At first glance, Sweet Lily Dreams appears to be cute and sweet so one would think that the story would be pretty tame. However, as you delve further into the game, you find out that first appearances are not what they appear. Sweet Lily Dreams (SLD) tells the story of a girl named Lily who somehow ends up away from her dream and enters the dream world city known as Rosaria. She meets up with Faith and Curly-the former of whom is actually the main protagonist-and later with Muggles. Together, the four of them set off to enter the various dream worlds to eradicate phobius-the evil dream creatures-and basically to cleanse the dream worlds of evil. The dream worlds are based on popular stories so Lily, having come from the real world, will be quite knowledgeable about them. Basically, the story itself is about finding The Writer, who's causing all of these dream worlds to be thrown off balance but once he's found, the question pops up on whether he's really evil or if there's something else motivating his actions. And what is Faith's relationship to The Writer? That's the basic gist of the story.
SLD uses an old school RPG turn-based battle system so the player has to strategically determine how to attack the various phobius that are encountered. This is the main gameplay of SLD. Three of the four playable characters do learn spells upon levelling up in the early levels of the game although to learn the majority of spells, the player has to make use of the crafting feature. I like this feature quite a lot. The player can find the items for crafting in chests, on the ground, or as rewards from battling phobius as well as buy the required items. The types of spells that the player can craft are elemental, healing, and defensive. The battles themselves require quite a bit of strategy. Of course, it's important to have restorative items and such but in terms of spells, the kind of spell the player uses on a phobius can greatly affect how challenging the battle will be. For instance, a phobius that uses fire-based spells is weak against a party member that uses ice-based spells so having this knowledge can make all the difference in how the player can approach battles.
In addition to the above, there are a couple of features that made SLD unique from other RPGs. First, Lily is a customizable character in that she can be equipped with an elemental power and a defensive dress from the start. More elemental powers and dresses can be bought later in the Points Extravaganza shop in Rosaria. The items that can be purchased in this shop can turn out to be advantageous when they are placed in Lily's house. (Yes, Lily does get her own house in Rosaria!) Depending on the majority of items that are bought (most of the items represent an elemental power), they can give the party a boost such as raising defense, increasing attack power during battles, etc.
In regards to the art, it's quite beautiful and it wouldn't be obvious at first glance that SLD was made with RPG Maker. A lot of games made with such an engine tend to look aesthetically boring since the same sprites, map tiles, etc., tend to be used over and over. However, this isn't the case here. There was a lot of customization done on SLD, which clearly reflects how much hard work was put into making it a great game.
I could go on about the other aspects that I loved but I think I covered the most important points. Overall, I really liked SLD and the features and quests (both main and side) kept me engaged for hours. I almost forgot to mention this but once you finish the game, there is incentive to going back and playing it again. Once you've completed the game once, it will start on a New Dream+ mode which allows you to have access to special items and such that weren't available during your first playthrough.
So if you're a fan of RPGs, I highly recommend trying out SLD. Or even if you're new to RPGs, SLD is a good introduction to what they're like and how much fun they can be. ^^