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Sweet Fuse ~At Your Side~ Review

18 year old Saki Inafune is excited to be attending the opening of her uncle’s, legendary game developer Keiji Inafune, new theme park, the Gameatorium, where everything is video game themed. As she settles down at the opening ceremony listening to her uncle’s opening speech, he is suddenly interrupted by a strange voice and the image of a pig taking over all the screens over the park. 
Calling himself Count Hogstein, the pig begins a speech of his own, claiming that he will be taking over control of the park with the plans to destroy it. During Count Hogsteins speech, several people in “piglet” costumes ascend to the podium, tying up all of the park management. Inafune, along with several others in the crowd, believe that it is some sort of ruse or show until Hogstein blows up the ferris wheel, demonstrating that Hogstein’s plans are very, very real. 
The Count then explains to the panicking crowd that he will select seven people out of the crowd to venture in the park to play a “Game” where the contestants will go through trials in each of the attractions in the park, one attraction a day for seven days, with their lives and the lives of his hostages, the parks management, on the line. Inafune, worried for her uncle, proceeds to volunteer to be one of the seven contestants in hopes of saving her uncle. Thus, Inafune is inexplicably thrown into a game of life or death with six strangers.
Note: Screenshots were taken in 2x resolution in an emulator, so the “actual” images are somewhat blurry, but its not that bad.  Thumbnails are just slightly smaller than native resolution. I just have an odd peeve with small resolutions and I couldn’t bring myself to snapshot such…small images.

The entirety of this game, with the exception of most of the character endings, takes place in the Gameatorium. There are seven attractions, including some miscellaneous places like the courtyard castle, where Hogstein sets up shop in, the restaurant, an “extra” attraction that only shows itself in one route, the harbor, and the hotel boat that the characters call home for their week of “fun” in the park. Each attraction is based off a mix of different games, genres, and themes. There is a castle with an RPG/Final Fantasy feel to it, a go-cart/racing one with an Alice in Wonderland theme, A haunted hospital with zombies that gives off a Silent Hill-esque feel, a kind of ride-along attraction that features a sci-fi shooter setting, a bazaar, a tree-house like attraction that is like an animal themed rock band, and a coliseum with virtual reality fighting that makes me think of Soul Calibur. Each of these attractions key features are warped and twisted by Hogstein to provide dangerous and deadly “Games” for the group to face. Fail one of the games, fail to complete all of the attractions games within 12 hours, or cheat/break a rule, and you all die. Every game is also setup in such a way that several people are required to pass; So working together is essential for everyone to live to see another day.
One of the main features of Sweet Fuse are puzzles of sorts scattered throughout the chapters that adds some personal interaction and gameplay with the reader/player. Each attraction requires playing Hogstein’s “Games” set up for the attraction, and the characters must work collectively to figure out and beat the “Games”, or face death; In addition to this, the characters are only given 12 hours to solve all of the puzzles in the attraction and beat it. This is also done by “Insight” portions, where you/Saki must deduce a key word in a few lines of text from your announcement hint and observations. You are given basically three tries, or words, and if you do not select the correct word in those three, you fail the insight and usually get a game over since apparently during insight portions the whole team becomes intensely stupid and blind. Most of the puzzles and games are linear with no real input from the player except for “Insight” portions, which gives the player some power over helping deduce and actually “play” the games “Games”. I found the Insight portions extremely easy though and I would have liked them to be a bit more harder, requiring the player to have to actually really -think- about the puzzles to deduce insights (Like in Ace Attorney). This would have made the linearity of the games a bit more exciting and fun.
Sweet Fuse also utilizes your common choice portions seen in most non-kinetic VNs. I never came across a choice that lead to a gameover. Moreso, these choices are used to gain affection with your desired man, and thus decide whose route you will get on at the end of chapter 3. Chapter 4 is where you diverge into a characters route, and whoever you have the highest affection rate with is whose route you will be thrust into. So, needless to say, it’s always good to side with and go where the character you want to woo is. After the first chapter, most CGs are obtained only through these choice points. You can tell if you get affection with someone by a pink bomb, the games main icon, showing up over a characters paper doll shortly after your decision. It’s also good to keep in mind the characters temperament since the choice you -think- might get their affection isn’t always the right one. So don’t worry too much about these portions. I didn’t test the theory, but I’m pretty sure there isn’t a “default” route in this game since the game forces you into a character route. To keep an eye on who you have the most affection for, the game conveniently shows you these levels in your main menu next to the character in the form of a bar. There is also no way to “lose” affection, so if your affection with another guy is higher than the one you want close to the end of chapter 3, you’re stuck with them for the rest of the game unless you restart the game or go back to a previous savepoint and make different choices.
