December 28, 2011

Game review: Sweet Pool

Made by: Nitro-chiral
Genre: Yaoi, Horror, Gore, Romance, Occult, Violence
Summary: After being hospitalized for a year because of sickness, Youji is back at school. Being as quiet as ever, his friend Makoto is trying to cheer him up. When cold Tetsuo suddenly starts approaching Youji, strange things starts to happen around him. Nightmares, blood and the never ending pain inside of him. What is really going on?


He is very quiet but speaks his mind when he needs to. The game tells the story from his perspective and unlike most VNs a big part of the game is just going through feelings that Youji have. His parents died in an accident when he was young but he luckily still got a big sister whom took care of him. Youji often feel that he is in debt to her for taking care of him and paying for his apartment. His sister is pregnant and he decided that after the baby is born, he will stand on his own two feet, letting her live her happy married life. without being a burden. In class not many students approach him, knowing about his sickness and he blend in well with as the quiet and silent type. Tetsuo describes Youji as having "eyes that never trusts anyone" which I think sums him up pretty good.

The game starts on Youji's first day back to school, which he soon regret going to. On the train home he is feels nauseous, dizzy but is able to get home before he throws up. Thinking it's from the stress, he goes to bed early. Next day on the train to school the same feelings overwhelm him. On the verge of fainting, somebody suddenly grabs his arm from behind, supporting him. Silently standing there, a warm feelings spreads in Youji's body. A nostalgic, light, calm feeling. Just when he is about to turn around, the train arrive at the next stop and he is pushed along the crowd, leaving the mysterious person behind on the train that rushes away. At school he also meets Zenya, a strange and unpredictable man who starts messing with him. Smart as he is, Youji tries to avoid him knowing that he is dangerous.

Blond, tall, stoic and surrounded with an intimidating aura, Tetsuo starts showing up everywhere Youji goes. The second day of school Tetsuo tells Youji that they are on cleaning duty this week together and after school they both stay behind to take out the trash. Tetsuo comments that somebody throws his half-eaten food away but Youji doesn't respond (it was him). Out of nowhere Tetsuo touches Youji's neck lightly but when asked why he says "No reason".
Later when Youji is home he feels something on his back and instinctively touches his neck, realizing that he is bleeding there. The weird thing is that he can't feel any cut or wound, it's just blood coming out from the skin. Knowing now that it was the reason Tetsuo touched him, Youji feels anxious and wants to avoid him in case he asks questions. When taking a bath, Youji starts feeling sick again and when he looks down the water has turned into blood. Suddenly a wave of lust hits him and he is unable to hold himself back. Lightheaded, he closes and opens his eyes, only to see the water returned to normal.
Youji is feeling ill and skips lunch the next day and once again Tetsuo finds out and comments when they take out the trash. The science teacher asks Youji to pick up some books at the lab the following day after school and just when Youji is about the leave the rush of emotions hits him again. Just like in the bath, he is unable to stop himself. Looking down he suddenly see a pool of blood on the floor and is about to run away when he hears somebody at the door. Tetsuo is standing there, expressionless as usual and says nothing. Youji realizes Tetsuo saw the whole thing and leaves quickly, feeling embarrassed and confused.

At sience class Youji feels dizzy again and burns his hand during a experiment. The teacher asks Tetsuo to accompany him to the school nurse, which Youji immediately refuses. Tetsuo just grabs his arm and the two of them starts walking up the stairs. Just when turning a corner, the blond pushes Youji up the wall, staring at him. Youji starts feeling the same pain and sickness as usual, only this time much more intense. He runs to the bathroom and lock the door to the stall, breathing heavily and tries not to pass out. This time the pain isn't moving upwards but downwards instead. Closing his eyes, he feels the warm blood running down his thighs and hears the fleshy sound when something hits the floor. He looks down and seems blood everywhere mix together with big lumps of meat, some of them moving occasionally to the rhythm of a beating heart. He rushes out, not knowing that Zenya was watching him all along.

From here Youji and Tetsuo starts developing a strange relationship. They meet during lunch at the rooftop, Tetsuo offers Youji lunch but as usual he feels to ill to eat. Wen Youji get one of his attacks, Tetsuo grabs him and forces him to release the meat monsters. Simply by touching Youji is filled with a thousand different feelings all at the same time and the way Tetsuo acts it's the same thing for him.
Makoto is also worried about Youji, seeing how not only his body is weak but his emotional state is getting worse.

