Also available on Windows
As everyone should know, I love the Neptunia series. It is my all time favorite video game franchise, and I will fight anyone who tries to tell me it's not great (I routinely fight large number of opponents...). Superdimension Neptune vs. Sega Hard Girls is - as the title suggests - a crossover game between the Hyperdimension Neptunia and Sega Hard Girls series. It's more accurate, however, to say that they shoehorned Sega Hard Girls characters into a Hyperdimension Neptunia game (kind of what they did with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE by shoehorning Fire Emblem characters into a Persona game).
If you've played any of the three Hyperdimension Neptunia Re;Birth games Megadimension Neptunia VII, then you know exactly what to expect in terms of gameplay. This one plays out exactly like the standard Nep JRPG. In my opinion, that's a great thing. However, if you're super hardcore about your JRPGs, it might not appeal to you. "Challenge" is one thing that does NOT describe a Neptunia RPG. Even if you don't buy the few $1 break-the-game DLCs, the game is NOT difficult, and you unlock some pseudo-game-breaking options just by playing normally (though you can, thankfully, disable or enable these at will). You don't play Nep games for the challenge, though; you play them for the lovable characters and shattered fourth wall.
So basically the plot is that you're the Doctor except instead of a Time Lord, you're IF (she's the protagonist in this one); instead of a companion, you have Segami; and instead of a TARDIS, you have a motorcycle possessed by the ghost of Neptune. As you travel through the four eras of Gamindustry's past, you'll encounter Plutia and Mega Drive, Neptune (again) and Saturn, Nepgear and Game Gear, and Uzume and Dreamcast. It's like a Sega fanboy's dream come true (so of course I loved it). It is HELLA goofy, though; steer clear of this one if you're wanting a serious plot with serious characters. FFS, the titular character spends the whole game possessing a god damn motorcycle. It's the best kind of goofy, but it's 110% goofy.
I'm not going to say too too much more about this game because it's essentially pure fan service. If you don't like the idea of a silly RPG with personified Sega consoles, you won't like this game no matter what I say; if you think that idea sounds amazing, you're going to like this game even if I say nothing. I, personally, loved the game and almost everything about it, but if I'm being objective, it's really an extremely average JRPG, and my score will reflect that mediocrity despite my personal adoration for it. If you're unfamiliar with the Neptunia series, I don't recommend starting with this one. Go pick up Re;Birth 1 on Vita or Steam and start with that one. If you've put your foot in the water with Neptunia before, however, and are familiar with some of the characters and their personalities (and actually like it; I know I'm a minority on that), then you definitely shouldn't miss this one. I liked it a lot more than most people, and it's admittedly very niche game, but if you fall into the that niche, it's a pretty great experience.
My Score - 3 Neps
Also available on Super Nintendo
This, ladies and gents, is one of the rarest games on the Sega Master System, and thanks to having the world's best roommate, I now have a copy. It's not THE rarest Master System game, but it's definitely one of them. I have been hunting this game for almost seven years, and in all that time I have it up for sale ONCE online. Battletoads in Battlemaniacs was, for most of the world, only released on Super Nintendo. Virgin Interactive, had plans to publish a Master System port in Europe, but they scrapped that at the last minute. Since the Master System has such popularity in Brazil, however, Tec-Toy and Virgin decided to release the Master System port exclusively in Brazil. Unfortunately for the Brazilians, what they got was an finished game.
In terms of visuals, it's not bad for the Master System. It definitely doesn't push the console to its limits, but it's not a muddled mess. The problem with the game's visuals comes in with the sprite flickering, and I don't mean the common 8-bit sprite flicker. You'd have enemies vanish from screen for a full half second. Environment models would vanish for a second or two at a time. On the infamous speed bike level, once it got going really fast in the last third or so of the level, it was just about impossible to tell what was going on because the whole world would randomly flicker in and out of existence, leading to invisible obstacles on an already brutally difficult level in a criminally difficult game.
