18-year-old Saki Inafune is the niece of legendary game producer Keiji Inafune. She attends the grand opening of her uncle's new theme park, which is based on popular video games. During her uncle's speech, however, the park is taken over by the mysterious Count Hogstein, who presents an ultimatum: Seven people must participate in a seven day game, or the park will be blown up. Saki steps up in order to save her uncle, but alongside her are six different men.Sweet Fuse: At Your Side (Bakudan Handan in Japan) was released in Japan in 2012, and released in the West on August 27th, 2013.
All-Loving Hero: Saki. Look no further than Makoto's route, in which she manages to talk the Big Bad down from his whole plot by empathizing with him and appealing to his better nature, for the best example. It's no coincidence that the best dialogue choices are almost always those which involve trusting her companions, and that the key to resolving Makoto's route successfully is to refuse to sacrifice or abandon anyone, up to and including Makoto himself. She is, however, an unusually shouty version of the character type.
Always Save the Girl: By day three, Urabe is prepared to do anything to keep Saki safe... whether she appreciates it or not.
Anger Born of Worry: During day 3's game, Shirabe loses his temper at his daughter Mai out of worry due to their dangerous situation. Depending on the exact circumstances, he sometimes goes so far as to almost hit her, but is stopped by Shidou.
The Atoner: Urabe's reason for being The Mole. He feels guilt over the bus explosion that killed several people: it was his father's fault. In his own path, he does admit that at least part of it is because he wants to bring his father down, however.
In the day four attraction, as in the shooting game it's based on, both the enemies and the player-controlled spaceship have jewels which represent their weak points. The only way to defeat an alien is to shoot its jewel, and if the spaceship's jewel is hit, it's game over.
The fighting game Round Table Colosseum Knights VI also involves attacking the opponent's designated weak point, a mechanic simulated during the corresponding attraction's first puzzle via the use of taser gloves.
Badass Boast: Here and there. A particularly fine one (in terms of boldness, if not vernacular) might be dropped by Meoshi if you don't get mad a ways down his route:
Meoshi: "We're going to beat your game soon, and if I find out you've done anything to our friends, I'm going to make sure you regret it!"
Badass in a Nice Suit: Shidou isn't just a snappy dresser, he's also an excellent driver, a skilled marksman, and trained in kendo.
Battle Theme Music: On day four of Shidou's route, Saki notes that the arrival of the boss alien during the Moonlight OX shooting game attraction is heralded by what she can only describe as boss fight music.
Blasting It out of Their Hands: In his good ending, Shidou prevents Hogstein from shooting Saki by shooting the gun out of his hand. It's depicted a bit less harmlessly than is typical for the trope, since Saki's narration describes the victim's hand bleeding afterwards.
Bonus Dungeon: Name-dropped in Meoshi's route when he and Saki find their way into a hidden area of the park.
Boss Battle: The Moonlight OX shooting game attraction has one in the form of a giant alien.
Calling Your Attacks: Meoshi does it once on his route. Adorably, the attack he calls has nothing whatsoever to do with the game they're currently playing: it's his character's super move from his favorite fighting game.
The Cameo: Dasoku, the singer of the game's opening and ending themes, makes one in your third playthrough.
The Chew Toy: Mitarashi manages to get himself hurt every single day of the first three days in the park, a trend which usually continues in most routes. It's largely a result of his penchant for leaping rashly into action without a second thought, and often without a first one either.
Conversational Troping: Given that the plot revolves around puzzles in an amusement park based entirely on video games, there's inevitably a lot of discussion about video game tropes, especially on Meoshi's route.
Cool Shades: Shidou's red-tinted sunglasses, which have the effect of making his eyes look bright red. He carries at least three pairs with him; see Sunglasses at Night.
The last day of Urabe's route shows how the final puzzle of the Round Table Colosseum Knights IV attraction is supposed to work: in order to successfully draw the Excalibur prop from its stone, they're supposed to rotate sword and stone a full turn plus one notch, as hinted by the clue announcement and the stone's design. In Shidou's route, however, the seven simply combine their efforts and manage to brute-force the thing out.
