Sweet Home Review: Fresco? Like the drink?

 

As a kid, going to Blockbuster with my older brother was the highlight of the month; since we weren’t rich enough to keep buying new games, we had to recycle our games or rent them. Like most normal people, my mother got paid every two weeks; so every two to three weeks, as a family, we went to our local Blockbuster. My brother and I ended up gravitating towards games that looked interesting based on the cover, description, or if it was multiplayer.

Buying or renting games meant getting ones that were either age appropriate for me, the speculation if it would be good, or ones where my brother and I could co-op. To give a little back story/context my mother was a tad bit over protective when she was raising us. Hell, I wasn’t even allowed to play with toy guns, be it Nerf or water, as my mother’s thinking was it would turn me into a killer. So when the few times I could actually go to an arcade without my mom, I would play games such as Time Crisis and Virtua Cop, but especially House of the Dead. This might explain why I’ve never really had the accessibility to have a sweet love affair with any Horror games besides my occasional House of the Dead. So for 1989’s Sweet Home, this is wish fulfillment on multiple levels.

What is this, Splatterhouse???

Released for Nintendo’s Famicom in 1989, Sweet Home was developed and produced by Capcom (we are all familiar with the love affair these two companies had in the 80’s and 90’s, right?). Often Sweet Home is sighted as being the father of survival horror games; as well as being the main influence for the initial Resident Evil. Sweet Home is based on and was released in tandem with the horror film of the same name  as this old commercial showcasing not only the game play but as well as scenes from the film points out. Kiyoshi Kurosawa, director for the Sweet Home film, also oversaw the game’s development.

Sweet Home sees a small team set out to discover the mystery of the famous painter Ichirō Mamiya, who vanished without a trace, leaving five hidden Fresco paintings behind in his enormous mansion. The team consists of five unique members who enter the mansion and are immediately trapped by a ghost. The ghost tells them that the mansion is slowly but steadily falling apart, thus Sweet Home becomes a race against time as they not only have to document their findings, but more importantly, survive.

SWEET! TOOTHPASTE FIRECRACKERS!!?!

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Can Gender Selected Characters Ever Be Growing Characters?

Sometime back around 2000 or 2001, my mom bought me the Game Boy Color remake edition of Dragon Quest 3. This was a big event for me: it was my first exposure to Dragon Quest, one of my favorite RPG series, and it was my first “T” rated game, were I was first exposed to saucy subject matter like Akira Toriyama’s love of girls in bunny suits (which DQ3 practically had as an entire job class devoted to, called a Gadabout) and the fan revered “puff puff” service. Yet the biggest aspect of DQ3 on the GBC for me was unintentionally picking a female lead. See, the probably seven year old me thought that I was picking my weight class, misinterpreting “M” as medium instead of male and “F” as fat instead of female.  So here I was, at party with a beefy warrior, a stocky fighter, a pretty thief, all male, who dwarfed their female hero leader by a foot.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned my character was female, a concept I found cool as I was playing this small woman who commanded orders to these three big male adventures; empowering if you think about it.

Anyone could see my confusion when pretty men like Yuri from Tales of Vesperia are such common RPG protagonists.

Let’s talk about gender selection in videogames, as I’ve got something on my mind.

Character gender selection to me has its strongest ties to RPGs, with simulation games coming in second. Since the main character is usual meant to represent the player’s avatar, a player’s gender is an important means of visual distinction. Often, gender selection is simply aesthetic, like my earlier example with DQ3, its sequel DQ4, and most of the Pokémon games. A pre-construct male or female choice where your silent-protagonist self-insert has little bearing on the story but to play along (well, unless you are like me where playing DQ4 as a girl changed the narrative to “How High Fantasy Lunch from Dragon Ball Saved the World from Evil”).

Further character customization, even going far enough to choose different species, still often only speaks to the aesthetics. I don’t remember Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ever hinting at the beginning of character creation that making Revan a foxy lady meant getting a stat boost to force lightening and toxic resistance. For a solely fighting game example, the character customization in the later Soul Calibur games did let me make a short and skinny lady who fought with Nightmare’s behemoth Soul Edge. Awesome yes, but it was at the expense of the series’ historically minded 16th-17th realistic setting… a setting that thought it necessary to let that alien thing Necrid exist. In fact, since character creation works on its own plane of wish-fulfillment, it’s hard for it to have any real bearing on the world around it.

Wait a second. This Saint Seiya character was alive in the 80’s. How am I suppose to take her in Soul Calibur seriously when the only thing I can think of is 80’s leg warmers?

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