While we're mentioning it, let's talk about difficulty. I've beaten Battletoads on NES and Game Boy. I've beaten Battletoads/Double Dragon on NES. I've beaten Battletoads Arcade on Xbox One. I've beaten Battletoads in Battlemaniacs on SNES. All without cheats. This Master System port is, without a doubt, the most difficult Battletoads game I've played, and that's not just because the game is intended to be hard. I also have NO problem admitting that I played through this with an infinite lives cheat because even with that cheat, not dying long enough to finish a level was a monumental challenge. The stone pig boss pictured above is a great example of why this game is difficult. If so much as one of your pixels even briefly brushes a single enemy pixel, you take damage. You have to make sure that your attacks are timed PERFECTLY so that you're not touching the enemy when you hit the button but also so that your attack connects to deal damage. Couple that with a hit detection system that's shoddy at best, and you're in for a rough time.
The sound is another interesting testament to the game's unfinished status. The first two levels of the game have music. The last three levels of the game have music. Levels 2 and 4 are randomly silent, however. They have sound effects, but no music. In addition to the lack of music in some levels, there's an absence of introductory storyline stills at the beginning of the game, and the game over screen is very abrupt. It's very clearly a game with which the publisher said "Eh, it's good enough. Let's just sell it as is." It does, however, shorten Pimple's name to "PIMP" in game (look on the top left of the screenshots).
As I wrap up my review of this, let me be clear about something - I am tickled to DEATH that this game is in my collection. The game itself it complete shit and should never be played on Master System rather than Super Nintendo, but this is the kind of game that collectors have wet dreams about. This is the kind of game that you covet as a collector and play when drunk at a parties. It's just not the kind of game you EVER play sober or to win. The Super Nintendo version is a fantastic game and a finished product; this, however, is an unfinished port to an inferior system, and that much is apparent in every aspect of the game.
My Rating - 1 Nep
There's been some talk on the Racketboy forums of starting a thread to show off our amiibo collections, and since (thanks to the package from Play-Asia that I picked up today) I have a complete amiibo collection so far, I figured I'd start the thread there as well as posting here so that I can show off to the world my reckless and irresponsible financial decisions. =) You'll see that I have grouped roughly by series, and I'll make small comments beneath each image.
Here's my set of the four Kirby series amiibos that released alongside Planet Robobot.
Here we have the green, pink, and blue Yarn Yoshi amiibo as well as the green Mega Yarn Yoshi amiibo that released with Yoshi's Woolly World. The fish that wedged underneath the Virtual Boy on the left is my Umio plush from the Megadimension Neptunia VII special edition release, but since that's a PS4 game, he's obviously not an amiibo.
Weapon Shop de Omasse is a very unique game. To some folks, that isn't going to be a good thing. I wasn't sure how I felt about it for the first 30 or 45 minutes, but the game grew on me after a while. It ended up being a good kind of "unique" for me. It's another of Level 5's games, so you know it's going to be creative if nothing else. I can safely say that I've never played another game quite like it.
So you play as an apprentice blacksmith working in his master's shop to fill weapon orders on a rental system. Apparently demand for weapons has soared SO MUCH amidst fears of the Evil Lord's return that the raw materials for weapons have dried up, making supply unable to keep up. The way around this is to use what materials blacksmiths can afford to make weapons to rent rather than to sell. Weapon Shop de Omasse is a unique blend of tycoon sim, rhythm game, and RPG. You decide what weapons to make across different types (sword, axe, spear, dagger, etc) and what stats to make weapons for (slash, pierce, or blunt). Different customers will prefer different types of weapons and fight enemies weak to different damage types, so you have to take that into consideration. You also lose the weapon and receive no money if the customer fails his or her quest, so you have to be selective with regards to who you rent weapons to and who you deny. This is where the tycoon sim aspect comes into play.
When you're actually making the weapons is the rhythm game aspect. When you forge a weapon, you get a hunk of superheated metal that you have pound into shape by tapping the touch screen in time with the rhythm of the background music (don't worry, they give you markers like any rhythm game). The longer your streak is, the better your weapon's stats are. This is my one grip with the game - there are certain places on the weapon that striking will give you diminished points (but still count as a hit for your streak) as well as certain places that you're not supposed to hit and count as a miss even if you're in time. The problem is that I couldn't figure out how to tell where you're supposed to hit and where you're not. I'm sure there is a way to tell, and the game probably even told me in the tutorial after I had gotten bored reading it, but I couldn't figure it out.
