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 a teacher.
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 high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.