It’s 2013 and school is out for the summer. I’m getting ready for my first semester of college soon, but I’ve got some free time to myself, so I grab my silver PSP and curl up onto my bed.
The system turns on with a bit of a hiccup before I see the dull black menu illuminate my screen. At the top of the most recently played list is a visual novel I was hesitant to spend my graduation money on because of the sprites. Sweet Fuse starts with a catchy tune and I am drawn into the suspenseful plot. I can’t remember how long I stay awake trying to get the charismatic police officer to fall in love with me.
Now it’s 2022, and I stumble upon a vague Twitter post mentioning the game’s name. Memories of long nights staying awake to finish character routes flood into my brain. I slowly realize that Sweet Fuse isn’t the only older game that overpowers me with feelings of nostalgia. There are so many amazing visual novels I played in the early 2010s that deserve to be revisited (or even played for the first time!).
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side
Sweet Fuse is a PSP game that was localized by Aksys in August of 2013. You play as Saki Inafune, who is attending the opening of her uncle’s video game-themed amusement park. Things go awry when Saki’s uncle gets taken hostage and she and a few other strangers have to work together in order to save the hostages from being killed.
The concept is a unique one that I’ve hardly ever seen replicated since. Killing games are a popular trope, but overtaking an amusement park and holding its owner hostage? That’s a new one! The game mashes romance, suspense, and puzzles together to create an engaging tale that will have you on the edge of your seat, no matter what route you play.
Sweet Fuse: At Your Side was also one of the last physical PSP games to come to market after the launch of the Vita. It was one of Aksys’ earliest attempts to bring otome games to the Western market on consoles. Though it flew under the radar for years, I do think this game is an important one to check out!
Hakuoki: Demon of the Fleeting Blossom
What otome game fan hasn’t heard of Hakuoki? It’s one of the most popular otome game franchises, both back when it was first localized in February of 2012 and currently with the game’s revamps, Kyoto Winds and Edo Blossoms. In this game you play as Chizuru, a young girl who’s trying to find her missing father in nineteenth-century Japan. She stumbles upon a samurai group and something much bigger than she imagined.
Hakuoki was the first big visual novel I played and it inspired me to check out so many more. The game tells an incredibly intricate story of love, honor, and war. There are narrative scenes that are incredibly powerful, some even leaving me in tears. I still think about some of those moments years later. The game also features amazing art, Japanese voice acting, and beautiful music to accompany the powerful storyline.
With the game’s newest remaster (featuring even more romance routes than before), it’s definitely worth checking out!
Aloners is an indie visual novel developed by sonnet009 and originally released in 2014. Taking place in an apocalyptic setting, Aloners focuses on the relationship between the player and Trash, the man whose bed you wake up in.
Aloners is a gem because it allows the player to make choices that shape the player’s personality. There is no “correct” answer in getting Trash to like you. He’ll bond with you organically and react to the choices you make. And trust me, there are a ton of choices.
sonnet009 released a Redux version of Aloners in 2018 that adds some new art and an extra ending scenario. This game is definitely worth checking out, whether you’re playing for the first time or revisiting it.
Happy New Year, VN Game Den readers! Even though there is a plethora of new games coming out this year, it doesn’t mean we can’t revisit some old ones.