Now for the RPG element, both your customers and your weapons level up. Each time a customer completes a quest, he or she levels up, and every time a quest is completed with a particular weapon, that weapon gains experience points. When you polish your weapons, these points are added to its stats. You can also polish each weapon once after forging before it's used in a quest, and I made a point to do that when I had time, but the stat increase is marginal when it hasn't been used in a quest. That's where a bit of risk vs reward comes into play; do you send a particularly strong weapon with a customer on a quest or not? If you do, your customer will have a better chance of completing the quest, netting you money, materials, and more experience for your weapon; if the customer fails that quest, though, you lose your awesome strong weapon forever with nothing in return. Decisions, decisions.
There are two types of customers that you'll encounter. You've got your main customers, and each of them have distinct personalities - a pair of acrobatic twins, an adorable old grandmother who was a kick ass warrior in her youth, a stereotypical warrior guy, an overzealous Frenchman, a samurai, a lady pirate, and a drag queen with way too much ass showing (he used male pronouns, so he wasn't transgender). You also have your NPCs, and that's actually what they're called - NPC E, NPC R, NPC A, etc. They're very aware of their status as NPC in a fourth wall shattering sort of way; if you give on a really strong weapon, he'll say "Wow, you sure you don't want to save this one for a real character?" and after completing a quest, some will say "I'll be back later! I'm going to go walk in circles saying the same thing over and over again." It's funny, but it doesn't break the 4th wall so much that it's irritating.
Weapon Shop de Omasse is a longer game than you would expect, but it's charming. Within the first hour, you'll probably know whether or not it's a game that you'll like. I, personally, loved it, and I definitely recommend it, especially if you want a more laid back management game. It's not a fast paced action game, but it is a clever game that shows you the OTHER side of role playing games.
My Rating - 4 Neps
Also available on iOS
Anybody want to play a game that blends Professor Layton and Elite Beat Agent but with none of the charm or fun of either? Boom. Rhythm Thief has you covered. It's not that the game's bad. It's not a bad game. It's just not a good game. It's ridiculously okay, and as I've said a gazillion times before and will doubtlessly say a gazillion times in the future, that's just about the worse thing a game can be in my opinion
It looks very much like Professor Layton in terms of art style, and a lot of the gameplay is very reminiscent of Elite Beat Agents (hence my previous analogy), but it's a death by a thousand cuts sort of situation. The games only flaws are mostly minor, but good lord, there are a lot of minor flaws. To start with, the story is boring af. There's some magic relics that the somehow not dead Napoleon is trying to collect to construct a magic superweapon that's connected to Babylonia...somehow...and your dad is sort of connected to all of it...somehow....and there's this blonde chick who's got the Violin of Time or whatever, and the Illuminati are trying to kidnap her for some eldritch ritual. Then you see your dad like twice but then you sort of forget about him because he's never mentioned after that. Then Napoleon isn't actually the 200 year dead Napoleon, but that's never explained either. And the superweapon flies and controls weather, but that's never explained either. Literally the only redeeming thing about the story is that there's a kid who's transgender but they never make a big deal out of it. That's cool to see normalized. Other than that, it's like a story that tried to be big and dramatic and failed on all fronts.
The rhythm games - the core of the gameplay - are fine. They're nothing special, but they're fine. Some of the controls when it has you tilt the 3DS or slide across the touch screen are really finicky and don't seem quite as accurate as they should be, but everything works decently well aside from that. It's just hella average. And that's the game's biggest weakness - it's just average. It's not memorable in any way, shape or form. Duke Nukem Forever is memorable because of what a let down it was for most fans after such a long wait. ET was memorable because it was the straw that broken the camel's back with regards to the industry's collapse. Superman 64 was memorable because what the actual fuck. Rhythm Thief has nothing going for it. It's not good enough to be loved, and it's not bad enough to be remembered in infamy. There is a cool dog named after cheese, though.
