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Monday, March 14, 2016

Random Post: "Sweet Fuse: At Your Side"

One of the first otome games I've ever played was recommended by a sibling who likes to read game reviews.  When I saw the cover of Sweet Fuse: At Your Side by Aksys (on the PSP), I was, honestly, turned off.  After playing Hakuoki, I was used to extremely good-looking men while none of the characters on Sweet Fuse's cover box even remotely seemed interesting (maybe except Urabe and only because I secretly like men with long hair and mature dispositions, like Hotohori from Fushigi Yuugi).

There was a small handful of reviews at the time, mostly positive, so I gave it a try.  I'm glad I did because the price was about $17 back then and now it's more than doubled that for a new copy.  Even with a used copy, talk about a profit!  Not that I would sell my games; my babies!

This is one of those occasions where a 'visual novel' shouldn't be judged by its cover.  It started out 'so-so,' transitioned into 'what the heck is going on?' to 'OMG, what's going to happen next?'  And, as it turned out, the characters (including the MC Saki) were very enjoyable.  They had depth, strengths, weaknesses and intelligence; sometimes quirky behaviors which only made them even more likable.  The one notable trait about the MC is that she's smart.  She's loved for her intelligence and strong personality.  Sure, she was protected by some of the men and in other cases, she was the protector.  Mostly, she was the central brain when it came to analyzing info that could mean life and death for the team.  This, I think, sets the game apart from many other otomes which focus on women being perfectly pretty but dumb, good cooks, feeble, and are only good for giving pep talks while not actually doing anything.  This includes an MC who carries weapons, draws them and still needs to be saved because apparently with all of her xx amount of years of martial training, she's only good for beating up oblivious noobs (Yes, I'm talking about you, Ninja Destiny 2!).  The other thing that I find irritating about some otomes is that the women are practically sexually harassed by possessive male characters, she does nothing but blushes, and then rationalizes that he must really care about her, especially when he manages to show partial kindness once in a while.  Just sounds like they're suffering from Stockholm Syndrome to me.  But that's my opinion.  Lots of games use this model so it must be popular.

Anyway, I went off on a tangent.  Back to Sweet FuseThe game follows Saki, who was invited to the opening day of her uncle's (Keiji Inafune--also the game creator irl) theme park.  Then, Count Hogstein took over the park and provided an ultimatum.  Saki volunteered to play his games for seven days in order to save the hostages.  Each game required skills and cleverness while the MC and her team mates are in constant danger of losing their lives.  In the end, Saki found out the reason for Hogstein's wrath.  A crime was committed and every player involved (except Saki) somehow had ties to it.  After the first play-through, the game adds an additional (secret) male character the MC can vie for.  This provides another twist that I liked.
Overall, I highly recommend Sweet Fuse to otome lovers if you're not after perfect men whose only flaws are their convictions or perfect MCs whose greatest shortcoming is judging themselves too harshly without any precursor reason.  This is especially true of MCs who think they're not pretty only because they woke up one day and decided so, and yet every guy they meet hits on them.  Maybe you MC's need some new glasses, ladies!  I really like Sleepless Cinderella Party but their MC is one of these.  Maybe I'm a nerd so I like Saki's 'knowledge is power!' approach.  Well, I'll admit, I'm probably not as smart as her, but I like her approach.  

So, if you're into MCs who are conceivably realistic, who aren't as pretty as a doll, or win other characters over through her abilities to cook well, perform house chores, and give useless pep talks, then I recommend this game.  And, if you're also into quirky male characters who aren't super gorgeous up front but become more charming once you get to know them, then I'll also recommend this game, because you'll come to <3 them!

If you've played this game, please let me know your thoughts on the characters.  It's good research for my otome novels ;)

Thanks for reading my random post!
-Lenne Penry 

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