In addition to these regular character choices, the game also utilizes what I call “lose your shit” choices. Basically, during certain times of the game, when someone is a complete asshole or emofag, and this includes Hogstein, Saki gets intensely pissed and starts seeing red. You are then given the option to get mad and tear the person a new asshole (Complete with shocked paper doll and lightning crackling in the background) when Saki screams “What’s wrong with you!?” This option generally knocks some sense into the character and sometimes even earns you affection points when you call the character our on their bull.  Or you can restrain your anger and keep your mouth shut; Sometimes another character will step in to do the asshole ripping for you. Sadly, this portion is -mostly- useless aside from some extra affection. I only found a couple of incidences where this choice portion caused a game over, and if I recall they were when I decided to keep my mouth shut. So, the game basically rewards you for yelling at everyone, yay! I’ve mostly outlined my problems with the lose your shit choice portion further below in the Saki section.
What really makes this game is the cast of characters. I loved every single one of them, and each guy has their own distinct personality and “stereotype”. Whole Otomate put in a ton of your stereotypical otome game guys, each one has their own unique twist that is explored through the game, and especially in their routes. You have the slightly creepy fortune teller, the goodie two-shoes detective, the shota pop-idol, the meat-headed host, the ossan journalist, and the socially awkward gamer. Each characters personality blended and clashed perfectly with the other characters, bringing many different viewpoints in on the games. Despite their differences though, though the threat of death, these unlikely people are brought together and forge friendships that feel genuine and iron-strong. While the game is short, these character interactions and evolutions don’t feel forced or sudden; Facing death with total strangers brings in an aspect that completely throws normal relationship and bonding conventions out the door. 
 These people are essentially forced to work with and rely on each other, and through that and coming out alive together, they form bonds with each other that probably never would have happened had they met in different circumstances. In these kinds of situations, you can either give in to your human instinct to try and save yourself, or reach out and work with your fellows to stay alive -together-. This game did a superb job of utilizing the latter. While I cannot go into much detail without spoiling, I will also say that each of these characters plays a major part in the overall story and Hogstein’s reasons for his whole “Games” in the first place. Each character, with the exception of Saki, is indirectly tied to one another in the why of Sweet Fuse’s main story. Everything that Hogstein does, including who he selected for the games, is not without a calculated reason. Saki however, is the one variable that he did not calculate into his plan.
There is also one side-character that must be mentioned, and that is Keiji Inafune, since Keiji plays a major part in the game indirectly. While Keiji himself does not voice the character, this side character is modeled from the ACTUAL Keiji Inafune. For those of you who don’t know who he exactly is, Keiji Inafune is a well-known, and in a lot of circles legendary, game creator well known for his works such as the original Mega Man and Rockman series (Co-creator and illustrator),  Street Fighter (As graphic designer; Adon was his own original character). Onimusha, and Dead Rising. After his departure from Capcom in 2010, Inafune started up the company Comcept, which, in addition to collaborating to create the extremely popular Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, also collaborated to create Sweet Fuse, and so Keiji’s influence is very heavy and apparent throughout the game. While Keiji does not appear much in the game, when times get tough, he manages to give Saki encouraging words that you could imagine coming out of the mans mouth himself. The themes that Keiji instills in his game, and what probably makes him so renowned, are seen at nearly every turn in the game. The Gameatorium, the setting of the game, was “Keiji’s” creation, and it is through his kidnapping that Saki gets tangled into the events befalling the amusement park.
Saki Inafune (Name changeable) is a 18 year old high school student, and the protagonist of the game. She was at the opening ceremony due to being invited by her uncle Keiji Inafune, who created the Gameatorium. Saki was not chosen for the Games by Hogstein, but instead volunteered to play in order to save her uncle, who was taken hostage along with the rest of the park’s management. I loved Saki’s character, despite her faults, because she is one of the few protagonists in an otome game that is strong willed, firey, smart, and doesn’t need a man to save her every 5 seconds. For the most part, she doesn’t take shit from Hogstein or any of the guys, calling them out when they act like assholes. She also does her fair part of helping solve the “Games”, instead of your stereotypical otome female who has brains the size of the peanut and relies on the “bachelors” to basically do everything and get them out of sticky situations. She doesn’t overdo it and refuse help from the others when she needs a good saving though. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how an otome protagonist should be in my opinion. A woman who helps just as much as she is helped; Her insights are key to solving the attractions and making it out alive. 