Avoid Rhythm Thief. It's not an obstacle to conquer because of bad controls or unbalanced difficulty. It's not a joy to play with catchy music and responsible controls. It's not a thrilling narrative with well developed characters. The voice acting is horrible. The plot has more holes in it than Osama bin Laden after Operation Neptune Spear. Like, the only things I actually liked about it was the normalized transgender kid the inclusion of a tiny sliver of Babylonian mythology. That's it. The rest sucked
My Rating - 2 Neps
Ever find yourself wishing you could play a tabletop RPG but don't have any friends? Here you go. Crimson Shroud is basically a tabletop RPG sans table. Considering that I've never played a tabletop RPG before and am only tangentially familiar with them from hearing my roommate play D&D over Google Hangouts, I didn't really know what to expect going into this game. Turns out it wasn't nearly as hard as I expected.
The basic plot of Crimson Shroud involves your party - a generic warrior type, a plucky shooty bow guy, and a not-elf mage chick - and your romp through a ruined castle full of the undead. And minotaurs. There's like a whole damn herd of minotaurs in that damn place. Anyway, you were sent in by some earl to find some dead guy and some book, and you figure that you'll look for a mythical towel that may or may not actually exist. Along the way you discover that the dominant religious institution is full of shit, and your government is horribly corrupt. It's basically just like real life except with magic and zombies.
The gameplay, as I mentioned in the beginning, is pretty much straight tabletop RPG. You even have an omniscient narrator who acts like a dungeon master. When you get into a battle, most of your status and stat spells/attacks are dependent on a dice roll, as are things like lifting fog of war. It's kind of neat, but I kind of prefer that stuff be taken care of by automatic scripting since that's basically what happens anyway - not like you can very well cheese a dice roll with a 3DS. One huge gripe I have with the game with regards to this tabletop legacy is that your characters don't gain experience or stat increases whatsoever. Your stats are dependent solely on your equipment, and since there are no shops or anything, you better hope you find some good equipment. That didn't end up being a problem for me - I only ever lost an encounter once, and that was a boss battle that became much more manageable once I googled what approach other people took. It bugs me, though. If I'm playing an RPG, I expect to gain experience and level up. It just feels...unnatural...to have an RPG without experience points. I've always considered experience points to be an integral part of RPGs, at least when it comes to video games, so this game didn't really feel like an RPG to me aside from the fantasy setting any more than Advance Wars does.
My last grip with the game is one that everyone who's played it will complain about. There's one part in Chapter 2 where a necessary item for progression is a random drop from a certain enemy type, and it's neither a common drop nor a particularly common enemy. It took me about two hours - a full third of my entire playtime - just to get this one item so I could proceed. I complain about backtracking and necessary grinding as artificially padding length in other RPGs, but this just takes it to a whole new level. If you're going to make progress necessarily dependent on an item drop, at least make it a relatively easy to find item.
All in all, I wasn't impressed with Crimson Shroud. It's not a bad game by any stretch of the imagine, and the gameplay mechanics (aside from that fucking random drop) are solid, and the difficulty is well balanced. I just didn't like it. The campaign was extremely short (3 or 4 hours if you exclude the bullshit hunt for that item), the characters felt flat as pancakes, and the dungeon was extremely linear and left very little exploration to be done, although the overall narrative was excellent. I know a lot of folks really like Crimson Shroud, but it was just okay to me.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I've had Senran Kagura Burst downloaded on my 3DS for a good while, and I've had a PAL import copy just for the sake of having it on my shelf for a good six or seven months, but I've just now gotten around to beating it. Senran Kagura Burst is about as "me" as a game gets - big titty anime ninja girls beating the crap out of hordes of enemies. Sounds like something I'd think is absolutely amazing, right? Well, it's okay.
