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Before Resident Evil, there was...

Sweet Home.

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YouTube Longplay of the fan translation of Sweet Home for the NES

In certain circles, it's common knowledge that Capcoms first survival horror title was Sweet Home. However, I'm willing to bet most people don't know about it and just figured Resident Evil was their first. It was released only in Japan and only for the Famicom system (it never made it to Western shores, most likely because Nintendo didn't want a gruesome horror-themed game distributed worldwide at the time... It was early days for them after all).

So, lets get this out of the way, it was a licensed game. Sweet Home was a Japanese horror movie released in 1989, and the game was designed as a tie-in and was pushed through the door at the same time. The (super basic) storyline is that a small film crew visit an old, seemingly abandoned mansion which belonged to a famous artist. The crew want to document what they find and hopefully restore any hidden works that they find. However, they become trapped inside the mansion when the ghost of the artists wife who haunted the mansion. When she was still living, her life was horror itself - she lost her child and her face became disfigured after a tragic accident with a furnace and went insane. As time went on she began to kidnap and kill babies in the same incinerator, to try and sort of give her dead child other children to play with in the afterlife. She was discovered by the locals and instead of facing them, she put herself in the incinerator as well and after this she remained as a hateful spirit.

The game adds a lot more variety - it's basically an RPG and the way it works is that you have a selection of 5 characters and you can either play as one, two or even three characters at a time and they can be switched around as needed. Each character has a unique item which will be needed at some point in order to progress (e.g. somebody has a lighter, somebody else has a lockpick).

There is a huge emphasis on inventory management and puzzle solving. Sometimes backtracking is necessary and items you found early on might not have a true use until much later on.

The mansion is also filled with monsters including Zombies. How combat works is JRPG-style, random encounters.

The games story is told through cut-scenes and through finding letters and diary entries - more exposition can be discovered by searching more hard-to-reach places. The basic premise of the game is the same as the movie - the initial goal is to explore the mansion and find works of art - however the ghost of the artists wife and other creatures trap them inside and their goal is now to escape safely. The artists wife is fought as a final boss at the end of the game.

Interestingly, if any of the characters die in the game they will lie where they fell and remain there for the rest of the game.

The game has a number of endings, which one you get depends on how successful you were at keeping the team alive.

Is any of this sounding familiar!?

Finally, there have been numerous fan translations which means anybody can enjoy Sweet Home if they have access to a Famicom emulator and a translated ROM.

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