Sweet Lily Dreams is a JRPG that is highly influenced by popular stories, and wears those in its sleeves. Quite literally.
The game's focus is clearly its universe and story, but it tries to tie the RPG mechanics into it without really understanding them... and so the "game" part ends up dragging for way too long, and had me lose interest in the story completely, about 15 hours in.
I still finished it, but while the very last mission was better than the others, it still wasn't great, and definitely not worth it.
The game has a few cool ideas, but it's far too ambitious for what it ends up doing, and feels like a mess the whole way through.
RPGMaker games get a bad reputation, and it's totally understandable! I'm pretty sick of playing these games on a small resolution because the engine can't handle any better. And yet, this is sold for 15€. No.
I could overlook the technical issues, if the game had good mechanics, but this is one just has a unique artstyle, with a fairly uninspired story (in my opinion).
There's A LOT wrong with this, and I can't write about everything, but I'll sum it up the best I can.
RPGMaker problems aside, it's not bad.
While the UI is a bit generic, the actual game's resources are mostly unique, and certainly gives Sweet Lily Dreams a headstart when compared to its competitors.
It has a very twisted fairy-tale feel to it, and it works well!
The combat animations and particle effects were very simple and limited, but it didn't really matter to me.
It's good, but nothing spectacular.
The music felt a bit incoherent, to me. While it wasn't bad, it sounded very generic, and I don't feel it complemented the artstyle in any way. Take it or leave it. Personally, I didn't care for it, and I'm one to appreciate video game music, most of the time.
Before going into the mechanics, I'll talk about how the story plays out.
Essentially, you play as Lily, and you're trapped in a dream world. In this world, there are forces fighting that behave almost like secret corporations/cults... it feels out of place, and there's very little insight into them. While the game throws a bit of moral gray into this conflict, it never develops it.
There are hints between who's right and wrong, but it's pointless. You never explore either sides very much, character progression was very shallow, and the player had no hand on it. I saw a few opportunities for moral choices, but no. It's as linear as it gets. And it's not that well written.
So, other than that, you'll go from mission to mission, with a few party members, to prove your worth, and later fight the main antagonist. Each mission is from someone's dream. Or story. These stories are drawn from literature, comic books, etc.
I'm not sure how I feel about this. In a way, I like when games/series do this. But it felt very arbitrary in this game. The missions had absolutely no connection to each other, and ended up feeling like an excuse for not writing original stories.
(You know, some futuristic animes discuss some classic sci-fi concepts and problems, and reference books/movies for their origins, or other perspectives. This game, however, references them for the sake of it. Personally, I have no interest to look into those stories because of the game.)
Besides, it can alienate some people, if they've never heard of those stories. The game gives very little context to them, expecting you to have the same past as the developers to enjoy it...
Honestly, I don't think it's very good. Many people seem to disagree with me, so I may be in the wrong.
But personally, the game felt like it wanted to have some idealism behind it, but didn't go the whole forward.
So... so far, nothing very good. And with the combat and puzzles, things only get worse.
First, the combat. In the first half hour of the game, you have only one character, with one basic attack. This means that you'll spend half an hour spamming the basic attack, while learning absolutely nothing abou the mechanics.
Then, you gain a skill! But... it's just a physical attack, slightly stronger than the basic one. It's adds nothing to the game.
You get the drill... It's pretty tedious. The game doesn't really give you a wide array of tools to experiment with. It's all so primitive...
There are 4 elements that counter each other. However, there's no visual indication of which type your enemies are, which means that you'll have to use every elements until you figure out what the best tactic is. Simple trial and error. That's the first problem.
Then, every elements behaves exactly the same, with the exception of the ailments. Each element has one, which could provide some more strategy. There damage over time (Poison-Water), Blind(Miss chance - Thunder), Burn (Silence-Fire) and Freeze(Cold). These could be cool... but turns out that all the bosses are immune to these. And the normals enemies die fast enough that you don't need to use them. So, the only defining trait of each elements is utterly useless. Big problem for me.
So yeah. The combat gets very repetitive. It's just trying to figure out each enemy's weakness, and then use the most powerful attack you've got.
There's also very little sinergy between the party members, it's limited to physical/magic defense for the party, and a very, very weak healing ability.
The loot is limited to crafting materials for both spells and furniture. (more on furniture later)
Equipment is just one acessory per character, and will boost one stat. That's all. You main character can have a Weapon (elemental attack) and a Dress(elemental defense). Even these two were badly implemented!
You choose your weapon and dress at the beginning of the game. It's the first thing you do. With absolutely NO CONTEXT for what these you, you're given a choice... It makes no sense. You can buy the other elements later from a story, but there's no point anyway, and you won't be able to in the start of the game.
On a segway, do not choose Thunder. The first 2 missions contain enemies and bosses that are immune to this elements, which means that one of your characters will be useless for the first couple of hours. Really smart way of doing things.
I'm sorry for being overly negative, but it seems that I've stumbled across a major design flaw in every single step of the way.
I'm not purposely trying to make the game look bad, but I can't see almost no redeeming values!
There's also an optional puzzle elements to the game, needed only for sidequests. But guess what... Yeah, it's not very good.
Each level has a different type of puzzles to solve (it can be a pipe-puzzle, and slide-puzzle, etc. etc.) These could have been cool, but they're just... there. And they usually stretch out for way too long, and go from being a change of pace to a shore.
Also, since this is not a puzzle game, it doesn't slowly teach you, gradually increasing difficulty. Either you're familiar with these puzzle and solve them easily, or you're not. It's feels out of place.
I don't think there much else to say. The game also feels completely unbalanced. I was playing on Hard Mode fairly okay. Then, due to the limited elemental spells (which you'll take a long time until you learn), I reach a point where it was impossible for me to win. The enemies could Blind and Freeze me, and half of my characters were powerless. It was literally impossible, until I lowered to Normal.
Another balance issue, is regarding money. At the start of the game, you'll barely have money for potions. By the end, you'll have a lot of money, but the potions don't heal you enough to be useful in battle.
It's just... I don't know.
I don't know who balanced the game, honestly. It's just not good. At all.
No more words for furniture (sorry for the rant). But just know that it was a bad replacement for equipment. Sorry, I didn't enjoy this game at all, and definitely not recommend it.