Retro Import Titles - Famicom - Sweet Home

2013-09-30

Sweet Home (Sûîto Homu) is a Japanese-only RPG by Capcom which is barely known in North America. It was released in Japan on December 15, 1989 for the Famicom (NES). It was produced by Juzo Itami, designed by "Hatchan", and "Tomo" Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and composed by Junko Tamiya. The game was likely not released in North America because it was an RPG, it features more disturbing imagery than most NES titles, and it was based on a Japanese film that western gamers wouldn't know. Sweet Home is cited by Shinji Mikami as one of the main inspirations for the Resident Evil series, since the first Resident Evil was originally envisioned as a remake of the title.

The game is based on the Japanese horror movie Sûîto Homu, and was supervised by the film's director, Kiyoshi Kurosawa. The film, which was released earlier in 1989, stars a film crew who have travelled to the home of the painter Mamiya Ichiro. There, the crew tries to film the restoration of a fresco (wall mural) painted by Mamiya for a TV documentary. While in the house, however, they discover a number of frescoes which depict a tragedy that has happened within the home. They are then attacked by the ghost of Mamiya's wife.

The plot in the game differs from the movie in that the team in the game is comprised of treasure hunters instead of a film crew. They are searching for the hidden fresco when they become trapped in the mansion and attacked by ghosts.

In both the game and the film, the player must try to discover what has happened to Ichiro Mamiya, who disappeared 30 years ago, and learn the fate of his wife in order escape the house alive.

Sweet Home is a unique blend of genres which will appeal to many gamers. The haunted house theme will definitely resonate with those who enjoy horror movies and survival horror titles, while the RPG elements and point and click adventure style puzzles will appeal to those audiences.

The exploration and battles work similar to many RPGs of it's time, including Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior. The player makes their way through the mansion, which is viewed from a top down perspective, and gets into random encounters with enemies. A status menu allows the player to manage their party, view a party member’s stats, organise and use items, and talk or search the area. The game can also be saved through this menu at any time while not in a battle. The game only holds one save at a time.

Using the in game menu, the player can build teams to explore the mansion. The game begins with the 5 party members entering the mansion and right away the player can switch between any of the members and move them around the house separately. This makes battles difficult and puzzles or events that require multiple characters annoying. Players can create and disband groups of up to 3 characters using the team option in the menu so that the groups can explore the house separately, while the group’s members handle battles and puzzles together.

Each party member also has a unique item they brought into the mansion with them. These items give the player a unique skill to help the party through the game.

The party is made up of the two male and three female leads from the film. Members include:

- The team lead, Kazuo Hoshino, who was the documentary producer in the film. Kazuo uses the lighter item, which can burn down ropes and cause massive damage to certain enemies. In the movie, we learn that his wife died shortly before this exploration takes place.
- Camera man, Ryō Taguchi, who uses his camera to photograph the frescos and find hidden clues. The camera can also cause damage to light sensitive enemies.
- Medic, Akiko Hayakawa, who can use her med kit to remove negative statuses from team members. In the film, Akiko is a love interest for the team leader, Kazuo.
- Art restorer Asuka, who uses her vacuum to remove dust from frescos or dangerous glass from the ground.
- Emi Hoshino, who is Kazuo's daughter and has a key which can open some locked doors.

Additional items found throughout the house can be picked up and carried around by party members. Each member can hold 2 items found in the mansion at a time. The player can exchange items in their inventory with new items they find. The old item will take the place of the new item in the room, so that the player can return to pick up the item where they discarded it later on.

Puzzles are handled in a unique way for RPGs. Using the items the party has, the player can overcome obstacles. This includes using the lighter to burn a rope barrier, or using wood found in the house to build bridges to cross gaps.

A unique feature for the game is that characters that die stay dead. If a character falls in battle, they turn into a dead body which can't continue on. The player can take items from the body, but there is no way to restore the character. Tonics found throughout the game can restore HP before a player dies, so the player must be careful to ration these and use them when necessary. Because of this, it's possible to finish the game with just one character left. The game features 5 endings which are based on how many characters survive the adventure.

Sweet Home succeeds at being an intense horror themed title despite the hardware limitations. The game does a good job working spooky moments into it's structure. It accomplishes this by setting up traps that can get the player at any time. Some random encounters are traps that need to be avoiding by selecting the right dodge option. Bridges across floors can randomly break and a party member could start slipping through the gap. If another member doesn't save the falling teammate, they'll die. The fact that death is permanent, makes each dangerous situation that much more serious. The game does a good 8-bit job at producing similar feeling as running low on ammo or health in Resident Evil.

Sweet Home is a game worth checking out for RPG, Adventure, and Horror fans. It may be one of the first games to successfully achieve a scary atmosphere, despite the limited hardware, and its influence is still seen today with games like Corpse Party.

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