Deadly Game: Hogstein's plan centers around trapping a group of seven people in the amusement park and forcing them to participate in a series of potentially lethal "games," keeping a number of hostages as leverage to make his chosen contestants play along.
Declaration of Protection: Pretty much every guy on his respective route declares his personal commitment to protecting Saki. Some of them - particularly Mitarashi and Urabe - go more overboard with it than others.
Determinator: By the end of his route, and in several other routes besides, Mitarashi is pretty much only still able to move by pure stubborn determination. The only reason he ever sits out a game due to his injuries is because the other characters make him, and even then it only works about half the time.
Did Not Get the Girl: Some of the bad endings, such as the one for Shidou's route: they beat all of the games, save the hostages, and confront Hogstein... but Shidou freezes up when Hogstein nearly shoots Saki, and in the aftermath, blaming himself for his perceived failure, he chooses to cut off all contact with Saki in spite of their feelings for each other.
Meoshi's route is another: although, once again, everyone is saved, Meoshi still can't conquer his anxiety and returns to being a shut-in, cutting off contact with Saki in the process.
Distressed Dude: In every route other than his own, Urabe ends up captured by Hogstein after the third day's game goes pear-shaped. In most of those routes, the remaining players end up having to play a game with his life in the balance.
Dub Name Change: The villain's name in the original Japanese is "Waru Do Boo," a play on the name of the original park mascot Kane De Boo and the Japanese word "waru" (bad/false/evil). The English localization changes it to Count Hogstein, presumably because the meaning of "waru" and the fact that "Boo" comes from the word "buta" (pig) would be lost on players not familiar with Japanese. The original mascot's name, for whatever reason, is not changed.
Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Meoshi's eyes are flat black without highlights or any distinction between pupil and iris. His are the only eyes drawn in this manner, highlighting his depressed, withdrawn demeanor.
Easily Forgiven: The group is quick to fight for Urabe's safety and welcome him with open arms after his betrayal on the third day. The trope applies even more in Urabe's route, in which he arranges for Hogstein to keep Saki locked up for the entire fifth and sixth days, deliberately keeping her in the dark about his true intentions, in a misguided effort to keep her safe - once she yells him into submission, everything's dandy.
Empathic Environment: It's overcast on day six of Urabe's route, and begins to rain when Saki confronts him. The sky is also ominously overcast on day seven of Shidou's route as they head into the final game, which draws a Lampshade Hanging from Shirabe.
Everybody's Dead, Dave: The bad ending for Urabe's route has Saki waking up in the hospital, and realizing from what little the doctor is willing to say that all of the other six and the hostages must have been killed.
Exact Words: During the final game in Meoshi's route, Meoshi and Saki convince Hogstein to promise that, "if [they] get out of here in one piece," he will release their friends and all of the other hostages. Once Hogstein agrees, Meoshi promptly abandons the puzzle, pointing out that per Hogstein's promise, all he and Saki have to do is leave safely - nothing in the agreement they just made says anything about having to solve the puzzle.
Expository Hairstyle Change: In the CG for Urabe's good ending, which takes place two years later, Saki has grown her hair out from the short, round bob cut she has during the rest of the game to nearly shoulder-length.
Fantasy Character Classes: Featured in the first day's attraction, which is based on an RPG. Part of the key to solving all three puzzles is figuring out which of the game's seven character classes corresponds to each of the seven members of their group. Mitarashi is the Monk, Urabe is the Mage, Shidou is the Hunter, Wakasa is the Bard, Meoshi is the Ninja, Shirabe is the Priestess, and Saki is the Warrior. Shirabe is rather miffed about his assigned class.
Saki: I wasn't entirely convinced Mitarashi actually experienced the human emotion known as 'fear,' or even anything like it.
Feed the Mole: Inverted. Hogstein intentionally gives Urabe an incorrect answer to the third day's final puzzle in order to find out if Urabe will continue to play The Mole for him or spill the beans in order to help the others.
Fighting Game: The "Round Table Colosseum Knights IV" attraction is based on one.
First Name Basis: By the end of each guy's route, he and Saki have upgraded to calling one another by name.