Saki’s character was not without its flaws though.  One big issue that I’ve heard from other people that mainly deals with gameplay peeves is that if you play Saki with a different name, characters will still refer to her as Saki in the voiceover. Her anger portions were also overdone at times and broke a bit of the seriousness and immersion into the game by throwing completely implausible situations into the mix, mainly with Hogstein. As previously stated, during certain periods when characters start up some bullshit, you have the choice to have Saki lose her rocker and give a good bitching. Frequently this can be directed at Hogstein when he thinks of implementing tough penalties on the group because they managed to fool him. I don’t think most sane people would ask a madman who is bent on killing you and everyone with you “What’s wrong with you!?”. Not only that, but after a bitchfest, Hogstein would give in and usually retart his dick comment or punishment.  Although, it seems like someone would call Hogstein on his shit anyway even if Saki didn’t. She also had a lot of unexplored potential that wasn’t explored in part due to the length of the game I believe. Saki, I love you girl, but blowing up at people this many times is bad for your heart, you know?
Count Hogstein is the villain/antagonist of the game, and one of the best I have come across in a VN. I mean, come on, he’s a giant fat pig wearing shades and smoking a cigar with a creepy as hell voice. That alone makes him badass. AND HE SAYS OINK A LOT! He’s also one of the few villains I have ever had a love/hate feeling for.  Hogstein is truly an extremely assholish, evil, bat shit crazy villain, although he comes off as a good evil character (As ironic as that sounds). He sticks to his word and the rules he sets out for his game, even when it bites him in the ass and pisses him off to high hell when the group finds ways around his rules. In this regard, he has his principles. He’s not afraid to punish those who go against a deal or change the rules after the fact though; And his punishment is not by any means light. 
Hogstein is smart, cunning, maniacal, and sly; ingredients needed for any great antagonist. He holds no remorse or qualms, and takes enjoyment in his “Game” and watching the group in hopes and anticipation that they fail and blow themselves up; He takes great pleasure in having their lives in his hands. As the game progresses, his “Games” get progressively harder and more sadistic; In one game, the group is forced to perform a task under several 10 ton weights hanging by the ceiling that will fall and crush them into gorey paste if they mess up a certain amount of times. He also constantly monitors the group and their conversations, butting in to muck things up when events or conversations begin to threaten his position.
Count Hogstein is not without his humorous moments though. Every once in a while you’re treated to random ass sayings and comments from Hogstein that are drink spitting worthy, especially after particularly romantic scenes with your guy.  So much so in fact, I think Hogstein has a bit of a peeping tom fetish. Its made worse by the fact he waits till -after- the couple has finished their intimate moment. The count has also the best minions -ever-. Like seriously, these minions beat even the Despicable Me minions. I had a bit of a hard time understanding what Hogstein was saying because of his warped voice, so I’m not sure if these jokes were put into the localization or actually translated.

Count Hogstein’s minions are simply named and called “Piglets”; They sport skin tight black spandex body suits, spandex gloves, and their head “pieces” are tiny Hogsteins. By the Count’s orders, the Piglets are not allowed to speak to Saki or any of the group.  Instead, they communicate by body and hand movements to the group; Much like you do in a game of charades.  The result is sometimes intensely hilarious misunderstandings and guesses at what the Piglets are trying to “say”. Even though they cannot speak, you can tell each Piglet has their own personality by the way they carry out their body language and “communicate” with everyone.  Despite being subservient to Hogstein, the Piglets are actually pretty nice, willingly and eagerly helping out members of the team with whatever they need so long as it does not go against a direct rule or order of the counts. They’re also pretty easy to dupe since they tend to be extremely trusting…
Subaru Shindou is a 22 year old police detective. He was at the games as part of the security/police detail keeping an eye on the opening ceremonies. Shindou was the first route I did because well, I have a weakness for a good looking man in a suit and tie. Shindou is sort of your stereotypical “good cop”, but I suppose thats better than your stereotypical “bad cop” and it doesn’t come off as too obnoxious because Shindou still has his imperfect moments and is willing to work with Saki and the others to get through the Games. Shindou is extremely intelligent and as per his line of work, great with deductions and investigating; He does lean and rely on Saki’s insights though. Shindou is always seen wearing his shades as well, and is only seen in two CGs without his glasses; The reason for this is you find out is that his eyes are extremely sensitive to light, even at night. (Hey, that rhymed!) He is also what you would consider a “white knight” character, though not to an extreme. Obnoxious white knights make me want to punch them in the face. Shindou however…invokes the desire for other…activities >:)
Wait just a second…Hmm. Suit and tie? Check. Super sexy hairstyle? Check. Super sweet? Check. Smart? Check. Mature? Check. Works well with others? Check. Protective instincts, but not crazy so? Check. Voice and eyebrow quirk that makes my heart race and causes a certain reaction to my nether regions? Check. White knight? Check. Calm and collected in the face of adversity? Check. Has adorable, awkward moments? Check. It’s my dream man in an otome game! Seriously, Shindou is like what I would consider my perfect guy (Everyone has one, don’t judge! And mine is totally findable IRL just…rare D=) Needless to say, Shindou was my favorite character and route. Uguu Shindou-sama~ I’ve been a naughty, naughty woman and I think I may need to be cuffed and frisked~

Even though Shindou tends to take the calm, think things through approach, as a cop and a detective, Shindou is not afraid to take drastic measures if he feels like the situation warrants it. He is the only one in the group who has an actual weapon, his gun, which he brought with him into the park due to being on duty at the time of the incident with Hogstein. At first, Shindou has no qualms about shooting Hogstein at the first chance he gets, and later on he tells Saki that if push comes to shove, he will not hesitate to use his gun if he feels like Saki’s life is in direct danger (He can’t use his gun to save her from the attractions and constant fear of death though!). He also begins to feel the same way about the others as he becomes closer to everyone else in the group, and he becomes close friends with the unlikeliest character by the end, even keeping in touch with him and hanging out after the events at the Gameatorium; I won’t say who, but I will say they seemed to hate each other and frequently butted heads at the beginning. They are an amazing team together though, as each of their strengths compliments each other.
