October 28, 2012

[Game 028] Sweet Home (NES - 1989)

Translation by Gaijin Productions

It's times like this that reaffirms the decision to include translated JRPGs.  Not only are there some gems that never made it to North America but there are also some that disregard the standard RPG conventions and do something completely different.  Such is the case with Sweet Home, a game that incorporates many aspects not usually found in RPGs.  The first difference is in the setting; an old manor in which five modern-day investigators are there to find and photograph the frescos of Mamiya Ichirou located within.  Soon upon entering, they discover that the manor is quite haunted and the ghostly apparition of Mamiya appears and traps the characters.

Sorry to try to preserve your heritage, douche.

The second big difference is the heavy use of puzzle elements, akin to those typical found in adventure games.  In fact, Sweet Home is very similar to Maniac Mansion, right down to being able to split the group up and have characters in completely different locations.  This splitting of the group is enforced as a subgroup is only allowed to have a maximum of three characters.  Each character has four item slots which are restricted thusly: one for a weapon, one for the character's signature item, and two open slots for miscellaneous items found.  The signature items are used to bypass a lot of the puzzle barriers found.  For example, cool man Shen's item is a lighter which can be used to burn down rope barriers.

I got this one, guys.  It shouldn't
take more than a few days to
melt down the jagged edges.

If the current group doesn't have the item needed, it's necessary to switch over to the other group and have them find the others.  The random battles can sometimes be difficult for a group of two if the other three characters are ahead.  Often the tougher characters in the main group will leave the weakest one behind while they go and retrieve the other two members one at a time.  Backtracking is also necessary in the game itself; there are many previous locked doors that I have not been able to open yet.  It's easy enough to get back to older areas as the battle difficulty is dependent on the area.  The battles themselves mostly consist of spamming the fight button but sometimes the signature items can be used to inflict more damage than normal.

Taro's camera beats Shen's
Zippo in this rare case.

In addition to these regular RPG battles, there are also encounters with (what I'm guessing are) poltergeists that chuck various objects at the characters, such as chandeliers and chairs.  Instead of fighting the object, a menu is displayed with various options to try to avoid it.  This seems to be completely based on chance but even if failed, the damage delivered is a paltry amount.

Oh God!  Please save me from the
three points of chandelier damage.

Being that the characters are in a haunted house, the creepy factor is in full effect.  In addition to a classic bestiary of macabre monstrosities, the music plays a huge role as well.  While wandering around the twisted passages and gloomy rooms, the music is suitably dark and spooky.  Sometimes when examining an object, the music immediately cuts out and a spine-tingling high pitched shriek is unleashed along with a closeup of the object.

Keep in mind that a high pitched
shriek coming from the NES adds
its own unique dimension of hell.

The frescos that are scattered throughout the mansion give hints after they are photographed.  Yes, even though the characters are trying to escape the manor with their very lives, they are still taking the time to do their initial job.  Gotta admire that dedication.  The hints range from the mundane to the crucial; the hidden location of the mallet needed to break through a boulder barricade was given by a fresco.  Unfortunately, the frescos themselves all look the same and are quite ugly.

Perhaps it's suppose to be frighteningly ugly?

So far there has not been a resting place for the characters to regain health and prayer points.  Tonics can be found which will fully restore the current group but they are a one time use and not all that common.  This puts all the characters on a timer and makes grinding an unwise choice.  This aspect of gameplay, more than anything else, really makes Sweet Home feel like horror survival.  Character migration from area to area needs to be planned out somewhat but there are plenty of pitfalls which force an immediate change in plans.  It will be interesting to see what else the Mamiya manor has in store for the stalwart investigators.