Wakasa attempts to extend Friendly Address Privileges on the first night if Saki chooses to hang out with him during break time, but she doesn't actually start calling him "Towa" until much later in his route.
Shidou also gets an earlier start on it than most: he starts calling most of the group, including Saki, by their given names during the day four game in his route. He asks Saki to call him "Subaru" as well, but it takes her a bit longer to get comfortable enough to do so.
Full-Name Basis: Although it's not retained in the English text, Shidou addresses everyone except Shirabe by their full name. He switches to First Name Basis for most of them during the fourth day of his route.
"Funny Aneurysm" Moment: When Mitarashi and Meoshi bicker over pairing up for the third game, Meoshi says that he doesn't want to be bombarded with questions again. This is innocuous right up until you finish Meoshi's route.
Gamer Chick: Saki, of course. Supposedly. She exhibits almost no knowledge of the famous games that her own uncle developed, including the super-popular Mario Kart expy.
Genki Girl: Saki. Lampshaded a few times. Mai, to a lesser extent.
Hikikomori: Meoshi. The only reason he bothered coming to the theme park was for DLC.
Host Club: Mitarashi is the number one host at such a club in the Ginza district.
I Know Mortal Kombat: Meoshi brings a remarkable amount of skill to the table due to his extensive experience with video games. Some of it makes sense - he's able to navigate a trapped hallway on the first day by treating it like a Rhythm Game, for example, and it's his knowledge of the game mechanics rather than actual driving skill that helps him during the day two kart race. His experience with fighting games making him the second best hand-to-hand combatant of the group after Shidou - a police detective with real combat training - is a little harder to swallow, although it may be justified by only coming up during the fighting game attraction, the setup of which makes it somewhat different from a real fight.
I Know You Know I Know: In Meoshi's route, the final set of puzzles is a repeat of the third day's Bloodstained Hospital. Meoshi and Saki get through the first two stages using what they know from the first time, but in the final stage, the Records Room, Hogstein informs them that the solution to the puzzle has changed - leaving them wondering why he'd bother to tell them, unless the solution they already know is still correct and he's just trying to make them second-guess themselves into a mistake.
Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The zombies in the Bloodstained Hospital have machine guns, but no one is ever more than grazed by a bullet. Justified: The Bloodstained Hospital replicates the "terror gauge" of its Survival Horror game origin with a heart monitor wristwatch, and the guns are just another method of trying to scare the players enough to max out their terror gauge. Meoshi, observing their failure to shoot him even when he's lying on the floor making a perfect target, concludes that they're deliberately firing to miss.
Involuntary Battle to the Death: At the seventh day's Fighting Game attraction, one of the two Forced Prizefights is also one of these: the participants are in separate rooms, viewing a projection of their opponent on a screen and equipped with electrified gloves and shinguards which shock them if their opponent lands a "hit". The setup allows Hogstein to project a false image on the screens so that they don't realize who it is they're really fighting, and the voltage increases with every hit landed. He threatens to pit Wakasa and Saki against their friends this way on Wakasa's route; on Urabe's route, this is the method Urabe plans to use to sacrifice himself in order to secure Saki's safety (and in his bad ending, he succeeds). The game appears in its entirety on Shidou's route.
Ironic Echo: In the last day of Meoshi's route, Hogstein taunts Meoshi, calling him an amateur who couldn't mind game his way out of a paper bag. After Meoshi flawlessly outplays Hogstein at his own game, he follows up with this smug zinger:
"Too bad, huh? Must be rough losing to an amateur. I'll send you a paper bag to practice on."
Karma Houdini: In almost every route, Hogstein escapes, identity still unrevealed. In addition, in Wakasa, Mitarashi, and Meoshi's routes, the crimes committed by Urabe's father never come to light.
Lap Pillow: Provides CG events on Shirabe, Urabe, and Makoto's routes.
Let's Split Up, Gang: Appears in both voluntary and involuntary forms. In all routes except for Shidou's, once the route is determined at the end of the third challenge, Saki will go off with that guy. Urabe is separated from the rest of the group at the same point, and may not reappear until the very end of the game, depending on the route in question.