The story mode has you choose one of two sides - the Hanzo school of good shinobi or the Hebijo school of evil shinobi. Each of the two campaigns is divided into five chapters with about eight key missions and another four to eight optional side missions. To really "complete" the game and get both sides of the story, you naturally need to play through both the Hanzo campaign and the Hebijo campaign and complete every mission in all five chapters with all characters. Had I been totally in love with the game, I'd have done that. I did not love the game that much, though, so I just played through the key missions on the Hanzo side, did whatever side missions with whatever characters I needed to in order to grind up enough to complete a few particularly tough missions, and called it a day. The game's not bad, but the story didn't really grab me enough to bother with all the rest of that. It's basically "The evil ninja stole our school's Super Secret Ninja Art Scroll (that's seriously what they call it)! We need to go get it back!" That's the core of the narrative. It's simple, and it works, but it's not gripping or interesting enough to entice me to spend more time with the game.
One aspect of the game that's extremely redeeming, however, is the characters. They're basically anime stereotypes, and as a fan of those particular stereotypes, I'm probably a bit biased, but I enjoyed them. You've got the serious and fairly strict class rep, the lesbian whose every other action is sexual harassment if not outright molestation, the quiet and gruff tsundere, the totally clueless but adorable (and freakishly strong) idiot, and the exceptionally average character who ends up saving the world or whatever. You know, your cast from just about every anime style game comprised entirely of female characters ever. But I love it. It worked, and their interactions were entertaining
Unfortunately, that's about where the redeeming aspects end for me. There isn't anything about it that I found to be particularly bad aside from the inconsistent difficulty curve. There were times that I'd beat a mission easily on the first try and then immediately fail the very next mission, grind five levels, and then only barely beat it; the next mission after that, I would beat easily in one try. Really, though, I only noticed that in two or three places, and that was the only aspect of the game that I felt was a negative. The rest of it was just okay, and "okay" doesn't make for a memorable game. It had some pretty nice boob bounce effects, but with Dead or Alive, Onechanbara, and Gal*Gun, that alone isn't enough for even me to consider it a stand out game. Give it a shot if you can find it cheap (which is unlikely for us Americans since our only option is digital), but don't go out of your way for this one, and don't pay more than $10 MAX for it (really, I'd stick to $7 or less)
My Rating - 3 Neps
Spirit Camera is a spin-off game for the Fatal Frame series, and I got this about a year ago when I bought the entire Fatal Frame series in a single giant lot on eBay. I didn't get around to playing it until now, however, and honestly, I wasn't really missing anything. First and foremost (and least importantly to be frank), the name drives me insane. It's a Fatal Frame game; I feel like that should be somewhere in the game's title. I mean, when you get to the game's main menu, the story mode is called "Fatal Frame: Diary of Faces," but it irks me in a really pet peeve-y sort of way that the game itself isn't called Fatal Frame: Diary of Faces. But I digress
Spirit Camera is a beautiful example of a brilliant concept with atrocious implementation. Most of the game is augmented reality; the central character is a ghosty girl named Maya, and she appears in your living room (or bedroom or bathroom or office or wherever you're playing) through use of the 3DS's two external cameras. The Diary of Faces itself is actually an AR book that ships with every copy of the game (don't worry, guys who buy games loose; Nintendo was kind enough to provide a PDF online that's only mildly irritating to use). My first complaint about the AR format lies in the quality of the 3DS's outer cameras; they're just too low resolution to really feel any immersion. Don't get me wrong, the effect is cool, and I'm glad they did it - I'll take a "meh" creative idea over a bland idea - but with the low resolution of the cameras used, the game relied on it too much. Using them if fantastic, but for probably 75% of the game, you were looking at a blurry version of what's actually right in front of you. My other complaint comes from my atrocious sloth - it made me move around. I didn't have to chase the ghosts or anything, but you have to be able to turn 360 degrees at any given moment and look up and down quickly because the ghosts do surround you. For those as lazy as I, moving the system to aim or look is super cool, but I'd prefer it stick to a 150 degree or so angle in front of me..
As for the visuals that aren't captured with the camera, they actually look quite good. I haven't seen character models look this good in many other 3DS games. It's no PlayStation Vita, but they look good. The sound design is exactly what you'd expect from Fatal Frame - the most important character has decent voice acting, but the rest suck and talk way too slowly. That's okay, though; that's become pretty standard for the series. The story is also extremely business-as-usual for Fatal Frame and reminded me a LOT of Fatal Frame V. There's some village that has to perform some ritual to keep something spiritual from destroying it, so they get a shrine maiden who's been kept in total isolation her whole damn life to undergo some horrific ritual to appease imaginary spirits and save the world. Or something. It's not bad, but it's not great either. Hella "meh."