Some days later Zenya wants to chat with our protagonist during break. Youji is suspicious but agrees, the two of them going to the back of the school. Zenya blurts out "I know that you're not human" to a shocked Youji and brutally beats him up until he passes out. When he wakes up, Youji is in a small room together with Tetsuo who is covered with wounds. The same lustful feelings interrupt his attempt to wake him and Youji starts touching his face, bending down to kiss him. Right when his fingers stroke over Tetsuo's lips, he wakes up and embraces Youji.
Determined not to give up even after his plan failed, Zenya tries to lure Youji out after school with promises of telling him what is going on. Youji follows him outside in the rain, but only because he is desperate of knowing the truth. Of course Zenya doesn't tell him anything, beats him up and is about to rape him when Tetsuo shows up and tells the other man to stay away from Youji. Zenya leaves and Tetsuo starts smooching Youji up instead when seeing his wet and shivering body.

So Tetsuo is suspended from school for beating up Zenya and Youji is picked out to deliver his homework to him. After dropping it off Tetsuo's mother pulls him inside and insists on him having dinner together. Youji doesn't eat much but is happy to feel such a warm and welcoming feeling.

Some days later Tetsuo is back in school, telling Youji to go and see him at the rooftop during lunch. Makoto suddenly pushes himself between them and screams at Tetsuo to leave Youji alone. He is disturbing, annoying and only makes Youji feel bad. Can't he see how bothered he is by him!?
Youji tries to calm Makoto down which results in him getting even more angry. The argument ends with the teachers running in, restraining Makoto.

The sience teacher wants to talk to Youji about the fight once the class is over. He comments on how he have been involved around many arguments lately and his grades are dropping. Since it's noticeable Youji is still sick, the teacher says he will give him one more chance by making Tetsuo help him with study. This way Tetsuo also got a chance to redeem himself after the fights. Not giving any other option, Youji agrees.

Later that evening someone knocks on the apartment door. There, in the rain, stands Makoto. He doesn't answer when Youji calls out to him and invites him in, he just stands there whispering the same thing over and over.
"Why can't it be me...Why is it like this?"
His voice suddenly turns into screams and Youji tries to reach out to him, but his hand is slapped away and Makoto runs. Makoto skips school for the following days and Youji spends time with Tetsuo, trying to concentrate on studying (but failing).
When Makoto comes back he is back to normal and apologizes for acting so weird. He wants to talk to Youji properly and invites him to the science room after school. When Youji gets there it's pitch black and he is suddenly pushed against the wall. It's Makoto, holding a knife against his throat.
Yandere and pissed as hell, he forces Youji to choose between him and Tetsuo. Youji is silent and tries to figure out a way of this mess, when Makoto suddenly screams that he will kill Youji and take suicide directly after. Right when the knife is about to go down Youji screams Tetuo's name in his head. Next thing he knows Tetsuo is in the room, fighting with Makoto, who quickly runs away, realizing he can't win against him.

Tetsuo grabs Youji's hand and takes him back to his house where he stars kissing him before he even can catch his breath. Suddenly he stops and says "Call me. Anytime".

Youji gets a call from his sister announcing that the baby has been born. When he visits her she becomes very sad though and wants to have a serious talk with him, reviling a secret she should have told him long ago about their parents accident. Makoto is also in the hospital, and when Youji visits he have a breakdown and apologizes for trying to kill him. He says Youji has a weird smell that made him go crazy. They part and Makoto hopes they still can be friends.

At the hospital entrance the science teacher is waiting for Youji. Before he can ask what he is doing there he says "It's your fault for making Makoto crazy. You and your scent".