The second, third, fourth, and seventh challenges also require this at some point, usually pairing off characters. This has interesting results, seeing as the party is made up of seven people initially.
Looks Like Cesare: Meoshi, with his long, lank black hair, pale skin, and dark circles under his eyes. Comes with being a shut-in who rarely goes outside and often stays up all night playing video games.
Magical Defibrillator: On day seven of Shidou's route, Shirabe uses the fighting game attraction's taser glove to resuscitate Shidou after Shidou willingly takes a lethal shock in order to get the rest of the team past the second challenge. Justified in that, given the circumstances, Shidou is in all likelihood in a state in which defibrillation would be helpful, although how likely it would be for the taser glove to function as an acceptable defibrillator substitute is more dubious. Shirabe is quick to point out after the fact that it was an insane stunt and a huge gamble on their part.
Additionally, it will fail if the player makes the wrong choice during the attempt.
Meaningful Name: "Urabe" is written with the character for "divination." "Shirabe" is written with the character for "investigate." "Makoto" means "truth," and "Mikami" is written with characters that can be read as "bewitch" and "mind".
Hogstein's actual reason for taking over the Gameatorium and putting the main characters through his games is to avenge the deaths of his parents and little sister in the Kanedo bus crash - something that not one of the seven bears any responsibility for. The person who is directly responsible is Urabe's father, who is among the hostages rather than being made to participate in the games.
His additional reasons for targeting each of the six men specifically are also pretty shaky, based on assumptions, incomplete information, and a dose or two of Insane Troll Logic: for example, targeting Mitarashi because Mitarashi uses his mother's maiden name and a stage name instead of his original birth name, which Makoto assumes is a means of trying to escape the pain of losing his parents instead of a reasonable thing for a professional host who was raised by his maternal grandmother to do.
On the third day, Hogstein announces that there's a traitor among them. It turns out to be Urabe.
Additionally, in Wakasa's route, Wakasa agrees to take over the role in order to obtain medical treatment for Saki.
In Makoto Mikami's route, Makoto tells Saki that his original plan was to take the role of the seventh participant himself, but Saki volunteering for the games caused him to scrap the idea.
My Greatest Failure: The Kanedo bus crash fills this role for several people. Meoshi's confidence was completely destroyed by his inability to tell the police what he'd witnessed until it was too late, leading him to withdraw from interaction with others and become a Hikikomori. Urabe is also haunted by the incident, believing himself complicit in it and his father's other crimes because he benefited from his father's financial success, and Shidou says that his father considered the failure of his investigation into the crash to be his greatest regret, ultimately leading to his alcoholism and death.
Shidou has his own, unrelated to the bus crash: he was assigned as the lead on an investigation, and his recklessness in pursuing the investigation led to the death of his partner. The experience taught him to make protecting others his first and most important priority.
Nom de Mom: Mitarashi goes by his mother's family name due to being raised by his maternal grandmother after the deaths of his parents.
Only a Flesh Wound: Mitarashi repeatedly uses almost this exact phrase to describe any injury he receives over the course of the game, from an arrow to the shoulder onwards. Played with in that the other characters insist on taking such wounds more seriously than Mitarashi does, the shoulder wound reopens on several occasions, and by the end of his route, despite his efforts to ignore the pain, Mitarashi is pretty much a physical wreck running on pure determination.
Only Sane Man: By day 2, Urabe is already being counted on to break up fights and calm down agitated teammates. More Voice of Reason than Only Sane Man.
Oral Fixation: Shirabe constantly has a stick of Pocky in his mouth in the manner that a slightly grittier take on the same character type might have a cigarette. Saki even mistakes it for a cigarette at first. His daughter Mai does the exact same thing.
Parental Abandonment: Factors into the backstory of several characters: Wakasa's father and Mitarashi's parents died in the Kanedo bus crash. Shidou's father investigated the case, but it was closed before he could make any leeway, and he ended up drinking himself to death. Shirabe's wife died a few months after giving birth to Mai, and Shirabe's job made it difficult to care for her, so she lives with her grandmother. Makoto's parents and sister also died in the accident, and that's the whole reason he planned to take over the park.