Setting aside the fact that I want to make Shindou my VN husbando, I felt like his route was the best and is the canon route in my mind, even if Makoto’s is actually (probably) the “true” route of the game. Aside from Makoto’s, Shindou’s route sheds a light on most of the mysteries surrounds the games story and events, with the other routes only giving you a piece of the puzzle. In the other routes, you don’t go through all of the other attractions in the game after the third chapter since, for whatever reason presented in the route, you deviate from it. In Shindous however, you go through all seven attractions and uncover the the how and why to the games events and just exactly how each character is tied to each other and the bigger picture. Not only this, but I felt like Shindou was the perfect match for Saki in that they complimented each other so perfectly in both personality and action, playing off each others strengths, Saki’s insights and Shindous deductions, to complete each Game. There was this unspoken understanding between the two in that they both knew exactly what they needed to do without having to come up with a gameplan with each other; They just worked that well together. While his ending left me disappointed because it was so short, it was so adorable and perfect in a way it made me squeal and blush. 
Towa Wakasa is a 17 year old famous pop star, and the youngest out of the *ahem* eligible bachelors. He’s not a shota character though (thankfully) and he is only a year younger than Saki, so it’s not like cradle robber worthy or anything. Sounds like a normal high school couple to me. He was at the opening ceremony to do a performance. Wakasa is the vocalist for a well known pop group called the Junior Jr. boys, and gets pretty down over the fact that no one out of the group knows who he is. I personally think he was the character that took getting thrown into the “Game”, and subsequently adjusting to it, the hardest. At first, Wakasa is scared shitless and has mini meltdowns frequently, but he still tries his hardest to contribute to the group and keep his spirits up. As time passes though, he starts managing his fear better as he becomes more confident in his allies and gets closer to Saki.
He still has his scared of weird shit moments though. Wakasa’s route was a bit of fresh air from the usual young and popular character types though. Like 90% of those character types suffer from crazy mob chicks who want to bathe in your blood because a)they’re young and adorable and every girl is crazy about him and/or b) the guy is “everybodys” and thus you’re being a bitch by stealing him. That whole you’re not good enough for him crap. I’d like to keep my knee caps, ktnx. Thank god for sticking this kind of character into a setting where there is like literally no one else around, so no angry chick mobs with pitchforks. He also doesn’t throw around his fame, and even when hes scared, he doesn’t make excuses not to pull his own weight in the “Games”.
I was honestly saving Wakasa to be one of my last routes, since I didn’t think I’d like him too much, but I ended up caving in and doing him early since his character grew on me in the routes I did before him.  He also gets jealous and pouty when it’s revealed that Saki’s chosen another guy, so I think he develops a crush for her in pretty much every route. I was pleasantly surprised that I ended up really liking his route. Despite his past and weakish, scared nature, as he starts to fall for Saki he goes to great lengths to try and become “stronger” for her so he can do his best to protect her. I don’t think Wakasa has a single bad bone in his body, and hes actually a really nice, normal teenage boy. His reasons for always doing his best to be optimistic and cheerful was honestly extremely heartwarming. He even goes as far as to risk his life, among other things, to protect Saki.
