Review by Exhuminator
A respectable idea that's not always fun to play.
In 1989 Capcom released Sweet Home, which was based on a horror movie of the same name. Neither the movie nor its video game adaption ever left Japan officially. (I am not going to explain the involved plot, if you want to know the story, read a synopsis.) The Sweet Home video game was critically acclaimed in its day, rising above typical licensed dreck. This was in large part due to the film's director acting as producer of the Sweet Home video game, as well as Capcom having quality development personnel at the time. In 2000, an English fan translation was released for Sweet Home, giving accessibility to English speaking Famicom/NES fans. After the translation, Sweet Home quickly gained a cult following in the west, and now graces many "hidden NES gems" and "best Famicom imports" lists around the net. It's easy to be initially impressed by this top down RPG/adventure hybrid, with its turn based battle system. Especially when the goal is to explore a spooky haunted mansion and fight grotesque paranormal monsters.
So it's true that Sweet Home has a lot to offer. Firstly the graphics and audio. Sweet Home indeed has impressive ghastly graphics, creating a tangible sense of foreboding atmosphere. Sweet Home's dire and well orchestrated OST truly sets a grim mood. It short, this is a Famicom game which legitimately feels creepy to play, no small task given the platform. Sweet Home's gameplay interface systems are impressive in their capability. You have classic adventure commands like "look", "talk", "item" and the like. You have five characters to control at any time, and are able to pair them into teams of up to three. Each character has specific puzzle items only they can use, but can also carry up to two more item objects, as well as one weapon. Your teams must explore rooms, find object items, find new weapons, solve puzzles with the item objects, fight monsters as they appear in random battles, and try not die ever. I say "ever", because death is permanent in Sweet Home. Losing a character is a big issue, but not a game stopper. For instance, if you lose the vacuum character, another character can find a broom, and use the broom to substitute for the loss of the vacuum. Another point of difficulty are health potions, or rather the lack of them. The only way to heal in Sweet Home, is to use a health potion, of which there are limited quantities. It is true that Sweet Home is a difficult complex survival horror RPG-adventure hybrid. It is true Sweet Home has convincing atmosphere. But being fun to actually play? That's another matter.
So let's talk about the bad stuff. First off, the extremely limited inventory system. Each of your five characters can only carry up to two item objects each, and this includes health potions. This means you are always backtracking to retrieve item objects you had to leave behind, due to not having enough inventory space. There are tons of different items, and you won't know what most of them are for initially. Trial, error, and tedium is the formula. Also the annoying backtracking is made even more slow by constant random battles. This limited inventory system was a just dastardly scheme, one designed to artificially prolong time it takes to beat Sweet Home. Also annoying is being unable to have all your party members travel as a single party. Sweet Home will allow all five members to join a single battle together, but never to travel as one entity. This means tediously switching back and forth between members, to move them all slowly as one herd. It's all just ludicrous really, and yet another way to purposefully waste the player's time. There are just so many ways Sweet Home intentionally wastes its player's time. To list all of them would waste your time. I just truly don't like when video games gleefully waste my free time via contrived asinine design. Unfortunately Sweet Home adores this concept. So should you play Sweet Home, I hope you enjoy taking lots of photos of identical frescoes to gleam esoteric hints.
Perhaps some players won't mind the absurd backtracking, intrusive key hunting, constant item juggling, tedious party member switching, inane random battles, and inscrutable final boss sequence. Then again, I'd wager many of those "best of" list writers who so romantically talk up Sweet Home, never actually beat this perturbing video game. I do appreciate Sweet Home's forward thinking and innovative concepts, and can respect its ambition and maturity. This game does contain strides towards breaking new ground, and that is important. Some cite Sweet Home as historically significant due to being an influence for Resident Evil. That may be true, but I think Koudelka has a lot more in common with Sweet Home than Resident Evil does. For this player, Sweet Home was a great idea in concept, but rather botched in the entertainment department. So putting in nine hours to beat Sweet Home wasn't much fun. I can enjoy NES gore and spooky JRPGs as much as anyone, but I'm afraid Sweet Home was often too sour for my taste.
Product Release: Sweet Home (JP, 12/15/89)
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