Pipe Pain: During the last stage of Meoshi's route, he takes the precaution of grabbing a piece of metal pipe to use as an Improvised Weapon, and inevitably makes a nod to the common use of a pipe as a starter weapon in many survival horror games.
Pointy Ears: Mitarashi. They don't appear to signify anything, they're just... pointy.
Power Fist: Boxing gloves with built-in tasers (and shin-guards with the same) feature as part of the Round Table Colosseum Knights VI Fighting Game attraction.
Real Men Cook: Shirabe, as revealed during his route. As he explains, since he lives on his own it behooves him to be able to feed himself.
In online gaming circles, Meoshi is known as the "God of Fighting" for his skill at fighting games.
Urabe's fortune-telling has earned him the title "Oracle of Shinjuku."
Red Herring: In the last puzzle of the third day, the journal is for the most part completely irrelevant to the solution of the Wire Dilemma. Attentive players will probably realize before the characters do that the seven wires correspond to the Seven Deadly Sins, which means the additional "clue" only serves to confuse the issue and distract everyone from realizing that they already have all the information they need.
Red Herring Mole: At the end of the second day, Saki notices Shirabe and Mitarashi acting suspiciously. The following day, Hogstein announces that one of the seven is The Mole. Unsurprisingly, the people who Saki has reason to suspect turn out to have unrelated explanations for what they were doing.
The "Band Animal Family" attraction is based on a game that might as well be Rock Band: Animal Crossing Edition. On Shidou's day six, the group has to get through a session of it with less than thirty mistakes.
Meoshi gets through day one's "Corridor of Hate" by treating it like a rhythm game.
Screams Like a Little Girl: Invoked by Shidou as a tension-breaker during the day three maze. When they hear a scream, Shidou tells Saki that it must have been Wakasa - not because he necessarily believes it really was Wakasa, but because imagining Wakasa letting out such a girly scream makes it funny rather than scary and enables Saki to keep calm.
Self-Imposed Challenge: Discussed on Mitarashi's route, when Mitarashi and Saki end up staying out of the fourth day's game due to Mitarashi's injuries. Meoshi specifically compares their reduced party to playing a video game with a self-imposed challenge.
Sequelitis: Conversed in Meoshi's route: according to him, the in-universe Bloodstained Hospital survival horror game's sequel was widely panned for various reasons, including shamelessly recycling the material of the original game with little more than a Palette Swap. Word-of-mouth about it was so bad that even game fanatic Meoshi never bothered to try it.
Shoot Out the Lock: How the hostages are rescued from their cage in Towa, Mitarashi, and Shirabe's paths.
Sole Survivor: There were actually two survivors of the Kanedo bus crash, Wakasa (on the bus) and Makoto (in the car hit by the bus), but Wakasa was too young at the time to remember it happening. Makoto, whose parents and little sister all died in the crash, describes how the experience left him feeling completely alone and isolated - even when people tried to sympathize with him, they couldn't know what it was like.
Spanner in the Works: Saki. Unlike the other six participants, who were carefully chosen by Makoto, Saki was never intended to be part of the games - in fact, Makoto himself planned to be the seventh participant. Stepping up to volunteer as she does introduces an unexpected element into the games which proves critical to undoing the whole plot.
Stage Names: On Mitarashi's route, when he and Saki upgrade to First Name Basis he explains that "Ryusei" is his professional name. His real name is Ryuji Kishiya.
Sunglasses at Night: Shidou wears sunglasses pretty much everywhere. His eyes can't handle bright lights.
Tagalong Kid: Shirabe's daughter Mai is a subversion. The reason she's still running around the park and not with the hostages is because she got separated from her grandmother, and ended up in the Bloodstained Hospital by chance. When Hogstein decides to make her a participant to replace Urabe, either Saki or Shirabe protests and in most routes she ends up staying at the hotel most of time.
Mitarashi takes an arrow for Saki during the first puzzle.
During day four's shooting game attraction, Shidou takes a rubber bullet for Saki on his route, and on Wakasa's route, Saki takes one for Wakasa that puts her out of commission until she receives medical treatment.
