I picked up Sweet Fuse: At Your Side amidst the concerns about the PSP/Vita/PS3 stores shutting down. I’d first heard about this visual novel years ago, while researching visual novels with unusual premises for a freelance assignment.
Sweet Fuse stars Saki Inafune, a young woman attending the opening ceremony of a video game theme park designed by her uncle, Keiji Inafune (yes, that one).
The opening ceremony is disrupted by a man in a pig costume who introduces himself as Count Hogstein, takes the park staff hostage, and threatens to blow up the entire park unless 7 people play his “games” over the next 7 days.
Saki volunteers for the game in order to save her uncle, while the other six participants are chosen by Hogstein. Together, they must try to overcome the deadly games he’s set up based on the park’s attractions.
Each attraction is based on a different video game genre, which was pretty entertaining.
The first three chapters make up the common route. Some of your choices are important to surviving the games, while others build your affection with one of the possible romance options. After the common route, the story branches based on which character you’ve grown the closest to.
I liked pretty much all of the characters. A few stood out much more than others, but it was interesting to see all of their stories and how the events in the latter half of the game changed depending on whose route I was on. There are some notable age gaps, which added some awkwardness, but the writing handled it well enough.
It is a bit weird that the main character is Keiji Inafune’s fictional niece, though. Every time she’d get a message from Uncle Keiji, where he’d offer some inspiring and motivational words of advice, it always felt surreal since he’s a real person.
Now, there’s also an overarching mystery about Hogstein’s motivations, and one problem is that while each route delves into the mystery from a different angle, some contain far more information than others. So my first route was accidentally the one that explained almost the entire mystery, leaving me with points in later routes where I was impatiently waiting for them to figure out something I already knew.
I enjoyed the mystery overall, though, and it all came together nicely once I played the final route.
In addition to regular choices, sometimes you have the option to just get mad. If a character does something particularly unfair, you get a special choice where Saki can blow up and shout at them. This is almost always the right choice and is pretty entertaining.
Saki also has “explosive insights,” a game mechanic where you choose from a list of key words in order to reach the correct solution to your current situation (although as far as I could tell, you always have to pick three, even if you know which is the right one).
Overall, I enjoyed Sweet Fuse and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys otome visual novels or death game mysteries. Digital PSP games still can be bought and played on a Vita, so it’s not completely out of reach yet despite the scarcity of physical copies, but it would be nice to see this one get re-released someday…---
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