my second playthrough, and figured may as well see it through to the end.

  • fireguardiancoty

    Please, Mitarashi is MINE!

  • Göran Isacson

    So what you’re saying is that Keiji Inafune is not available… just because of some silly reason like being related to the main protagonist?! Since when has that stopped a dating game protagonist, whether male or female?!

    Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to go back to my shrine and be satisfied with that… for now…

    And on a marginally less creepy route: I am really interested to hear that Saeki isn’t a doormat of some kind. Having read a lot of otome-game reviews and story walkthroughs and seen some let’s plays, the amount of them which end up being these really wishy-washy obvious “insert yourself here” that has to be saved by the big strong manmen and then be ravaged by them (because consent is apparently to dating sim writers like water is to the wicked witch of the west or something?) are… uncomfortably high. Good to hear that isn’t the case here!

  • Lester Paredes

    That sounds really cool. I saw it on psn, but was hesitant to buy it. I think I will now. Just put it in the pile of other games I have to beat…

  • Stephanie

    You can have Mitarashi so long as I get Meoshi. <3

  • Shauntal

    I just finished every single route, and WOW. I gotta say I love the secret character’s the best, though–not for the story, but the food for thought. Every time you pick the wrong choice, there are some serious consequences! Urabe kinda pissed me off, though. Other than that, all the routes are amazing!

    Meoshi is my husband. He’s cute. A cute patoot.

    For people just starting the game, I would recommend going for Meoshi or Wakasa first, and saving Urabe, Shidou, and Shirabe for later. Go for the secret character last.

    P.S.: I have every CG, but I seem to be missing a movie in the gallery… It’s right after the opening. What is it?

  • http://lehst.wordpress.com/ Lehst

    I hope not too many people judge the game solely on Mitarashi’s route. I didn’t much care for it.

    I liked Shirabe’s story best! I really liked how Saki was portrayed in that one. Followed by Shidou, because his story had a lot of cool events and games. Also I found these two the most attractive, haha.

    Every storyline is so different though! Despite that though, the facts in each one line-up really well. The only real variable is Saki herself (since you choose what she says and it changes what she does).

    The mystery and camaraderie in this game is very good. I recommend it to anyone that wants to play a good visual novel (you don’t have to be interested in the guys to enjoy it!). Shidou and Mitarashi have this awesomely hilarious banter; they are very developed characters that interact with more than just the protagonist.

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