Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (PSP) Review

By Gabriel Jones 28.06.2017

Review for Sweet Fuse: At Your Side on PSP

"The Gameatorium" was supposed to be a theme park filled with fun and happiness. Instead, thanks to the machinations of Count Hogstein, it has become a world of despair. Keiji Inafune, legendary game creator and founder of the park, has been kidnapped by the villainous pig. In the otome visual novel Sweet Fuse: At Your Side, players take on the role of Saki Inafune. She's determined to rescue her uncle, even though it means participating in Hogstein's deadly games. Further complicating matters are the six men that have also been drawn into this wicked scheme. Who are they? Can they be trusted? Are they…single?

What makes for a great otome game? Admittedly, I'm still trying to figure that question out myself. My previous experience with the sub-genre was Amnesia: Memories. While it is a brilliant visual novel, with an intricate and twisted storyline, it was a little lacking in the romance department. Granted, as a straight male, I probably shouldn't be all that invested in landing the virtual man of my dreams. All the same, when the guys of that game finally got around to turning on the charm, I couldn't help but get swept away. Especially Kent; he's the best. The best! He's such an awkward and wonderful dork that I just… sigh…

Oops? Not even a paragraph in and the plot has already been lost. Sorry about that. Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is a high quality product. Not only does it have a good storyline, it also has a fantastic cast. It's a devastating one-two punch that sucks gamers in. They're not likely to quit, until they've exhausted every possible route. As expected from the developer Otomate, the presentation is stellar, with easy save/load options and a text skip, for fast-forwarding through previously-viewed scenes. The music and voice acting are top notch as well. The protagonist isn't voiced, but all of the men sound sufficiently dreamy.

Screenshot for Sweet Fuse: At Your Side on PSP

This game is divided into seven stages. As it will soon become apparent, the terror-filled visit to The Gameatorium will last about a week. Each stage involves a new game, fraught with danger and despair. Winning these death traps is mostly a matter of good decision making and paying attention to details. It is possible for the heroes to meet an untimely end, which keeps the stakes high. When lives are on the line, Saki's "explosive insight" might just be the key to survival. Upon finishing the game of the day, everyone retires for the night at a swanky hotel. This is as good a time as any to hang out with anyone the player has become interested in. Depending on the person Saki chooses to bond with, drastic changes in the storyline can occur, which makes for quite a bit of replay value.

The first stage does a superb job of introducing the cast. Each character has their moment in the spotlight, which helps players decide on who they'd like to spend more time with. This is also where Saki quickly establishes herself as the leader of the team. She's not a bland doormat, and has no problem speaking her mind, or making crucial decisions. Sometimes she even has to get a little angry. The chemistry between everyone is fantastic. All of the characters play off of each other very well, and their distinct personalities shine in every scene.

Screenshot for Sweet Fuse: At Your Side on PSP

Going further, this is one of those games where every relationship is worth pursuing. Granted, all of the men are based off established archetypes, but they never devolve into caricatures. Ryusei Mitarashi works at an escort club, which is basically the male equivalent of a hostess club. It's his job to make women smile. When he and Saki are together, is it just business, or is there something more? Mitarashi is also the "tough guy" of the group, but he's not a meathead, and he comes through in difficult situations. Kouta Meoshi is an unemployed shut-in who plays video games all day, which is a bit of a hard sell. Still, interactions with him tend to be more endearing than creepy. Granted, it helps that - like everyone else - he's capable of some amazing heroics. It's also great that despite being all but diametrically opposed to one another, Mitarashi and Meoshi share common interests and become friends. Relationships are built between the male characters, which gives them purpose.

Screenshot for Sweet Fuse: At Your Side on PSP

It's also appreciated that the fan service is handled in an intelligent manner. Most of it relies on the player's imagination. To give an idea of what to expect, here's a minor spoiler. At one point, Mitarashi is fighting off aliens in a 3D shooting ride. Unfortunately, his laser gun has run out of energy. To defeat the last foe, he takes off his belt, and uses it as a whip. Though he succeeds in slaying the last fiend, his pants have fallen ever so slightly. The heroine steals a glimpse of his "cute underwear." Mitarashi's underwear isn't actually shown, but the player has enough information to fill in the blanks. Perhaps this is standard practice for otome visual novels. Anyway, these incidents are very few and far between, so they feel earned. It's not like Saki will randomly stumble upon popstar Towa Wakasa in the shower. Nor will Hogstein's bombs inexplicably cause Subaru Shidou's clothes to shred, giving viewers an eyeful of the police detective's phenomenal physique.

Screenshot for Sweet Fuse: At Your Side on PSP

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is a great entry point for anyone curious about otome visual novels. It combines a remarkable narrative with a wonderful cast of characters. Saki Inafune is an all-around awesome protagonist. She's never the "damsel in distress," and it's usually her quick thinking that saves the day. Every potential love interest is fully realised. They treat Saki as an equal, not as some prize to be won. In fact, for most of the adventure, their greatest concern is surviving Hogstein's deadly games and rescuing the hostages. Most importantly, this is a game that understands its audience. Sure, the men are good looking; that's the baseline for the sub-genre. What matters most is what they think and how they feel. These are the truly attractive qualities.

Developer

Idea Factory

Publisher

Aksys

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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