Editorials, Featured, Main, PC

The Best Japanese Indie Games You’ve Never Played – “Sweet Home” Edition

by on February 25, 2014 1:00 PM 8

In the third installment of my segment, I’ll be talking about an obscure Japanese horror game that was developed by Capcom and released for the Famicom in 1989.

Sweet Home, based on the film of the same name, is an RPG developed by Capcom sprinkled with adventure and puzzle game themes. It was the inspiration for Capcom’s later franchise, Resident Evil, but never saw an official Western release.

Warning — spoilers imminent, so please proceed at your own risk.

Sweet Home7

The story of the game follows the film’s: five people (from left to right: Kazuo, Akiko, Taguchi, Asuka and Emi) venture into the abandoned mansion of famed artist Mamiya Ichirou, intent on filming a documentary while trying to restore Mamiya’s works. Upon entering the mansion, the group discovers that the ghost of Lady Mamiya, Ichirou’s wife, haunts the place and she does not intend to let the intruders escape with their lives. The crew must try to find a way out of the haunted mansion alive — and lay Lady Mamiya to rest once and for all in the process.

Players are soon bombarded by horrible zombie-like monsters that, freakishly enough, you find out were formally other people who ventured in the mansion and didn’t make it out alive. As you explore, there are items called frescos (a type of mural painting) left behind by Ichirou that piece together the tragic story of Lady Mamiya.

Sweet Home5

Exploration itself is the usual overhead view with tile-based movement; the unique feature, however, is the greater emphasis on puzzle solving and exploration than actual battles. Party members are far more likely to die exploring than against enemies, due to the large amount of traps placed all over the mansion (including a few instant death ones).

Each of the five party members can equip a weapon and two regular items. They also possess a special item unique to only them: Kazuo, the leader of the group can use a Lighter that causes fire damage and burns flammable objects while exploring; Asuka uses a Vacuum to clean dirty frescos and remove glass shard hazards from the floor; Akiko is the nurse and her handy Medkit cures characters of various status ailments; Taguchi wields a camera that damages ghosts and bats in battle and reveals the contents of frescos that Asuka cleans; Emi, as the “Master of Lock-Picking,” can use her key to unlock any locked door.

Sweet Home3

In battle, characters can choose one of several commands including Attack, Items, Pray, Tool, Run and Call. Call allows you to get a character not in your party to navigate the mansion and join in, since you can only have three party members maximum. This balancing of characters for different tasks becomes another important aspect of the game.

Pray is a special command that deals damage based on how many Prayer Points you use. An item called a Tonic restores these points but they’re very limited in supply, so proper consumption of those points are key.

What makes this game so nail-bitingly difficult is the fact that when a party member falls in battle, they die for good. No magic spells or Phoenix Down here — they die a horrifying death and that’s it. Sweet Home even shows players a lovely little scene to drive home that fact. If Kazuo or Taguchi dies, you see this:

Sweet Home

And this is the screen shown for Asuka, Akiko or Emi if they die:

Sweet Home2

Even neater, there are five unique endings depending on how many characters survive till the end of the game, which is pretty amazing for a game on the Famicom.

This game pulls no punches in the character deaths, the story, gameplay or visuals. Sweet Home‘s an incredibly forward title that completely masters the genre it essentially created through its use of atmosphere, well-paced and suspenseful story-telling and team-based gaming mechanics. I highly recommend any video game horror fan to check out Sweet Home for themselves — it’s a masterpiece that can’t be missed.

You can download the excellent and professionally done fan translation here, and here is where you can learn about the gameplay mechanics.

Join the Discussion

  • XyzzySqrl

    What definition of “Indie” includes CAPCOM of all things?

    • Allisa James

      Yeah I kind of stretched indie there haha, but I always planned on this series to discuss really obscure games as well (like ones that never got a Western release and such). And to be fair, this game was before Capcom got really big ;)

      • XyzzySqrl

        Yeah, Sweet Home’s a pretty great game and all, that just threw me. I love how there’s different endings for different numbers of survivors.

        • Allisa James

          You’re right, it is a bit strange but I absolutely had to mention it. I’ll give a bit more warning next time though.

          But yeah, that game is seriously a gem. And thank you for reminding me about the endings–how did I miss that? Updated the piece with that now! :D

  • Bentrafica

    A Famicom game with fan translation is indie?

    So, that means Final Fantasy Type-0 is becoming into an indie game with each day passing by -_______- ‘

    • Allisa James

      This editorial series also covers obscure Japanese games that never saw the light of day in West. I did stretch it a bit, though and will note it more clearly in the future.

      And no Type-0 is not a good “sarcastic” comparison because it’s not obscure.

  • PrinceHeir

    This is from Shinji Mikami’s first director game right?

    Need to play this ASAP!!

    Please keep making more of this section Allisa!

    • Allisa James

      Yep it sure! And yeah, definitely check it out. I didn’t realize how good it was myself until recently.

      Thanks so much for your encouragement–I really enjoy doing these too! :D

Recent Comments

Powered by Disqus