The biggest problem the game has other than just generally not being all that interesting is that it's super short; from the time I first loaded the game to the time I finished the final boss, two hours passed. That's it. Two hours. There are a couple of other game modes that I was way too bored to feel like trying out, but the story mode, start to finish, is two or (at the maximum) three hours. Fine if you're at the DMV and don't mind looking like an idiot spinning in circles, but don't expect a grade A horror experience from this like the other Fatal Frame games provided. It sucks that I'm left so utterly disappointing in Spirit Camera because I am a HUGE Fatal Frame fan. I have a Japanese copy of Fatal Frame 5 that I can't run on my North American Wii U and couldn't read or understand even if it weren't region locked JUST because I love the series so much that I wanted a physical copy of the game on my shelf (and it was cheaper than the PAL version). I'm sorry, but I just can't recommend this one. If you want a horror experience on your 3DS, stick to Corpse Party or Resident Evil: Revelations.
My Rating - 2 Neps
Bugs vs. Tanks! is a game that I picked up on the 3DS eShop months ago - maybe even a year ago - when all of Level 5's stuff was on sale. I'm a huge fan of Liberation Maiden, and all of their games were on sale for like $1, so I figured what the hell, I'll give them all a download. I might even play them some day! Well, at least for this game, "some day" came during my sleepless night last night, and I gotta admit, as much as I love sleeping and wish I could have done some of that last night, there are way worse ways to spend a sleepless night.
Bugs vs. Tanks! puts you in the shoes of a German tank commander during World War II (that's right, you actually get to play as the Nazis in this game, although you don't do any really Nazi things). You and the rest of your tank battalion find yourselves shrunk to microscopic size and in a fight for your lives with all manner of typically harmless bugs. Of course, you assume that this is some sort of dastardly Allied superweapon - because why wouldn't you immediately blame your enemies in war? - but then you discover an Allied tank battalion that's also been shrunk, and they assume that it's the result of the some dastardly Axis weapon.
The game is comprised of 40 levels that take roughly five minutes to complete. The first 30 levels are your main story missions; the last 10 are essentially epilogue missions. Those last 10 missions still continue the story from the first 30, but they're very much "extra" in terms of narrative. The narrative isn't really the strong point of the game, though - it's the bug killing. Who hasn't at some point wanted to shoot a giant ant in the face with a German Tiger tank? Or is that just me? Is that weird?
The gameplay works like your standard third person tank shooter. You move and turn your tank with the circle pad, and you rotate your cannon with the Y and B buttons. Holding the L button will zoom out the minimap displayed on the bottom screen. Doing so sacrifices the ability to see enemies on the map, but it does roughly triple the amount of the map that you can see - very useful for finding the off-to-the-side places that often hold hidden upgrade tanks scattered throughout the game. As for firing your tank, there are two modes - Manual and Automatic. If you select Manual, the R button will fire your cannon. If you select Automatic, the AI will automatically fire the tank cannon as soon as you turn it to face an enemy, and holding the R button will prevent him from firing. You also have a machine gun on the front of the tank that will constantly fire at enemies in front of you automatically. The machine doesn't do any actual damage, but it can stun your enemies, giving you the opportunity to fire off another shell or two before the bugs get close enough to attack you. It plays a lot like a cross between Earth Defense Force and Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and absolutely everything about that is a good thing.
There is a co-op mode (I assume only local wireless, not wifi, but I'm not sure), but I wasn't able to test this out. From what I can tell, though, it's much like EDF's co-op mode - you just play through missions with two to four allies, though it seems like the co-op missions in this game are mission that are made specifically for co-op rather than just playing through the campaign with friends. One other feature of note - they're a function that gives you a bonus if you have save data from another Level 5 game on your SD card or system storage (I had a Liberation Maiden playthorugh save on my SD card), you unlock a beautifully gaudy solid gold tank that is much stronger than the first few tanks you unlock, giving you an advantage early on while you learn the feel for the game. It's certainly not a must, but if you like tacky things like me and enjoy being just a little bit overpowered in the beginning, it's worth noting, especially if you've got Liberation Maiden or Crimson Shard on your 3DS (I think there might be one or two other games that are also compatible, but I don't remember for sure).