Saki’s strength also really showed in his route.  Another typical downfall to this character type is the female protag hiding and keeping her feelings a secret due to the guy’s popularity and the guy usually has to go to great lengths to convince her to try. (I don’t blame them for valuing their body parts) Wakasa does admit his feelings first, and Saki does have to take a bit of time to sort her feelings out, but she basically says I don’t give a fuck about your popularity or the raving fangirls, I want to be your waifu when she realizes she does indeed have feelings for him. You go Saki! It’s rare that otome protags take such an initiative in starting the relationship with these characters. His ending was just so adorable I melted into my seat. It also helps that he’s kawaii as hell~
Kouta Meoshi is a 19 year old, unemployed video game enthusiast. By enthusiast, I mean he does nothing but play video games day and night, sometimes staying up for days. Meoshi was the second route I did cause I was all “I play vidya games, you play vidya games…Let’s play vidya games together~” hahahaha. Meoshi was at the opening ceremony for a special DLC they were giving out. Meoshi tends to be extremely quiet and meek at first, only speaking when he absolutely needs to and as little as possible.  He tends to be pretty awkward, as he doesn’t know how to handle being around other people much (He’s not what you’d call a social butterfly). His extensive video game knowledge really helps out the group, as Meoshi always knows the game an attraction is based off of and what the game entailed, so the group has an idea of the challenges and puzzles they’ll face in the days “Game”
*blush* Oh stop it you! If you can’t tell, Meoshi equates almost everything or situation to video games. Like “this would happen in a game” “this wouldn’t” “dungeons have hidden doors”, etc. It’s like nerdgasm character. Due to his…penchant for sitting around at a console/pc or handheld though doesn’t leave much time for physical activity, so Meoshi tires out extremely easy. Meoshi’s character really grows as time goes on though, especially in his route. As the group begins to bond and grow to trust each other through their trials, Meoshi begins to open up a bit and interact with the group more. Like Wakasa, he pushes himself as much as he can to help the group, and doesn’t complain even when hes exhausted his small reserve of energy. Never once does the group mock him for his standing or faults, and they frequently praise him for his knowledge of the possible trials ahead. They do however, playfully tease him for his…choice of time usage.
Otomate at first really, really pissed me off with their decision to stereotype Meoshi to high heaven, although they threw in some…odd stuff to mix it up some. (Though at least they didn’t stereotype him like this) For one, Meoshi dresses, and is frequently referred to, as dressing “goth”. He sports a straight jacket(complete with straps), black slacks, and steel toed boots; His eyes are drawn and colored in a way that makes it look like Meoshi either has black eyeliner on or has bags under his eyes, and his hair has this style and shading that suggest a sort of greasy look. The game explicitly explains and plays upon the fact that Meoshi has like no friends, willingly has no job, is malnourished and out of shape, has never even touched a girl, and rarely sleeps all because he plays games all the time, almost nonstop. Yes, because all of us gamers are socially awkward, lazy losers who do nothing but sit on their ass all day and have never even been on a date. Thanks Otomate.

Needless to say, stereotyping dictates that Meoshi is too chicken to initiate the moves on Saki. Which is what happens *sigh* Luckily we have a strong heroine who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and go after what she wants! Gurl, when a gamer tells you they want to play games with you (Especially if they’re solo players), that’s as good as a love confession! Luckily she picked up on that, brains and brawn! Anyway, with newfound friendships and a girl he cares for, Meoshi begins to come out of his shell. Instead of telling himself he can’t, Meoshi astounded me with just how much he pushes himself for the sake of the group, and Saki moreso; Even when he presumably thinks a girl like Saki would never return his feelings. We end up finding out that Meoshi has reasons as to why he ended up emotionally and socially shutting himself away from others (and subsequently why it’s games, games, games) and I have to say, my criticism of Otomate on this route lessened a little since I could completely understand his reasoning. (I probably would have done the same.  You’re still a stereotyping ass though Otomate) His ending was over 9000 adorable. Oh Meoshi, my adorable gaming dear~ You can be my hubby, you just better eventually get a job! I ain’t no sugar momma.
Ayumu Shirabe is a 32 year old freelance journalist, and the ossan/erojiji of the game. (It’s kind of funny how most ossan characters in otome games are like all exactly 32 years old…And they all seem to have freaking beards -_-) He had gone to the park’s opening ceremony to, presumably, do a piece on it.  Shirabe’s character and route is pretty stereotypical in regards to ossan characters and “journalists”, but as with the rest of the characters, Otomate keeps it from falling to your usual archetype structure by infusing some off-the-ball things into the character. Shirabe tends to be the “ground” of the group, always keeping his cool even when things begin to get hairy, and never gets too emotional, keeping his feelings to himself and giving a wary trust to the others at first; He eventually begins to genuinely trust the group as the game progresses though. He’s also chock full of random information, like extensive knowledge of Alice in Wonderland, that helps turn some wheels in the brains of the other members during particularly puzzling…puzzles. Guy is also full of random, but insightful wisdom and phrases.