The teacher continues and spills the whole truth about the monsters and what is going on. Youji is a so called "Mesu", a person with female monsters inside of him. Their existence is to find a match, an "Osu", which is the male counterpart, also living inside of other humans. To show that they are ready to mate the female will release a special smell which makes them attracted and awakes their sexual instincts. Youji have during the game said that Tetsuo smells very nostalgic which makes him lightheaded while Zenya mentions in the Drama CD that the smell Youji have is like a very sweet flower. The male host is also given super regenerative powers, which explains why Tetsuo's cuts always disappear. The monsters have a leader, a god, which is a purebreed. But the god was punished and made their goal to create a new purebreed, which can only be born by two perfect Mesu and Osu mate.
The science teacher is a member of the cult who worship the monsters and try their everything to make their goal come true. Youji, being a high quality Mesu is a perfect match for Tetsuo, who is a high quality Osu. The teacher starts spewing about how the two of them are possible of creating the new highness, but Youji leaves before he can finish, disgusted with everything he heard.

Next day Youji gets a text from Zenya, who writes that he will tell him the secrets of the cult. When our protagonist gets to school the whole thing is covered in guts, meat monsters and blood.  He walks pass them but is soon captured by an old man he never seen before. The man holds a big lump of meat, calling it It's highness/God/Lord etc and Youji realize it's the leader of the monsters. The old man explains that if a Mesu is killed it will surely please the monsters and His Majesty might return to his former glory. Suddenly Zenya opens the door and kills the old man, screaming that he hate the cult and everything that has to do with the monsters. He then turns to Youji, whispering that he loves him but that it is time for him to die now.

I'm sure you can guess what happens next. Youji says Tetsuo's name and a second later he enters the room, beating up Zenya and eventually slashing up his stomach. Youji and Tetsuo tries to get out, but the whole school is blocked with the guro meat. They escape up the stairs and end up on the rooftop.

Tetsuo says that the first time he saw Youji he knew that he was special just like him. The whole year when he was sick, Tetsuo waited for him all this time. Youji asks if he maybe only likes him because of the Mesu/Osu thing inside of them, and Tetsuo admits that it might be true, but that it doesn't matter. He knows he wants to be together till eternity, even if they were the only two people left in the world, he would be happy. They might not be humans, but Youji is the only one who could ever understand him. The feelings they share is beyond love. Tetsuo and Youji kiss, accepting their destiny.

A man whom Youji recognize as a friend of Zenya suddenly opens the door and points a gun towards them. Without any regret, Youji stands up and faces him.

An extremely unpredictable man. He can switch mood very fast and got a very dangerous and wild aura. Zenya lives together with his dad Kunihito and their servant/friend Kitani, whom Zenya is very close to. His dad Kunihito on the other hand, is the leader of the meat monster cult. He never goes outside, hates Zenya with all his might and is crazy obsessed with praying for the monsters. When Zenya was little he forced him to eat the monsters, thinking the child would become a host himself (to later create the new purebreed) but his body refused and the monsters ended up slowly killing him from the inside. As a side effect his left eye started morph into the gore-like substance the monsters are made of and there are times when it suddenly starts to bleed heavily. Zenya would probably killed himself a long time ago, having to live with all this pain, if it weren't from Kitani. That man has always helped him, cooked for him and supported him when the pain was too much. Because he is a failed Osu, Zenya hates Tetsuo for being a perfect one

When going Zenya's route Youji is captured and thrown into the creepy room, but this time Tetsuo isn't with him. Zenya wakes him up and tells him about the Osu and Mesu concept and that even if he is a ruined Osu, his instinct to mate with Youji is driving him crazy. And so he rapes Youji for hours, believing there might be a chance of creating the purebreed after all.

I found Zenya, despite his craziness, to be a very interesting character. In his Drama CD tracks, which is a re-make of his ending, he starts to desperately scream "Youji, why won't you love me? Why can't it be me? Why am I like this (a failed Osu)?" and starts sobbing towards the end. He is a character filled with anger and hate but also wanting to be loved and accepted. His very playful and teasing normal voice which can turn into screams and hateful laughter any minute is something that sends chills down my spine.

Friendly, bubbly and outgoing guy. Even though he is popular in school he keeps close to Youji, worrying about his sickness. Makoto loves to eat and when going out together he gets the biggest super special hamburger - twice. In his route Makoto get affected by Youji's smell, making him super jealous and obsessed with him. In the scene when yandere Makoto is about to kill Youji, Tetsuo doesn't appear and Makoto asks Youji is he loves him. The protagonist says yes, thinking it will help him get out of the situation, but Makoto isn't stupid. Not being able to contain his anger and lust anymore, he rapes Youji and starts stabbing him with the knife, and things get worse from there...

