November 18, 2012

Sweet Home - Ranking

Story & World

I can't help but give a few points just for the unique setting and storyline; a refreshing change from having to stop some wizard or demon from taking over the world.  The very dark plot and gory imagery ensured that it would never get an official North American release.  I guess Nintendo of America thought us westerners just didn't have the stomach for such a title (I only puked once).  Throughout the game, I never felt like my band of regular folk were anything close to heroic.  No, I definitely felt that we were in over our heads, so to speak.  This aspect was crucial to the survival feel of the game.  The numerous traps and group-splitting tactics that the game used kept a sense of high tension, even after the battles themselves became quite easy.  The manor itself is enjoyable to explore with very distinctive areas and various methods to create different flavours of terror.  18/20

Character Development

Stats consist of life points, prayer points, and attack power.  Each level gained sees a significant jump in all three and attack power is further modified by weapons.  A single level can make the current set of enemies in an area far too easy, usually killing them off before they get a chance to fight back.  However, this is only when there is a full, three-member party; when a character gets whisked off on their own, the difficulty spikes back up until they rejoin the rest of the cast.  Most times I'd send a party of two on a rescue mission but occasionally I'd risk trying to get the lost character back on their own (unless it was Emi, the poor soul).  While the simplicity of the development system makes sense for this RPG / adventure hybrid, it's still a little underwhelming.  5/20

Combat & Monsters

Much like character development, combat is stripped down to the bare bones.  There are no tactical considerations or choices for anything other than attacking with melee weapons.  The monsters, while pants-stainingly frightening, are likewise lacking in combative variation.  A few monsters are able to duplicate the whisking spirits ability during battle, but this is both annoying and dumb.  4/20

Graphics & Sound

Solid gold medal awards for all participants here.  The five main characters are distinguishable from one another and remind me quite a bit of the character sprites in Ultima: Quest of the Avatar.  The monster sprites really stand out and push the NES to its scariness limit.  Usable items on screen are well-represented visually and always stand out against the background.  The music really takes the atmosphere to a whole other level.  The slow and foreboding tune while wandering the dark halls lulls one into letting their guard down before building up to high-energy battle tune.  All the music selections helped tremendously to set the tone of the game.  Sound effects tried their hardest to be creepy and, for some of them, the limitations of the NES sound chip worked in its favour.  17/20

Gameplay

Even though I'm not a huge fan of the horror or adventure genres, Sweet Home somehow manages to take the two and make them greater than the sum of their parts.  While there was quite a bit of backtracking to acquire old items that were now needed (recall that each character can only hold two such items), the areas are rife with shortcuts and item duplicates are plentiful.  The pacing of the game is spot on and nicely balances the story progression with puzzle elements and infrequent random encounters.  Replay is unlikely although a hardcore mode could be done by just picking two characters and sticking with them (all the signature items of a character have a counterpart in game).  A solo run would not be possible as there needs to be four item slots available for the showdown with Lady Mamiya.  16/20

Final Ranking:  60/100