Instead of being that guy who is always smoking, Shirabe instead chooses the healthier (ok, maybe not so much healthier…) choice of things to constantly have in your mouth to relieve stress…SNACKS. What did you guys think I was going to say?  Freaking perverts! Yes, Shirabe is never without a snack in his mouth and a box of his favorite, Cracky (And here we avoid direct advertisement of Pocky and go for the subtle route!), far from reach. Whats worse is Shirabe advocates snackery by offering you one frequently in his route (We even get a CG of him pushing his devilish snacks onto our unsuspecting heroine!) Maybe it’s because I’m a full grown woman instead of like, a high schooler (Which I imagine is the demographic most Otome games cater to and are played by), but I don’t really have an aversion to ossan characters; In fact I prefer them to shota routes. I also have a thing for older men (Not old old D=) so…I actually really enjoyed Shirabe’s route when I wasn’t sure what to expect from it going in. We’re treated to the usual “but I’m old and you’re so young…” fanfare that’s found in the “old man” routes of otome games.
His route is also like, the ONLY route where we actually get a full lip on lip kiss CG. I was like uguuu~ so I have to post it. Oh the passion *melts*. Seriously, all the other characters kiss CGs are like tame and shy with lips close to touching, yet not, or like side lip kiss. That may be cute with the younger characters Otomate but WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING WITH HAVING GROWN MEN BE ALL PECKISH; Especially Mitarashi, he’s a host for god sake. Luckily Shirabe sated my desire for some good smooching. I bet he knows how to do other things amazingly well too…Hehehehe. Anyway, we also get a HUGEEE revelation for Shirabe in Chapter 3 (Common route so same in all routes) that I can’t even really hint at since it’s a major spoiler for Shirabe but well…Props to Otomate for doing something with an ossan character that I’ve pretty much -never- seen in another otome game.  More than likely this revelation creeped out a few people and made the ending awkward for the younger players who arn’t into ossan characters but I found it intensely adorable and I was like “daww”. I’d like to say more about this route, but a good chunk deals with the revelations in his route I don’t want to spoil.
Kimimaro Urabe is a 26 year old fortune teller. I honestly ended up saving Urabe for last because I thought he was one of the characters I was going to like the least…I mean come on, the guys a shifty fortune teller. I got secret creeper vibes from him. I don’t remember what his stated reason for going to the opening ceremony was.  Anyway, this guy is like the epitome of fortune teller. Instead of gypsy style though, hes Japanese style! He wears a kimono, always eats Japanese food, and he has a crystal ball with him…All the time, everywhere.  I’m not shitting you, I’m not sure how, but by some magic or defying of physics, Urabes crystal ball floats over his hand all the time. I’m pretty sure this dude showers and sleeps with it too. The games world takes place in our Earth too, so it’s gotta be some physics crap or maybe strings. 
Oh yeah, and it glows and makes funny noises when Urabe consults it. Ok, I’ve ranted enough about Urabes ball.  Urabe is always pretty calm and is of course, extremely spiritual and “in tune” with the world. While Shirabe is the ground for the group due to his usual emotional detachment, I think Urabe helped calm the group with his personality when things began to get a bit too freaky and scary. I guess Urabe would be…The calming flowers? He does come off a bit flowery, hahahaha. Urabe’s character is wrapped in mystery until it begins to unveil itself at the end of Chapter 3, and while I can’t say much more due to spoilers, there is a surprisingly very angry and extremely vengeful reality of Urabe below the surface. Surprisingly, most of the team does not even bat an eyelash at Urabes revelation, and go to great lengths for him. (The ones who wern’t on board eventually hop on too) I was totally right on the creeper vibes though.
I mean, seriously, look at those eyes. Sure, what gal doesn’t like a gallant man who is willing to protect her? Urabe takes it a bit to the extreme though…Like, major extreme. VERY creeper and even a bit obsessive if you ask me…Though I guess love is crazy. I flip-flopped frequently between wanting to beat Urabe’s ass and genuinely feeling for him. His character is set up in his route in such a way that your perception of good guy/bad guy increasingly becomes greyer and one minute you may find him good, the next bad. I actually found this really enjoyable, as it made me connect with the story and events more than I think I would have if his “side” and character had been more black and white. The lengths he went to to try and protect Saki was similar to Wakasa’s, but I didn’t have this much of a character conflict with Wakasa due to his age and innocence. I think Urabe had gone through enough in his life to understand that perceptions of good and evil tend to blur and warp through personal beliefs, and thus is not as clear cut as most people make it.