I honestly felt really sorry for Makoto during the whole game. You can tell in the beginning that he only cares about Youji as a friend, and getting affected by the fragrance was against his own will. The rape scene was just horrible; Youji screams in pain the whole time and Makoto doesn't want to hurt him, but he can't control his body or emotions at all anymore.


Sweet Pool doesn't have the normal conversation option like in most VNs and instead features only two options: Instinct or reason. If you only select instinct all the way, you will end up with Zenya's ending and if you select the opposite all the way you will get Makoto. Considering how deep and full of symbolism the game is, I can't help but wonder if they made the options like this for a reason as well. Following your heart or always listening to your brain you might not ending up giving you what you want. As for endings, Tetuso got 3 (+ one secret "true ending") while Zenya and Makoto only got one each. Even though there are no happy endings in the game, all of Tetsuo endings are still good in one way; they always love each other right until the end.

One thing Sweet Pool get bonus for is how the auto is perfectly timed. I had time to read the sentence in my slow way without it changing and the scene took it's time without it started to get boring. The game also got a "super skip mode" which was useful when replaying  a special scene or wanting to try a new outcome.

Final Score:
Story 9/10

As expected from Nitro+Chiral, Sweet Pool is great. Sure it's got gore and when reading the summary about a guy shitting meat and blood, one is bound to back off and get the wrong impression. All the characters were amazing. Very realistic in terms of feelings and thinking in a way you often find yourself doing. Youji doesn't whine or is uke-ish at all which I loved and Tetsuo is very bad ass even if I find myself wanting him to show more feelings. The game also doesn't have a single "I love you"-line which was refreshing and I felt like the whole concept of it was that Tetsuo and Youji's relationship is deeper than just love and go way beyond that. My favorite moments between them has to be when Tetsuo suddenly says "Call me, anytime" which implies that he heard Youji calling for him in his mind/heart. As I mention above, the game is very often told in Youji's POV, but it also switches to Zenya and what is going on in his house with the cult.

Kitani became a favorite of mine towards the end and in a scene when Zenya starts bleeding from his eye at school Kitani rushes in and holds him all why Zenya is crying "Why didn't you come sooner? I need you here. I called you! Hurry up and come sooner!". For short, his character really enhanced Zenya's loneliness and desperation.

I should note that all of Tetsuo's endings are pretty open and gives you a "judge for yourself" kind of feeling. As some of you know I absolutely hate gore, which might makes you wonder why I would put myself through this, but after playing it I honestly thought it wasn't that bad at all and there are very few scenes involving it.

Music 10/10
Loved. Simply loved the music. The ending songs are very addictive and the background music have been on loop since I finished the game. Miracles May by Itou Kanako is just perfection and fits the game so well it's scary.

Art 10/10
Even though the designs of the characters weren't anything special, I still enjoyed the artwork very much. Onitsuka Seiji replaced the original Nitro+Chiral artist Kana Tatana, but I think their styles are pretty similar, only that Onitsuka draws more manly men. The artbook for the game had a LOT of unused CG, new poses and to my surprise the majority of the pictures were of Zenya & Youji together. You can tell the artist doesn't mind drawing gore and bondage (or the two or them together) and I remember reading somewhere that her favorite thing to draw was abs/pecs lol.

Voices 9/10
Not much to comments here. Wataru sounds a bit too much like Asato from Lamento for my taste but the guy who really stands out is Midorin. His voice can snap from happy to sad as Zenya in a second and it really tingles when he talks with his playful voice. Brilliant work and just a bliss to listen to. I don't know about other people, but I didn't think he sounded like Shiki at all.

Total: 10/10 
As expected from Nitro+Chiral, Sweet Pool is a touching, bittersweet, sad and well-written story. The characters are all messed up in their own way, just like everyone in real life secretly is. The game makes you question things and think a lot, which I like. I would really recommend Sweet Pool to anyone, even as a starter BL game for newcomers. It's not about sex or having a boyfriend or shit like that, it's about accepting life for what it is and the dealing with those feelings, that fate always isn't fair and the struggle to finding someone just like you.



Haruhi Ng said...

thank y for this, i luv it

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