That Man Is Dead: Subverted. Makoto believes that Mitarashi changed his name as a means of running from the pain of losing both parents in the Kanedo bus crash. Mitarashi is surprised and offended by the suggestion - he uses his mother's maiden name because he was raised by his maternal grandmother, and points out that nobody uses their real given name when working in a host club.
Third-Person Person: It's not carried into the English text, but Mai Shirabe audibly refers to herself in the third person.
Took a Level in Badass: Characters who weren't already full badasses in their own right tend to do this on their routes. Meoshi (arguably) does this on every route, slowly becoming more confident around other people. Noteworthy that he speaks steadily to Hogstein from the start, usually while putting the Big Bad down.
Tracking Device: Urabe plants one on Saki during his route by giving her his prayer beads, in which the tracking device is concealed. This allows him to find her after she breaks loose and tries to rejoin the rest of the group on day six.
This has interesting implications for some of the other routes, where Urabe's beads are discovered in the plaza after his supposed death. It's possible that he shed them because Hogstein could track their whereabouts.
True Companions: The seven main characters quickly form strong ties in spite of Hogstein's efforts to sow discord and suspicion. If you listen to the dialogue, you can hear the word "nakama" used often, especially in the later stages of most routes.
Unmanly Secret: Mitarashi tries to hide the fact that he's into amusement parks. He doesn't hide it very well, though, eventually leading the other characters to wonder why he bothers.
Unspoken Plan Guarantee: In full effect throughout the game. It's justified in most cases by the fact that Hogstein is monitoring the park and the characters must be as cautious and secretive as possible about sharing their plans in order to keep Hogstein from foiling them.
Use Your Head: During the Fighting Game on the last day of Shidou's route, Shidou scolds Mitarashi to "use your head!" Mitarashi takes it literally.
Villainous Breakdown: Hogstein is obviously unstable and prone to lapsing into furious ranting throughout the game. He really hits this trope during Shidou's route after Shidou manages to get both parts of their team past the second challenge and survive what should have been a lethal shock - Hogstein is so shocked and enraged by the success of the stunt that the text of his dialogue degenerates almost immediately into Symbol Swearing and nothing more is heard out of him until the characters go to Castle Hogstein to confront him in person. By which point the real Hogstein has already fled: the one the group confronts turns out to be a piglet decoy.
Villainous BSOD: Makoto eventually hits one in the last phase of the secret route, when Saki manages to make it clear that many of his reasons for staging the whole plot are based on misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions which have led him to try to punish people for things that weren't their fault and which they already deeply regret.
Wire Dilemma: The third puzzle in the Bloodstained Hospital game involves figuring out which of seven wires to cut in order to defuse a time bomb.
Who Wears Short Shorts?: Saki does! It's not super obvious, though, since the game rarely shows her whole body except in a few of the CGs.
Urabe, as depicted during his route. He never gets violent with Saki except for knocking her out in his bad end, but he purposefully manipulates and deceives her and plans to lock her up for the remaining three days of the game, regardless of how she feels about it. He makes it clear he's willing to sacrifice himself, her friends, and all of the hostages if that's what it takes to keep her safe - a decision he reached no later than the end of the third day.
Makoto, meanwhile, won't hesitate to kill Saki if she fails to live up to his image of her as a Messianic Archetype who can save him from himself.
You ALL Share My Story: All of the main characters aside from Saki are connected to the bus crash twelve years ago. The crash was arranged by Urabe's father to silence Shirabe's mentor before he could expose the former's corruption. Shirabe's mentor was also Mitarashi's father; Mitarashi's mother, who was also on the bus, sacrificed herself to save Wakasa, whose father died in the crash. Meoshi witnessed the wreck but was too scared and upset by the experience to tell anyone what he'd seen until the case was already closed, and Shidou's father was a detective who worked on the investigation and was convinced that it was not an accident but something else that was being covered up.
You Monster!: Urabe describes his father in these terms, calling him "a monster" and "evil to the core".
Zombie Apocalypse: The "Island of Dr. Death" in Meoshi's route. Hogstein punishes them for leaving the fourth day's game by turning the entire park into a zombie apocalypse for the remaining three days.