Urabe was definitely the wounded soul character. While each character had faced a major tragedy in their life that shaped their life somewhat, Urabes had shook him to his very core, changing who he was and how he viewed the world. Surprisingly, Urabe grew to be one of my favorite routes, as I really understood and connected with how much the ghosts of his past haunted him. I had to actually bust out some of those handy dandy tissues I got with my Yumina The Ethereal copy to dab my eyes with. His ending was I think the most emotionally impacting for me as well, showing the true depth of the bond and love Urabe and Saki had formed through the game. We also get to see Saki with long, beautiful hair~ God why didn’t her hair look like that through the whole game instead of that funky hairdo. I’m actually pretty happy that Urabe was the last of the main guys routes I did (Makoto’s was last) because it was really an excellent route that shed a lot of light on the reality of Hogstein and the Games, while setting up nicely for Makotos route.
Ryusei Mitarashi is a 24 year old male escort. He’s also the tough meathead character with a surprisingly chocolaty center. It’s made known, much to his attempts to hide it, early on that Mitarashi absolutely loves Theme Parks with a sort of child-like enthusiasm,  Thats also why Mitarashi was at the opening ceremony. Meoshi and Mitarashi actually work pretty well together in that while Meoshi knows the games the attractions are based on and the mechanics of the games, Mitarashi is the one who actually knows what the attractions, their locations, and the overall layout of the theme park. Mitarashi may be a meathead, but hes actually an incredibly caring guy. As with most characters like this, he’s lacking a bit in the brains department and tends to go on instinct rather than thought. This guy takes the most injuries and frequently gets his ass kicked stepping in the line of fire to save Saki (Within an hour of the game no less) and others in the group throughout the game. He’s hotheaded, in your face, and impulsive, but he won’t hesitate to use his strengths to help others.
Admitting feelings or likes that conflict with his tough guy appearance isn’t easy, and naturally he veils them and comes up with silly excuses when he just sort of blabs them out. Being an escort, he frequently makes jabs and comments about women and his clients throughout both the common route and his. Mitarashi pretty much thinks he is invincible and gods gift to women. While Mitarashi tends to save quite a lot of the gang, his temper and mouth tend to get the team in hotter water with Hogstein, and Mitarashi has no qualms about frequently ripping into Hogstein and starting trouble with him. In his route, we find out that his “tragedy” is the reason why he goes to great lengths to try and protect people, and why he became a host. (It’s actually pretty selfless and has nothing to do with sex or money) There’s also a side of him that makes me think Mitarashi would be a great baby daddy. (Saying more would be spoilers)
Mitarashi’s route was probably my least favorite out of the main guys, but that doesn’t mean it was a terrible route. I’m just not much into the tough guy characters, no matter how big of sweethearts they are in reality. His route was also very dull in my opinion when stacked up against the other characters routes. His route picks up pace rather slowly, and a chunk of it is spent on somewhat dull character interaction. Saki’s awesome personality and flair also takes the backseat, so to speak, and Mitarashi ends up always doing the saving and…manly man things.  This is pretty typical with most otome games in that the man always saves the girl and the girl is like this weak, helpless thing. I hate main characters like that, and so needless to say I didn’t like this route much for that fact either. It’s nice that a guy protects you when you need protecting, but all the god damn time is just sad and cliche and paints women as helpless little creatures. I’m very capable of taking care of myself, thank you very fucking much. His ending was pretty bland and I was sort of just like “Oh, that’s good for them”
Makoto Mikami is a 20 year old college student. His route is “unlocked” after you complete a route, thus making him a sort of side character, even though he plays an extremely major part in the plot of Sweet Fuse. Mikami is supposedly the man in the Kane De Bo, the Gametoriums mascot, suit. During the initial hostage taking, Mikami was tied up in his mascot suit and locked in a storage unit. Makoto has a very soft, sweet voice, and comes off as very kindhearted and friendly to others, telling Saki extremely early on to call him by his first name Makoto, which is a huge deal in Japanese culture. (And subsequently why I am refering to him using his first name instead of his last like the others…It stuck) He also takes to calling Saki well…Saki early on as well without asking or developing into it, which I’m surprised Saki didn’t get mad at considering thats a huge nono. Don’t let this guys initial personality fool you though, because there is a lot more to Makoto than initially meets the eye.  
