By: Uma Smith
A peculiar and somewhat odd video game genre is emerging in North America — the visual novel. Since this seems to be popular in Japan, Aksys Games is bringing Sweet Fuse: At Your Side to the PSP (it’s also playable for the PlayStation Vita). Let’s explore further together to see if this title will be as “sweet” as it sounds.
For the majority of the time in Sweet Fuse, you will be reading the text for the story and dialogue. So for the controls, you have the triangle button for accessing the game’s menu, the X button to read through the text, and the circle for activating the screen capture mode (an option for you to save your favorite images). If you want to go through the game even quicker, then the start button serves to progress through the text automatically while pressing select will allow you to skip directly to your next set of dialogue.
There is no movement for your characters nor do you need to travel through various environments manually. Hence, the controls, while easy to remember, also serve minimally to enhance gameplay.
For a PSP title like Sweet Fuse, the art style and color scheme pull off an attractive scene. You will see some animation of the characters against a static background. While you won’t see much special effects that you’d expect from action-type games, the detail and graphical implementations behind Sweet Fuse is pretty…“sweet.”
And with a catchy soundtrack that plays during the visual experience, you’ll be enticed to stick to the game with the wonderful tunes. The voice acting is limited to Japanese, which means you’ll need to depend on the English subtitles to understand what’s going on. However, you still get an authentic manga-presentation, especially when the voice acting is well done.
Sweet Fuse revolves around a high school student named Saki Inafune. She happens to be invited by her uncle, Keiji, to the grand opening of his video-game-based theme park. However, another character by the name of Hogstein takes the place hostage and challenges seven individuals into a deadly game. As such, Saki is accompanied by six gentlemen whose backgrounds include a detective, young idol, gamer and even a male escort! As they embark together into this dangerous game for seven days in the park, they’ll need to face and solve the puzzles associated with the main attractions. Failure to do so will lead to the attraction and the people in it to be blown apart. The story is quite suspenseful, and the pacing it so that you’ll be dying to find out what happens next.
A potential turn-off for people that encounter Sweet Fuse is its minimal gameplay. As mentioned earlier, this is a visual novel, meaning you will be spending your time reading the text and following along with the story. Certain points in the game will have you choose from a number of options, such as which room to investigate, and you’ll also be participating in a mini-game when solving puzzles. There you’ll need to determine which highlighted words or phrases would serve as the solution.
One main thing to point out is that there are elements of a dating simulation taking place here. You see, during this turn of events, Saki falls in love with the gentleman that you choose during the game. For instance, you’ll have to decide how to split up your teams, which affects the interaction between characters involved. As a result, the gentleman that happens to accompany Saki will start to have feelings for her.
The relationships you get her into will lead the story accordingly. In fact, there are 14 different endings you can see, thereby giving a little replay value and longevity. Although you get some elements of romance incorporated in Sweet Fuse, male players can feel comfort in the fact that they won’t get the sappy lovey-dovey moments in this visual novel.
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side may not be the type of game that most players will get into. However, those who are open to trying something a little different will find some appreciation with this title, especially with its Japanese approach in art-style and storytelling. If you’re looking for something unique, with elements of romance, you should consider giving Sweet Fuse a spot “by your side;” downloaded on your PSP orVita, that is.