Bugs vs. Tanks isn't a masterpiece for the ages that pushes the boundaries of gaming norms, but it is a really fun way to waste three or four hours. I'm not sure I can say that it's worth the normal $8 price tag, but if you find it on sale for $5 or less, absolutely download this game. Its simplicity is part of its strength; it's easy to pick up, easy to learn, and loads of fun, especially with the various paint jobs that you can unlock. You can unlock polka dots, hearts, tie-dye, and about a gazillion different camo patterns and colors along with your standard solid color paint jobs (I, of course, played the whole game with the tie-dye). If you're looking for a good time killer for short bursts on the go, look no further than Bugs vs. Tanks!
My Rating - 4 Neps
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side was the first game that I ordered online for my PSP months and months ago when I first got the system, but it wasn't until this week that I actually got around to playing through it. I ordered it based on my friend Exhuminator's recommendation in a discussion about visual novels on the Racketboy forums. I know the genre is really hit or miss in terms of whether or not people like it - you usually either love them or find them dreadfully boring - but I fall into the former category; I'm a HUGE visual novel fan.
I'm quite familiar with visual novels, but this was my first otome game (which, for those who don't know, involves a female protagonist surrounded by male supporting characters, typically involving a romantic interest). I'm a HUGE fan of harem anime (probably because I'm a sad, lonely little man), so I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the reverse of that, but I gotta admit, I'm pleasantly surprised. I didn't think it'd be my cup of tea, but while I still much prefer my good ol' harem story, I really enjoyed this one.
The premise of the story is that your uncle is the designer of a new video themed amusement park that's opening, and as his niece, you get to go to the park's grand opening. Then the Ferris wheel explodes, and a terrorist in a pig costume (I'll call him Oinksama bin Laden because I think that's a better name than his actual name) takes your uncle and the investors in the park hostage and says that he'll kill them and blow up the entire park if seven people fail to complete seven deadly challenges in seven day. Being an idiot high school girl worried about her uncle's wellbeing, you volunteer. Six other sorry saps are then drafted into Oinksama bin Laden's twisted game.
That brings me to my first gripe with the game. With visual novels, I have higher expectations for story and plot than I do for other genres of games, so I was more than a little disappointed when I finished the game with absolutely no clue who Oinksama bin Laden is, why he took hostages, or why he wanted to blow up the park. There are different endings based on which character you chose to romance (I picked the awkward reclusive gamer because I identified most with him), so I don't know if you get a "true" ending from seeing all six of the character endings, but the ending I got left a lot of unanswered questions that I feel even with a "true" ending should have at least been hinted at.
In addition to the unanswered questions, I also felt that my particular route's ending was too abrupt. It's the virtual novel romance story equivalent to some serious blue balls. I'm not going to spoil that route's ending, but it was a major let down. I mean, it made sense and fit the characters, but still, I was disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of that route's path-exclusive scenes and dialogue, however, so overall, I think the awkward loner gamer route evens out as a good pick. I'm also not sure if there are different endings for each route based on how high your affection level is and if I missed any opportunities to raise that, so I could have gotten the "bad" ending for that route. Not entirely sure.
All in all, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is a good visual novel, and it's definitely the kind of niche PSP exclusive that deserves a spot in one's collection. The myriad of endings give it a ton of replay value, but unfortunately for me, I just didn't find the game's overall narrative interesting enough to warrant subsequent playthroughs. That's not to say that I found the story bad or wanting or anything. It's just not my cup of tea personally. For one whose VN style of choice is otome, it's probably a fabulous game, and I suspect that I'd have been much more into it if it were a harem game. It's a good game, but it's spot on my personal "Favorite Visual Novels" list isn't too high.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.