 I will warn you now, and I will warn you early, that if you play this game and want to avoid massive story spoilers that answer a lot of the mystery around the game, avoid him at all costs until you’re ready. He pops up within 5-15 minutes of game start after hes unlocked, and if you get affection with him, you’re pretty much forced into his route and parts of the common route change drastically with his inclusion. Again, if you don’t want the mystery of the other routes spoiled, DO NOT GET AFFECTION FROM HIM FIRST TIME YOU SEE HIM. I didn’t know this and I accidentally got onto his route in my second playthrough, and as soon as I realized it was going to spoil everything, I saved and started a new game and saved the rest of his route for last. I’m not sure if you can still garner enough affection with one of the others to detract off his route because his events give you a shitton with him, and his character specific events in the common route lock out a lot of events that get you affection and CGs with the other characters.
Even though Makoto becomes a major part of the story, he does not speak with the others or join the team, so no one aside from Saki even knows there is another person inside of the park initially.  Instead, Makoto inspects and helps from the shadows and sidelines, occasionally coming to Saki in private to speak with her and let her know what’s going on. He usually appears once every chapter in the common route, with the exception of the first chapter (It’s twice if you count the brief interaction that decides if Makoto comes into the story or not) Makoto’s route is what most people would consider the true, or canon route of the game because it answers the remaining questions still posed from the other routes and actually wraps up the games overlying story instead of just giving you a romance ending. In most of the other routes, there are small hints here and there as to who Makoto is in the grand scheme of the story.  Wakasa’s has the biggest hint of all, and those who pay attention will more than likely know who Makoto is after they go through Wakasa’s route.
I held almost no love for Makoto after the reality of who he is, his role in the story, and his tragedy came to light. What happened to him was extremely tragic, but his character archetype after that is one that I truly hate and harbor no fuzzy feelings for. Urabe may have been haunted by his past, but Makoto was completely consumed by it and his entire world is painted in red because of it. After all of the events in the other routes, I just simply couldn’t empathise with Makoto and so emotional scenes between Saki and him just had me cursing and rolling my eyes. Saki has frequent “anger outbursts” in this route, and I am so freaking glad for that, because this guy seriously needed some major screaming and slaps to his emo face. Because of my hatred for him at this point, his ending was extremely satisfying, but I felt pretty bad for Saki, as this was the one route where she essentially “lost”. I did feel a slight twinge of sadness for Makoto, but it wasn’t much because I felt like he got his “comeupins” and honestly, it was probably the best for him as well as he could finally start moving on from his past in a healthy way. Makoto’s ending is not a happy ending, no matter how you look at it; It is extremely emotional, bittersweet, and tragic. But it was a good closing to a great game and an equally great story and tied all of the loose ends in the game.
Screw the haters. Sweet Fuse was one of the best otome games I have read to date, and is at the top of the charts for me in VNs in general. Sweet Fuse had me engrossed from start to finish, when I tend to hop between VNs as my mood fits me. What slight flaws the game has, they were overshadowed by the pros. Otomate did exceptionally well in their vision and what they tried to do with this game. While any story revolving around life and death, especially “death games” has it’s share of dark themes, at Sweet Fuse’s heart is a tale of strangers forming inseparable bonds in the face of adversity and unlikeliest of places, triumph, friendship, and love. What truly made this game was the characters.
I would highly recommend Sweet Fuse to anyone who loves a good story that puts a unique spin on common themes. Even if you arn’t a fan of otome games, I would still recommend giving this game a try.
Final Score: 94%
Catchy, fitting music; Great OP and gorgeous, emotional ending song. Interesting take on popular setting theme, engaging story with equally engaging and enjoyable characters. Likable and strong protagonist who doesn’t take people’s shit. One of the best and most unique villain/antagonist’s I’ve come across with awesome minions. One of the characters is my dream man~. Manages to achieve and do great with most of what it attempted to do. Fun “gameplay” portions. I liked every single main romanceable guy (I don’t count Makoto since hes an unlockable). Game is dripping with Keiji Inafune’s influence.
Endings are pretty short and while -very- happy for you and your man, they are extremely open ended with regards to Count Hogstein (With the exception of Makoto). Protagonist has no paper doll, is unvoiced, and is only seen in Insight portions and CG. Makoto.  While characters in CGs are fairly well detailed, backgrounds in them seem lazy and sloppy and are extremely blurred (Though this is probably to place emphasis on the characters). Saki’s character had a lot of potential that was not explored. Game was a bit too linear for the fact it revolved mainly around playing “Games”, and Insight portions, while fun, were lacking. NEEDS MOAR SHINDOU X SAKI!
Release Info:
Available in English for PSP and PS Vita
VN by IDEA FACTORY/Otomate, English Localization by Aksys Games
12+ Visual Novel

Purchase Sweet Fuse for PSP.

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